Infused Herbal Oils
Uses & Sample Formulas
Muscle rub & massage oil: warm oil before using.
Willow, arnica, Solomon’s seal, cayenne for pain; rose & damiana for love.
Decongestant: add to a bath or to boiling water as a steam.
Eucalyptus, cayenne, goldenrod, yarrow, thyme.
Skin soother: for chronic conditions like eczema and psoriasis, or acute itchiness like poison ivy or heat rash. Add to bath water; do not apply directly to skin, as oil clogs pores.
Oat, calendula, comfrey, plantain.
Beauty masks & scrubs: blend with clay, sugar, or corn meal.
Chamomile, calendula, rose, thyme.
Aromatherapy: much better for the environment than essential oils and should replace them in the medicine chests of conscientious people.
Lavender, rose, eucalyptus, thyme.
- Do not consume infused oils unless the herbs are safe to eat.
- Oils mold! Check them regularly and prepare them well. The main reasons oils mold are that the jars or tools were wet, the plants were too fresh, or the marc stuck up out of the menstruum.
- Oils go rancid if they’re not stored properly. Smell them, and discard if they smell like onion rings.
- Keep records of when you start your oils so you know when to press them. The sooner you press them, the less likely they are to mold or go rancid.
- In a pinch, you can heat the oil and herbs in a double boiler on low heat for 4-6 hours, then put it in a jar for a few days before making a salve. I don’t recommend this because many constituents are not heat stable, and oil oxidizes when you heat it and doesn’t last nearly as long.
Choose an oil that is nice on your skin and doesn’t smell strongly. I usually use olive oil, but sometimes I’ll blend olive & jojoba (actually a wax). Some people use safflower or almond oil, too. Generally, the fancier oils oxidize at lower temperatures.
Choose plants that are useful externally, for skin, mucous membranes, aromatherapy, etc.
Generally, plants that are sticky (calendula) extract best, followed by plants that are gooey (comfrey).
Make oils when the plants are ready, since oil maintains its integrity longer than fresh plants.
Plant Prep: mold is the enemy
Fresh: Some plants can be put straight into the oil from the garden, like St Johns Wort or mullein flower, but many plants will mold.
Wilting: This prevents mold for almost all plants. Instead of putting the marc straight in the oil, lay it in the sun for a few hours—not long enough to dry it, but long enough to wilt it.
Partial Drying: Some very mucilaginous plants need to be dried for several days, like comfrey root or mullein leaf. Prepare your marc and dry it in a dark, cool place for 3-4 days. If the weather is humid, wilt it first and finish the drying inside.
Dried: If you need to, you can use fully dried herbs, but fresh is stronger. Adjust the amount of oil so that it will be more concentrated, since many of the constituents have evaporated with the water.
Infused Oil Recipe
- Pick your herbs & prep them (fresh, wilt, partial dry, dry). The fresher they are, the stronger the oil.
- Jar and all tools must be bone dry or you risk mold. Each oil simple gets its own jar; you can blend them later if you want to. This lessens the chance of mold & increases usefulness.
- When the marc (prepped herbs) is ready, put it in the bottom of the jar and cover it with oil until there is at least an inch of oil over the top of the marc. If you want a replicable recipe, weigh the marc and measure the oil first—the ratio is often something like 1:8 or 1:10.
- Put wax paper under the lid. Label the jar and cover the label with packing tape. Make sure to include the date. Write yourself a note on your calendar to check it in 4 weeks. Store the oil in a cool, dark, temperature-stable place. You don’t need to shake it.
- Marc (prepped herbs) will usually soak up a lot of oil, so check it for the first 24 hours and add oil if necessary to keep the marc completely submerged.
- After 4 weeks, check your oil. It should smell like herbs and have changed color. If the herb is safe to eat, you can taste it too, but be careful not to taste anything potentially toxic. If it’s not ready, check it weekly until it is.
- When your oil is ready, strain. Press strained herbs in a potato ricer to extract the last of the oil.
- If you want to store your oil more than 2-3 months, add a preservative, like:
- A few drops of vitamin e oil
- About ¼ volume of your oil of an infused oil with a lot of antioxidants and antimicrobial activity, like lavender or eucalyptus
- A few drops of essential oil of an herb with a lot of antioxidants and antimicrobial activity, but these are environmentally unethical
- If you’re planning to blend your oil, this is a good time. I recommend adding each oil as either 1 part or 2 parts of formula (2 oz comfrey, 2 oz plantain, 4 oz calendula) to keep them effective.