A Complete Guide to Making Herbal Infused Oils

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Herbal Infused Oils are a fun, simply beautiful preparation to learn. They are quite versatile, being both medicinal and nutritional, and can be used topically or internally. Suspended within the oil, all of the supportive, balancing properties of the plant are combined with the benefits of the oil in use. Infusing herbs into oil is an all around enriching, fulfilling experience, and an effective support to health, wellness, and even nutrition. Something well-suited to incorporation in daily life and practice.

Culinary Oils

If infusing oils for culinary purposes, they can be used in whatever ways you can dream up: dipping oils, roasted vegetables, salads, stir fry, etc. All of your classic culinary herbs are great options to make herbal infused oils with: Basil, Garlic, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, etc. Making infused oils is a fantastic way to incorporate a broad spectrum of phytonutrients into your diet, supporting overall health. Herbs contain some of the richest sources of vitamins and minerals, so cooking with them and enjoying herbal oils frequently is a wonderful way to receive such nutritive wholeness. Whether intended simply for food or to support health and wellness, kitchen herbalism practice is one of the best ways to get to know supporting herbs and nutrition, which go hand-in-hand in a truly holistic approach anyways. So feel free to experiment with what is around you in your pantry or garden!

Topical Oils

For topical applications, the options are truly endless as well. Some great herbs to start with for soothing and supporting skin health or tissue regrowth from wounds or irritation would be Calendula, Lavender, Plantain, Yarrow, etc. Learning to make infused oils is foundational to making herbal balms, salves, creams, lip balms, and more. All of which have a multitude of purposes and uses. Have fun, be creative, and use what’s around you! Don’t hesitate to start with a humble, single ingredient infused oil, such as Plantain. Both common and practical, some of these less flashy herbs are some of the most powerful plant allies to incorporate into your home use and practice of herbalism.

Thyme

There are a few different options for infusing oils with herbs: the Solar or Long Infusion, the Stovetop or Double Boiler Method, and the Oven Method. All are explained below in detail, from longest amount of time needed to shortest. The first method is the traditional option full of intention and mindfulness as you slowly watch your oil infuse over the course of weeks. Truly a beautiful process to watch unfold. If you are in a pinch though and need to infuse an oil quickly, the last couple options involve heat to speed up the process. Totally effective methods in their own right, these options just require carefulness and close attention, so as to not end up cooking your herbs from too high of heat. Believe me, I’ve done that before on accident, and it’s just the most disappointing thing ever.

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Herbs about to be blended and infused in oil: Chamomile, Calendula, Lavender, & Rose.

Fresh vs. Dry Herbs, Storage, & Shelf Life

It’s safest to use dried herbs for this type of preparation, since fresh herbs have a greater water content and higher risk of spoiling. Fresh herbs can be used though if you follow a couple of guidelines: Wilt the fresh herbs for about 12 hours beforehand to reduce the moisture content, the finished oil is generally safest if consumed within several days at most, and do not wash the fresh herbs or introduce water in any way at all (not even a wet spoon or jar) to the infused oil. These practices will really limit any potential of spoilage.

Always store your finished product in a dark, cool place. Refrigeration is ideal. Infused oils can last up to a year or even longer, but be sure to always watch for rancidity if something smells off.  Also, be sure to use airtight, sterilized containers so as to not risk any contamination. Using a few drops of Vitamin E Oil for natural preservation as well as using amber or coloured containers helps to extend the shelf life of the infused oil for as long as possible.

Proportions

All of the instructions below follow the folk method of infusing herbs, a casual approach based on generalized principles in herbal preparations. If you’d like to be more exact in your measurements however, aim for mixing approximately 1 ounce of dried herbs per cup of oil (8 oz) as a good starting ratio of herb to oil.

Helpful Tips

Using wide mouth jars for infusing oils will make your job much easier once you are straining off the herbs, since they will expand a bit in the oil and can quickly become wider than the mouth of smaller containers. Also, I highly recommend using the ever popular Mason Jar due to their durability, non-toxicity, non-porousness, portability, and heat resistance. Most Mason Jars also come with tight fitting lids. Just a practical choice all around, whatever the herbal preparation.

A few good oil choices for infusion are: Almond, Apricot, Coconut, Flax seed, Hemp seed, Grapeseed, Jojoba, Olive, Rapeseed, or Sesame. All of which have their own benefits and special uses. So do a bit of research to see what best suits your needs! I tend to use Coconut Oil or Olive Oil most of the time, since they both have long shelf lives, resist rancidity and oxidation, and are quite stable.

Straining the herbal infused oil with a mesh strainer and cheese cloth or fine dish towel.

Solar Infusion

Supplies:

  • glass jar & lid, sterilized and dried
  • natural wax paper
  • spoon or other utensil
  • herbs of choice
  • oil of choice
  • cheesecloth or fine dish towel
  • mesh strainer

Instructions:

  • Place herbs inside a clean, dry jar. I recommend crushing them a bit in your hand or with a mortar and pestle. If using fresh herbs, you can chop them up a bit. This helps break down the cell walls some so as to release more of the herbal constituents.
  • Pour oil over top of the herbs, gentle poking and stirring to release any air bubbles trapped inside. Once it’s really starting to saturate the herbs, then make sure the oil covers the surface of the herbs by at least an inch. Put the lid on tightly. If using a metal or coated lid, line with natural wax paper so there is no interaction with the herbal oil.
  • Place the jar in a sunny, consistently warm place, like a windowsill or near a Himalayan salt lamp.
  • Gently shake or roll the jar between your hands each day, to keep the herbs moving and evenly infusing in the oil, and to fully release the herbal properties.
  • If the herbs start to soak up a significant amount of the oil, be sure to top it off with a bit more, to maintain that inch of oil over top of the herbs. Just keep an eye on it as it’s infusing.
  • Label and mark with the current date. This is important! You don’t want to forget what the contents are after a few weeks, nor when it was made either.
  • After a minimum of 2-3 weeks, you can decant the herbs, pouring off and straining. But a longer 4-6 week infusion will result in a stronger, more vibrant finished product. Look for a strong colour and odor of the herbs infused into the oil.
  • Strain the herbal oil by using a cloth lined mesh strainer. Pour through and then draw up the corners of the cloth and squeeze the herbs to collect the last few drops of oil, which are often some of the strongest in the batch. So don’t skip this step! Straining into a bowl or large glass measuring cup with a pour spout will make pouring into the final storage container much easier.
  • Store in clean, dry glass containers in a cool, dark place. Don’t forget to label!
Oven method of Calendula infused oil. Such lovely colour! This was made with Coconut Oil, so all the colour is from the Calendula alone.

Oven Method

The oven method is a great option for quickly infusing herbs into oil. It only takes a few hours, resulting in a lovely finished product. I confess that I don’t usually have a lot of foresight in making herbal oil infusions, so I use this method a lot.

Supplies:

  • ceramic or oven-safe dish
  • spoon or other utensil
  • herbs of choice
  • oil of choice
  • cheesecloth or fine dish towel
  • mesh strainer
  • glass jar and lid, sterilized and dried

Instructions:

  • Place herbs inside a clean, dry ceramic or other oven-safe dish. I recommend crushing them a bit in your hand or with a mortar and pestle. If using fresh herbs, you can chop them up a bit. This helps break down the cell walls some so as to release more of the herbal constituents.
  • Pour oil over top of the herbs, gentle poking and stirring to release any air bubbles trapped around the herbs. Once it’s really starting to saturate the herbs, then make sure the oil covers the surface of the herbs by at least an inch.
  • Leaving the ceramic container uncovered, place into an oven with the door slightly open. Heat at a low temperature around 100-140 °F or 35-60°C. Not too hot so as to kill off the herbal goodness, but warm enough to actually do the job.
  • Gently stir every 30-45 minutes, and check that the temperature is still low.
  • If the herbs start to soak up a significant amount of the oil, be sure to top it off with a bit more, to maintain that inch of oil over top of the herbs. Just keep an eye on it as it’s infusing.
  • After a minimum of 3 hours, you can remove the container and decant the herbs, pouring off and straining. But a longer 5 hour infusion will result in a stronger, more vibrant finished product. Look for a strong colour and odor of the herbs infused into the oil.
  • Strain the herbal oil by using a cloth lined mesh strainer. Pour through and then draw up the corners of the cloth and squeeze the herbs to collect the last few drops of oil, which are often some of the strongest in the batch. So don’t skip this step! Straining into a bowl or large glass measuring cup with a pour spout will make pouring into the final storage container much easier.
  • Store in clean, dry glass containers in a cool, dark place. Don’t forget to label!
Stovetop method, using a makeshift double boiler.

Stovetop Method

This option is great for when an infused oil is needed quickly, within the hour even. It makes use of either a makeshift double-boiler, an actual double-boiler if you have one, or a crockpot or yogurt maker. Any of these options will work well, as long as you can ensure that you maintain a temperature between 100-140 °F or 35-60°C. Below I will describe how to set up a makeshift double-boiler too.

Supplies:

  • glass jar and lid, sterilized and dried
  • spoon or other utensil
  • herbs of choice
  • oil of choice
  • cheesecloth or fine dish towel
  • mesh strainer
  • stainless steel small pot and large pot, or double-boiler/crockpot/yogurt-maker/etc.

Instructions:

  • Place herbs inside a clean, dry jar or small pot. I recommend crushing them a bit in your hand or with a mortar and pestle. If using fresh herbs, you can chop them up a bit. This helps break down the cell walls some so as to release more of the herbal constituents.
  • Pour oil over top of the herbs, gentle poking and stirring to release any air bubbles trapped inside. Once it’s really starting to saturate the herbs, then make sure the oil covers the surface of the herbs by at least an inch.
  • Makeshift double-boiler: using a large pot or pan filled with an inch or two of water, place the jar or small pot of herb/oil mixture into the bigger pot. Be careful as it’s simmering to make sure that no water splashes into the herb/oil. The water level in the bigger pot may slowly evaporate off, so more may need to be added.
  • Stir every few minutes and keep the water surrounding the jar of herbs at a very low heat and gentle simmer.
  • If the herbs start to soak up a significant amount of the oil, be sure to top it off with a bit more, to maintain that inch of oil over top of the herbs. Just keep an eye on it as it’s infusing.
  • After a minimum of 30 minutes you can decant the herbs, pouring off and straining. But a longer 60 minutes infusion will result in a stronger, more vibrant finished product. Look for a strong colour and odor of the herbs infused into the oil.
  • Strain the herbal oil by using a cloth lined mesh strainer. Pour through and then draw up the corners of the cloth and squeeze the herbs to collect the last few drops of oil, which are often some of the strongest in the batch. So don’t skip this step! Straining into a bowl or large glass measuring cup with a pour spout will make pouring into the final storage container much easier.
  • Store in clean, dry glass containers in a cool, dark place. Don’t forget to label!
A makeshift double-boiler using two pans.

I hope you enjoyed this educational post! Head back to the Herbalism page for more ways to study herbs and their properties, actions, preparations, and traditional use in day-to-day living.

Rosemary

REFERENCES


DISCLAIMER: Any information offered here is for educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Leaves in My Hair makes neither medical claim, nor intends to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or medical condition. You must do your own independent research concerning the safety and usage of any herbs and for making any decisions regarding your health. Pregnant or breastfeeding women, persons with known medical conditions, and those on medication should consult with their licensed health care provider about any medical decisions. References to external websites and resources are for informational purposes only. Leaves in my Hair neither endorses them nor is in any way responsible for their content. 

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Author: helen.wildrose

Christian • Herbalist • Writer • INFJ • Plant-Based

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