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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

How to Make Herbal Infused Oils - A Step by Step Photo Tutorial

Everyone knows how good olive oil is for the skin, but what if you could supercharge it?

Herbal oils are the perfect place for anyone interested in natural remedies or homemade body care to get started. They're incredibly easy, there is little to no learning curve and the results are nearly foolproof. A few years ago I taught some teenage girls how to make their own oils and one of them told me that her favorite part was feeling like she was in Harry Potter's Potions class. Only for real!

And I have to confess, that might just be my favorite part too.

The first thing you need to do is gather your supplies. They aren't many. You'll need a clean, preferably sterilized glass jar and a bowl for mixing your herbs in. You'll need oil. Olive oil is typically the oil of choice for herbal oils, because it's the most stable when  herbs are added to it. In other words, it doesn't go bad easily. But I've used all sorts of oils for this. I typically use thicker oils like olive or jojoba in the winter months and lighter oils like almond or apricot through the summer. Use what feels good.

Then you need the herbs. Almost any single herb or herb blend can be used to make an infused oil. I typically have two separate herbal oils in my closet-sized apothecary at any given time. The first is Calendula. It's not pictured here, but the instructions are identical. Simply fill the jar with dried calendula flowers only. Calendula is known for it's healing abilities. It is antiseptic, astringent, anti-viral, diaphoretic, detoxifying, antispasmodic, estrogenic and anti-inflammatory. It's amazing on cuts scrapes and burns (once the burn has cooled of course) and I grow it in my garden so I'll never need to be without. I use calendula oil for any lotion or mixture that is intended to heal the skin.

The other oil I keep on hand is my all-purpose, skin soothing moisturizer. It's a lavender blend that I like, that I've tailored towards what my skin needs. I use it as a head to toe moisturizer every day after I get out of the shower. You can certainly choose one, or all of these herbs. Or none. If you have some other herb that's you're dying to try, give it a whirl. It's a hard recipe to break.

All the herbs used here are dry. You can certainly use fresh herbs, but because of the water content, the technique used for infusing fresh herbs is slightly different. I'll eventually post on using fresh herbs, because certain herbs like St. John's wort are best infused fresh. Probably won't be for a while though.


Lavender - Skin healing. Relaxant, antispasmodic, anti-depressant, antiseptic, detoxifying and analgesic. There is nothing lavender can't do!
Chamomile - Soothing. Also good for aging, wrinkling skin. Relaxant, antispasmodic, antiseptic, analgesic.
Rose petals - Excellent for aging skin. Also relaxant, nutrient, astringent, refrigerant, and detoxifying. Also said to be an aphrodisiac.
Calendula - Another fantastic skin healer. Antiseptic, astringent, anti-viral, diaphoretic, detoxifying, antispasmodic, estrogenic and anti-inflammatory
Lemon balm - Lemon smells make me happy. Antiseptic.
Rose geranium - I just love the smell. It speaks to me.

oil of your choice

1 sterile glass jar
large bowl

There aren't any measurements, because I'm just not good at that sort of thing. Your oil should be personal to you anyway. Plan on having enough total herbs to fill a glass jar loosely to the top. There are 4 cups in a quart and 2 cups in a pint.

Once you have the herbs you need, pour the herbs into a large bowl. Use you're hands to knead and crush the herbs to release the oils. Some people like to put the herbs into a plastic Ziploc bag and roll the herbs with a rolling pin for this stage, but I think they're missing the point. After crushing this batch my entire house smelled divine for about two days.
Put your herbs in the glass jar and pour in your oil. You should have enough oil to fully cover the herbs. It's air and water that will ruin an oil, so try to keep them both out.    
 Now just screw the lid on, give it a good shake and walk away. This oil should be stored in a cool, dark place for 2-6 weeks. The longer it sits, the stronger the oil. I typically store my oils in my closet until I remember them again. I'm really not the most organized girl in the world. Labeling helps. Write what's in it, the day you made it and the day you need to strain it.  Try to give the a good shake every day or two, to keep the herbs covered.  
On straining day, lay a colander on top of a bowl and line the bowl with a double layer of cheese cloth. Pour your herb and oil mixture into the cheesecloth. Pull the corners of the cheese cloth together to make a bag, then squeeze and twist the bag until you've gotten every last drop of oil out of those herbs that you can get. OK. You don't actually have to fight for the last drop, but I often do. I'm a stay-at-home mom. I like to feel the rush of accomplishment every once in a while. 
What you have left is an herbal oil that will change you life. Herbal preparations are scary addictive, especially when so easily done. You can see in the picture that the oil has come out a very dark opaque sort of green. The color will change according to the herbs used. Calendula oil comes out a beautiful golden color that I love! Some of the opaqueness in the first few days is just dust leftover from the herbs. In a day or two, the dust will settle, the liquid will clear and you'll see the dust swirl a little at the bottom of the jar. You can pour off the oil, leaving the dust behind, but I usually don't bother.

No need to wait though, as soon as the oil is strained, go ahead and start using your oil. I use a tablespoon in the bath for an all-over moisturizer. I use this as my daily facial moisturizer. Use in place of plain oil when making any cream or lotion. I use it on cuts and scrapes and I've even used it a time or two on rug burn.

If you have a natural foods store in your area, you can often buy herbs there. If not, try ordering from Mountain Rose Herbs. Their products are awesome. Of course, the best, most rewarding, and least expensive way to ensure the very freshest herbs, is to grow and dry them yourself.

Do you have an infused oil mix you've been happy with? I'd love to hear about it!

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  1. What does this recipe smell like when it's finished?

  2. That depends slightly on the herbs you use, but it generally has a very light lavender smell. Not quite strong enough to be a perfume. But if you wanted a stronger smell you could strain the herbs, fill a bottle back up with fresh herbs and infuse again with the same oil.

  3. Is it good to heat the oil and herbs in a double boiler also?

  4. You certainly can use a double boiler. I generally don't, because heat can so easily damage the oils that I'm attempting to extract and I'm willing to be patient. If you do use a double boiler, be sure to keep the heat very low and never let the oil get above a very gentle simmer.

  5. Rug burn! Ha! Great idea.

    I love making my own "potions" and this is a great tutorial you have created to take the fear out of it. I remember how scared I was to do something wrong. The beauty is that you can tinker....add more oil, or as you say re infuse with more herbs depending on the effect you want. Thanks for this

  6. I assume you use dry herbs, not fresh, or does it matter?


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