How to Infuse Herbs in Oils for Salves, Soaps & Remedies
If you want to make herbal salves, you need to infuse your herbs in oil first! When I first began my herbal-salve making journey, it was a bit nerve-wracking to know which herbs to choose and to be sure I was doing it correctly. Would the oils go rancid? Would they really work? What's the best herb just to get started with in infused oils? I had SO many questions!
Why infuse herbs in oils? First of all the health benefits of natural oils infused with the powerful qualities of different herbs for different reasons are many. Herbs such as calendula are extra soothing to the skin and are even often used in cosmetic commercial products because they are so helpful! Lavender affects your emotions positively, while adding a light antiseptic quality to the salve---great for acne or disrupted skin. Just two examples!
I'm not going to go in depth on the qualities of different herbs in this post--that would take way too long for one article. What I will plan to do is start writing an herb profile each week or two with ideas for how to use these herbs and if they are good for being used in an herbal oil infusion. If you are interested in a particular herb, or a specific use, please email me or leave a comment in the comment section below!
Herb infused oils are great to use for soap making, salves, body oils, and butters. Plus, they look pretty cool on your shelves too. I always get asked, "What is that?" with fingers pointing toward my herbal infusions. I love to explain, and people are always impressed with them! Here is how to make some great infused herbal oils.
What You Need to Make Herb Infused Oils
You'll need your herbs!
If you are not sure what herbs to use for what, you can check out some great herbal resources...or shoot me an email or comment below! For now, here are a few links to books I use a LOT and highly recommend: Rosemary Gladstar's Medicinal Herbs, Dina Falconi's Earthly Bodies & Heavenly Hair, and Organic Body Care Recipes by Stephanie Tourles. Jan Berry's new book, 101 Easy Homemade Products for Your Skin, Health, & Home, is another favorite of mine! All of these have the author's ideas for which herbs to use for what.
For herbs I don't grow or wild craft myself, I purchase my herbs almost exclusively from Starwest Botanicals because of the excellent quality (organic & wildcrafted options), fast shipping, and reasonable pricing.
**Be sure to use DRIED herbs in your oil. If there is any moisture present, you stand the chance of mold forming, and this can get really stinky!
Here are some wonderful herbs for you to consider starting out with: Calendula petals (I started with these first, and now I always have a jar infusing away in a sunny window), Lavender flowers, Roses (be certain these are organic because in some areas they are heavily sprayed), Comfrey, Plantain, Arnica, Cayenne...and there are SO many more.
Basic Oils for Infusing Herbs for Salves & DIY Body Care Products
You can use all kinds of oils for infusing herbs to make salves, body oils and butters. Here are my favorites:
Almond oil is lighter than olive oil, and very emollient. This means it soaks into the skin very quickly. If you are making a body oil for massage, this is the oil I recommend. Almond Oil has some really wonderful properties that help soften and smooth the skin.
Organic Olive Oil:
Olive Oil is one of the most healthy oils you can put on your skin. I won't get into the science and chemistry because you can look that up yourself, but it's just great for your outsides as much as your insides. I prefer olive oil for making salves. I don't use it much for body oils because it's rather thick and doesn't soak right into your skin like lighter oils do. (I always buy my EVOO at Costco because I have not found a better price. I always buy organic.)
If you are dealing with oily skin, then you might want to give Grapeseed oil a try! It's good for your skin, but it doesn't cause extra oiliness. It's even lighter than almond oil and absorbs very quickly.
The above are my personal favorites, but feel free to experiment! (Some people like to infuse coconut oil, but I choose to be careful with it---some people are allergic to it---like me.)
I generally purchase my oils and butters (other than EVOO--I buy the organic from Costco) from Amazon or Starwest Botanicals.
How to Infuse Your Herbs in Oil:
Method One (My Favorite):
1. Pour your dried herb (single or blend) into a large glass jar.
I use these types of jars, depending on how much oil I plan to make: Quart wide-mouthed Mason jar, Half-Gallon Mason jar, and if I'm making a LOT of oil (like I do for making soap), then I'll use a gallon size glass jar.
Fill the jar one-third to one-half full of the herb.
2. Now pour your oil of choice over the herbs to within an inch or so of the top of the jar. Shake well. You may need to add a little more oil. Some herbs like to float to the top. That's ok. Most will settle to the bottom, and that's fine too.
3. Shake your oil daily or a few times a week. This just helps the herbs release their colors and chemical constituents.
4. Infuse in a sunny window (my preference). I believe the sun provides some really great energy to the infusion. Also, it will warm the oil, which helps the herbs release the plant chemicals more easily. Some herbalists prefer to infuse in a dark cupboard. I have personally never had a problem keeping mine in a window.
5. After about 4 to 6 weeks (I have left mine a lot longer, with no problems), just strain out the herbs. Bottle up the oil, then store away in a cool, dark, place.
6. Double Infusion: If you want a stronger infusion, after straining out the herbs, just infuse the already infused oil another time with fresh herbs. You'll have a very strong infusion this way.
Gentle Heat Using a Crockpot or Stove Top (Double Boiler):
1. Using the same ratio of herbs to oil (1:3 or 1:2), combine the herbs and oil in a crockpot. Allow the herbs to soak in the oil on the LOW setting for several hours.
2. Strain, bottle and store in a dark place.
***Note: In my experience, the crockpot method tends to burn the herbs, and I have ended up with a kind of "crispy" smelling oil. This is NOT my favorite method, but if you are in a hurry and need the oil quickly, then go for it! You might have better luck than me! I hear others have!
Stove Top/Double Boiler:
1. Using the same ratio of herbs described already, place oil & herbs into a wide-mouthed quart Mason jar or a double boiler.
2. If using a Mason jar, place this into a sauce pan with water. You'll need a large pot, and the water should rise about a third of the way or so up the sides of the Mason jar.
3. Keep the water simmering on very low and watch carefully. You'll need to infuse for a few hours, and obviously you'll need to watch that water to be sure it doesn't evaporate and add more as needed.
4. Strain, bottle and store in a dark place!
That's it! Super easy!
If you have questions, ideas, plans for infusing your oils, and anything you'd like to discuss, I hope you'll leave a comment in the comments section! Do you make your own infused oils?
Hugs & Self-Reliance,
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