This is how I make cold infused herbal oils. Infused oils are very useful; they are sometimes used directly (as with Calendula oil) or may be used to make ointments and salves. Generally I infuse a single herb, blending the finished product with other infused oils if required, but you can try infusing two or three herbs together. I wouldn’t advise this for beginners as you should first understand how the herbs will interact. This method is straightforward, I have tried other oils and techniques but this method gives reliable results. Quantities are not specified; simply harvest as much fresh herb as you wish and choose a jar (or jars) which you can comfortably pack them into. Generally I make a litle more but I often use tiny pesto jars to make small quantities of infused oil, they hold around 100ml. That’s enough to make several ointments or will last a while for massage.
This method is based upon the one advised by Susun Weed in several of her books.
- Harvest fresh herbs on a dry and sunny day.
- Don’t wash the plant at all. Inspect your harvest and discard any diseased or soiled parts. If the plant is dirty simply scrub it clean with a stiff, dry brush.
- Coarsely chop the herb.
- Fill a dry, sterilised jar with the chopped herb.
- Slowly pour olive oil into the jar, whilst using a clean chopstick, skewer or knitting needle to release any air bubbles and allow the oil to reach all layers of the herb material. Mould is likely to grow in any air spaces within the jar so take your time to get this right.
- Fill the jar right to the top, covering every part of the herb.
- Again check that there is no trapped air. If necessary release air with the chopstick and top up with oil.
- Seal the filled jar with a well fitting cork or screw on a lid.
- Label the jar: Name of the herb, herb part used (flower, root etc), type of oil used, and the date. Label the lid also, in case oil seepage makes your jar label illegible.
- Leave the jar for six weeks, at room temperature in a place where any seeping oil will not cause a problem. Moldiness may occur if herbs are left to infuse for longer.
N.B. Some herbs release gas as they infuse, causing bubbles in the oil. This is not a problem and does not indicate spoilage but it may force some oil out of the jar, so be prepared! Chickweed, Comfrey, and Yellow Dock produce quite a lot of gas as they infuse. The gas will force some oil out of even tightly sealed jars. If corks pop out the oil may become rancid.
- Decant the infused oil by carefully pouring out the oil into clean, dry containers, leaving the spent herb material in the jar.
- More infused oil can be extracted from the spent herb. Put small handfuls of it into a clean kitchen towel or cotton cloth and wring out the oil.
- Leave the decanted oil to sit for 4 -7 days while the water within it (which is from the fresh plant material) settles to the bottom of the container.
- Carefully pour off the water-free oil, into clean, dry containers. Leave the water and a small oil layer, which is touching the water, behind. Any water will allow mould to grow.
- Store the herb infused oil at cool room temperature or refrigerate.
Remedies for mould problems:
Mould will grow in air spaces and where there is water in your oil.
- If it grows at the top surface of the oil it is often possible to scoop out all traces of mould and then to top up with oil.
- Mould may also grow up the inside surface of the jar or as a few colonies throughout the oil. This can happen if the jar was not completely dry to start with or if it is left in too sunny or warm a location. Prevent this by drying jars in an oven for a few minutes immediately before using and storing in dark spot. If the problem occurs the preparation may be salvaged by carefully pouring the oil and plant material into a completely dry jar, discarding any mould colonies.
- If mould grows throughout the oil it is probably due to wet plant material being used. Saving the preparation is impossible. Discard and start again.
Using olive oil as a base for infused oils helps prevent them becoming rancid, at cool room temperature, for several years. Where they are likely to become warm, try adding the contents of one or two vitamin E capsules to the final decanted oil. Tincture of Myrrh or Benzoin can be added to ointments or salves (made from infused oils). Use about ten drops of either tincture per ounce of oil.