We really enjoy preserving our cuttings from medicinal shrubs and flowers in the garden by infusing them in oils for later use: be it in the kitchen or for our herbal remedy chests. Today we are going to speak about using herbal oil infusions for culinary & medicinal purposes and show you how you can make them at home.
What & How
In herbal oil infusions, the beneficial properties of specific plant materials are extracted into an oil using a slow, low heat process before straining and storing.
You may find that you have an abundance of lavender or rosemary for example and making herbal oil infusions is a wonderful way to preserve your harvest for long term use.
Herbal oil infusions can be kept in an airtight glass bottle and stored in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months or more – provided you have:
- used a good quality oil
- ensured all equipment is sterile and dry
- stored your herbal oil in a clean, airtight bottle in a cool, dark place.
Culinary Herbal Oil Infusions
Culinary herbal oils are a wonderful way to let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.
Many culinary herbs such as basil, thyme, sage, rosemary, ginger, garlic and even turmeric and black pepper have many beneficial qualities that support our health.
You can create a herbal infused oil with culinary herbs to flavour salads, stir fry dishes, roast veggies and a variety of other dishes.
A Hot Topic
If you are going to make a culinary herbal oil to use in cooking, be aware of using an oil with a high smoke point/heat tolerance for high heat cooking. For example, most foods are fried between the temperatures of 180°C – 230°C so it is best to choose an oil with a smoking point above 200°C. Fats and oils with lower smoke points, like butter and olive oil, are best suited for lower temperature cooking methods such as pan sautéing.
Here is a quick check list of some common oils and their smoke point:
Avocado Oil 271°C
Coconut Oil (extra virgin) 177°C
Coconut Oil (refined) 232°C
Flax seed Oil 107°C
Olive Oil (extra virgin) 191°C
Olive Oil (virgin) 199°C
Olive Oil (extra light) 242°C
Seseme Oil (refined) 177°C
Some great herbal oils include ~
- Rosemary ~ really nice over root vegetables – you could even try it out in this recipe)
- Oregano ~ personally, I like to eat oregano on anything – probably because it contains a good amount of mood boosting vitamin B6.
- Thyme ~ high in vitamins and minerals, specifically vitamin C. Oil can also be used in medicinal preparations that require added antibacterial properties.
- Citrus peel (for squash dishes and over salads)
- Cumin seed
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Medicinal herbal oil Infusions for topical use
Medicinal herbal oil infusions are not to be confused with essential oils. Infused oils are less potent and unlike essential oils, they are ready to use and do not require an added carrier oil. Infused oils tend to be safer for children and those with sensitive skin. You can also use your herbal oil infusions as a base for making balms, salves and ointments by adding beeswax.
Herbal oil infusions can be used to topically for a variety of purposes. For example ~
- Rosemary ~ when made in coconut oil it becomes a nourishing hair mask oil that soothes dry skin. Massage into the head to activate rosemary’s circulation booting properties and promote a natural shine.
- Oregarno ~ as a medicine oregano oil is anti-inflammatory and can be used in a massage blend to relieve sore muscles.
- Lemon ~ infused oil with a bit of sugar makes a refreshing antimicrobial hand scrub
- Lavender ~ infused oil makes a relaxing massage oil that induces relaxation and relieves headaches
- Calendula ~ offers relief from a variety of skin irritations such as rashes, dry skin and cuts and scrapes
Let’s make herbal oil infusions
We will be using dried plant material – leaves and flowers – to make our oil infusions. There are some roots that can be used however these need to be baked in an oven for many hours in order to get the beneficial properties to release into the oil. For now, let’s keep things simple and focus on the easily obtainable and very useful leaves and flowers of our chosen herbs.
Oils for Herbal Infusions
The good news is that you can infuse herbs in any kind of vegetable/plant based oil. The bad news is that not all oils are made equal. Since our skin is the largest organ of the body and absorbs anything that comes into prolonged contact with it, it would be wise to use a good quality oil.
Good olive oil is one of my favourite oils; it rarely turns rancid, is absorbed easily into the skin, adds its own healing benefits to the preparation, and is easily sourced locally and affordably.
I also really like using coconut oil as it takes on the colours of the herbs beautifully. It is also easily absorbed into the skin and virgin coconut oil can add flavour and aroma to an infusion that can be an added bonus. Use refined coconut oil if you do not want the coconut flavour or smell.
As you can see in the middle jar below, coconut oil solidifies when at cool room temperature. If you are going to use coconut oil, I suggest that you liquefy the coconut oil before adding it to the jar with your plant material. Place the jar in a pot of water and bring it up to a gentle boil and allow to simmer for 2 – 4 hrs. You can also use a slow cooker/crock pot by adding the herbs and oil to the pot and turning it onto low for 4-6 hrs. In both cases, never let the oil smoke.
Making Herbal Solar Oil Infusions
- Harvest the plant on a dry, sunny day. Perhaps you would like to harvest the plant at a particular moon time for the added energies of the cycle. Take care not to hurt the plant and remember to give thanks.
- Discard any diseased or soiled plant material.
- Do not wash any part of the plant. Once there is water in the mix, the preparation runs a high risk of going rancid. If there is dirt on the plant, scrub it off with a stiff, dry brush. I keep a couple of different sized paint brushes handy for this.
- Remove leaves and flowers from stems and shoots and lay out on wire mesh to dry out until crispy. Alternatively you can dry them in a dehydrator or on very low heat or slowly in the oven – around 80-90°C until just crispy.
- Fill a completely clean and dry jar with the plant material: sterilize jars by putting them in the oven and bringing the temp up to 100°C while boiling lids in water.
- Slowly pour your oil into your sterile and DRY jar making sure that the oil penetrates into all the layers of the herb: use a knife to release air and allow the oil to seep all the way through. Make sure you thoroughly cover the plant material.
- Tightly close your jar with a good fitting lid.
- Label your jar with the date, name of plant and parts used & name of the oil used. For example: 21 June ’15, Calendula flowers in Olive Oil
- Place your jar on a sunny windowsill on a surface that won’t be damaged by any seepage of oil for 2-4 weeks or longer. I often keep mine going in a cool dark place for up to 2 months.
- Strain the infused oil into another sterile jar with a tight fitting lid. The leftover plant material can be placed in a clean, dry cloth and wrung out to get the last remaining oil.
- Label your bottles as before and add some of the benefits and uses.
- Store at cool room temperature
And there you have it!
We hope you enjoy making and using your own herbal oil infusions!
Feel free to share your creations with us or ask for feedback.
Till Next Time,
Shireen & Kathy
You may like to see our herbal ointment range at our Pure Alchemy shop here ~
- Introducing our Medicinal, Herb and Indigenous Garden
- From the Medicine Garden: Indigenous & Medicinal Lion’s Ear
- A Shout-Out to Nasturtiums ~ Beneficial in the Garden & in Medicinal Food Recipes
- The Medicine Garden: Mother-in-Law’s Tongue to Relieve Earrache
- Nourishing Nettle ~ Wild Food & Medicine & How to Harvest without the Sting