There are two primary methods of infusing herbs into a base oil. The hot oil infusion method is quick and relatively painless. I have been taught it is less medicinally beneficial than the cold method. You can read about the warm infusion method here.
The cold infusion method is wonderful for both fresh and dried herbs. Dry herbs tend to make a more potent oil and there is less of a chance of rancidity. Fresh herbs have a high water content which can lead to rancid oil or mold issues, so special care should be taken when infusing fresh herbs in oil. I tend to usually work with dry herbs, but when things like dandelion, lilac, and calendula are in season I will definitely make some nice fresh infused oils with them.
Step By Step Instructions
1. Harvest your herbs during the cooler part of the day, from a clean place without pesticides, herbicides, or animal feces. Be sure they are dry. Do not rinse the herbs.
2. Place the fresh herbs in a sterilized dry glass jar (affiliate link for what I use). I run mine through the sanitizing cycle in the dishwasher and make sure they are thoroughly clean and dry before putting the herbs in.
3. Cover the herbs completely with organic extra virgin olive oil. You can use other beneficial medicinal oils but a good quality olive oil (affiliate link) is stable and a standard most herbalists follow.
4. Use a wooden chopstick or something similar to push the herbs under the oil and release all the air bubbles. You may have to do this a few times during the first day. Some herbs will float to the top for the first week or two. Be sure to keep them completely submerged under the oil. This may require a lot of poking at them but eventually they will sink below the oil line. Herb matter exposed to air will increase your chance for rancidity and mold.
5. Top the jar completely with olive oil leaving about an inch of oil over your herb matter.
6. If you are using dry herbs you can screw a lid on the jar, if you are using fresh herbs place some cheese cloth (affiliate link) or a coffee filter (affiliate link) over the top of the jar and secure it with a rubber band. This will allow the water from the herbs to evaporate and escape from the oil, decreasing your chance for rancidity.
7. This is a source of contention. Some herbalists say to place your jars in a sunny, warm, but not too hot, location and allow the warmth and sun to aid in the infusion of the oils. Others say to put them in a cool dark place to decrease the chance of mold forming. In the end do what feels true to you. I prefer to put the oils in the sunny kitchen window and allow them to infuse that way.
8. Label the jars with the exact date you started them and let them infuse for 4-6 weeks. No longer.
9. Using a fine mesh filter, filter the herbs from the oil into a separate glass jar.
10. If you used fresh herbs, allow that oil to sit covered with breathable material for a day or two. After that time check the bottom of the jar to see if any water has collected on the bottom. If so extract the oil from the top of the jar, leaving the water with a thin layer of oil on top to be discarded.
11. Decant your finished oil into a cobalt or brown colored jar (affiliate link) to protect from UV damage.
12. Add some vitamin e oil (affiliate link) to help extend the shelf life. You can also add a few drops of myrrh or rosemary essential oil (affiliate link) to extend shelf life and protect from rancidity.
Herb infused oils need to be stored with a tight fitting lid in a cool dry place out of the light. If they are stored properly, the will usually last up to a year. Be sure to label your oil with the date you made it so you know when its shelf life will end.
When working with any herbs, please take these basic herbal medicine safety considerations in mind.
What is your favorite way to infuse herbal oils?
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