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I learned how to make herb infused oil a number of years ago and it is a skill I don’t know how I lived without! Years ago I thought making herb infused oil would be too difficult, but then I tried it and was amazed at how easy it is. Every herb or flower I grow or come across in the mountains, I read more about to see if it has any medicinal properties that could be infused into oil to use in homemade medicinal salves, lotions, lip balm, soap and more!
The first herb infused oil I ever made was lavender infused oil with lavender I harvested from my perennial flower gardens. I then moved on to making herb infused oil with calendula, sage, arnica, dandelion, lilac, pineapple weed , oregon grape root, yarrow and the list goes on and on. Learning how to make an herb infused oil will open so many doors to you and your ability to make your own herbal infused body care products and medicinal salves for your herbal pharmacy. You’ll be able to make things like our favorite medicinal yarrow first aid salve, our dandelion salve for aches and pains or nourishing homemade body butter.
I mentioned earlier that I experiment with making a wide variety of herb infused oils. Before harvesting an herb for an infusion, I read about it in this book by Darcy Williamson or this one by Michael Moore. These two books are my favorite companion books when harvesting herbs and foraging wild medicinal plants. It is important to make sure you properly identify the plant before harvesting it and make sure you are properly harvesting the part of the plant you need.
I originally learned how to make an herb infused oil from this book by Susun S. Weed. The author suggests using olive oil and this is what I’ve always used for my herb infused oils. I prefer olive oil because we always have some in the house, I can buy it in bulk size 1 gallon canisters to make it more affordable and in general olive oil is much more affordable than other oils like almond oil or jojoba oil.
The majority of the herb infused oils I make use fresh homegrown or wild harvested herbs. You can also use dried herbs from places like Mountain Rose Herbs to make an herb infused oil. I’ve noticed that when using dried herbs to make an infused oil, the herb soaks up more olive oil and I need to add more olive oil than I do with fresh herbs.
How to make an herb infused oil:
- Take the herb you want to infuse and chop it into small pieces. If the herb has any moisture on it, lay the herb out on a wire screen or clean cloth to air dry. Any excess moisture in the plant will cause mold to grow on top of your oil infusion.
- Place the chopped herbs into a dry glass jar (make sure there is no moisture in the jar or it will cause mold growth!). Pour olive oil over top until the herb is completely covered. With a butter knife, poke down into the jar to make sure the herb is all submerged and remove any air bubbles. The picture below is a pineapple weed (wild chamomile) herb infused oil and the picture below that is wild harvested Arnica herb infused oil.
- Place a lid on the jar and label the jar so you know what herb is infusing and the date it started infusing. Store in a dark spot out of direct sunlight at room temperature for six weeks. If you can remember, try to give the jar a shake every couple days. I have a dark corner of my kitchen where I store herbs infusing in oils and ferments I’m making. In the summer this can be a busy corner with multiple jars of herb infused oils, homemade sauerkraut and fermenting fruit scrap vinegar!
- After six weeks, strain the herb from the infused oil. I like to strain my herb infused oil through a piece of cheesecloth (this is the kind we use since its such a great price!) to ensure all the small parts of herb are removed from the oil. You can also use the cheesecloth to squeeze every last drop of infused oil from the herbs.
- Store the herb infused oil in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid and store it in a dark, cool spot. Make sure you label what type of herb infused oil it is. Also note when you made it since olive oil can eventually go rancid after a couple years.
Helpful tips for making herb infused oil:
- I always try to make sure I harvest herbs on dry, sunny days to minimize moisture content and prevent mold growth in my herb infused oil. Some herbs, like dandelion, hold more moisture so it is best to dry them out for a few days before infusing them.
- You can use dried herbs to make an oil infusion, the herbs do not need to be fresh.
- The jar may seep some oil when infusing and when in storage. I learned this one the hard way and caused some stains in the spot I sat my first ever jars of herb infused oil. Now I usually sit them in a dark corner on my kitchen counter that can easily be wiped off. Sometimes I put them in a cupboard but always make sure there is an old cotton rag underneath to soak up any seeping oil.
- Sometimes I forget about my oil infusions or don’t have time to strain them so they sit longer than six weeks and that is fine. I once let a ceanothus infused oil sit for close to a year (oops!). Luckily it didn’t mold but the oil infusion did get really strong and dark. Now I try to make sure I don’t let my herbs infuse in oil for more than two months if I don’t have time to strain it right at six weeks.
- I recommend checking on your herb infused oil occasionally to see how it is progressing and monitor for any mold growth. If you see a small spot of mold starting, remove the mold and any herb it was sticking to and the infusion should still be usable. If you open the jar and there is quite a bit of mold, unfortunately you need to throw it out and start all over. That’s why it is so important to make sure your herbs aren’t wet when making an herb infused oil (and yes, I’m speaking from experience on that one!)
What do you like to make with your homemade herb infused oil?