Infusing Herbal Oils
An oil infusion is an herbal preparation that is crafted for external use, either as a massage oil or as a specific treatment for skin complaints, neuro-muscular pains, or other conditions best treated from the outside in. These infusions are usually made with flowers (being the most oily, resinous parts of plants by and large), although you can make an excellent relaxing oil with the leaves of Scullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), and Garlic in also used. There are two general methods for crafting an infused herbal oil, depending on whether your herbs are going in fresh or dry.
Fresh oil infusion. This is usually reserved for plants that are highly antiseptic to begin with, and won’t allow mold or bacteria to thrive in the oil medium (this is your primary concern in making infused oils – they can easily spoil). Some examples are St. John’s Wort, Mullein flowers, and Garlic. To prepare these infusions, harvest your herbs at the appropriate times, ensuring they are top quality. Do not wash them, but do remove any unwanted leaves, flowers, or other undesirable parts. Chop the herbs finely, and add them to our favorite container, the mason jar, so that the jar is about ¾ of the way full. Now pour on your oil of choice (see the list below), filling the jar to the top and ensuring all the herbs are covered. Shake well, and place in a sunny spot (where preferably there will be no dew or rain to settle on the jar), shaking daily, for one week. At the end of the week, strain and put your oil in a clean, dry jar for storage in a dark place.
Dry oil infusion. Calendula, Arnica, and Yarrow flowers make great dry oil infusions. Lobelia and Scullcap work as well. When in doubt, dry your herbs first for at least 3 or 4 days to ensure that most of the moisture has evaporated and won’t get trapped in the oil, because this leaves pockets for anaerobic bacteria to thrive in (thereby spoiling your oil). Otherwise, the process is about the same as for a fresh infusion: make sure your herbs are properly cleaned and garbled, and that only the best parts are being used. Place them in a good jar, about ¾ of the way to the top, and cover them completely in the oil of your choice. Allow the infusion to steep for 4-6 weeks, ideally in a sunny windowsill, and shake them often.
A list of selected oils for infusion:
Olive oil (extra virgin): the standard. Very good for the skin, perhaps a bit greasy for some.
Sesame oil: good just by itself for healing the skin, and inflammation. Strongly scented.
Almond oil: all-purpose, lighter oil. Absorbs quickly.
Grapeseed oil: the lightest. A pleasure to apply, and not very greasy at all.
Safflower oil: another good all-purpose oil.