The effects of medicinal herbs can be extracted in many ways. One method of capturing and preserving the therapeutic benefits of herbs is oil infusion.
You may have taken or seen liquid herbs, or herbal tinctures, before - herbal oil infusion adopts a very similar concept, but oil is used as a base as opposed to alcohol. The resulting infused oil can be, depending on the herb, used internally or externally, and presents a less expensive and less potent alternative to essential oils. Here at The Purist, we like to use herbal oils to formulate the bases of our natural skincare products, to add a naturally medicinal, therapeutic edge.
To make your own medicinal herbal oil, you'll need just a few things...
- G L A S S W A R E. Grab yourself a glass bottle or jar to home your infusion. You'll want another bottle or two to keep your finished product in, too. Make sure your glassware is sterilised, nice and clean, dry, and good to go.
- O I L. For your "carrier" oil, the options are almost endless. Some popular carriers include Jojoba, Olive, Sweet Almond, Coconut, Avocado, Macadamia, Hemp Seed and Rosehip. Your carrier oil may vary depending on your intended use - for example, Jojoba is a great oil for inflammation and for oily skin, and Avocado is a perfectly nourishing carrier as it features such a rich source of Vitamin A - or you may opt for a combination of two or more different oils.
- H E R B S. The most important ingredient! Your herbs may be fresh, slightly wilted and ground using a mortar and pestle, or dried. Dried herbs tend to be a safer option as they're far less likely to turn your oil rancid. Again, you can choose one herb or combine a few depending on your intended use.
A L I T T L E P A T I E N C E & L O T S O F S U N S H I N E. Solar infusion is the most popular method of infusing herbal oils, and - while slow - is the perfect way of maximising both infusion and the extraction of the beneficial compounds within the herbs.
- C H E E S E C L O T H. To separate your herbs and your beautifully infused oil once ready.
H E R B S. Pop your dried or prepared herbs into your clean, dry jar or bottle. Again, if you are opting for a fresh herb infusion, make sure that you allow them to wilt a little first to remove most of the moisture, then chop and crush.
- O I L U P. Fill your infusion jar or bottle to almost full - allow a little extra room (about an inch) for your to herbs expand as they absorb that oily goodness. If you have lots of herbs in your jar/bottle, make sure the oil level is at least one inch higher.
- P U T A L I D O N I T. Cap that magical infusion right up tight!
- S O L A R P O W E R. Place your oil on a sunny surface or windowsill - the more sunlight and warmth the better!
- S H A K E I T. At least once per day over the course of the next two to four weeks, give your jar or bottle a good shake.
- S Q U E E Z E. After two to four weeks of infusion time, strain the herbs from the oil using a piece of cheesecloth. Squeeze super tight to ensure you get the best of your infused oil out. If you don't need to use all your oil right now, just strain what you need - and keep infusing the rest!
- S T O R E. Bottle your oil ready for use. Keep in a cool, dark place to lengthen your oil's shelf life - you can even use a little Vitamin E as a natural preservative.
Different herbs have different therapeutic benefits, and so too will your herbal oils. Calendula is one of my favourite herbs, and is amazing for healing skin - whether burnt, irritated or rashy. Chamomile and Lavender are beautifully soothing, calming and healing, and also antifungal. Arnica can help to heal bruising, muscle aches and joint pain. Rosemary is known to soothe an itchy scalp and promote hair growth, but can also relieve muscle pain. These are just a few ideas to get you started - if you're interested in herbal medicine, I'd definitely recommend doing some reading. There is so much to learn about the many benefits of the many (many!) medicinal herbs.
Oh, and if you're feeling impatient? You'll be happy to know you can speed up the infusion process by very gently heating your oily herb mixture. On a low heat (definitely do not boil. I repeat, do not boil - you don't want to deep-fry your herbs!) and over one to five hours, you can slightly mimic the warmth you'd capture slowly from solar infusion. In our opinion, though, the sun, just like your beautiful herbs, has some incredible therapeutic benefits to offer - why not ramp up your therapy a little?
Have you ever experimented with herbal oils? We'd love to hear your thoughts!