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Infusing carrier oils such as olive, sunflower, or almond with dried herbs makes a lovely and healing oil that you can do many things with. In a prior post, I wrote about herbs and how to use them; I love using many of these herbs to make my own infused oils to use in homemade products.
First, what is a carrier oil? A carrier oil is simply the base oil used to “carry” the plant material or essential oils. Some common carrier oils include olive, coconut, almond, sunflower, and jojoba. I most often use olive, almond, or sunflower because the coconut oil I use is solid at room temperature and won’t work for this. These three oils also tend to be reasonably priced when purchased in bulk, which means I save even more money when I make my own products.
Generally speaking, you’ll want to use dried herbal material to make infused oils. If moisture is introduced to the mixture, the oil could go rancid, ruining your product. If you only use fully dried plant material and no moisture, dirt, or bugs make it into your oil while it’s infusing, it should have a shelf life of up to one year at room temperature.
As always, I'd like to point out that I am not a doctor and I don't play one online. My statements aren't medically evaluated and are based solely on my research and my own experiences. Please consult a doctor if you are unsure of using any of these herbs on yourself of your family.
What will you need to make an herb-infused oil?
Making an herb-infused doesn't require much. You'll need the following:
Dry herbal material of choice: You’ll need around 1/3- to 1/2-cup of fully dried herb. Note- you can view my post on the benefits of some common herbs to help you decide which to use, and I’ll briefly discuss my favorites for infused oils below. Helpful tip: You can mix herbs together for a more beneficial oil.
Your carrier oil of choice: You’ll want enough to almost fill a quart-sized mason jar. I like to buy mine by the gallon.
A glass jar: I like to use a quart-sized mason jar with a ring, but you won’t need the seal. The ring will keep the fabric cover securely over the jar, but you could also use a rubber band.
Cheesecloth or other light fabric: You’ll use this to cover the jar to keep dust and bugs out while allowing any gases released by the herbs to escape. If the oil can’t release these gases, the lid could blow off the jar. You don’t want oil on your ceiling!
A nice sunny location: I like to infuse my oils in a warm and sunny window.
Another dry, clean jar: Once your oil is done infusing, you’ll need another jar to pour it into and store it. This jar will need a tight-fitting lid.
A fine mesh strainer: You’ll need this to strain the herbal material out once it’s done infusing.
Herbs I like to use, and why:
Calendula: I love to infuse oils with calendula and I almost always have at least one jar in my stock, ready to be used in a soothing, homemade goodie. Calendula is extremely soothing to the skin. It’s great for soaps, diaper rash cream, and soothing salves.
Lavender: Lavender is another herb that is soothing to the skin and makes a wonderful infusion. It is especially good for baby products.
Plantain: Plantain is great for healing wounds, and I love using it to make a homemade ointment for minor wounds. Our kids affectionately refer to this ointment as “boo-boo cream.”
Lemon balm: I infuse lemon balm into sweet almond oil to use for homemade soap. It has benefits for the skin, but its scent is also calming, making it good for stress relief.
Carrier Oils I use most often, and why:
Olive oil: Olive oil can be fairly economical compared to many oils, especially if you can take advantage of a buy-one-get-one-free sale at a local grocery store. If not, I like to buy it by the gallon, and I like this brand.* Olive oil can be calming for conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, and it’s great for soothing insect bites or stings.
Sunflower oil: Sunflower oil is great for sensitive skin, which is a reason I often use it. It is also calming for eczema and psoriasis. I like this one.*
Almond oil: Almond oil is another that is great for sensitive skin and irritations of the skin. I like to use this one.*
Of course, there are many oils out there, and your ultimate use for your infusion will also play a part in your decision. If you’re wanting to use your oil to make soap, you’ll need to take into account how a particular oil will affect the lather and hardness of the bar.
This great resource from Bramble Berry talks about how common oils can affect soap lather and bar hardness, and how much of each to use. I’ll discuss this more in-depth in a future planned post on making homemade soap.
Skincare Ox also has an amazing resource on twenty of the best carrier oils for skincare. I definitely recommend checking that out if you’re looking for help with a specific skin issue.
You’ve chosen your carrier oil and the herb you’ll put in it, so let’s get started! This is truly one of the easiest things you can do.
First, make sure your jar is clean and dry, then add your 1/3- to 1/2-cup of dried herbal material.
Next, pour your carrier oil over the herbs to cover them completely. The herbs will soak up some of the oil, so you’ll want to account for that and check the jar periodically and add more oil if needed. I like to fill the jar with oil at least halfway, or even to just below the jar shoulders.
Gently stir your mixture to make sure all the herbal material is in the oil, then cover the jar with the fabric or cheesecloth. You will secure this with a rubber band or the jar’s ring.
Using a jar label or something similar, label the jar with its contents and the date. Your oil will be safe for use up to one year from this date, not one year from the date of your finished product. This is important to remember. If any oil ever looks or smells "off" to you, please throw it out and do not use it.
Now set your jar in a sunny location such as an undisturbed windowsill and let it sit. I like to let mine sit for up to six weeks to really allow the beneficial compounds in the herbs to seep into the oil.
At the end of the infusing time, you’ll need to strain the plant material out of the oil. Simply get another clean, dry mason jar and strain the oil into it through the fine mesh strainer. Gently push on the plant material to get all that good, beneficial oil into your jar.
You can use it right away or label and date it (using your original date, remember) and store it for the remainder of the one-year period. Store infused oils in a dark and cool place. I keep ours in a kitchen cabinet and they do just fine.
The pictures above show a jar of finished lemon balm almond oil (top left), the strainer and plant material being strained out (top right and bottom left), and the finished lemon balm oil, ready to label and store or use.
This oil will be made into a wonderfully soothing lemon balm soap, Stay tuned, that post is coming soon.
Uses of infused oils:
These oils can be used for many things. I like to use mine in homemade soap, ointments, salves, and lip balm. My children and I all have sensitive skin, so being able to control what goes into the products we use on our bodies really gives me peace of mind and reduces our irritations.
Look for specific recipes in future posts. Until then, happy infusing!
What herbs do you infuse? Do you think you might give this a shot? I’d love to hear about your infused oil goodies!