Making a herbal infused oil is pretty easy to do. It’s part formula, and part art.
What you need:
- a large saucepan to put on the stovetop
- a scrupulously clean pint sized mason jar (holds about 2 cups)
- your choice of oil- sunflower oil, jojoba or olive oil depending on what you want to do with your finished herbal infusion. (Allow for a generous expiration date.)
- clean and absolutely dry plant material of your choice, usually a flower or herb, enough to place into the jar until it’s filled about halfway. (*please note that the size and weight of your plant matter will influence the amount added into the mason jar. For example, lavender flowers are much smaller than mullein leaves and you may need to make adjustments based on both volume and weight combined.)
- a super clean wooden stirring implement-like a chopstick or the handle of a wooden spoon
- water for the saucepan
- time- you need to be able to babysit this project for about 5 hours.
- a strainer
- coffee filter or cheese cloth (disposable)
- a clean bowl to catch your warm infused oil- something with a pour spout is easiest
- a clean tea towel for handling the jar from the stove
- clean plastic funnel to fit your bottle or container
- a suitable storage bottle (absolutely clean and dried)
- label for your herbal oil
Let’s pretend that we’ll use calendula flowers to make a calendula herbal oil for an ointment that we plan on making later. Calendula flowers are reasonably large and very lightweight when dry.
Take a small handful of the flowers and put them into the mason jar. Add enough flowers so that the jar is about half full of flowers. Don’t press them down.
Next carefully pour the oil of your choice over the plant matter and fill to the rim of the jar. This will be about 2 cups of oil. After the oil settles in, decide if you need to add more. Gently stir the plant matter and the oil so that everything is immersed in the oil.
Add water to your saucepan and put it on the stove and set your heat. On my stove the best setting is around 3. You should have water to fill up the pot about halfway. Place the jar carefully into the water bath. You do NOT want anything inside that jar to get wet. If this happens, you must start over.
You want to stir this mixture about every half hour or so in order to keep even circulation of the plant matter in the oil. Use that chopstick. Every time you stir, check the water level and carefully add more to the pan if needed. Eventually you will, because the water will be evaporating over time. Also keep an eye on the water temperature- it should be almost a gentle simmer the whole time but never close to a boil. Having the water too hot will degrade the product- it needs to be gently coaxed. You CANNOT be in a hurry to do this project. Just saying.
At this time you can prepare for the last steps. Set out your small bowl and place the strainer on top. The bowl should be large enough to catch what is flowing from the strainer. Cut your cheesecloth to fit the inside of the strainer. Use a coffee filter or even a paper towel if you need. I prefer the cheesecloth, double layered.
When your 4-5 hours are over, you should have a rich yellow oil in that jar. Give it one last stir, and get ready to pour. Get that tea towel and use it to remove the jar. It will be warm, and you don’t want to drop it after all that work.
Pour the contents of the jar into the strainer and into the bowl you have set out. Wait for it to cool. Make sure you get as much as possible into that strainer.
Squeeze the plant matter until it surrenders all the oil. This is where the cheesecloth is preferred, because you can literally wring it out and get all the drops. This may now be composted or discarded.
Transfer your lovely herbal oil into your bottle or container using the funnel and label it with the type of oil, infused in what oil, and the date you made it. If you know the expiration date of the oil, put that on there too. Store in a cool dark place until you need it for another recipe.