by Gillie Whitewolf
your own herbal-infused oils can be a rewarding
and satisfying experience. Not only do you know
exactly what your oil will contain and the quality
of these ingredients (unlike many 'off-the-shelf'
products) but you can choose what to put in your
oil, depending on what you want to use it for -
and create your own personal blends.
Oils can be used to condition and enrich hair; or
as a luxurious bath oil; or as a fragrant and healing
massage oil or natural moisturiser; or as an ingredient
for balms and ointments. There are two main methods
for producing your herbal oils - a cold method and
a hot method. The hot method is mainly for tough
herbs, bark, roots and seeds, whilst the cold method
is a slower infused method suitable for delicate
Oil - Cold Method
your chosen herb / petals (see below) into a clean
glass jar and fill up with a suitable carrier oil
(olive oil, almond oil or grapeseed oil for example).
The oil level needs to be higher than the herb level
so that the herb is completely covered (to help
prevent the herbs from going mouldy). Place the
lid on the jar, shake the mixture gently and place
in a warm, sunny place to infuse for about a fortnight.
Shake gently daily. Strain the oil and if you would
like a stronger oil, fill the jar with a new batch
of petals and re-use the infused oil. Leave for
another fortnight, shaking daily and then re-strain
and check the quality and strength of your oil.
Pour into a clean glass bottle and store in a cool,
Oil - Hot Method
1/2 pint Olive Oil
2 - 3 oz dried Herb
a glass bowl which can be placed comfortably in
a saucepan without touching the base of the pan.
Pour enough water into the saucepan so that the
water touches the glass bowl, but does not come
over the sides of the bowl (you're creating a water-bath
type of set up).
Place the olive oil and herbs into the glass bowl
and place the saucepan (with bowl and oil and herbs)
over a medium heat. The idea is to simmer the water
in the saucepan so that this warms the oil. Simmer
for 2 to 3 hours, checking regularly to ensure that
the water level is ok. Never allow the saucepan
to boil dry! This may burn the oil and herb
mixture (as well as ruin your saucepan!) and a burnt
oil mixture is useless.
The oil will take on the fragrance of the herbs
as they infuse and will change colour - if you do
not find the resulting infusion strong enough after
the first 2 - 3 hours you may strain and re-use
the oil with a new batch of dried herbs, simmering
for a further 2 - 3 hours as desired. I generally
find that one infusion is sufficient.
To strain the oil use a muslin cloth or suitable
fine mesh strainer, with a clean glass jug underneath
to catch the strained oil. Ensure that all the plant
material is removed from the oil and pour into a
clean glass bottle.
you use fresh herbs you may find that the resulting
oil is layered - with a watery (possibly greenish)
layer of oil at the bottom - this watery layer needs
to be separated and discarded otherwise your oil
will spoil quickly. For this reason it is more desirable
to use dried herbs.
Olive Oil is my preferred choice for herbal infusions
as it does not detereorate from being heated, has
a long shelf-life, and is less likely to go rancid.
Your infusions should last for about a year - stored
in a clean, dark glass bottle or jar (and out of
direct sunlight in a cool place).
Choices : The Hot Herbal Oil method is best
suited to tough herbs, such as rosemary, and roots,
bark and seeds. That being said, more delicate materials,
such as rose petals, could be used but I would suggest
keeping the heat lower and checking the strength
after an hour - it may be wise to then strain and
re-use the oil with a new batch of dried petals.
The condition of the petals after an hour will tell
you - if they are still fairly colourful keep going,
but if they are lacking colour then use a new batch.
A few of my favourite herbs for oil infusions :
- useful for a hair oil for red hair, also makes
a soothing oil for irritated skin - ideal for a
nipple ointment for breastfeeding mothers (wipe
nipple clean before breastfeeding though). Combines
well with Chamomile - another skin caring herb, also good as a hair
oil for blonde hair.
Comfrey - a soothing
oil for stiff and aching joints - particularly good
for helping to heal small fractures, damaged ligaments
and tendons. Do not use on open wounds.
Lavender - the
familiar, soothing fragrance of Lavender is ideal
for a relaxing, calming oil. Ideal for a bedtime
bath or massage oil.
Nettle - another
herbal hair friend, good as a general hair oil,
also makes for a soothing oil for irritated skin.
Parsley - Ideal
addition to a herbal hair oil for remedying thin
or falling hair.
Rose - a delicately
fragranced oil, soothing for the emotions and good
for dry or mature skin.
Rosemary - excellent
choice for a hair oil (for dark hair) - will condition
hair and nourish the scalp; Rosemary also makes
a wonderfully soothing massage oil for muscular
aches and pains and bruises. Also helps deter mosquitos.
Sage - another excellent
choice for a hair oil - again dark hair, especially
grey. Also useful for remedying dandruff.
resin, such as Frankincense or Benzoin, or powdered
Orris Root can be added with the herbs and oil -
these will of course impart their medicinal and
aromatic properties to the blend and will also act
as a fixative for the fragrance and work as a natural
infused oil can be blended with other carrier oils
once finished - you may find olive oil too heavy
an oil for general skin use, for a smoother massage
oil try half infused oil and half almond oil. For
a hair oil you may like to add jojoba to the infused
oil - then warm the oil (place the bottle in a cup
containing boiled water and leave for about 5 minutes
- always test a little of the oil on your hand before
use to check the temperature!) and apply liberally
from roots to tip. Wrap a warm towel around your
hair to keep in the heat and relax for at least
half an hour. Shampoo and wash out - oil can be
stubborn to shift, but fresh lemon juice and water
will shift it in no time, and will leave your hair
smelling fresh and looking great! (Lemon also adds a shine to hair and enhances highlights).
Infused Oils can also be blended with essential
oils (you will need to use less drops of essential
oil in an infused oil than a plain carrier oil),
or used as an ingredient for other preparations
- such as an ointment :
pint of Herbal Infused Oil
1oz Beeswax - grated
up a water-bath with a glass bowl suspended in a
saucepan of water and add the infused oil and beeswax
to the glass bowl. Simmer until the wax is melted.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly
before pouring into sterile clean glass jars, filling
to within 1/2 inch of the top. As the ointment sets
it will leave a dip in the middle. Reserve a little
of the ointment to top up the jars - reheating to
a pourable consitency.
If you wish to include essential oils add them just
before you take the ointment off the heat and stir
in well. You will only need a few drops.
Cocoa Butter could be used instead of the Beeswax.
To produce different consistencies alter the ratio
of oil to beeswax / cocoa butter - more oil and
less beeswax = a cream / moisturising lotion, and
more beeswx with less oil = balm / more solid ointment.