This post teaches you how to make herbal infused oils using a cold extraction method, using sunlight and time to infuse the goodness of herbs into your quality oil. If you are in a hurry, and need a first aid ointment right now, see my directions for making a hot oil infusion with herbs and my recipe for first aid ointment that you can begin today and have ready to use before nightfall.
Almost any herb that you can make a tisane from you can transform into infused oil. Once infused in a good oil, like virgin olive oil or organic sweet almond oil, you can turn it into a salve or ointment to use externally, or even a cooking oil or salad oil. Herbs are so very versatile. They heal you on the inside and on the outside.
First some caveats when infusing herbs in oil.
Dried herbs are preferred when making infused oil. The moisture from fresh herbs can cause mold and bacteria to grow in the oil, during the weeks when it’s macerating. The moisture can also cause the oil to go rancid. However, using dried herbs to make infused oil alleviates this danger.
Using fresh herbs:
Nevertheless, sometimes you want to use herbs fresh from the garden. You can do this, provided that you dry any visible moisture from the plant material, and you allow it to wilt slightly before adding it to the oil. You’ll want to fill the jars to the rim with oil and cap them tightly to exclude air. Mold can’t grow in the absence of air. Check the jars at least once a week during the maceration time. If any sign of mold develops, discard the top layer of oil and plant material and pasteurize the remaining oil, immediately. Mark the jar, so that you don’t use this oil for any internal application. It can still be used for external applications once you have pasteurized it.
When infusing fragile flower petals in oil, you may use them fresh, and slightly wilted. Dried flower petals will have lost some of their volatile oils in the drying process – especially if they are dried in a dehydrator rather than at room temperature. Since the volatile oils hold healing virtues, you want to capture them in your oil.
How to make a cold herbal infused oil:
Equipment you’ll need:
Wide mouth pint Mason jar
A tight fitting lid
2 cups Organic Virgin Olive Oil or Organic sweet almond oil or other cold pressed oil of your choice
1 cup of Dried herbs of your choice or 1 1/2 cups of fresh and wilted herbs
¼ tsp. Natural vitamin E or 4 capsules of natural vitamin E
Easy step by step guide to making infused oil from herbs
- Wash and sterilize all equipment
- Put herb of your choice into a dry jar
- Pour oil over herbs
- Use a knife to press down herbs and remove air pockets
- Cap tightly
- Allow to macerate in a warm, sunny window
- Tilt the jar daily to mix herb with oil
- After 4 to 6 weeks, strain oil, you can leave it longer.
- Bottle in a coloured glass bottle,
- Add vitamin E, and gently shake to mix.
- Cap tightly and label.
- Store in a cool, dry place and protect from intense light
Now your infused oil is ready to use to make salves, ointments, healing and moisturizing balms, creams, and moisturizers.
If you used dried plant material, your infused oil can also be used in cooking, or raw in salad dressings, dips, and sauces.
Some herbs to infuse in oil
St. John’s Wort flowers
St. John’ Wort blooms sometime between the end of June and the end of July, depending on your elevation and how far north you are. When it’s in bloom, gather the yellow flowers, as soon as the dew has dried on them, in the morning. You can harvest them by placing the flower stem between your index and middle finger and pulling your hand up the stalk, palm up. The flowers will fall into your hand.
Never take more than 1/3rd of the flowers from any plant, and always leave lots of flowers to feed the bees and to set seed for next year. Since St. John’s Wort is a perennial, the flowers will come back year after year, providing you with an annual harvest.
St. John’s wort is a nervine, and anti-inflammatory. It relieves pain and is called for in cases of sciatica and other times when you have shooting pains. It is relaxing and analgesic.
Allow the flowers to wilt for several hours before macerating them in oil.
Calendula is famous for its skin healing, and anti-inflammatory qualities. It is antimicrobial and anti-fungal. It is an important first-aid herb for abrasions, bruises, minor burns, sunburns, and inflammation. It can also be used internally for digestive inflammation and stomach pain — add a tea spoon full to salad dressing along with your other oils.
Comfrey is an excellent choice for your first aid ointment. It is anti-inflammatory, anti-psoriatic, anti-mutagenic, and encourages the proliferation of new cells, in wounds. It encourages bone healing and should be your first choice in healing from a bone injury.
Safety: Although there is some concern that comfrey, taken internally can cause cancer, the evidence is inconclusive. Nonetheless, external application of comfrey is considered safe. The suspect alkaloids in comfrey are absent from the dried leaf.
“The FDA advises against taking Comfrey internally, due to the presence of trace amounts of pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA’s). In contrast, data published in the journal, Science, by noted biochemist Bruce Ames, PhD., of U.C. Berkley, would indicate that Comfrey taken internally is less toxic or carcinogenic than an equivalent amount of beer. It is probably wise NOT to make Comfrey, or beer, a significant part of your regular diet for an extended period of time.” – Philip Fritchey, Practical Herbalism, p.133.
Oregon Grape Root
Antiseptic and antibiotic, Oregon grape root is used in first aid ointments. It has a great affinity to the skin and is the preferred berberine containing herb, where skin afflictions are the target. It is useful in the treatment of psoriasis, eczema, ulcerations, and zits.
Harvest the roots in the fall, by digging the external roots around a living plant, and leaving the larger, main roots intact. In this way the patch can be left healthy and unharmed by your harvest. Carefully clean the roots, cut into small pieces, and dry in a dehydrator on low heat. Make your infused oil from the dried pieces of root, by pouring warmed oil over the root and leaving in a warm place. You can also use a slow cooker on warm to keep the oil warm for a week or two, while the roots infuse, if your house is on the cool side.
One of the beautiful things about using herbs that you grow yourself, is that you can have a collection of herb infused oils, made when the herbs are prime for harvest, and ready to use whenever you need a special formula for treating a specific ailment, whether that is internal or external, acute or chronic. And each bottle of infused oil is one more addition to your homestead apothecary – and one more step away from dependence and serfdom.
Basic Herbal First Aid Ointment
1 fluid ounce each of :
St. John’s Wort infused oil
Calendula infused oil
Comfrey infused oil
Oregon grape root infused oil
3 tbsp. of cocoa butter (1 1/2 oz.)
1 tbsp. of bees wax (1/2 oz.)
5 drops of lavender essential oil
5 drops of tea tree essential oil
5 drops of myrrh essential oil
Melt the cocoa butter and beeswax on low heat and combine with the warmed herb infused oil. Remove from heat. Allow to cool for 5 minutes. Add the essential oils. Stir briefly and pour into 3 x 2 ounce glass jars. Put the lids on while still warm.
Here’s some other ideas for herbs that you may have growing in your garden or lawn that you can use to make infused oils and ointments for your medicine chest.
I am studying Herbalism at the Herbal Academy of New England. Their Introductory Herbal Course teaches you, in unit 5, how to make balms, butters, salves, and ointments to build your own herbal apothecary. It is a work at your own pace, online course, that will expand your knowledge and prepare the foundation for a lifelong study of herbs and herbal medicine. And the course is affordable, with a payment plan, so you can start now, while the summer herbal harvest is at it’s peak.
Don’t have time to make your own salve?
You can buy Joybilee Farm Hemp Rescue Remedy here. It contains St. Johns Wort, Comfrey, and Calendula infused oils, as well as Balm of Gilead, harvested ethically from Joybilee Farm.
Philip Fritchey. Practical Herbalism, ordinary plants with Exraordinary Powers. (Warsaw, IN:Whitman Pub.) 2004.
David Hoffman. Medical Herbalism The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine.(Rochester, Vt: Healing Arts Press) 2003.
The Intermediate Herbal Course. Herbal Academy of New England.