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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Herbal-Infused Oils - In the Garden

Today, In the Garden, we explored making our own handcrafted herbal-infused oils.

I realized after the show that I need to add some clarity to the definition of what "infused oils" are and how they are used in comparison to other botanical oils - like essential oils, for they are very different.

As one who makes and uses infused oils in my daily living, I sometimes forget that not everyone is as familiar with them as I am. Silly me! So I will be circling back to this topic in an upcoming show. But to address what seems to be a key point of clarity ... herbal-infused oils are used for their nourishing, conditioning, soothing, healing (AKA medicinal) qualities, not their fragrance. While some of the volatile plant oils will come through and add fragrance, it is usually so subtle that it goes unnoticed. These are oils that are often used in bath and
body care formulas for their actions, not their fragrance.

I love infused oil of calendula flowers for its healing properties. I love infused oil of violet leaf for its skin softening qualities. I love infused oils of plantain leaf (Plantago species) and chickweed for their cooling, soothing, calming actions on the skin. These are
all excellent used as is, for massage and general skin applications. They all make lovely balms on their own, or mixed with other oils. They are excellent additions to creams and lotions and soaps.

Of course, you want to ensure that the plant you are using is safe
for general use on the skin and that you don't have any sensitivities or allergies to it. When in doubt, consult with a local herbalist!

As for the infused oils, they are so simple to make, as you know if you joined us today In the Garden! Simply ... I harvest my desired herb, discard any compromised plant matter, and dry dust any dirt off. I chop the plant matter and pack it loosely in a glass jar (like a canning jar). I poke mine with a chop stick, to ensure that the plant matter and the oil are completely mixed and that any air bubbles are released. If any plant matter is sticking up through the oil and into the air, I cover it with additional oil and cap it. Don't forger to label it with the herb, oil and date! And, you'll recall that my oil of choice is olive oil, for it is a good all-purpose skin oil, a good keeper and in all my years using olive oil, I've encountered only one person who's claimed sensitivities to it - unlike nut oils!

So, I let the oil and herb macerate for 1-4 weeks (sometimes using low heat, in my dehydrator). I watch it closely during this time, to address potential mold before it becomes a problem and ruins your oil. When its ready I gently strain it, to separate the pant matter from the oil. I do not push or squeeze the plant matter, for water is often trapped in the plant and we don't want to release that into the oil, for it would encourage mold and spoilage. I let mine sit for a few days, covered with cheese cloth or muslin to allow any residual water to evaporate or sink to the bottom. Then I bottle the clear oil, label it and place it in my dispensary until I'm ready to use it in balms, soaps, lotions and the like.

By the way, I rarely keep infused oils for more than a a year. Frankly, I rarely make enough to keep on hand for that long!

So there it is. If you missed today's show, you can listen to it at Podcast on Demand, and you'll get even more information! In any event, I hope you will try making your own herbal-infused oils, and I hope you love them as much as I do!

I hope too that you'll join us again in two weeks - after our 48 for Larry week - In the Garden at 11:30 AM, ET on Blockhead Radio. And remember, be inspired by Nature!

1 comment:

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