Fresh & Dried Botanical Infused Oils
Infused plant oils are a staple in my life. They are a gentle but powerful way to care for and heal our bodies harnessing the magic of plants. Every step of the process of creating a plant infused oil feels wonder filled. From harvesting plants, to infusing them by the moon cycle and witnessing the alchemy of botanicals and plant oil make a new creation, it is a beautiful practice to learn and be steeped in at any age. Unlike essential oils, which are very concentrated and need to be diluted before use and used with caution, infused plant oils can be used directly on skin and hair or folded into salves and lotions. I reference many infused oils as optional ingredients many times throughout the book and hope you incorporate them into your life!
You can use fresh or dried botanicals to make infused plant oils. The danger when using fresh plants is that water may enter in the infusion and cause it to spoil. I troubleshoot this by adding a bit of alcohol to oil during infusion as a preservative and an effective way to draw out even more of the plant’s essence. Some botanicals are best used fresh to make infused oils, including Saint John's Wort.
You can scale this base recipe based on the amount of plant material you have available and the size of the jar for infusing. To choose a carrier oil, I ideally like to use locally sourced oil. In New York, I can find local sunflower oil. You might use olive, macadamia, or another oil depending on your location. If you want the scent of the plants to come through, choose oil that carries little to no scent like sunflower or jojoba. You want to choose a shelf stable oil that doesn’t go rancid quickly.
Fresh Botanical Method: To make a fresh plant-infused oil, harvest plants in the morning, bring them inside and let the dew or any moisture dry off them for 4 to 6 hours. Pick a clean, sterilized glass jar with a lid and fill three-quarters full of fresh plants. Pour oil into the jar up to the neck of the jar to leave roughly ½ inch to 1 inch of space. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of 190 proof alcohol to oil depending on size of jar. With a spoon or chopstick, tamp down plants and try to break up any air bubbles. Put the lid on the jar. Place the jar in a sunny windowsill or warm spot in your home, shaking daily to disperse the plant material. On a sticker or piece of tape, label the jar with the plant name and start date of the infusion.
Shake the jar daily for a month, making sure plant material stays submerged, and open the lid periodically to check that there is no mold or condensation, and tamp down plants from edges of the jar. One cosmically aligned and energetically potent way to make a plant infusion is to infuse by the moon cycle. We start my infusion on the full moon and strain on the full moon, another excellent way to sync up with the moon phases.
To strain the oil, use a large square of cheesecloth or muslin fabric doubled over and placed inside a large fine mesh sieve strainer. Place the strainer on top of a large glass-measuring cup (adjust the size based on the amount of oil you are straining). Pour oil mixture into the strainer until the jar is empty. Lightly push on plant material with a metal spoon to release all oils throughout cheesecloth and strainer. Let the oil drip until it stops. You can strain it again if any plant material is floating in infused oil. Note the color and the scent of oil – breathe it in! Pour the infused oil into a glass bottle with a lid. Write the name of the oil and the bottling date on a sticker or tape and place it on the jar. Store in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. It should stay fresh for at least one year. If you notice any molding or change of scent, discard oil.
Dried Plant Method: To make dried-plant-infused oil, place plants in a food processor or blender and briefly blend to break herbs into small pieces. This step allows for better penetration of the carrier oil. Now follow the same instructions as the fresh plant infused oil except fill the jar halfway with dried plants. You don’t need to worry about molding or spoiling as much with dried plant infused oils.
Heated Infusion Method: If you don’t want to wait a month to make an infused oil, here are two quick ways for a heated infusion method. As with both fresh and dried infused oil recipes, fill a heatproof glass jar with plants and oil and put on a lid.
You can infuse oil by using a slow cooker or crock-pot on low heat setting for 8 to 12 hours with the lid off. Add several inches of water in the cooker and place the lidded jar inside.
You can also do a stovetop immersion. Simmer several inches of water in a pot or more depending on the size jar you are using. Immerse the jar in water to create an improvised double boiler. Leave the jar simmering on low heat for 15 to 20 minutes and turn off heat. Leave the jar in the water. Repeat this process 3 to 4 times throughout a day to slowly infuse the plant material without overheating it.
For both quick heat infusions, strain as described above and oil is ready to use.
You can use oil directly on your skin or use in a lotions, balms or salve recipes.