Wednesday, April 9, 2014

DIY Herbal Oil infusions


Oil infusions are a beautiful thing! They're wonderful for food purposes (hot pepper oil for instance for all you artisan pizza lovers!) but they can also be used as healing aids. When we cook and combine a little extra virgin olive oil with a few spices, our goal is to infuse the flavor of the spices into the oils which in turn fuse themselves into our food item. The same process and idea can be done with medicinal herbs to create a wonderful oil which can be used as a natural healing aid. I create and use oil infusions in practically every product I handcraft, from my diaper creams down to my lip balms to really enrich my natural products as best I can with the best herbs I can get my hands on. It's simple to do, a little time consuming but worth every minute! You'll want to spend a bit of time researching the wide variety of herbs available to you so you can tailor make an oil that can be of service to you. Once you have decided what you would like to create your oil infusion for, have researched the herbs that can deliver, you can purchase your herbs (the fresher the better!  I would however recommend dry herbs if you are just starting out vs fresh herbs you need to dry out yourself first), purchase your oil of preference and then you can get started!! There are a few methods that can be used to create your oil infusions, in both a cold infusion or hot infusion, I will explain the difference to the two below.


WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

-Herbs of your choice (for this diy, you want fully dried herbs).
-Oil of your choice (depending on the method of infusion you choose, hot vs cold, info below)
-Sterilized mason jars

You always want to make sure you start off with the driest components possible to avoid any moisture being introduced to your oils or it can drastically reduce it's shelf life, and we don't want it to harbor and grow bacteria from the moisture. For this reason, make sure you sterilize your mason jars (wash them and introduce them to high heat to ensure no bacteria is present) and then make sure they are 100% dry before beginning. I only work with herbs that are fully dry so that my oils can last as long as possible, using fresh herbs is a little risky if you want your oils to last long, moisture can cause your oils to mold over time...

For both methods, I lightly place the herbs in the mason jar (usually 3/4 way full) without packing or compacting it so that the oil I use can seep through all the crevasses and fully cover all my herbs nicely. I then pour my oil in the jar to a little below the full mark so no spillage will occur when I tighten the lid on to the jar.

Once your infusion time is done and your oil is cooled (if using the heat method) strain your herbs from your oil (with a strainer or cheese cloth) and repeat 2-3 times. Keep your oil in a clean container (I use glass) and place in the refrigerator for a longer shelf life.

HEAT INFUSION METHOD

I revert to this method primarily since it can be done over the span of a few hours vs a few weeks (I will be producing more cold infusions shortly though to have both options). For this heat method, you want to choose an oil that has a high smoke point just to ensure that the oils can handle the low but constant heat without damaging itself or the herbs, I prefer an organic extra virgin olive oil, an organic virgin coconut oil (the kind that is solid at room temperature), or a combination of the two.

The method I prefer is with a "bain marie" (in my case a porcelain casserole dish with water placed on the stove). I place the mason jars in the casserole (I like the water to reach the 3/4 mark on my mason jars) and place the casserole on the stove and set the heat to low. I want to very slowly introduce the heat and keep the heat to the lowest possible setting since I don't want to over heat the herbs and destroy any of the properties that will be seeping into my oils. I leave it in the "bain marie" for about 2 hours and then turn off the heat. I let them sit in the casserole about another 25-40 mins and then place the mason jars onto the counters. I prefer to heat them gradually, and then cool them gradually as well.

COLD INFUSION METHOD

This method is the longest since you need to give the oils and herbs time to infuse, which can take up to 3 weeks, but it works beautifully, and can be the safest way to preserving the healing properties of your herbs if you don't feel like you know what you're doing when using the heat method. You can pretty much use any type of oil you like for this method since there is no need to subject your oils to heat (so you don't need a high temp tolerant oil). The only difference, after filling up your mason jars with your herbs and oil and closing the jar up, is letting the oil and herbs sit over a period of time to have them infuse together. Some people like to place the mason jar in front of a window to allow the sun to contribute to the infusion process, some people prefer to keep it away from the sun and just place it in a dark place to sit. If you can stand to wait a month, that would be even better!



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