How to Make Herbal Oils
Herbal oils are for a variety of uses. Once an oil has been infused with herbs, the properties of the herbs are in the oil and can be delivered directly to the skin.
Examples of Great Herbal Oils
Chamomile flowers infused into oil are a wonderful ingredient in creams and lotions. They are soothing to the skin and help calm itching and dryness.
Calendula flowers are another wonderful, calming ingredient. Basic salve made with Calendula is a wonderful product to prevent diaper rash!
Willow Bark and/or Meadowsweet in oil makes a wonderful home version of "Aspercream", a topical with salysylic acid in it (the active ingredient in aspirin) for arthritis.
Arnica flowers and St. Johns Wort together in oil make what is called "compound Hypericum Oil". Hypericum is the latin for St. Johns Wort. Thisoil is tremendously healing for injuries, strains, sprains, etc.
To make an herbal oil there are two methods:
Herbal Oil Method One
Gather enough plant material to fill a jar loosely. The plant material can be gathered fresh from the garden and allowed to wilt in the sun during the day, then ground up, or you can use dried plant material. Either way, grind the material in small bits.
Put all the plant material into a large glass jar with a tight lid. Now, fill the jar with oil to the absolute top. It is critical that no space be left for moisture to accumulate as this can grow mold and destroy your oil!
Once the jar is sealed, place it in the garden on a flat stone where it will get as much sun light each day as possible. The sun light will, over the course of time, infuse the oil with the properties of the herbs as it warms the jar each day.
Leave the the jar in the sun for 4-6 weeks, shaking periodically to make sure no air pockets are in the jar preventing equal saturation of the plant material by the oil.
The heat is what is actually infusing the oil. As you can imagine, leaving the jar out in the summer sun for 4-6 weeks would mean many days worth of heating up and cooling down at night.
After the time has elapsed, remove the plant material and strain the oil into a clean glass jar for use as needed. I add a little pure Vitamin E oil as a preservative to keep my herbal oils from growing 'fuzzies'. If mold or fuzzy bits grow, discard the oil as it should not be used at that point.
Herbal Oil Method Two
The above method is fun and makes extremely good oil. If however, you want to make things from the oil to sell, or if you don't have the time to wait 4-6 weeks for your oil, this method is for you!
To make an herbal oil faster - follow the instructions above up to the part about the glass jar with the tight lid. Instead of placing the herbs and oils into a jar, put them into the top portion of a double boiler. Set the double boiler on low heat for a few hours, ensuring that it never runs out of water in the lower part. Keep an eye on it, and make absolutely sure no water splashes into the top part of the double boiler where the oil is (by keeping the temperature on the low side).
The oil in the pot will get quite hot even on a low simmer, so be careful when handling the oil and the double boiler.
After 1-2 hours, take the oil off the heat, and allow the oil to cool. Then decant the plant material from the oil, straining the oil into a large, clean glass jar. It can now be used as needed for salves, creams, etc. I still add Vitamin E oil to mine to increase shelf life.
Another thing that will increase shelf life is refrigeration if you have the space, but the oils will last well at home on a cool, dark shelf.
Herbal oils will keep for approximately one year. After one year, the properties of the plant will begin to diminish sharply, making the oil far less effective. This is also true of herbs. All your fresh products should be made with the idea of discarding unused portions after one year.
Keep checking back for how to make home-made creams and salves!