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Herbal Ally Challenge #7: Oil Infusions Part 1
posted on Saturday, February 19th 2011 9:35 pm

This is our 3rd week of infusions. Oil infusions are great because they are extremely versatile. They can be used internally, externally, as is or turned into a salve. There are several ways to make oils: stove top, solar and crock pot. The important thing about making your oil is to be sure and strain off all plant material and water or your oil will go rancid quickly.

You can use many kinds of oils to make an infusion. Olive oil is a standard, all purpose base and works well as a massage oil, salve base or salad dressing. If you want to make an oil specifically for a massage oil, almond oil, apricot kernel oil and grapeseed oil are all lighter and work especially well for this task. Coconut oil is also a great base, especially if you will be using it in your hair. Be aware that coconut oil generally solidifies at temperatures cooler than 76 degrees fahrenheit. Don’t limit your oils to vegetable oils. Animal oils can be used as well: emu oil, lanolin, lard, tallow, butter and ghee are all excellent oils to use. 

Assignment 1:

Read a few different perspectives on tincture making:

Healing Wise by Susun Weed pages 271 – 273 (Similar version taken from Breast Cancer? Breast Health! can be found online here: http://www.susunweed.com/herbal_ezine/July09/breasthealth.htm )

Making Plant Medicine by Richo Cech pages 81 – 86 (First part of Chapter 10)

The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook by James Green Chapter 17: Oil Infusion pages 193 – 200 (click to see online…3 pages are missing from this version but you can see most of this chapter)

Journal any thoughts you have on oil making. Write about why you think oil infusions will be a good mix with your herbal ally (or why not). 

Assignment 2:

Make an Oil Infusion from 3 different types of oils. Use 1 form of animal fat. You may wish to make more than one version of each oil to compare differences in methods. For instance, do 2 olive oils, one on the stove top, the other sitting in the sun.

To make an oil, place a handful of oil in the top of a double boiler. Pour enough oil to cover, bring the water below to a boil then turn down and gently heat for 2-3 hours. Turn off the heat and strain out the herbs from the oil by pouring it through a strainer lined with cheesecloth. Squeeze the cloth to get the final bits of oil out of the plants.

Pour your oil into a jar and cap it. After 48 hours, check to see if anything has settled to the bottom. Usually when using dried material, there will not be anything settling but when your plants are fresh, water can sometimes mix with the oil during the infusion process and will settle to the bottom. If this happens, you will want to strain off the oil from the sediment at the bottom as the sediment will cause the oil to go rancid. 

There are alternative methods for oil infusions. The basic premise of oil infusions is to heat the plant material at a level that the pores open and release the medicinal constituents but not so much that you cook the plant material. Any heat source is acceptable although a continuous heat source is best. 

Sun Method:

Fill a jar about 1/2 full of dried plant material in a jar and fill to the top with oil. Stir with a chopstick to get air bubbles out and put on the lid. Set jar outside in the sun for about 2 weeks. Bring inside and follow instructions for straining and settling.

Crock Pot Method:

If you are making a larger quantity of oil, you can heat it in a crock pot. Place the desired amount of herb and oil into the pot, set on low and let heat overnight. Follow instructions for straining and settling.

Assignment 3:

Make a list of ways you might use your oils. Think about what your herbal ally’s actions and come up as many ideas as possible. Try at least 2 of these uses this week and record your discoveries.

Ideas include: Hot oil treatment for your hair, massage oil, muscle rub, chest rub, salad dressing (combine with your herbal vinegar!), salve base (we will make salves later…)

Assignment 4: (Optional)

Obtain some essential oil of your herbal ally and compare the differences between their scents and strengths. When using as a muscle rub for instance, rub one part with the infused oil and another with the essential oil. Journal about the experience. (Note: do not ingest essential oils!)

How are your vinegars and tinctures doing? Be sure to check on them and taste them! Your vinegars may be getting strong enough to use by now. If they are, try them with your oil on a salad!

Next week we will be starting seeds of our herbal ally so we can watch them grow from sprouts. If you do not have any seeds, refer back to my seed starting post for sources of seeds. We will discuss other options next week but if you are wanting to start some indoors to watch from their sprouting stage (highly recommended) order some seeds!


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