MAKING AN INFUSED OIL
There are two basic methods of making an infused oil; the cold method and the hot method. I generally use the former method, although some herbs work better using the heated oil approach.
To make my infused oils I try to gather my herbs at the height of their season, making sure they are free from excess moisture.
The first thing I do is to spread my leaves out on the counter and remove any that are not suitable.. I then tear or cut the remaining leaves into small pieces, making sure to remove any stems, especially if they are high in moisture (such as Comfrey & Jewelweed). Once I have enough pieces to fill the jar, I add them to the jar, up to about an inch from the top, when lightly compacted.
If the plant tends to be high in moisture, I allow it some drying time before using it. Some plants may need to be completely dried, in order to avoid molding.
The cold oil method:
I pour in enough oil (olive, grape seed or clarified coconut) to cover the herb. I then take a chopstick and poke the mixture around to drive out any air captured in it. This is very important, as water or air can send an oil rancid, so I make sure to drive out as much air as possible.
As you remove the air, it is necessary to keep topping up the oil. The final level should be about half an inch from the top.
Finally, I screw on the lid and label the jar with the name of the herb/s, and the date. I usually label it before the oil goes in, so that the label will stick. I keep the oil in a cool dark place for about 6 weeks before decanting it into another labelled jar.
I will check it occasionally to make sure that the herb remains free of air and is covered by the oil, topping it up where necessary. I also keep a shallow tray under the jar, as some of the oil tends to wick out.
At the end of 6 weeks, I decant the oil into a clean, labeled jar, using a strainer or a sieve.
The hot oil method:
Making infused oils using the quick, heat method, is preferable when using plants that contain a lot of moisture. Even then, it is recommended that they be wilted first for a day or two, to minimize their moisture content.
The secret to making a successful oil by this method is to avoid heating the oil above 140 degrees (F) or 70 degrees celsius.
Organic olive oil is the preferred ground, but other oils would suffice. If you use coconut oil, tallow or lard in place of the olive oil, it will become solid when it cools, creating a type of salve.
Use enough oil to completely cover the herb.
A crock pot, yoghurt maker or double boiler should be used to ensure an even, controlled temperature. Some authorities feel that 7 or 8 hours is sufficient to extract the properties of the plant, whilst others recommend up to 2 days, especially at lower temperatures (around 100 degrees fahrenheit).
Once the process is complete, the infused oil should be filtered into a clean, jar and lidded up. Be sure to label the jar before adding the oil.
MAKING A SALVE
A more convenient way to carry around your medicinal oil is to turn it into a salve – a more solid form that cannot spill and make a mess.
Salves require just two or three ingredients, the infused oil, *beeswax and some essential oil for a more pleasant aroma (optional). The proportion of beeswax to oil may vary according to the consistency desired, but a general rule of thumb is one ounce of beeswax to 8 ounces of oil.
Melt the beeswax in a pan over a low heat or in a double boiler. Add the oil and leave on the heat and stir until the wax has remelted and the liquid is clear. This is the time to add about 20 drops of essential oil to give your salve a pleasant aroma.
Pour off into small containers and let it cool. After the salve has set up, lid up the containers and store in a cool place. It’s as easy as that.
*You can use other ingredients in place of the beeswax (for instance, Shea butter works well).