Saturday, April 12, 2014

Create Your Own Herb Infused Oils

Herb Infused oils

What Are They

Herb infused oils are precisely what they sound like.  Specifically, they are carrier oils that have had fresh or dried herbs infused into them over time, and now carry some properties of the relevant herb(s).

How Are They Made and Can You Make Them Yourself?

You absolutely can make them yourself, and frankly, I feel this is the best way to guarantee the quality and potency of the final product.  Not all herb infused oils are created equally, and this is of course dependent on the quality of the initial ingredients and the method of infusion chosen.

Choosing Ingredients

Ideally, you want to shoot for organic, wildcrafted or at the very least guaranteed pesticide free herbs.  Herbs can be fresh or dry, but honestly for certain methods, as will be discussed below, dry is usually better.  Unless the moisture is completely evaporated, I personally wonder about the possibility of introducing bacteria in a situation where water and oil have been allowed to mix without a preservative. 

Of course you could use conventionally grown herbs for some reason of convenience (perhaps price or ease of access) but in all honesty, if you are going out of your way to make something this special, a few extra bucks (and usually that’s all it is) on guaranteeing that you are not also infusing pesticides and herbicides into something that you will use on your child’s head is worth the price.

Cold pressed and virgin oils are always best – they carry the most nutrients.  Organic, wild-crafted and or pesticide free still applies.  The price jump for this quality becomes much more bearable when you are buying in bulk. 

Be aware that some oils are more sensitive to having their nutrition content altered than others.  For example I would never use grapeseed or sunflower oils for any infusion method involving heat.  I might use olive (albeit reluctantly) and sesame in a pinch.  Ideally for heat infusion I would use coconut oil.  Sesame oil has been used for heat infusion traditionally in Ayurvedic medicine, for centuries, for topical applications, so I might use sesame too, in cases where for whatever reason, coconut oil is not preferred.

The Solar Folk Method of Infusion

Quite honestly, this is the only method I feel comfortable using.  I am however bracing myself to try an oil-water exchange (how most ayurvedic oils are made.)  I just haven’t come round to it yet.

The advantages of the solar folk method are that it is the easiest of all methods to do and produces the highest quality oil when done properly.  The disadvantage is that the infusion process happens over the course of 6 to 12 weeks, so you have to wait forever for your oil to be ready.  Basically all this consists of is filling a mason jar all the way to the top with herbs (or at least 7/8 full) then pouring oil over those herbs until the mason jar is full once again.)  You then want to seal the jar with its appropriate lid, and place it on the sunniest window sill in your home or work space for 6 to 12 weeks.  I realize that this is a long range, but it is dependent really on the following factors

-          How much sun is your infusion receiving?  If your sunniest window is still kind of shady because of the climate you live in, the season or the positioning of your home, then you are better off leaving it for longer.
-          Longer times are also beneficial for window sills that do not receive a lot of warmth.
-          How strong do you want this blend to be?  Were you for whatever reason unable to fill the jar with herbs at least 75% full?  Then a longer infusion time might help to make up the strength gap a little bit.

During the time that your oil is perched on the window sill, you will need to shake it “daily” just to make sure all the goodness is being distributed and to help the process along.  Once a day is sufficient.  (Psst… to be completely honest – if you miss a few days here and there and only do it a few times a week, your infusion will not be a fail.)  I promise you, unless you are a Type A personality and you have all the time in the world, there will be days where you just … forget.

Best Herbs for Hair

Some of the best herbs to try for hair blends are nettles, rosemary, marshmallow root, lavender, sage, hibiscus, neem, horsetail, chamomile and gingko biloba.  I will go more into the properties of such herbs in a future post.  Good luck infusing and let us know how it turned out for you.