How To Do Herbal Oils

When considering creams, salves, rubs and chest rubs, ointments, bath and massage oils, liniments and some sprays, for home use, one of the best places to start is herbal oils. The reason for this is that often a herbal oil is the primary component of them, or you can just use it straight.

The good news about herbal oils is that they are reasonably easy for the home maker to do at home and don’t need specialised equipment to make either, but I will admit that having some of the right gear does help, such as a press of some form. But this is mostly in the physical part of making things, if you want to squeeze out every little drop.

Herbal oils do come by other terms, such as, Infused or Impregnated oils. The simple reason for these are the way in which the constituents are naturally extracted out of the herbs. Infused: because it has a similarity to a tea making process, and Impregnated: as the constituents are transferred from the herb and impregnated into the oil.

As far as what herb or what part you can use, to extract out the benefits from, doesn’t really matter, as it’s just that some take longer or require more processing than others. You can use flowers, leaves, bark, stems, roots, plus spices and seeds. These can be from fresh or dried herbs as well.

Either way you look at it, it is an extraction process, sometimes called ‘digestion’, due to being somewhat similar to the slow process of human digestion with heat. Being slow, means that it can be very gentle and doesn’t destroy the ‘goodness’ that you are after, especially when extracting out of flowers, for example.

Although making herbal oils is an extraction process, it should not be confused with pure essential oils, as they are not the same, nor are as strong as essential oils. Pure essential oils are extracted from the plant via ‘steam distillation’ and are best diluted with a ‘carrier’ oil, such as what you would used in a massage oil.

Essential oils can be or are often mixed with herbal oils for added medicinal and therapeutic benefits, or just to smell great.

Reasons why to make and use Herbal Oils

One of the best reasons for using herbal oils is the fact that herbs just have so much to offer, such as, being antiseptic and antibacterial, let alone being stimulating at times, for example, using hot spices such as pepper and mustard. As well as helping to retain moisture in the skin, whilst being soothing and lubricating.

Because each and every herb has many different constituents or metabolites in them, some are better extracted than others using different means, and with herbal oils, constituents such as resins, oleoresins and gums are very soluble in oils. Other compounds that can be drawn out are, essentials oils found in plants, alkaloids and even mucilage.

Once these benefits are removed from the herb, they can be applied to the person via the herbal oil onto the skin and then absorbed into the person. I heard from an excellent professor once state that ‘the natural fats and oils just below our skin are very similar to olive oil in structure’, therefore, they would be lipophilic (Fat-loving), welcoming what comes in.

My personal belief is that it is the ‘oils’ that ‘hydrate’ our skin, and water partly helps to hydrate the skin, as water is needed elsewhere. Any change on the skin is mainly due to water improving the inside and this is reflected on the skin.

How to do Herbal Oils

For Fresh Herbs

  • This herbal oil can be used ‘as is’ or then combined to make a cream or salve
  • For fresh herbs you can use ratios from 1:3 up to 3:2, as in, 1 gram to 3 mls of oil
  • For best results it is best to keep the herb/oil mix in between 43 to 49 C / 110 to 120 F
  • You can modify slow cookers to do this, don’t use stove tops as they are too hot
  • Minimum of a week, but two weeks is better
  • It should last about year, as the heat should help to remove moisture

Method

  • Measure the required amount of fresh herbs to oil
  • Finely chop or crush herbs
  • Place these into a wide mouth glass jar
  • Pour in all the oil, mix thoroughly and place on a lid
  • Shake it up
  • Place it in or on your preferred ‘heating device’
  • Shake it again each day
  • After 3 days strain out the herbs
  • Replenish with a new batch of fresh herbs
  • Shake it up and shake it again each day
  • After another 3 days strain out the herbs and repeat at least 3 to 4 times
  • Finely strain and allow to sit over night to allow very fine particles to settle
  • Finely strain again, but try to leave any sludge at the bottom
  • Bottle, Label, and dark coloured bottles are best, kept cool and out of sunlight

This method is very suitable for herbs such as, Elder flower, Rosemary, Figwort, Lavender, Rose flowers, Bergamot, Chamomile, St John’s wort and Mullein.

For Dried Herbs

  • This herbal oil can be used ‘as is’ or then combined to make a cream or salve also
  • For dried herbs you can use ratios from 1:5 up to 1:2, as in, 1 gram to 5 mls of oil
  • For best results it is best to keep the herb/oil mix in between 43 to 49 C / 110 to 120 F
  • You can modify slow cookers to do this, don’t use stove tops as they are too hot
  • Minimum of a week, but two weeks is much better
  • It should last about 2 years, due to using ‘dried’ herbs

Method

  • Measure the required amount of dried herbs to oil
  • Finely grind or crush herbs until at least a course powder
  • Place these into a wide mouth glass jar
  • Pour in all the oil, mix thoroughly and place on a lid
  • Shake and stir it up
  • Place it in or on your preferred ‘heating device’
  • Shake or stir it several times each day, as it will settle
  • After 1 to 2 weeks place the herb/oil mix into a cloth bag and tie the end
  • Place this bag in some form of press or tincture press
  • Slowly add pressure until very firm and drain into a container
  • Allow to sit over night to allow very fine particles to settle
  • Finely strain again or decant, and try to leave any sludge at the bottom
  • Bottle, Label, and dark coloured bottles are best, kept cool and out of sunlight

This method is very suitable for herbs such as, Arnica, Calendula, Comfrey and Goldenseal.

Calendula Herbal Oil

Culinary Herbal Oils

Simple Basil Oil

Freshly pick the equivalent of 4 tablespoons of basil leaves (can be any type), and lightly crush in a mortar and pestle or similar, and as you are crushing add just a little sunflower oil as this will help with the process. Once the leaves are well bruised and mixed with a little oil, add this to the rest of the oil – 500ml / 1 pint.

Place this leaf and oil mix in a double boiler and simmer for about 15 minutes, once done, allow to cool and strain into a suitable sized bottle. This herbal oil should last about one month in the fridge.

This simple method can be used for other herbs such as, Sweet marjoram, Rosemary, Dill, Green fennel and Thyme, and goes great with garlic and here use 4 cloves.

Spice Oil

Here, simply mix 2 tablespoons of either Coriander or Dill or Fennel seeds with a little oil and crush in a mortar and pestle. Once this is done, add the crushed seeds to 500ml / 1 pint of either sunflower or olive oil, plus a few whole seeds, then label and store.

Variations of Herbal Oils

Honestly, just as there are many herbs and spices and possible combinations, so to the number of choices and possible recipes can be tried. But this is just one of its many benefits, why, because you can now adjust and fine tune each recipe to suit your needs and tastes.

Even though I am specifically aiming at herbal products, many people use herbal oils for other uses, one common one is of course cooking. And here, you can still pass on the excellent values of herbs where you can stimulate appetite, aid digestion, as well intensify flavour.

Choice of herbs for Herbal Oils

As I mentioned above, the choice of herbs and spices are near endless, but here I will suggest a few.

  • Arnica: good for injured tendons and ligaments, plus bruises, sprains and pains
  • Calendula: gravel rash, cuts, dry and chapped skin, nappy rash, wind burn and eczema
  • Figwort: burns, ulceration, gravel rash, wounds, even swollen lymph glands
  • Comfrey (root): excellent for broken bones and damaged tendons and ligaments, small open wounds and cuts, dry and chapped skin, nappy rash, wind burn and eczema
  • Goldenseal: a powerful anti-bacterial, use for infected wounds

Choice of oils for Herbal Oils

When choosing an oil for a herbal oil, you actually want a very light oil, meaning one that has very little if any fragrance and this can be sunflower or grapeseed oils. But olive oil is in most people’s cupboards, and works just fine, but you will have an olive oil scent, which is fine really.

Other oils which can be used are jojoba, sesame, almond and coconut oils, and traditionally lard and suet were used to make herbal oils.

But, I would strongly recommend always using oils that are organic, why, simply because just as the “compounds” found in the herb can be extracted out, and absorbed into your skin for health benefits, so can toxins that are in the oils be absorbed into your body. So, I would avoid cotton seed and canola oils, straight out, and where possible, use certified organically grown and produced oils.

Early when my wife and I were first married, we both worked on cotton farms, me on a cotton picker, and my wife operating a module builder, both of us saw just how much chemicals go into these crops.

You can really use just about any oil or fat, it really depends on your personal tastes and flavours, and what you want to use it for, for example a thin or thick oil and your preferred aromas and beliefs.

Safety

Generally, herbal oils are quite safe due to being used topically, but don’t use oils made from pepper and mustard around the eyes or on open wounds, and don’t use arnica on open wounds.



Please remember, this blog cannot and should not replace a health care professional, and is for informational and educational purposes only and is not for medical advice or treatment, and no cure is implied in anyway. If you have a known serious condition, or are pregnant, please consult your health care professional, before use.

Kind Regards,

Russell a.k.a Herbal Panda

Website: http://www.theherbarius.com.au

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Email: theherbalist@theherbarius.com.au

Sales: sales@theherbarius.com.au

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“Everything runs well with the right oil”

Herbal Panda

2 Comments

    • Depends on what you mean by cheese press, but so long as you can get good pressure, and the herbs don’t pop out into the liquid all should be fine.

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