This comes up over and over again – the weird way that I make my infused oils. I learned the method from Michael Moore. He made Arnica Salve for us in class one day, starting with recently dried arnica.
- Grind the freshly-dried herb in a coffee grinder. It doesn’t need to be finely ground, just broken up. In fact, if you grind it too finely, it will very difficult to strain later.
- Weigh the herb and write down the weight.
- Put the ground herb in a glass jar or bowl that has a tightly fitting lid. Add a dab of alcohol (maybe a teaspoon or tablespoon full), mix it up a little and close the container.
- Wait a half hour or so, until you can see that the alcohol has permeated the ground herb.
- Add seven times as much olive (or other) oil as the weight of the herb. Stir it up, making sure all of the herb is under the oil.
- Let sit a couple weeks or more.
- Strain. Use.
Why do I like this method so much?
– Oils made by this method never go bad in the process of being infused, and go rancid more slowly after they are finished.
-The oils produced by this method have more fragrance and color than oils made by other methods, at least that I’ve seen.
Now, using this method is certainly going to produce a much stronger oil than a method that uses seven times the weight of FRESH herb. Dried herb can be three or even ten times as much plant material per weight as fresh. An oil made by this method is like a concentrate compared to usual infused oils.
If I want a thicker, more solid texture, I use the oil as the oil portion of a body butter. I’m not a fan of salves, personal preference. I don’t like using beeswax on my skin.
My favorite herbs to infuse in oil are calendula, chickweed, chamomile and sweet woodruff.
An exception: I have been told many times that St John’s Wort HAS to be infused fresh and that a red color in the finished oil is a sign of high quality and cannot be obtained unless the herb is fresh when the oil is made. I only recently moved to a place where St John’s Wort grows, so this was my first year making St John’s Wort infused oil. Just to be certain, I tried making a small batch using the alcohol intermediary method. Sure enough, it’s not red. I’m not sure yet whether it’s effective as a remedy, as I haven’t had much chance to use it. I suspect, though, that next year I’ll make it with fresh herb. I’ve never made lemon balm infused oil, but I imagine that would be an exception, too. It’s this way with herbalism – there are always exceptions!