Herbal Basics: Oil Infusions

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Oil Infusions with Herbs

In order to use herbs to create culinary treats or therapeutic potions, it is important to know how to prepare herbs in a variety of forms.

Organic Herbal Infused Oils Natural Skin CareWhether it is a simple tea, infusion or an old-fashioned poultice, the end result you desire will determine which method of preparation to use. The next few blogs will deal with herbal infusions.

Herbal infusions, used in cooking or as a dressing on your food, are a great way to add flavor to meals.

Herbal infusions are also a great way to utilize the healing properties of plants. But be sure to Do Your Research.

It is very important that you never make a preparation using an herb unless you understand its properties and potential strength. For example, while some herbal infused oils are safe to be used on broken skin, others are not. Also, people can have allergic reactions to herbs, so when you are applying a herbal-based oil for the very first time do a patch test.

While most herbs can be infused either dried or fresh, unlike vinegar infusions, herbal oils can turn rancid or grow mold, especially if fresh herbs are used due to the water content.

Infused oils that exhibit any change in color, scent, clarity, or taste should be discarded for safety.


How To Make an Herbal Infused Oil

I like to use organic oils for my oil infusions. Also, for herbs I don't grow myself, I always purchase dried organic herbs. You do not want to create a healing oil made with herbs that have been sprayed with pesticides.

Due to the natural water content of fresh herbs, be sure to use DRIED herbs for infused oils. If there is any moisture present, your herbal oils can turn rancid or grow mold. For more information on drying herbs read, How to Harvest Fresh Herbs
How Preserve Fresh & Dried Herbs.

There are many ways to make herb-infused oils. Your method can be as simple as putting herbs in a jar, covering them with oil and allowing them sit for weeks or months. 

When infusing oils the process takes anywhere from a few hours to weeks. The time will depend on the infusion method you choose and how concentrated you would like the infusion to be. I will cover my two favorite methods to prepare herbal-infused oils: Cold or solar infusion and Warm infusion (stove top or crockpot).

Cold Herbal Infusion 

Organic Herb Infused Oils Natural Skin Care

Cold or Solar Infusion is the simplest and oldest method but it takes time. Dried herbs are added to room temperature oil and set a sunny location, on a windowsill or outside, for 4-6 weeks. 

While the sunlight helps encourage the medicinal herbs to release their healing properties into the oil, there is some debate as to whether this method encourages the growth of mold, causes the oils to go rancid more quickly, or if the sunlight can degrade the plant material. 

If you choose the cold infusion method watch for condensation inside the jar.  If you place your oils outside, daily temperature shift can result in condensation which can result in old formation. 

Also, when using the cold infusion method, be sure to use an oil with a long shelf life.

Equipment Needed for Cold Infusion.

  • Dried Herbs
  • Carrier oil
  • Clean glass Jar with a lid


  • Fill a clean, completely dry glass jar 1/3-2/3 full of dried herbs. Dried herbs will expand, so do not to fill more than half way.
  • Completely cover the herbs by filling the entire jar with your oil of choice. Do not leave an air gap at the top since it will promote oxidation and spoilage.
  • Stir gently with a wooden stick to remove air bubbles trapped inside. 
  • Once herbs are completely covered, place the jar in a sunny location and steep for 3-6 weeks. 
  • Gently shake or turn the jar every day for the first two weeks and weekly after that to ensure that all the oil is in direct contact with all parts of the herb to minimize the mold formation. 
  • How do you know the process is complete? This method requires patience. You will know the infusion is going well when the oils takes on a color. For example, calendula oil will take on a golden hue.
  • After the infusion period, strain out all the plant material.
  • Once your oil is done infusing and strained, protect it from heat, light, and air.
  • Label the oil and always include the date you made it.
  • Store in a cool, dark place. 
  • Generally infused oils made with dried herbs will keep in on the shelf, in a cool, dark place for up to a year. They can also be refrigerated.


Warm Herbal Infusion

Equipment Needed for Warm Infusion.

  • Dried Herbs
  • Carrier oil
  • Clean crockpot or double boiler


Hot Oil Infusion: This method involves warming the herb in the oil to extract its constituents. For this method, you need to use indirect heat.

Double Boiler Method:

  • Add the dried herbs and oil into the top of your double boiler. A general guideline is 1 cup of dried herbs to 2 cups of oil.
  • Once the water in the bottom pan is boiling, turn the heat to a low simmer and place the herb and oil mixture on top.
  • Cover and simmer VERY gently for 2-3 hours. Check frequently to make sure oil is not overheating. The lower the heat and longer the infusion time the better the herbal quality of the oil.
  • Allow the oil to cool enough to be handled and then strain, bottle and label it. Generally infused oils made with dried herbs will keep in on the shelf, in a cool, dark place for up to a year. They can be refrigerated.


Crockpot method: While a crockpot is easy and will work quite well, they can often get too hot even on the lowest setting.

Natural Organic Chamomile Infused Skin CareYou will have to experiment with your own crockpot since temperatures vary quite a bit. It is a good idea to use a thermometer to check the temperature.

Place dried herbs and oils in the crockpot and set on lowest possible heat. As a general rule, 2 to 4 hours will do it.

No matter which method you choose, if you notice mold, cloudiness or anything that looks unusual, discard immediately.

We use a crockpot with an alarm thermometer for all of our oil infusions. We turn the crockpot off and on for about a week. The long, slow infusion process ensures the rich quality of oil we want. Herbal oil infusions are used as bases for our salves, bath and body oils and even some lip balms.

Once your oils have been infused, transfer them into a sealable container and be sure to write the fusion date on the container. Store the oils in a cool, dark place to ensure your oils last as long as possible. The shelf life of the infusion will be the same as the shelf life of your oil.

For our organic Healing Herbal Salves we often double infuse to make a more potent oil. We take our infused oil and add it to a new batch of herbs and repeat the whole process over again.

Our concentrated herbal salves help bring the soothing properties of medicinal herbs deep into the tissues. We use our organic salves externally for minor skin irritations, insect bites, cuts, abrasions, sore muscles, chest congestion and stress relief. Check out our Knowledge Base for a Great comparison of our Herbal Salves!


A Culinary Treat: Ida's Garlic Infused Olive Oil

Organic Garlic Infused Olive Oil Recipe DIYIngredients

4 cups extra virgin olive oil
9 heads of garlic


  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees F
  • Remove the cloves from the head and place in a oven-safe baking dish
  • Cover cloves with olive oil, place baking dish on a baking sheet in the preheated oven
  • Roast for 45 to 60 minutes. Carefully remove the pan—the oil will be very hot.
  • Your garlic may not look roasted at first, but it will keep on cooking until the oil has completely cooled.
  • When the oil is cool enough to work with, remove garlic. (I pour slightly warm oil through a strainer into a large bowl.)
  • The olive oil then goes into clean, dry jar (I will often reuse the empty olive oil bottle).
  • Infused oils made with FRESH ingredients should be refrigerated. (See food safety note below)
  • Once cooled, the roasted garlic can be portioned out into freezer bags or containers. It will keep for many months in the freezer.

I love making this infusion because you end up with two culinary treats - - garlic flavored oil and roasted garlic too! I make 2 quarts at a time since we use this oil for everything.

In the winter I store the oil bottles in our very cold garage and in the summer in the refrigerator. I take the garlic and freeze it in small portions—so we always have plenty of roasted garlic on hand.

Ida's Favorite! Mash up some of the roasted garlic, mix it with some of the garlic olive oil, romano or parmesan cheese and dried herbs to make a great dip for a baguette.


A Culinary Treat: Ida's Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes


5 pounds potatoes (I like Yukon Gold)
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
10 large fresh garlic cloves, cut in half
4 ounces cream cheese (softened)
4 ounces goat cheese (softened)
1/2 stick butter
1 cup sour cream
8 to 10 large roasted garlic cloves
additional butter
paprika (optional)


Directions: For this recipe, I use a buttered lasagna type casserole dish.Use Infused Oils to Make Garlic Mashed Potatoes

  • Peel potatoes (leave a bit of peel on) and cut into large cubes.
  • Place in a pot with enough water to cover the potatoes. Add salt, onions and fresh garlic cloves to pot.
  • Gently boil until potatoes are fork tender. Drain the potatoes in a colander--remove onion and garlic.
  • Place potatoes in a large bowl and mash.
  • Add cream cheese and butter to potatoes and mix.
  • Add sour cream a bit at a time until the potatoes are the consistency that you like. You can use a mixer if you like really smooth potatoes, be careful not to mix too much or they become gummy.
  • Add mashed up roasted garlic, salt and pepper and mix until blended.
  • Place the potatoes in a greased casserole. Dot with butter and sprinkle with paprika. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
  • I love this recipe since it can be made the day ahead. If making ahead--bake originally for about 15 minutes. Then to reheat--dot with more butter and heat thoroughly--uncovered.


Food Safety Concern: Infused OILS, especially those made with FRESH ingredients (as opposed to dried), can be potentially dangerous if improperly stored. The infused ingredients (like herbs and garlic) should be removed before storage. The oil should be refrigerated or frozen if not being used when freshly made. The low acid environment of oil infusions can lead to the growth of Clostridium botulinum (the bacteria responsible for botulism), without affecting the taste or smell of the products. If you are concerned about an oil infusion note that the toxin produced by the bacteria is readily destroyed by high heat.


Join us next week when we discuss How to Prepare Herbal Vinegar Infusions

If you have any favorite recipes to make or use herb infused oils--please share!


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