First: Create as sterile and dry of a space as you can when making oils. Water and oil= bacteria. Oil in fact on its own tends to hold bacteria well and can break down easily. Wash everything thoroughly and dry it prior to getting into this process.
Not all plants extract equally well into oil. In fact, check and make sure that the constituents you are trying to obtain are soluble in oil. Books like Lisa Ganora’s Herbal Constituents can help with that. Also, James Green’s Herbal Preparations.
Make sure your plants are thoroughly dry prior to putting them into the solvent(oil) and that your plants are as HIGH of a quality as you can get. When dry they should still be vibrant and colorful . Browning mushy plants=no good.
I suggest making simples–1 plant at a time you can combine later
Not all oils are created equal. Choose a high quality oil, traditionally Olive Oil is used but Grapeseed, Almond, and Sunflower are also options. The best oil to use is Organic OR pesticide free cold pressed virgin(if olive). Cold pressed means NO HEAT was added so the oil is still a food. The fatty acids and vitamins are still present in the oil. Heat and synthetically extracted oil lacks this. They are just lubricants at that stage. Sunflower Oil is one of my preferred oils–The plant is Native to the U.S., readily available, has a light, cooling energy, and sustainable to use.
Not all oils affect someone the same way. I like using oils that are as neutral as possible if the extract is to be used on larger surfaces of the body. If the extract is for small areas of the body as a therapeutic extract, then the type of oil is not as important. As a bodyworker, I try to choose oils that match the bodytype of my client. When making salves, and more focused types of oils for more localized therapeutic purposes(like eczema etc) then I worry less about the body type. If the infused oil is going to be made into a body oil, I add infused oils at 30% to a base of a constitutionally balancing oil– then have my clients slather it on.
Remember that we digest things topically. Though the affect can be more localized, it can become systemic, especially if the person is using the oils all over the body regularly. I don’t put anything on topically that I can’t eat.
GRINDING THE PLANTS IS A KEY STEP. There are a variety of ways to make an infused oil. I find that grinding the plant in seems to really add extra oomph and helps the plant to extract better. Most dried plant oils I add 1 oz of plant material into 4-5 oz of oil. We have found that grinding the plant before putting it into the oil can be one way to break down the plant, or if you have a vitamix–you can throw the entire mix in and blend together. Keep in mind that regular blenders have a hard time and can blow out easily. We have also had more luck with handhelds, especially older models from thrift stores. Newer models tend to break easily–like within one or two uses when trying to blend plant material. Our tried and true method prior to the vitamix was to blend the plant material in a wide mouth mason jar with a handheld blender, and add oil and shake.
Some oils may be rubefacient or slightly toxic and need to be at a 1:10 instead of a 1:5. Also, they may be added at 10% into a body oil(Chile pepper, Arnica, Juniper etc)
The biggest differences in dried plant oil making are in whether you infuse the plant material into hot or cold oil. Some people swear that cold infusions are superior. The belief is that when you add any heat–over a certain number of degrees you are losing constituents both in the plants, and the oil. Because I live in the South we have created a psuedo-warm extraction method using the sun, which I leaving the method for at the bottom of the article.
If you make oils, research whether your plant is affected positively or negatively by Sunlight. When in doubt, protect the preparation from the sunlight. One of the only plants I know of that is actually activated by sunlight is St John’s Wort.
Extraction time can vary based on whether you are using a warm or cold method of extraction. I prefer using my solar and or cold method method and give the plants about 2-3 days if we are over 95 or so and up to 2 weeks to infuse if it is winter time. Remember grinding is the key to potent infused oils.
If you are doing a warm extraction, try to find an old crockpot at a thrift store that actually has a temp gage. If you cant dont use anything over the warm setting. Put your oil and herbs into the crock pot at a 1:5 ratio, and let the mix sit for at least 12 hours. Turn off and cool.
After you are done extracting with whatever method you choose, siphon off and strain the oil. Store in a cool dark place. If you can refrigerate, they will stay good longer. Your oil should be used within a year if outside of the fridge. It may last longer in the fridge. Sniff often. Smells funky? toss
Oil Migrates. Please know that no matter how clean and how much you wipe the area around your oil infusions, you will need to check for migrating oil–like things getting oily, around the bottle and the shelf.
Pressing Oils. If you dont have a press you can lose A LOT of oil when hand pressing. One trick is to put the pressed plant material into a plastic baggy, rip a small hole in the corner and hang the baggy about 1 foot above the jar that is catching the oil–for at least 1 day. I have been able to catch an extra couple of oz at times.
What to do with the oily marc? Put it in an old sock and use it as a scrub in the bath before you compost it!
Wildflower School Solar Infusion Method
(or that sun is so dang hot for so long why not take advantage of it)
makes 1 pint of oil which renders about 10 oz
You will need
2oz of dried plant material(like calendula)
10 oz of high quality oil(like Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
1 pint sized mason jar
A large clay pot
a handheld blender
Put the plant material into the widemouthed mason jar and blend until the plant material is as fine as you can get it. Sometimes at this point, I will use a larger jar so plant material doesnt fly all over the place.
Put the macerated plant material into a pint sized mason jar.
Add your oil
Put a lid on, flipping the rubber seal(because oil can degrade the rubber seal).
Shake the oil, clean any excess oil off
Put a label on with pertinent info and the date
Set outside underneath a clay pot for a week or so–depending on how hot it is. In Texas, when it can be 100+ degrees, the oil will be ready in just a few days.
Your oil should taste, smell ,and change color. If it does not, then you havent captured the plant.
Let it sit longer.
After the infusion is done, strain out all plant material carefully and press as much oil out as you can(see above tips).
Transfer the infusion to amber glass and label with the date the plant was made, and the method. Not to mention the name of the plant.
Happy Oil Making!