Infusing dried herbs and spices in oil is a great way to preserve their therapeutic and aromatic properties. Infused oils can be used in the kitchen and will add extra flavor to your recipe. They can also be used for medicinal purposes, for beauty, and even to clean.
Before you begin making an oil infusion, you will need to decide which herbs or spices you would like to use. Following is a list of various herbs and spices that I have infused in the past, along with a short description of what I use them for:
Calendula (aka Pot Marigold) (Calendula officinalis): The dried flower of this plant makes a skin-soothing infused oil that can be used for dry skin, bug bites, rashes, and a myriad of other skin irritations. In a past blog, I describe the procedure for making a skin soothing salve out of Calendula flowers.
Catnip (Nepeta Cataria): Catnip infused oil can be rubbed onto the skin for a mosquito repellent. But beware if you have cats! They may try to latch onto you!
German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita): Chamomile infused oil has a lovely, sweet smell, perfect for rubbing on after stepping out of the shower. Not only will it make you smell nice, but it is great for dry, irritated skin.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia): The flowers of this familiar herb will make an infused oil that will make you smell nice, is great for giving soothing massages, and can be added to bath water.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis): The leaves of this citrusy smelling plant make an infused oil that is wonderful for cold sores, bug bits, and rashes.
Rose (Rosa sp.): I have used rose petals to make some of the loveliest smelling infused oil ever! It smells nice, and is great for softening skin.
Vanilla (Vanilla planifolia): Vanilla beans also make a great infused oil, for general use on the skin, massage oil, and desert recipes.
There are many other possibilities when making infused oils--use your imagination! You can even combine herbs to make your own custom blends. For beginners, I would like to recommend, however, that you use dried herbs to make your infusions. Fresh herbs can contain moisture that can cause the oil to go rancid.
Now that you have an idea of which herbs you would like to infuse, you can make the infused oil recipe. It is a very quick and simple process:
Herbal Infused Oil
Ingredients and Equipment:
1/3 Cup dried herbs or spices
Clean and thoroughly dry the pint jar. Be sure there is no moisture present, since the least bit of moisture can cause mold to form. Add the herbs to the jar, and cover with olive oil to about an inch under the rim to allow for expansion of the herbs. Cover the jar with a clean piece of cheese cloth, cotton cloth, or nylon and secure with a rubber band or string. Do not put the actual jar lid on yet, as some herbs release gasses while infusing that could cause the jar to break. Let the oil infuse in a sunny window for at least 10 days, or as long as a couple months.
Strain out the plant material and compost it. The remaining oil can be returned to the jar for storage, with the lid on, for up to a year. You can top the jar off with some extra olive oil if you would like to fill it the rest of the way; this also helps to avoid mold growth, since there will be less air space in the jar.
Once you have made your infused oils, you can begin putting them to use. There are many possibilities, but I have a few favorite uses that I will share.
Oils infused with herbs, spices, and even lemon or lime peel, make a wonderful addition to many recipes. You can infuse your favorite herbs to make oils for salad dressings, dips, to saute vegetables, marinades, or as a dip for french bread (garlic and rosemary are wonderful for this).
Beauty and Health Products:
Infused oils can be used plain as a body oil or massage oil. Your infused oils also make great additions to many products that you can make at home, such as soap, balms, salves, ointments, and lotions. My husband loves when I give him a foot rub using peppermint infused oil.
Infused oils are also useful for many bodily ailments. For example, dandelion infused oil is said to be helpful for easing stiff muscles; ginger root infused oil can be used for arthritic pains; plantain infused oil is excellent for bug bites and stings; and a couple drops of garlic infused oil works well as an ear oil to soften wax.
Go out on a limb and infuse some pine needles. Pine infused oil can be used as a furniture polish; or add a glug to your mop water to clean and polish floors. Orange peels, lemon peels, lavender, thyme, rosemary, and peppermint are other good choices if you plan to use your infused oils for cleaning purposes.