Monday, January 21, 2013

Tutorial: How to make infused oils.

Infusing botanicals into vegetable oil is a great way to transfer the properties of flowers, roots, seeds, or leaves into an oil. This oil can then be used directly on the skin as a medicinal oil or to make soap, lotions, salves, balms, or many other bath and body products. Some herbs are great for imparting a color to the oil which can be used to color soap, lotion, etc. There are two methods that are most commonly used to infuse or macerate herbs into vegetable oils. Both methods are quite simple and can be done with items common to most kitchens.

The first method: Traditional Cold Brewing

Step 1: Clean a glass jar  with soap and hot water (I like to spray it with 70% ethanol to sanitize after washing). Allow jar to completely dry.
Cleaning and drying my jar.
Step 2: Fill the jar with loosely packed dry herb. You can use many type of herbs and flowers such as calendula, jewelweed, chamomile, comfrey, arnica, etc.
Jar filled with Calendula petals

Step 3: Pour in a liquid vegetable oil to cover the plant material. I like to use olive oil, but you can use sweet almond oil and many other types. You may want to choose your oil depending on what you plan to make with the infused oil. For a lip balm, sweet almond oil would probably be better than olive oil and for a massage oil you may prefer to infuse into fractionated coconut oil.
Olive oil added to jar so that it is just above the plant material

Step 4: Close the jar, shake, and place in a warm sunny window for at least 3 weeks but you could continue infusing for up to 6 weeks. During the first two weeks, try to shake the jar daily.
Soaking up the sun's rays!

Step 5: Strain out the plant material using either a metal mesh strainer and/or a cheese cloth.

Step 6: Bottle the infused oil and store in a cool dark place. The oils should be good for at least 1 year.

The second method: Quick Hot Brewing

Step 1: Place dry plant material into a crock pot, bain-marie, or a double-boiler. I prefer to use a crock pot as I can set it up and just come back occasionally to check on it. If you are doing this on the stove, you should be sure to stay nearby for safety.

Step 2: Cover plant material with oil of your choice. For this method, since you are adding heat you can even infuse into oils that are solid at room temperature (such as shea butter, coconut oil, mango butter, etc).

Step 3: Heat oils and plant material at about 100-125 degrees Fahrenheit for 1-3 hours. You want to gently heat the oil and not boil it as that could destroy the properties of both the oil and plant material.

Step 4: Strain away plant material as explained above.

Step 5: Store infused oil in a clean jar in a cool, dark place and it should be good to use for about 1 year.

This picture shows some of the other infusions I have made. The Ayurvedic olive oil is an infusion of 4 Indian herbs, the jewelweed infusion was made from the leaves of the plant, and the reddish-pink oil is alkanet root-infused olive oil. I can't wait to try the last one in soap to see how the color comes out!
Other herbal infusions
I look forward to hearing if you try either of these methods and how the oils turn out.


  1. Great tutorial! I'm too impatient, so I use the crock pot method. I haven't infused oils in so long and I miss it, they are so nice in soap!

    1. I usually do the crock pot method, too. I like to have immediate satisfaction! haha

  2. Great tutorial, couldn't have come at a better time for me. I have just started to infuse oils, my first was nettle, I have alkanet and calendula too.

    1. Great! Glad it helped. Did the nettle color the oil or are you just infusing to get out the properties of the herb? I have used nettles directly in soap before and it gave a nice green color, but I am curious if you can extract out that color with an infusion.