Nov 26, 2012

Oil Infusions

    To make an oil infusion, such as an oil for treating ear infections or an aromatic rub to relieve chest congestion, you can use the stove, an oven or the sun (solar infusion). Fresh chopped garlic and fresh or dried mullein blossoms are traditional ingredients in ear oils. Use either or any combination of both. For an aromatic chest rub oil, use any combination of fresh or dried wintergreen, eucalyptus, peppermint, whole cayenne pepper pods, whole mustard seed, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves or cracked whole nutmegs.

     Cover the plant material with olive oil and heat it gently in the top of a double boiler above simmering water or in a closed glass jar set on a rack in a pan of simmering water for one to two hours or longer. If using dry herbs, additional oil may be needed as the plant matter absorbs it. Use enough oil to cover the herbs well but not so much that your result is weak and ineffective. Start with 2 cups oil to 1 cup dried herbs and adjust the proportions as desired.

     Fresh herbs will absorb less liquid, so simply cover them with oil. To make a solar infusion, which is my favorite method, let fresh plant material wilt slightly to reduce water content, use a clean jar, loosely pack the jar with fresh herbs (fill the jar half full if using dried herbs), then fill it to the top with oil, clean the top of the jar well so that no oil or plant material interferes with a tight seal when you put the lid on and leave the jar outside in the sun for several weeks or months.

     When ready to use, strain through cheesecloth and add a few drops of tea tree oil or grapefruit seed extract as a disinfecting preservative. If you're making an aromatic chest rub, add a few drops of decongesting eucalyptus oil as well. Store in amber glass bottles (use an eye dropper bottle for ear oil) away from heat and light. Label with ingredients and date of preparation. Stored correctly, oils can last for years, though most herbalists prefer to make them annually for maximum freshness. Note that these oils are for external use only. Discard any oil that becomes rancid.

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