Herb Infused Oil Making Basics

Making herb infused oils is very easy to do and can yield an herbal oil suitable for making both useful salves and a tasty salad dressing!

Making an infused herbal oil can be as simple as adding oil to your plant material and letting it sit for a few weeks; very similar to making an herbal tincture - see my previous Basic Tincture Making post.

For a longer, very good explanation, check out this Mountain Rose blog post:


Please note, an infused herbal oil is not the same thing as an essential oil.

The differences:

1. An infused oil can be easily made at home. An essential oil requires extraction using chemicals or hot steam. There are several sites that give ideas for how you can do this at home. I tried it once when I grew lots of lavender. Waaaay too much work in my opinion for a very little bit of oil. Not something that qualifies as folk herbalism in my opinion!

2. An infused oil uses very little plant material as compared to an essential oil that requires large quantities for a small amount of oil. 10,000 roses are necessary for 1 small bottle of essential oil. Ouch.

3. Infused oils are typically used externally, but can be taken internally without incident. Most essential oils are for external use only and can be fatally poisonous if taken internally in quantity. Essential oils typically need to be very diluted for external use to avoid irritating your skin and may cause allergic reactions, both to the user and to others who are exposed to the scent.

You may be able to tell I prefer using infused herbal oils as I can make and control exactly what it going into them and its final quality. However, essential oils are used widely and worth investigating if you are interested. Just be aware they are not the same product and do not use them in the same way as infused oils. In short, use great caution when using essential oils and keep them away from children.

You can use any type of oil when making an infused oil: olive, grape seed, apricot, coconut, whatever.

Olive oil is my personal choice as it rarely turns rancid, is absorbed easily into the skin, adds its own healing benefits to the preparation, and is available inexpensively. I use an organic, cold pressed, (first pressed) extra virgin olive oil. Other friends, who know much about skin care, use oils specific for certain skin issues, which is intriguing to me, but again, would take too much effort on my part since olive oil has worked great for my purposes for years.

Two herbal oils of Plantain and St. John's Wort.
My oils of plantain (left) and St. John's Wort (right). Both infused with olive oil. Gorgeous.

How I Make Herb Infused Oils

1. Same as for making tinctures (see earlier Basic Tincture Making post) - make sure you are gathering the correct part of the correct plant at the correct time. I'll give you tips through the year.

2. Gather on a dry, sunny day when there hasn't been rain for at least 2 days. Moisture is the #1 enemy of an herb infused oil and is almost certain to cause mold.

3. Discard any diseased or soiled plant parts. Do not wash the plant as there are medicinal constituents on the surface of the plants, also.

4. Tear up or chop into tiny pieces.

5. Loosely fill a jar with the torn pieces. Then dump this all out onto a plate or wax paper or whatever and let it sit out for a day or so to allow some of the moisture to evaporate off to cut down on the chance of mold developing. I don't let it dry out completely though as I think some of the energetics of the plant are lost when it is dried. But that is my personal opinion. I know some very fine herbalists that use only dry plant material for making oils to avoid mold.

6. Next day, put herb pieces back into the jar. They will have shrunk down some - that's fine. Don't add anymore. That is the correct amount for the size jar you are using.

7. Cover with oil of choice, releasing air bubbles with a knife to make sure oil penetrates all layers of the herbs. Fill the jar completely with oil. Air space at the top encourages mold to grow.

8. Put lid on, label with the name of the plant, and set aside at room temperature for 6-8 weeks. An occasional shake can help to extract all that the oil can from the plant.

9. Strain the infused oil in six weeks, squeezing out as much oil as possible. The plants can be left in the oil longer, but have a tendency to mold and spoil if not kept very cool.

10. Store in a dark place at cool room temperature or refrigerate. Vitamin E oil may be added to help preserve the oil. I typically add the vitamin E oil and store the oils in my refrigerator, just to cover all the bases.

I will write another. post about using your oils for making salves. Stay tuned!