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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tips for Making Potent Dried Plant Infused Oils

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!


Searching for High Quality Herbs and Preparations

Small Farms and Herbalists Looking for or that Have herbs available to you. This list reflects more of a Microbusiness model---mostly practitioners, growers, and foragers of bioregional and obscure non-market driven herbs. Looking for something unusual or from someone who collects it and prepares stuff themselves? Or cant find something? I will list folks with resources and folks who have projects that are looking for plants.

Debbie Lukas at Siskiyou Mt Herbs lives on the Frog Farm in Takilma, OR,
 We have an herbal pharmacy and apothecary where we raise and wildcraft food and herbs.

MoonTime Farms near Eugene Oregon
The main crops produced are vegetables and specialty herbs. Seeds may be available, and there are tinctures and salves made on the farm.

Autumn Reine Learning Garden 嶸曉植物園 Beijing China
Learning garden for kids to learn about medicinal plants. We are looking for donations of seeds that will grow in this area, hot humid summers and cold dry winters, approximately USDA Zone 5. 

Fellow Workers Farm, Providence Rhode Island
The fellow workers farm is a microfarm and apothecary
specializing in hard to find tinctures, mostly fresh, made strong and by hand, plus consults and sometimes classes. sliding scale available, shipping available.

Wild Spirit Apothecary Austin TX
Wild Spirit Apothecary is an extension of the Wildflower School of Botanical Medicine focusing on bioregional herbs and homegrown treasures. Formulation available. Some seeds are available as well.

Shamana Flora/ Darcey Blue French
Primarily wildcrafted, always ethical and sustainable, botanicals of the southwest deserts and mountains in small quantities. I can provide freshly harvested plant on request and tinctures/oils.
Blue Wind Botanical Medicine Clinic & Education Center. Oakland, CA
Owner: Tellur Fenner-Clinical Herbalist/Educator
Over 200 herbal extracts in stock (check out our website to view our comprehensive pharmacy list) with new additions added regularly. Specializing in (yet not limited to) obscure medicinals found growing throughout the Western United States. Clinicians, inquire about our "practitioner list".

Backyard Remedies: Herbal & Nutritional Support
Owner: Amy Rouse, CCH
Northern California
Specializing in wildcrafted tinctures in certified organic grain alcohol and custom formulations. Premium salves and dried herbs, hard to find medicines, custom wild crafting and medicinal health consultations over the phone and in person.
Check out our etsy store:

Amy Lynn Johnson
Lawrence, KS
18 acre farm with pasture-raised dairy goats and chickens, top bar bee hives, an acre of organic veggies, and several acres of non-gmo alfalfa, oats, and other grains.  This year I am transitioning a 1/2 acre of pasture to a medicinal native prairie plant mecca and starting our first medicinal plant nursery.  Lots of live plants for sale!  Additional fresh-cut medicinals (ethically wildcrafted and organically grown) also available in season.  Check out our offerings and growing practices at:

Pine's Herbals
An herb school integrating Western herbal medicine and Chinese medicine with a focus on clinical skills and medicine making.

ustya tarnawsky

Fairy Ring Herbs
Concord, CA
We have lovingly home grown medicinal herbs from our organic backyard garden. Fresh herbs available to the SF Bay Area, freshly dried available also for shipping. See our website for a list of what is available and what we are growing. We are happy to entertain many possibilities of trade, barter, purchase...

Gail Faith Edwards
Blessed Maine Herb Farm
Athens, Maine
We're a 9 acre botanical sanctuary, certified organic grower and processor of medicinal herbs with more than 2 acres under cultivation, wildgathering from our well managed wild stands. We've a well stocked apothecary of tinctures, formulas, herb tea blends and bulk dried herbs. Visit our website for full listing.

Rosanna King - Lancaster County Pennsylvania
Recent grad of David Winston's 2 year program. have a small herb garden and also harvest wild herbs that grow in abundance for medicine making. currently building my herbal apothecary. I often tincture extra of herbs i have in abundance and love to share these in exchange for herbs/tinctures that i do not have access to. email

King's Herb Nook
Honey Brook, Pennsylvania
small herb farm specializing in potted medicinal plants for you to grow in your garden. large selection at unbeatable prices.

Cheryl Fromholzer
Clinical Herbalist and Herbal Educator at Gathering Thyme
Northern California
I have an extensive herbal apothecary specializing in locally grown and wildcrafted fresh herbal extracts using organic grape alcohol.  I also connect with local growers for fresh herb including Tulsi, Yarrow, Mullein, Calendula, and more. Wild harvesting Yerba Santa is a specialty. Contact me at

Herbal Revolution
Katheryn Langelier
Lincolnville, Me
I am a small one woman business, located in mid-coast Maine. I organically grow herbs and ethically wild gather from the coast, fields and forests of Maine, respectfully using these herbs to create, hand crafted, high quality herbal medicine and body products. I offer a wide selection of tinctures, flower essences, elixirs, tea blends, herbal oils and body products. Herbal Revolution was recently awarded at the American Herbal Guild Symposium Grand Prize for the Best Overall Herbal Products Line.