Infusing Oils

Karin Posts: 272 ✭✭✭
edited November 2020 in Herbal Medicine-Making

I am making a salve for a friend who has skin problems, she has used my Herbal Healing Salve before, which has chickweed in, and found it good.

I would normally infuse only one herb at a time into oil for the salve, but does anyone know if putting two herbs into the oil to infuse would be okay? I want to add a couple more herbs to address her skin issues.


  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,621 admin

    I have made combinations in two ways. The first is simply combining the single herbal oils together. So, for example, 1 part arnica, 1 part St. John's wort and 1 part cottonwood bud blended together for a trauma oil.

    The second method is to infuse an oil with one herb and strain it out. Then infuse another herb in the same oil, so it is sort of a double strength infusion. You could do this with as many herbs as you wish. I have done it with chickweed and plantain in the same oil, then blended that will an equal part of calendula for a very nice healing salve. Self-heal is another great addition.

    You could put more than one herb at a time in the oil, but your oil will have a lower concentration of each herb in the finished oil.

  • dottile46
    dottile46 Posts: 437 ✭✭✭

    I ordered a kit from learning herbs that had the ingredients and instructions to make a salve. All the herbs came in one bag together.

    @torey assuming it is infused one herb at a time, does it weaken the oil with repeated heatings? The herbal healing salve from the kit instructions was to heat the oil in a double boiler. You had to let it cool enough to handle it, strain it, then it is heated again when it is mixed with the melted beeswax.

  • Karin
    Karin Posts: 272 ✭✭✭

    thanks @torey that is what I was thinking, but wanted a second opinion. I wanted to add plantain and self-heal :)

    @dottile46 that is a good point, the oil shouldn't be heated too many times. I would only be heating it a second time, which should be ok, I hope

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,621 admin


    If you got all the herbs in a kit with instructions, then you should follow those instructions.

    But if you are starting from scratch, I would try either of the methods above.

    For heating the oil for additional batches, yes, twice is usually the limit but could be done a third time or more if you are not using too much heat. I use very low heat in either a double boiler or a slow cooker full of water with a jar of the oil placed inside done over the course of a few days. You have to watch closely to make sure it doesn't get too hot (not all slow cookers are created equal). And some herbs are easily done in a cold infusion. I usually do fresh flowers as a cold infusion; arnica, mullein, St. John's wort. Arnica is a very early spring flower so it can be done in a cold infusion and then later flowering plants such as mullein could be done in the same oil. Some fresh flowers are OK with heat. Calendula likes a bit of heat and chamomile is OK heated. Dried herbs are usually best done with heat, although there are exceptions. Cayenne is one that I will do as a cold infusion.

    @foodherbshealth I would do the chickweed and then plantain in the same oil and add the self heal oil separately in whatever proportion you feel is appropriate. It will make a lovely salve!

  • tomandcara
    tomandcara Posts: 712 ✭✭✭✭

    personally, I like a low heat, less than 105 F for a longer period of time. This is based on being told the enzymes in raw honey start to denature at 105 F. I know for some herbs you want higher temperatures to create certain chemical conversions in the herbal preparation. With Chinese medicine there are herbs with different uses in the raw and cooked state.

  • vickeym
    vickeym Posts: 2,095 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Wow, this is great information. Shows me even though I have been trying to study on the subject for a few years now, I have barely scratched the surface. Makes me wish I did not have to work for a living and could devote more time to learning about herbal medicines. ☺️

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,621 admin

    @tomandcara I agree. Some herbs need a higher heat for proper extraction. Resinous plants may need the higher heat to get the resin to dissolve in the oil. And some need heat to alter the chemical composition to make the properties bio-available.There are a variety of pharmacopeia to follow when it comes to making tinctures but less about making infused oils. Lots with general instructions but very few with instructions individual to each herb. It becomes a bit of trial and error.

    TGN's Making Herbal Medicine Course - Module 6 is all about infusing oils and making salves. I encourage anyone who has been nervous or hesitant about making medicines at home to take this course and jump right in. Even if you only become familiar with one medicine to start, you are on your way.

    Kami McBride does a class on oils and has info on her website. Susan M. Parker has an E-book on Herbal Infusions (not free). The Herbal Academy has a good article on various methods at: Learning Herbs seems to be one of the few that lists instructions for individual herbs.

  • Karin
    Karin Posts: 272 ✭✭✭

    @torey I have only a little self-heal (due to my partner over-enthusiastically mowing while we are at home) so I was thinkingof doing self-heal and plantain together. I already have the chickweed infused oil. Chickweed is so abundant, summer and winter, here :)

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,621 admin

    @foodherbshealth Sounds good. As herbalists, we are dependant on Mother Nature (and sometimes well meaning family members) and have to adjust to what we have at hand. I am fortunate to live in an area that is abundant enough that if one plant isn't available in a given year, there is something very similar that can be substituted. So my healing salves tend to vary from year to year.

  • sarah121
    sarah121 Posts: 129 ✭✭✭

    @foodherbshealth If you're using plantain and self heal it should be fine to macerate them together. It doesn't matter so much in this case as your intention is to create a topical application, which unlike a tincture, doesn't require you to use an accurate dose. As these two herbs are similar in nature (and not completely different such as one being a bark and another a resin,) it should be okay to use the folk method to create the oil for the salve. A super easy method is to weigh out your herbs and measure out your oil and then place everything in a slow cooker on the lowest heat. Keep the lid on so there's no evaporation. Also, be sure to use dried and not fresh herbs as the water content can make the oil spoil more quickly, as well as dilute the final product. As already mentioned, if the end result isn't to the strength you require, simply strain off the plant material and then add another batch of herbs to the same oil and do a double or even triple macerate. I hope this helps, but if you have any specific questions feel free to reach out and I'll do my best to help.

  • maimover
    maimover Posts: 359 ✭✭✭

    @dottile46 Learning herbs is fantastic! Am hoping to be able to afford the Taste if Herbs course offered in the fall this year when its offered again.

  • Karin
    Karin Posts: 272 ✭✭✭

    @sarah121 thanks for your comments. :) I've made herbal creams, salves etc but just wanted some other opinions on adding other herbs to the mix. I am not really a fan of doing double or triple maceration if it means heating the oil again, as there is the risk of rancidity. Some herbs are ok used fresh, but should be wilted overnight, and then decant the oil once infused to make sure any water part doesn't get into the finished product.

    This time I wanted something extra for a couple of people with particular problems.

  • Obiora E
    Obiora E Posts: 517 ✭✭✭✭

    @foodherbshealth Yes I have done an infused oil with a variety of herbs to deal with skin problems. See I am going to make some new ones this year and there will definitely be a variety of herbs being used.

  • nksunshine27
    nksunshine27 Posts: 343 ✭✭✭

    ive read with plantain heat destroys some of its properties so i cold infuse some oils

  • An
    An Posts: 42 ✭✭

    This is my understanding also, I will cold infuse the plantain and add it to a combo product as it is cooling down, about the time you add essential oils. I have had good luck this way.

  • sarah121
    sarah121 Posts: 129 ✭✭✭
    edited May 2020

    @foodherbshealth @nksunshine27 Very good point about the oil going rancid with too much heating. You can do a cold maceration, but there is a "saturation point." You can also add natural preservatives such as Vitamin E oil to extend the shelf life.

  • Nikky
    Nikky Posts: 8

    sometimes the oil will go rancid if you infusing oil with a "juicy" plant cause there is too much water concentration in the plant i usually dry my herbs before infusing them