Sunday, September 04, 2005

Calendula infusion Posted by Picasa

Herbal Infusions

So many folks ask me about infusing herbs that I thought I'd just include it here. This is the process which I am most comfortable & successful using.. so if you want to add some nice properties, texture & natural hues to your soaps you might want to give thsi a try too! :+)

Making Herbal Oil Infusions... Jady @

I'll be talking about two methods of infusing herbs.. Hot Methd & Cold Method

Materials to have on hand: Good quality olive, sunflower or almond oil ( or oil of your choice) , a double boiler pan, measuring cups, thermometer, wooden spoon, 2 quart size canning jars/with lids, coffee filters, jelly bag or micro fine coffee filter, clean empty glass bottles or jars, a small saucer, blank address labels, cider vinegar, dried herbs of choice ( at least 1 cup of each) & Vit. E oil.

Though many of my own herbal infusions are made with fresh herbs & in gallon sized portions, for this class we will be using dried herbs.
Infusing oils is a pretty simple process. Make sure to have all your jars cleaned well.. run through dishwasher & completely dry.
I make my herbal infusions up much the same way I cook.. a pinch of this & a pinch of that.. so measurements will be really putting me to the test :-)
Herbal Oil Infusions & Herbal Teas contribute various qualities to the scent, texture, color & creaminess of the dense lather in soaps.

Calendula, Comfrey, Chamomile, Lemon Balm, Sweet Annie, Mints, Lavenders, Sage, Rosemary, Rosehips, Dandelions, Marshmallow root, Nettles, Parsley, Rose petals, Thyme, Yarrow,
Mullein flowers, Scented Geraniums, burdock root, St John’s Wort flower, Chickweed

COLD Method:
Measure out about a cup of the herbs or more you would like to infuse and place into your canning jar... the more you can get into your jar the better! I like to have my jars filled at least 2/3rds. I then add 2 oz. Vit E oil and just a smidgeon of cider vinegar ( approx 1/2 tsp ) to my quart of olive oil to help minimize any unwanted molds from growing. Now gently pour this oil mixture over your packed dry herbs into jar, making sure that there is about a good inch of oil above the botanicals. Once filled, take two coffee filters and invert it over the top of the jar. This seems to help keeping down air exposure to the herbs. Then put your lidded ringed cover on tightly directly over the coffee filter and apply your label to jar. You should always label your infusions with: materials used, herbs( fresh or dried) , oils, date. I then store my my jars in a cool dark cupboard or closet, sitting on a small saucer or plate for 4-6 weeks..Give your jar a shake once or twice a week. When you are satisfied that your infusion is strong enough to use I pour my infusions thru a micro screen for coffee filtering.. as it works great catching all the tiniest pieces of botanical. The remaining botanicals I then squeeze through a jelly bag or if you don't have one of these.. doubling more coffee filters and tightly squeezing out all the goodness into your cleaned infused oils.
Then the process begins again.. whatever I have left behind in my original infusion jar.. I add yet more herbs packed in & topped off with oil, covered & stored til needed.

HOT Method:
Depending on the size of your double boiler ( I use a one & two quart ) fill your top pan 2/3rds full with herbs of choice & cover with olive, almond, sunflower ( or oil of choice). Gently simmer oils for 3-4 hours on lowest heat. I try to maintain my oil temps at around 120-140 degrees If I am planning to use these infused oils in a soap recipe I would leave them to set overnite...on stove, rewarming the next day & strain all botanicals as we did above using the COLD Method .. then measuring out my oil portion for use in my soap recipe. To store unused portions.. I prefer not to strain out my botanicals and only do so just prior to usage.

** Some are successful 'sun infusing' herbs for two weeks, but I have found this to have a higher chance of bacterium growing within 72 hours & oils going rancid. Personally, I'd never recommend this type of infusion. ** About the closest I would get to sun infusing is during our northern winter months is lining my bay window with jars of infusing herbs..... letting the sun
( when we see it LOL ) catch them with it's light. Calendula petals are glorious while decanting.. the showy orange/yellow petals look so warm & inviting in the middle of winter. In the early Spring.. if you can get your hands on a nice violet patch.. collect these flowers & olive infuse them .. the color is radiant in jars... (but won't remain when soaped) that also makes a wonderfully healing skin cream/lotion formula.
I’m also not fond of crockpot infusions either.. but this is my own personal preference again.. my feeling is… there is always a chance of ‘frying’ the goodness right out of what you are trying to accomplish with so much variable temperatures. If speed is what you are looking for, try this method by all means.. but keep a close watch on it. :+)

When I want certain qualities in the smooth lather the soap produces the best way to get that is using special oils or waxes I'd sub the olive or part of my olive for
( avacado, jojoba, sunflower, rice bran, shea etc ) & infuse certain herbs that would apply to my formula.
Many herbal balms can made effectively using hot infused oils, especially spicy herbs such as ginger, cayenne & arnica prepared as a balm to help relieve arthritic pain, improve local blood flow circulation & relax muscles. Other leafy herbs such as comfrey, rosemary speedwell, & chickweed healing ointment may also be produced.
Comfrey infusions are my favorites. I think every garden should have a comfrey patch!
Some of my favorite infusions are:
Comfrey leaf & root, ginger root ( just a smidgeon), plantain leaf & calendula
Rosemary, Lavender, chamomile
Lavender, chamomile, comfrey leaf only, rosemary, calendula, horsetail, yarrow,
oakmoss, plantain, rosehips, spring violets & their leaves.
Lovely blend in soaps & shampoo bars.. fabulous! & balms too!
Ground Nettle , comfrey & rosemary leaves
Or try some green tea, sea kelp, calendula petals, rosehips & mints! The possibilities are endless :-)

I really enjoy adding oil infusions to my soaps, balms & ointments for their skin care qualities & color that they impart to the soaps. I seldom make herbal tea infusions for my soaps, as I feel the benefits of the herbs are lost when substituting tea water for water/lye mix.. and, you'll get no color when adding tea water except when using calendula or madder root... or murky greens/browns at best with most others. . But.. I DO love using infused herbal teas in my lotions & creams and the color that they can impart in them naturally.
Have fun infusing your herbal oils.
I've posted up some pictures of some of my herbal infusions for you to see if you'd like also :-) Herbal joys.......... Jady