The Forest Apothecary serves as an ecclectic online compilation of some of my herbal recipes, plant ponderings and insights.
I hope you find my notes here useful and enjoyable.
~ Green Blessings ~
Once you've created some beautiful herbal infused oils, it's quite simple to make a healing herbal salve or balm. General rule of thumb is to combine approx. 4 oz. of an herbal infused oil to 1 oz. of beeswax. Here is an easy recipe to use as a basis for creating your own herbal salve. This one is perfect for soothing minor scrapes, cuts and burns.
Materials: Small pyrex measuring cup, small sauce pan (large enough for pyrex measuring cup to fit inside), herbal infused oil of calendula, lavender essential oil (optional), vitamine e (optional), 1 oz. of beeswax (virgin unbleached preferred).
Directions: In a self-devised double boiler (glass pyrex measuring cup sitting in water in sauce pan) slowly melt 4 oz. of calendula infused oil with 1 oz. beeswax, stirring well. Once combined and melted, test consistency by drizzling small amount onto a dish. If too soft add a bit more beeswax, too brittle add a bit more of your oil. Results here can vary according to weather and the hardness of your wax. In summer months you'll probably need to add more beeswax. Carefully remove your pyrex cup from pan (cup will be hot, so please use caution). Set aside, stir a bit more and add about 15 drops of lavender essential oil, and if desired about 4 drops vitamin e. Pour into jars, and allow to cool completely before capping. That's it, you have just created a natural herbal salve!
Herbal infused oils are oils in which herbs have been steeped to extract their healing properties, along with their color and subtle scent. Creating nourishing herbal infused oils is the first step to crafting a myriad of natural skincare preparations. The oils can be used by themselves, or in combination with other ingredients to create various balms, salves, creams and soaps. There is a wealth of information available online and in books on the various methods of creating herbal oils.
The oils can be created with either fresh or dry herbs, with or without the use of heat. Always be sure that the herbs chosen have been properly identified, and that they are pristine and free of pesticides. It is best to use a stable oil that will not go rancid quickly. I most often use cold pressed olive or extra virgin olive oil, which is also particularly good for heat infusing the herbs. Materials needed are few, just the herbs, clean glass canning jars with lids, your chosen menstrum (in this case oil is the menstrum), labels and a pen.
Dried Herbal Infused Oil: General rule of thumb when creating oils from dried herbs, is to use 1 oz. of herb by weight to 4 oz. of oil by measure. This will at times need to be adjusted according to the size and volume of the herbs used, but the idea is to completely saturate the herbs in oil, leaving as little air as possible in jar. Place herbs in the jar first, pour in the oil, use wooden stick to make sure herbs are fully immersed, cap and label with date, menstrum used, common and scientific name of herb, whether fresh or dried herb was used, and if desired, the moon phase. Let steep 3-6 weeks or longer before straining.
Fresh Herbal Infused Oil: Use bascially the same process, but more care is needed since due to high moisture content they are more prone to mold and bacterial growth, especially when infused via the no-heat method. It is often best to dry-wilt the fresh herbs prior to making an infused oil. This is done by laying them out flat on paper bags for several hours. Heat infusing also helps to evaporate some of the water from the plant, and speeds up the infusion process, but never use a heat source that exceeds 125 degrees. The goal is to create gentle consistent heat, not to cook the herbs. Placing your jars in a pan in the oven with only pilot light on is one way of heat infusing. A crock pot or double boiler stove top method can also be used, being sure to vent and to adjust and monitor temperature regularly. If it becomes hot to the touch, turn off heat for a bit. You can keep this slow heat process going for several days, turning off heat during sleeping or away hours.
Straining the Oil: Pour the infused oil into a clean jar by carefully straining through a as you'll you want to get as much of that herbal goodness into the oil. I sometimes like to use a french press for ease of straining my oils, and have one dedicated soley for this purpose.
Tips on Preventing Spoilage: Start by wiping your jars clean with alcohol or vinegar. Leave as little air remaining in your jar as possible. When infusing fresh herbs, dry wilt them first and/or apply the heat infused method. Store your strained oils in a cool, dark area. Don't bottle your oils and then ignore them! Use them regularly, and think up ways to incorporate them into other herbal preparations.
Here is a partial list of some of the herbs I often use in creating herbal infused oils. You'll find them referenced in many of my recipes:
~Lavender Flowers & Leaves
~Violet Leaf and Flowers
Hopefully this information has served as good introduction to enable you to experiment and create some herbal infused oils of your own!