Herbal infused oils are wonderful to have on hand. Depending on the dried herb used, many infused oils are versatile. You can cook with them, use them as a moisturizer, treat minor scrapes and cuts and more.
The best oils to use to infuse your herbs are pure vegetable oils that have a low smoke point and a long shelf life. Consider using oils such as almond, olive, coconut, or sunflower, although many recipes call for olive oil since most people have some in their pantry. I’ll recommend common herbs that you can find in your yard, garden, or through a friend, along with some family stories of helpful remedies for each.
Herb-infused oils, whether used for culinary purposes or in traditional medicine, can be prepared in two ways: the folk method or the heat method. The folk method is also called cold infusion or solar infusion, because you let the herbs naturally infuse in the oil in the sun for a few weeks. The heat method sometimes uses a simple saucepan, but usually you’ll use a double boil method – this method is the fastest. Here are five easy herb-infused oils you can make right now.
Garlic infused olive oil (heat method)
My family made many recipes with fresh garlic as the cold season set in. When the cold bit you, you fought back with herbal remedies. Soups loaded with garlic were common as a sign of a cough or fever, an herb that has antiviral and antimicrobial properties.
Some folk remedies recommend placing fresh garlic in your socks when you’re sick to get rid of inflammation, but luckily I’ve never fallen asleep that way. Here’s a more effective garlic-infused olive oil recipe that’s great for small cuts and family recipes.
Using a small saucepan, heat four crushed garlic cloves in a fourth cup of olive oil. Slowly stir the garlic cloves every few minutes so they don’t burn. Simmer the ingredients until the cloves are light brown (about 30 minutes). Then, remove the pan from the heat.
Let the mixture sit for another 30 minutes. Finally, strain the infused oil through a sieve or cheesecloth into a pint-sized mason jar. Close the jar. The recipe will keep for at least a month in the refrigerator.
Lemon balm infused olive oil (folk method)
Lemon balm contains antioxidant properties and has also shown promise as a tonic and diuretic. Its scent is “lemony” and adds spice to any recipe.
My great-aunt used lemon balm in salads and infused leftover dried leaves in olive oil to use as a dressing. There is no exact measurement of the amount of sheets used. She simply used what was left of her garden. Here is her simple recipe using the folk method.
Add dried lemon balm leaves to a mason jar and fill the jar up to one-third full. Then, cover the herbs with olive oil, sealing them. Let it sit in a sunny window spot for about four weeks before straining. Store the oil in your fridge for up to a month.
Lavender infused oil (folk method)
Aside from lavender-infused lattes, you might not consider using lavender-infused oils in your cooking. However, this oil is surprisingly versatile on savory and sweet dishes. You can also rub lavender oil on your itchy skin or as a massage oil to help you relax.
If you pick your own lavender, select the buds just as they are about to open. Let them dry in a clean, sterile jar, one-third full. Cover the flowers with a carrier oil of your choice, such as olive oil or almond oil.
Strain the oil into another jar, using a cheesecloth placed in a funnel. If you prefer, you can use a bottle with a dropper if you’re turning the recipe into a massage oil. Store in the fridge for about a month.
Plantain leaf infused oil (folk method)
Plantain leaf can be used both internally and externally, and it contains anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and astringent properties. My grandmother used to crush the leaf and rub it on cuts before putting a bandage on my finger. The dried herb can also be used in home remedies to soothe a sore throat or cough. On its own, the plantain leaf may not add much flavor to heated foods, but it could be a soothing addition to a spring or summer salad as a dressing.
Choose fresh plantain that hasn’t been exposed to chemicals, pollution, or pets, and let it dry in a sterile area. Fill a jar with dried plantain, up to a third of the way. Cover the herb with olive oil. Then cover it tightly. Let the oil steep in a sunny location for about four weeks.
Strain the oil into another resealable jar of the same size using a cheesecloth in a funnel. It should keep in the fridge for a month.
Rosemary infused oil (folk method)
Rosemary has symbolic associations with good memory, wealth and protection. In terms of culinary and medicinal use, it is both delicious and beneficial – indeed, rosemary contains cognitive and antioxidant properties. However, I made this oil only for use in pasta dishes.
Fill a mason jar with dried rosemary about a third of the way. Fill it with olive oil. Let sit for two to four weeks. Strain the oil through cheesecloth and a funnel, but many prefer to leave some of the rosemary for cosmetic purposes. The recipe will keep for a month in the refrigerator.
- Some folk method recipes require as little as two weeks or as long as six weeks. Each recipe varies. The length of time required may be due to the mass of the grass, the amount of sunlight received and other variables.
- If using a heat or double boil method, slowly heat the oil over low heat. Check the oil every few minutes to make sure it is not overheating. Heat method recipes should take no more than an hour to prepare.
- Dry the herbs by hanging them upside down or laying them flat and spaced apart. Let your herbs dry completely before using them. If you don’t dry your herbs before making an infused oil, you run the risk of contamination.
- When collecting herbs, make sure you know the terrain well. Never pick herbs near the road because of the risk of contamination. Avoid places where pets are common. Never take more than a third of a plant to ensure the plant’s survival until the next season. Always get permission before picking if the land is not yours.
- Never use a plant if you are not 100% sure you have correctly identified the plant. It would be better in such cases to order dried herbs from a local store or online.
- Always label your oils with the date you made them, how long they were infused, and the estimated expiration date. You can store oils in a dark, cool corner of your closet, but they may not last as long. I recommend storing them in the refrigerator for about a month, but this time can vary depending on the recipe.