I can sometimes find the world of growing and making your own natural products a little overwhelming and complex, so I really wanted to share what I believe is the very easiest and best way to start. And that is growing and drying some herbs, and then infusing them in oil. It is a simple, lovely process that will reward you with an oil that is easy to use, and full of many beneficial properties.
Oils feed and nourish the skin, leaving it soft and smooth, and many of the components in essential oils extracted from the herb in the infusing process are small enough to travel through the skin and into the body. So, rather than using a bought body lotion in the mornings or after a bath and shower, it is a great alternative to use a home grown and infused herbal oil. It is an even better idea to apply the oil BEFORE the shower or bath, as the warmth from the water opens up the pores of the skin and helps the oil penetrate deeper into the tissue.
You can use many types of carrier oil for the base for your oil, Olive Oil is popular as it is readily available, but can be a little heavy on the skin, I personally like Sweet Almond Oil because it is light, easily absorbed and doesn’t have a scent of its own, but other good choices are Coconut Oil (this will be hard at room temperature if you don’t buy fractionated oil, but it will gently melt as it warms in your hands), Sesame Oil, Jojoba Oil (this is great for hair!) and Apricot Kernel Oil.
If you don’t already have herbs in your garden then now is the time to plant them, with a view to most of them being able to be harvested around August time, you won’t get a massive yield the first few years, but as the plant gets bigger, you will be able to harvest more. You can use the fresh leaves for an oil infusion and dry leaves for later in the year for things like tea and other types of infusions.
I believe the essential garden herbs to start with are;
- Lavender – Anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, stress reliever.
- Lemon Balm – stress reliever, uplifts mood and anti-viral.
- Thyme – excellent disinfectant, fights bacteria.
- Sage – warming, anti-microbial, cleansing.
- Rosemary – increases circulation, uplifts mood, eases muscle ached and increases concentration.
- Comfrey – excellent for bruises.
- Roses (for petals and Rosehips) – good for inflammation, cooling, brilliant for skin and gladdens the heart.
- Mint – (don’t plant this direct in your garden – it can be invasive) perfect for stomach aches, digestion problems, headache, nausea. You can just pull a few leaves off and chew, or add to a tea fresh.
Infusion; You can use this method for infusing herbs and plants into oil for almost everything. I prefer the ‘sunny windowsill’ method. So, this is what I am sharing here.
Firstly, you will need;
- A carrier oil. I am using Sweet Almond Oil as it absorbs quickly, is a pale oil and has very little fragrance, allowing the herb to shine through, it is also not too expensive. Be mindful of nut allergies.
- A Jar for the herbs and oil.
- A bottle to store your infused oil.
- Enough herbs to fill the jar without cramming.
What to do? Pick your herbs on a sunny day, when they are warm, mid-morning is thought to be the best, as they should contain the maximum amount of vital oils at this time. I lay mine out to dry for around 24 hours, this will just take some of the moisture out of them. Any water in your oil may lead to the oil going bad and increase the chance of bacteria.
Cut or chop you herbs and then gently pack your leaves into the jar and when nearly full, but not packed too tightly, add your oil, all the way to the top. Use a small spoon or fork to gently push the herbs down releasing any air bubble. You should then sit your little jar on a sunny windowsill for 4-6 weeks until it is infused. I don’t shake my oils, but some people do, and some people prefer a cool, dark place to infuse, experiment and do what works for you.
After 4-6 weeks, take the lid off, if it smells intense the oil is probably ready to go. If you have any residue on the top, just lift it off – the oil underneath should be fine. Gently pour the liquid out through a sieve and into another jar and bowl and just let it all trickle out without forcing, leave it for 10 minutes or so if you can, gently draining. This is the oil you can store, and it will keep happily in a dark, cool place for 9-12 months.
You can usually get a ‘second press’ from the green gunk in the sieve. Push it gently into another bowl and squeeze out the last bits of oil. This oil will usually not store great, as it will have a higher moisture content, so you can use this oil immediately or within 1-4 weeks.
You can keep your herbal infused oils for 9-12 months, you can use them directly on your skin as a massage oil, or you can turn them into body balms, lip balms and moisturisers – I will share how to do this over the coming weeks, as I will be making a new batch of Lavender balm with shea butter and beeswax.
Haile x o
Please do come and find me on Instagram and Facebook @wyldeandgreen