Infused oils from medicinal plants, ‘weed’, and herbs are a shelf-stable way to preserve the medical preps growing in your apothecary patch. The infused oils can be used as a wound wash, to make poultices, and turned into salves, tinctures, and even healing teas.
There are multiple ways to make infused oils that can be used alone or as an active base in natural medicinal remedies. The oils are extremely shelf stable when prepared and stored properly – making them an essential addition to your survival medicine stockpiles.
Herbal infused oils are also often used in natural recipes for cooking, bath, beauty, and skin care products.
In this article I will be making an infused oil with plantain because I need to make some more salve out of the medicinal weed, but the same process can be used for any plant, herb, or so-called weed that I have ever either worked with or heard of.
Examples of Uses for Herbal Infusions
- Rosemary – in a variety of cooking sauces, to stimulate hair growth, as a treatment for itchy scalp.
- Herbal infusion often turned into healing salves include: plantain, jewelweed, calendula, lavender, chickweed, comfrey, and chamomile.
Cooking With Herbal Infusions
You can cook with infused oils simply for the added flavor they infuse into a dish, which can be a great treat when your daily meals consist of only buckets of survival meals or wild game that is being turned into a stew.
But, herbal infusion oils can also be added into recipes to harness their immune system boosting, antimicrobial, antifungal, and antibacterial properties, making them a sort of SHTF liquid vitamin or probiotic.
Sterile Mason or other glass jars with a firm-fitting lid should be used when making an herbal infused oil for any purpose – but this is vitally important when the liquid will be ingested.
It is typically deemed safe to use fresh herbs, plants, roots, and weeds to make a culinary infused oil, but many folks recommend only using them for same day preparation, and not long term storage. The possibility of bacteria growth if organic matter from the natural items gets into the infusion oil or the jar lid is not sealed enough, is simply too much of a safety concern for some herbal infusions oil makers or chefs.
Using sun-dried or dehydrated natural matter is generally recommended for culinary infused oils that will be stored for extended periods of time ,and not used the same day they are made.
How to Make Herbal Infused Oil – Standard Method
- Place the clean and dry herbs, roots, flowers, or weeds in a sterile jar that has a firm fitting lid. Fill the jar three fourths of a way full with the natural material.
- Pour enough olive oil in the jar to completely cover the herbs. Leave only a small amount of headspace just like you would do if you were canning vegetables.
- Place the filled glass jars into a large pot that has been filled one fourth of the way full with water.
- Simmer the medicinal culinary herbal infused oil for 5 to 6 hours.
- Remove the jars from the stove and seal.
- Allow them to cool to room temperature before if they are going to be stored and not used immediately.
If storing the medicinal herbal infusion, it should remain shelf-stable for about 30 days if sealed properly and stored in a cool dry and dark place.
How to Make Herbal Infused Oil Using the Double Boiler Method
This is perhaps the most popular way to make herbal medicinal oils. The natural matter is steeped a lot faster than the other methods on this list, but without sacrificing potency.
Step 1. Place the clean and dry herbs in a Mason jar making sure it is filled halfway to three quarters of the way full with the natural matter you are using. If you natural medicine recipe calls for more than one type of natural matter, pay close attention to the measured amount or ratios of each herb, root, flower, or weed.
Step 2. Put the Mason jar in a double boiler or place the jars into a large pot filled with approximately 2 inches of water. Do not allow the jars to touch.
Step 3. Heat the pot up slowly to a simmer and maintain the simmer for at least 30 but preferably for one hour to two hours. The longer the simmer the lower the heat should be. When natural matter simmers longer, the medicinal properties they container are released better.
Step 4. Remove the jars from the pot, and strain them through cheesecloth or through several coffee filters to separate the solid natural matter from the liquid (which you want to keep). You can also put coffee filters in a standard kitchen strainer with a pan beneath it to catch the oil:
Always push on the natural matter to release as much of the infused oil as possible.
Step 5. Inspect the strained oil to make sure there is not any natural matter that got through your cheesecloth of coffee filters. If you find any, use a turkey baster to remove it:
Step 6. Place the liquid into clean jars, seal, and label with both their contents and the date.
When prepared, sealed, and stored in a cool dark place, the medicinal herbal infusion oil should remain shelf stable for at least one year, but in my personal experience, it can remain viable beyond two years.
Your natural herbal remedy recipe will indicate if the infused oil should be used while still hot or only after it has been cooled to room temperature.
How to Make a Solar-Infused Herbal Oil
This process of making a medicinal herbal infused oil is often referred to as a “cold” method, but that is actually misleading. You do not use a heat source like a conventional oven or open flame to make it, but heat is still a part of the process; it merely comes courtesy of the sun.
1 ounce of dried herbs or 3 ounces of fresh herbs to 10 ounces of oil.
- Wash and allow any fresh herbs to dry thoroughly for at least 24 hours before using in a solar herbal oil infusion.
- Fill dry, sterile glass jars that have a firm fitting lid 50% full with the herbs, flowers, or roots you are using.
- Fill the jar with enough carrier oil of your choice until all the natural matter is thoroughly covered.
- Stir the mixture to completely coat all of the natural matter and to make certain it is all thoroughly saturated with the chosen carrier oil.
- Seal the jar with a firm-fitting lid.
- Roll the sealed jar back on fourth on the kitchen counter or in your hand to mix the ingredients together one more time.
- Place the jar in a warm spot that gets full sun at least part of the day (either indoors or out) for four to six weeks.
- Shake or roll the jar back and forth (or both) at least once every couple of days to continue to release the healing compounds in the herbs, roots, weeds, or flowers.
- At the end of the four to six weeks, strain the mixture through cheesecloth or several coffee filters to separate the liquid (that you need to keep) from the solid natural matter.
- Push or squeeze the cheesecloth or coffee filter to get every last bit of the beneficial liquid out of the straining material.
- Store the tightly sealed infused healing oil in a cool dark place. When prepared and stored properly, the oil should last a minimum of 12 months.
Crockpot or Hot Plate Method for Herbal Infused Oils
- Follow the mixture and pouring instructions for the double boiler heating method.
- Heat the sterile Mason jar with a firm fitting lid on it in a crock pot filled with two inches of water, or on a hot plate to a 125 degree F (51 Celsius) simmer heat.
- Allow the herbal-infused oil mixture to remain on the heat source for a full 10 days.
- Remove, strain, and store the mixture as noted above. The herbal infused oil should keep for a minimum of 12 months when prepared and stored properly.
Oven Method for Herbal Infused Oils
- Fill a sterile baking dish halfway full with water.
- Fill sterile Mason jars half or three quarter of the way full with clean and dry herbs, flowers, roots, or weeds.
- Cover the herbs with your favorite carrier oil.
- Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F (121 C).
- Place the water filled baking dish inside.
- Once the oven has reached the desired temperature, turn it off.
- Place the filled Mason jars inside of the baking dish.
- Turn off the oven and allow the herbal infusion to steep inside for 24 hours.
- Strain the mixture through cheesecloth or coffee filters, as noted above as well as label and store in the same manner.
Your medicinal herbal infusions will only be as good as both the natural material and technique you use to create them. Which steeping method you use to create the infused oil is basically a matter of preference. All can work equally well, some are just more expedient than others.
Always visibly check each stored jar of medicinal infusion oil before opening and using, no matter how long it has been stored. Also, do a sniff check. If the mixture smells “off” in any way, discard it immediately and thoroughly disinfect the glass storage jar.
Tara Dodrill is a homesteading and survival journalist and author. She lives on a small ranch with her family in Appalachia. She has been both a host and frequent guest on preparedness radio shows. In addition to the publication of her first book, ‘Power Grid Down: How to Prepare, Survive, and Thrive after the Lights go Out’, Dodrill also travels to offer prepping tips and hands-on training and survival camps and expos.