Marriage of two plants gathered to infuse in extra virgin olive oil, which extracts the medicine of the plants and transforms from olive oil to a herbal oil, and yes it’s still oily.
The one, sticky with resin … calendula … smiling brightly at the sun and happy to bask in its fullness + the other … self heal aka prunella … picked from moist hedgerows where light filters through leaves in dappled patches.
Sun and Moon meet layered in a glass jar, covered with extra virgin olive oil …. one I seeded, the other not by my hand; though the oil doesn’t differentiate while infusing over six weeks . . . that’s when I’ll strain the flowers (they’ll go to our chickens) and bottle the oil, which will be a component of an everyday salve that I’ll make :: later:: when the wood stove is crackling and casting a warming glow once the days turn chilly.
Until then there’s a few sunny summer days left yet to bask and gather in. If you would like to infuse your own oils, a rewarding practice in many ways with numerous benefits as far as enjoying herbal first aid first hand goes, here are a few ways to get started.
“Plants are our food, oxygen, and medicine. Some even say they are one of the most pleasurable experiences on earth! From the flowers to the trees and the seas filled with coral dreams; the earth’s natural flora has inspired and enhanced humans for as long as time can tell. That’s why the power of plants is the key to unlocking our enjoyment of life.”Natasha Potter
Select your Carrier Oil
I use extra virgin olive oil most often, as it has longevity and seems to be more shelf stable than lighter oils, such as grapeseed, except when infusing rose and violet for which I prefer sweet almond or sesame oil and I make smaller quantities so that I use them before the oils degrade. For plants I intend to apply for eczema I infuse them in coconut oil.
Select your plants and pick them when using fresh, here are a few pointers for gathering::
- Collect your plants on a sunny day, after the dew has dried and in a week with little to no rain when possible.
- Do not wash your gatherings, and be sure to pick from clean and chemical free areas. Please only gather from lavishly abundant places when not in your own tended garden!
- Make your preparations on a dry counter, and be certain that the glass jars and lids you use are also dry, dry, dry!
I prefer fresh and wilted plants over dried, even though fresh plants do have more moisture that can lead to mold but when done correctly I find the oils to be more potent than dried plant infusions.
“Know the ways of the ones who take care of you, so that you may take care of them.Robin Wall Kimmerer
Introduce yourself. Be accountable as the one who comes asking for life. Ask permission before taking. Abide by the answer.
Never take the first. Never take the last. Take only what you need.
Take only that which is given.
Never take more than half. Leave some for others. Harvest in a way that minimizes harm.
Use it respectfully. Never waste what you have taken. Share.
Give thanks for what you have been given.
Give a gift, in reciprocity for what you have taken.
Sustain the ones who sustain you and the earth will last forever.”
Plants to infuse fresh, when picked, OR in dried form
Self Heal a.k.a Prunella:: Fresh flowers, picked when dry. A fantastic aid, this cooling herb promotes wound, tissue, and skin repair, as well as protects the skin from sun damage. Helps as a massage oil for swelling, inflammation, as well as tender breasts. It is one of the oils in my everyday salve, and as you see in this post, I also infuse it with calendula at one time for that purpose.
Calendula:: I infuse calendula flowers fresh. It is anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory, helpful with burns and cuts or scrapes, as well as eczema, diaper rash, cracked nipples, lips, and chapped hands. Though I infuse it in extra virgin olive oil, for eczema I use coconut oil.
Yarrow:: With it’s anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and astringent qualities, yarrow is a must have in a first aid cabinet as both oil and tincture that helps with everything from varicose veins, pelvic congestion, rheumatism, arthritis, and sore muscles as a massage oil, and hemorrhoids, wounds, cuts, and scrapes as a salve. It is *the* best for stopping bleeding of deep or shallow cuts as a salve, though I have found that the fresh chewed leaves almost instantly stops bleeding, the tincture also acts quickly, while the salve is nowhere as rapid in action as the fresh leaves *but* it still does the trick. Gather the flowering tops and leaves when they are dry, between mid-morning and mid-afternoon depending on your clime.
Plants to infuse ONLY completely fresh, when picked immediately
St. Johns Wort:: Fresh flowers gathered just around noon or, depending on where you live, whenever the dew has evaporated. If a few leaves make it in to the oil, that’s okay! One of my favorite oils for aches, pains, bruises, tissue damage, burns, sunburn, and sciatica, it has a beautiful deep red colour that overrides the green of extra virgin olive oil. It is the only oil infusion that I infuse in direct sunlight, leaving the jar in a hot and sunny place all day, bringing it in for the night, then again into the sun until done. I make a salve with this oil and cayenne infused oil for lower back ache, shoulder and neck kinks, and leg pain.
Plants to infuse slightly wilted or in dry form AND decant in 6 weeks on the dot when using fresh
Plantain:: After gathering leaves when it’s dry out, I leave them to wilt a bit overnight so that the excess moisture they hold dries out, otherwise my oil goes rancid or spoils. It’s wonderful for stings and bites, itchy skin, and rashes, and I add it to almost all my salves. That said, fresh plantain chewed and applied to stings is way potent and if you have it growing, make merry with it for stings and bites over the oil . . . be aware, wilting reduces the quantity of plant matter, so pick enough that after the wilt they still fill a jar.
Comfrey:: Gather dry leaves and stalks when dry, they must absolutely be wilted overnight and longer, even up to two – three days or the oil will spoil! As with plantain, the wilt reduces how much plant you have, so pick enough to fill a jar after the wilt or use a smaller jar to match what it wilted down to! This oil speeds up wound, skin, and tissue repair, so I don’t use it on new cuts or open wounds but afterward once I know they are clean, otherwise the skin may seal up and trap bacteria underneath. It’s great for bumps and bruises, muscular inflammation and joint pain, as well as dry, chapped hands as it is extremely moisturizing.
Violets and Rose Petals:: These are some of my favorite oils for massage mixtures, as well as ones I use as the base for face cream, body butter, and in serums for nightime application on my face that is moisturizing. Rose oil helps with blemishes and wrinkles too, and keeps the skin supple. For these uses I infuse the flowers in sweet almond or sesame oil, but for use as a hair oil I’ll infuse in coconut and both these plants are great for the hair.
Once you have gathered your plants, and know in which carrier oil you can get started with one of the following methods.
“When we do plant medicine, and we see love, we realize right then and there that it was never apart from us, that in fact it was a part of us.”Gerard Armond Powell
Methods of Infusion
Glass jar infusion:: Place herbs in a glass jar about two thirds of the way, coarsely chopped if fresh, and cover with oil. Run a clean dry butter knife or chopstick through the middle and around the sides to release any air bubbles, then cover with more oil to the very top . . . there should be about 1/2 inch of oil over the plants with no air space. Check again after about six hours, as sometimes when the plants absorb oil the jar needs a top up.
Unless you are infusing St. John’s Wort, set your jars to steep in a cool, dry place (I leave mine on the kitchen counter where I can open the lids and keep an eye on them). For St. John’s, place your jar outside on the hood of your car/sunny warm spot every day, bringing the jar in for the night, and watch the sun make magic with the flowers.
The herbs will steep for six weeks, after which you’ll strain the herbs out of the oil, bottle the oil, label it with contents and date and store it in a cool, dry place for use in massage, or salve, body butter, and cream preparation.
You can repeat the process to make a double infusion, whereby you’ll strain the oil and add plants to the jar again, and repeat.
Double boiler infusion:: Fill the bottom of the double boiler about half full of water and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and keep on simmer. Place your plants in the top and cover completely with oil. Infuse the oil at a simmer for a few hours, and keep an eye on the mixture so that the plants don’t fry! Then strain and once the oil is cool, bottle it, label it with contents and date, and store in a cool dry place.
Deep extraction/oven infusion:: This is my preferred method for moist plants such as comfrey, violets, and plantain, dry comfrey roots, infusions that contain coconut oil, as well as when infusing dry herbs (think lavender) in the winter.
Begin as for the double boiler method, then once the oil is warm, move it all into the oven set at around 170 – 200 degrees, and let the oil infuse for six – eight hours, keeping an eye on it in case the herbs appear to be frying as you don’t want that. When done, strain then once the oil is cool, bottle it, label it with contents and date, and store in a cool dry place.
Oils stored well tend to last about a year, however do check them before using for rancid smells and mold whenever you use them.
“My introduction to medicinal plants transformed my health and my life, and enhanced and expanded my spiritual practice by connecting me deeply with the Earth, changing my life in the best, most enjoyable ways possible. I am forever grateful.”Robin Rose Bennett
Comments welcome . . .