Herb-infused oils offer numerous benefits for skin and hair health as well as an elevated culinary experience. Infused oils can improve skin hydration, soothe inflammation, and promote healthy aging. When applied topically, they can provide nourishment to the skin, helping to reduce dryness, redness, and irritation. In addition, the soothing scents and calming properties of infused oils can reduce stress and promote relaxation.
Herb-infused oils can also add depth and complexity to the flavors of food. The aroma of herbs and spices can awaken the senses and enhance the taste of dishes. They also offer a healthy addition to traditional cooking oils, providing more nutrients and antioxidants. They can be used as a finishing touch to dishes, in salad dressings, pasta, or meats. Overall, herb-infused oils provide a simple yet effective way to add more nutrients and uplift our self-care routines.
An Herb Infused Oil for Hair Growth and Healing
During a particularly stressful period in my life, I experienced hair loss and my scalp was damaged. I was able to heal my scalp with herbal infused oils, which nourished and reawakened my hair. The soothing yet stimulating scents of rosemary, nettle, and hibiscus would fill the room as I took the time to massage my scalp.
I developed a routine of doing this once a week in the evening and then washing my hair the following morning. Each time, my scalp would be softer and healthier. After weeks, I couldn’t help but smile as I styled my hair back into a thick, long braid, feeling empowered and confident. Healing my scalp gave my hair new life. Running my fingers through my hair, I felt a sense of pride and accomplishment for taking care of myself and allowing my body to heal naturally.
Choosing Herbs for Your Infused Oil
Both fresh and dried herbs can be used to make infused herbal oils, although most people tend to prefer using dried herbs. Dried herbs are often preferred for infusing oils because they contain less moisture than fresh herbs, which can cause the oil to spoil or become rancid. Additionally, dried herbs tend to be more concentrated in flavor and aroma, making for a stronger and more potent infusion. Dried herbs are also more readily available year-round. On the other hand, fresh herbs can be used to make infused oils if they are properly prepared. Fresh herbs should be washed and completely dried to remove any excess moisture, as this moisture can cause the oil to spoil. If you want to make an oil with freshly wilted herbs, check out Rosalee de la Forêt’s guide to making herb-infused oil with freshly wilted herbs here.
Which Oil is Best for Infusing?
Any carrier oil, such as olive, coconut, almond, or sunflower can be used to make an herb infused oil. For making infused oils for cooking, carrier oils with a high smoke point like avocado or coconut are best. If you do not plan to cook with your infused oil at high temperatures and instead will use it raw, olive oil would be an especially good choice. For making infused oils for skin care, lightweight and nourishing oils like jojoba, grapeseed, or almond work well.
How Long Does it Take to Infuse Oil?
There are many different ways to make infused herbal oils. Below I will show you three ways to make my nourishing hair oil with rosemary, nettle, and hibiscus. These methods all take different lengths of time to infuse your oil, ranging from a few hours to one month.
You can also use these methods to make infused oils with other gentle herbs. Some of my other favorite herbs to infuse include lavender, cedar, and calendula.
Prepping Your Herbs: My Hair Growth Oil
When making an infused oil, start by selecting your herbs and ensuring that they are thoroughly washed and dried. A general rule of thumb is to use about 1 cup of dried herb per 2–3 cups of oil, or 1 ounce of dried herb per 8 ounces of oil. However, this ratio can be adjusted based on personal preference and the strength of the herb being used.
Keep in mind that using too much herb can lead to a stronger, more potent infusion, while using too little may result in a weak infusion. In this recipe, I want to infuse 3 cups of olive oil for my nourishing hair oil.
If you are crafting a topical infused oil, you can also prepare your herbs by doing an alcohol intermediary step before infusing them in oil. The alcohol intermediary method entails using a small spray bottle to spritz 80 proof vodka on your herbs until they are evenly moist. Spread the herbs out on a few cutting boards and let them sit for 15 minutes before you follow the next steps for your oil infusion. Spritzing your herbs with alcohol can create more potent oils and can also help prevent bacterial growth while your oils steep. The alcohol intermediary step is especially helpful if you’re working with fresh or wilted plants that are more prone to spoiling your oil.
Ingredients you’ll need…
- ½ cup (or 1 handful) dried rosemary
- ½ cup (or 1 handful) dried nettles
- ½ cup (or 1 handful) dried hibiscus
- 3 cups olive oil
Yield: 2.5 cup
A note on infused oil shelf life: Herbal infused oils can last 6 months to 2 years for topical use if stored properly. It’s important to note that if the oil develops an off smell or appearance, it should be composted or discarded as it may be spoiled.
Making Herbal Infused Oils Using a Double Boiler and Stove Top
Making infused herbal oils using a double boiler on the stove top is a gentle, safe, and quick heat method that prevents the oil from overheating and burning the herbs. This method allows you to quickly infuse your oils and works best for oils that can handle more heat like olive oil and coconut oil.
Here’s how to infuse your oils using the double boiler method…
- Once you’ve selected your herbs, place them in the top of a double boiler and add your oil of choice, such as olive or coconut oil, until the herbs are fully submerged.
- Fill the bottom of the double boiler with water and heat the mixture over low heat for 2–3 hours, stirring occasionally.
- Once the desired potency is reached, strain the oil through a cheesecloth into a clean container and compost the spent herbs.
- Allow the oil to cool completely before storing. Follow the storage directions in the “How to Store Your Herb-Infused Oil” section below for more details.
Making a Sun-Infused Herbal Oil
Making sun-infused herbal oils is an easy and effective way to extract the beneficial properties of herbs while utilizing solar power. This method works especially well for more delicate oils like almond oil and sesame oil. Here’s how to infuse your oils using the sun-infused method…
- Once you’ve selected your herbs, select a clean, airtight glass jar and fill it with your herbs.
- Pour your preferred oil over the herbs until they are fully submerged.
- Seal the jar tightly and place it in a sunny location for 2–4 weeks, shaking it daily to ensure even infusion. This sunny location can be outdoors or indoors by a well-lit window sill.
- Once the desired potency is reached, strain the oil through a cheesecloth into a clean container and discard the herbs. When finished, follow the storage directions in the “How to Store Your Herb-Infused Oil” section below.
Making Herbal Infused Oils Using the Long-Steep Method
Another option is to infuse your herbs in oil without sunlight — this is the simplest method. This method works well with dried herbs, and it’s also great when working with delicate oils like almond oil and sesame oil. I opt for this method for topical oils and not culinary ones. Here’s how to infuse your oils using this simple method…
- Fill a clean, airtight glass jar halfway with your dried herbs of choice.
- Pour your preferred oil over the herbs, fully submerging them.
- Seal the jar tightly, then place it in a cool, dark place like a cabinet or a closet for a few weeks to a month.
- For the first week of steeping, stir your infusing oil daily with a long spoon or chopstick. This helps to ensure the herbs are fully covered by the oil.
- After a few weeks, strain the oil through a cheesecloth into a clean container and discard the herbs. When finished, follow the storage directions in the “How to Store Your Herb-Infused Oil” section below.
How to Store Your Herb-Infused Oil
When storing your oil, choose a clean, airtight jar and store in a cool, dark place. It’s best to put the oil in a glass jar that’s the right size for the amount of oil you have, so that there’s minimal airspace left at the top of the jar. This will help slow down oxidation of your oil. It is also important to store them in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight, heat, and moisture.
Rosemary Benefits (Salvia rosmarinus)
This aromatic, fragrant herb is famously used to enhance memory and focus and has long been beloved by students for these properties. However, these same qualities also make it a wonderful herb for promoting circulation to the scalp and stimulating hair growth.
Nettle Benefits (Urtica dioica)
Both the nettle root and the nettle leaf are excellent for hair growth. Nettle leaves are rich in nourishing vitamins and minerals, while nettle root stimulates hair growth by reawakening dormant hair follicles.
Hibiscus Benefits (Hibiscus sabdariffa)
These gorgeous, cheerful flowers are full of antioxidants, which give them their vivid color. Dried hibiscus flowers can be added to your infused oil to moisturize hair and help it shine.
How to Learn More About Herbal Body Care Products
Ready to keep learning about how to craft herbal body care products in your own kitchen? Sounds like it’s time to check out the Rosemary’s Remedies course on HerbMentor.
Created by beloved herbalist Rosemary Gladstar, Rosemary’s Remedies is a video collection of Rosemary’s most famous herbal recipes, shown step-by-step and visually detailed. It’s like having an herbal cooking instructor right in your own home. Some of the incredible body care products you’ll learn how to make include a face cream, body scrub, bath salts, and more.
You can find Rosemary’s Remedies (plus more amazing courses) on HerbMentor, LearningHerbs’ affordable online platform for herbal education. Try HerbMentor for just $1 here.
Here are some frequently asked questions about herbal-infused oils…
What are the best herbs to use for herbal-infused oils?
There is a wide variety of herbs that can be used for infusing oil, including rosemary, lavender, thyme, chamomile, and black pepper, among others. It’s best to use freshly harvested, wild harvested or organic herbs whenever possible, as they will provide the most potent and flavorful results.
How long do herbal oil infusions last?
The shelf life of herb-infused oils can vary depending on several factors, such as the type of oil used, the quality of the herbs, and how the infusion was made and stored.
In general, herb-infused oils can last for up to six months to one year if stored properly. To extend their shelf life, it is important to store them in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight, heat, and moisture. If you are using your oil topically, you can also add natural preservatives, such as vitamin E oil, to help extend their shelf life.
If you’re using an herb-infused oil for culinary purposes, it is even more important to ensure that your oil hasn’t gone rancid. There can be significant health risks with ingesting rancid oil as bacteria can grow within them even leading to botulism. If you are wanting to experiment with culinary uses of oils, please use your oils soon (within a few weeks) of infusing them unless you feel very certain about your ability to discern their rancidity level. Refrigerating your oils can help preserve them longer.
How do you know if infused oil is bad?
It is important to note that herb-infused oils can spoil or become rancid over time, especially if they are not stored properly or if they contain fresh herbs or water. The best sign to know if an infusion has gone bad is a rancid or unpleasant smell. You can also check visually for mold growth.
How do you make infused oils safely?
To minimize the risk of spoilage, avoid using fresh herbs (especially garlic) and use a short double boiler method to prepare the oil. Especially if you’re preparing your oils for culinary use, see “How long do herbal oil infusions last?” section above for more information about spoilage and storage.