Thought I’d try something a bit more adventurous this week, with photos and all.

Here’s a step-by-step method for making your own plant-infused oil.

You can then use the oil for massage, as an ingredient in a home-made face cream or body butter, or, as I will show you in a later post, to make a skin balm simply by adding beeswax.

Why infuse plants?

Because during the maceration/infusion, the oil takes on precious liposoluble constituents of the plant such as aromatic substances, sterols, pigments, vitamins, etc. which give the infused oil different properties depending on which plant you use.

I’m going to show you a method using calendula (marigold) flowers, but at the end I’ll detail a few other plants you can use and their different properties.

Marigold, or calendula, flowers are rich in beta-carotene, antioxidants and salicylic acid – used in many over-the-counter acne treatments. It is one of nature’s healers, used for babies’ skincare. How gentle can that be?

It is antiseptic, healing, anti-inflammatory and as such soothes a variety of skin complaints such as nappy rash, cuts and abrasions, acne, minor burns and sunburn, scars, chapped lips, chilblains, dry skin, eczema and insect bites/stings.

So what does marigold look like?

Here is some from my garden.

Marigold in full bloom

Marigold in full bloom

Marigolds in the garden

Marigolds in the garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marigolds are ridiculously easy to grow – you can buy a packet of seeds from any garden centre, though make sure to check the latin name – it must be calendula officinalis as in horticulture most “marigolds” are from a different species called tagetes.

Once they are up and running, so to speak, they will self-seed quite happily so you’ll always have an abundant supply. And they are very pretty to boot. Make sure you choose a sunny spot for them.

According to James Wong, author of “Grow You Own Drugs”, calendula can also be taken internally as a tea or tincture to soothe stomach disorders and ulcers and in the treatment of painful periods (dysmenorrhoea).

Anyway, down to business. Only the flowerheads are used (that goes for the tea as well) so you need to pick a dozen or so. DON’T wash them.

calendula flowerheads

calendula flowerheads

Infusing works best if the plants are dried (the water in them can make them go mouldy in the oil, I’ve had this experience infusing whole calendula flowers, it smells a bit iffy). So pick off the petals and spread them out on a sheet of paper (I used greaseproof) and leave them to dry out in the house somewhere (not in  a damp place like the bathroom though) for one or two days. So you should have something like this:

Pull off the petals to let them dry

Pull off the petals to let them dry

Same petals after two days drying

Same petals after two days drying

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now all you have to do is put the dried petals in a jar with a lid (I use a clean sterilized jam jar, but you can use Kilner or other canning jars with tight-fitting lids).

Now to add the oil.

Which oil to use? Olive oil, grapeseed oil and sunflower oil are particularly suitable as they are easily absorbed by the skin. Personally I’d opt for the later two, olive oil has a distinctive smell whereas the other two are neutral.

Pour your oil on top to cover the petals completely, pushing them down if necessary. Put the lid on and shake gently. Tap the jar to get rid of any air bubbles the plants may have trapped.

Put dried petals into jar

Put dried petals into jar

Add oil to flowers

Add oil to flowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now stand the jar in a warm, sunny place for 2-3 weeks, shaking the contents from time to time.

When it’s ready, strain the infused oil through a fine cloth into a bowl or another jar. This can take a few minutes. Squeeze and press the flowers to get the last drops out.

Place cloth over neck of jar

Place cloth over neck of jar

Strain infused petals through cloth

Strain infused petals through cloth

Squeeze and press the flowers to filter the last drops

Squeeze and press the flowers to filter the last drops

Your calendula-infused oil is ready!

Your calendula-infused oil is ready!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Store your infused oil away from light and heat.

In my next post I’ll show you how to use this oil to make an all-purpose calendula skin balm, a must for the first-aid cupboard.

Watch this space.

Other marvellous medicinal plants that can be used to prepare an infused oil are:

Saint John’s Wort. You probably know this herb as nature’s anti-depressant but the flower-infused oil is a great remedy for arthritic limbs. It is antiseptic, anti-iflammatory, analgesic and promotes healing of wounds. It soothes cuts, minor burns and sunburn, and as mentioned above, is good in massage for joint pain as well as for bumps and bruises. Strangely, the yellow flowers colour the oil dark red.

Haven’t tried this one yet, but I have sown some St John’s Wort in the garden and it has reseeded well (I do like plants that do  that, so long as they don’t get out of control, like the very pretty but quite invasive borage). So I am planning to try an infusion of it and since I have a history of rheumatoid arthritis, I’ll let you know how it works on my aches and pains.

Juniper berries. The crushed berries are infused to produce an oil which, when rubbed into the skin, relieves muscular aches and pains. It can also be used as a massage oil on legs, back, shoulders after a physical effort (sport, gardening, DIY) to prevent aching muscles.

Chamomile. The flowers are infused to produce an oil which is antiseptic, healing, anti-iflammatory. Good for nappy rash, skin irritations and to soothe sore nipples when breastfeeding (as is the calendula oil).

Books to read.

If you’re interested in reading up on medicinal plants and recipes using them, try the following:

Jekka’s Complete Herb Book by Jekka McVicar, published by Kyle Cathie Ltd

ISBN 1-85626-349-5

Grow your own drugs by James Wong, published by Collins

ISBN 978-0-00-784548-4

The ultimate natural beauty book by Josephine Fairley, published by Bookmart Ltd

ISBN 1-54509-136-1

Advertisements