Herbal Tutorial for a Dried Plant Infused Oil
Information about Calendula’s medicinal actions here.
This is by far the easiest of the herbal infused oil methods (there are several). I don’t think you can make an easier herbal medicine, except maybe your basic herbal tea or a spit poultice. The only catch is that I find most herbs make an inferior dried plant herbal oil compared to the same herb prepared as a fresh plant infused oil. But fresh plant infused oils can be a bit more involved and tricky. Not hard, but more temperamental since you have a great deal of moisture mixed in with the oil which can lead to spoilage and mold if not handled correctly. Calendula is an exception. The dried flowers make just as lovely and medicinal an oil as the fresh ones do. I used to infuse them fresh and I made many batches successfully, but then I had one huge jar of flowers and oil mold on me. It’s very frustrating wasting an entire jar of herbs and expensive olive oil. So I tried them dried and have never gone back to fresh. The dried oil is amazing and I notice no difference medicinally between it and the fresh plant oil.
A dried plant infused oil is virtually mistake proof and makes a great beginner herbal project. It’s also a fun activity to do with kids. My daughter loves helping me pick the flowers, dry them, and then make the oil. We then process it into ‘body butter’ or what is known as an herbal salve. Also an easy process, if a bit more involved. I’ll do a tutorial on making an herbal salve from an infused oil soon. And a fresh plant infused oil tutorial as well. But first, let’s start with a dried plant infused oil.
Ok. Here’s how you do it:
Find the right sized jar for your amount of dried flowers. You want the flowers, packed in the jar firmly, to come up to the top of the jar, with about 1/2″ of head room left at the top. You might have to fiddle a bit, packing the flowers in a couple of jars before you find one the right size. Basically you want to minimize the amount of air in the jar. The more air, the more oxidation you have happening, which is undesirable.
Pack your flowers in tightly. Press them down with your hand or a utensil. They should compress quite a bit.
Begin slowly pouring your oil of choice (I usually use olive oil, but almond oil is also lovely, or use your favorite cold-pressed vegetable oil) over the flowers. The oil should slowly trickle down amongst the flowers. Keep adding oil until no more is sinking down. Now get a chopstick, knitting needle, or butter knife and poke it down in the jar to help release any air trapped between the flowers. Keep poking around until all air pockets are gone and oil fills all the spaces. Then top off the jar with some more oil to within 1/4″ of the top of the jar.
Cap tightly with a lid and place somewhere out of direct light and extreme temperature changes. Label the jar with it’s contents: Calendula flowers dried; olive oil; dried plant – cold oil infused method; the date. Mark on the calendar two weeks to one month from the day’s date (depending on how patient you are;) so you don’t forget.
Two weeks to one month later, open your jar. The oil should be a bright golden yellow color and smell like Calendula. Put a piece of tight-weave unbleached muslin (I like 12″x12″ size) into a strainer placed over a bowl or large liquid measuring cup. Slowly pour out the oil into the strainer lined with muslin. Then slowly dump the flowers into the muslin. Depending on how many flowers you infused, you might have to work in batches.
Let all the oil drip through into the container. Then gather up the edges of the muslin. Lift and twist up the top, squeezing with your hands to force more oil out of the flowers and through the cloth into the container. Squeeze as hard as you can. You should be able to force quite a bit more oil out. When you’ve gotten all the oil you can, discard the flowers. Either place them in the trash, throw them out in the yard, or put them in the compost like I do. Yes, I know adding greasy things to compost isn’t ideal but we haven’t had any problems from it yet.
Then pour your herbal oil into a jar, again trying to minimize air space at the top of the jar, and cap tightly. Put in a dark, cool place. It should keep for at least a year if not exposed to strong sunlight or heat. The oil should always smell fresh and like Calendula. If it begins to smell stale or rancid, discard it. Processing it into a salve allows you to keep it nearly indefinitely.