A great way to extract the therapeutic properties of plants and herbs is to make a maceration using carrier oils as a solvent, such as olive or sunflower oil.
Fresh herbs have a high water content which can lead to microbial contamination, so its better to use dried herbs. If you are using fresh herbs from your garden, let them wilt and dry out for 24 – 48 hrs before chopping them up into small pieces. They can then be crushed slightly using a pestle and mortar before being added to the oil.
There are several (lengthier) ways to macerate oils, but today we will look at a quick method using a slow cooker (crock-pot).
Slow cookers are fantastic for making a maceration as they maintain a constant temperature and will not overheat/burn the herbs.
To make a macerated oil
Firstly, you will need a good quality oil to use as the menstruum. Olive and sunflower are the oils of choice but you can also use sweet almond, coconut and jojoba.
You will then need to choose the herb you would like to macerate. Here are a few of my favourite herbs;
Calendula flowers are very soothing and softening making it especially suitable for inflamed and itchy skin conditions, sensitive skin and babies.
Comfrey root and leaf has to be my favourite herb. It is fantastic for treating cuts, grazes, rashes (including nappy rash), and insect bites, as well as easing pain associated with arthritis, and exercise related pain and injury.
Plantain is a wonderful herb to help ease minor skin irritations, insect bites, wounds and inflamed skin conditions.
Arnica flowers help reduce swelling and bruising, protect against infections and relieve exercise related pain and injury. Never used on broken skin.
Place your chosen herb in the slow cooker and cover with the oil of your choice, making sure to leave at least an inch of oil above the herbs.
Set the slow cooker to low, stir, cover and gently heat the herbs for between 1 – 4 hours until the oil takes on the colour and scent of the herbs.
Once ready, turn off the heat and allow the oil to cool slightly. Strain the oil by pouring through muslin cloth into a heat proof jug or bowl making sure all the herb is removed.
Ensure you get all the macerated oil by gently squeezing the herb in the muslin cloth.
Add about 2% vitamin E oil to help retard rancidity and prolong the shelf life.
When completely cooled, transfer to amber glass bottles, label and date.
Most macerated oils have a shelf life of 9 – 12 month if stored in amber glass bottles out of direct sunlight.
I hope you enjoy making your own macerated oils. Let me know in the comments below what oils you make and what are your favorites.