There’s a bunch of eucalyptus trees growing just outside my city. I’ve been jealously eyeing them whenever we passed by, and I finally got the opportunity to harvest some leaves last month. Bundles of eucalyptus leaves made their way into my home, filling it with their refreshing fragrance. I washed the leaves and hung them up to dry. I love the smell of eucalyptus and decided to make some rose-eucalyptus infused oil to use in homemade cleaning products. Eucalyptus is an excellent choice for keeping your home fresh and clean due to its anti-bacterial qualities. I added some of my infused oil to a bucket of hot water and vinegar to clean my floors. The fresh scent of eucalyptus combined with the heady floral scent of roses now fills my home and it is heavenly!
What is an oil infusion?
An oil infusion is an extraction of plant material through use of a carrier oil. The oil acts as both a preservative and a way of extracting the beneficial aspects of herbs or other types of plants. An oil infusion is quite similar to an essential oil in terms of extracting the “essence” of plant matter, though the latter is much more potent and requires intensive processing. Making herbal oils is a simple process anyone can do at home.
You can make oil infusions from any dried plant matter. Some of my favorites include: mint, rose, orange peel, basil, lavender, and cinnamon. Oil infusions can be added to lotions, laundry detergents, soaps, candles, and other products. You can make custom blends of different herbs/spices and use them in perfumes or room sprays. Please note that some oils will need to be diluted with additional carrier oils if using on skin because they can be extremely potent. Oil infusions can even be used for cooking! Basil and oregano infused olive oil or a fiery chili sesame oil can take your cooking to the next level.
There are many ways to make oil extracts but the folk method is the simplest, requiring only a jar, an oil, some plant matter, and a strainer. To avoid bacteria growth (nobody wants botulism!), please make sure your herbs and spices are clean, dry, and be sure to thoroughly sanitize your equipment before use. For best results use high quality plant matter. If you are using your oil infusion either on your body or in your cooking use food grade ingredients when possible.
When choosing a carrier oil, think about what you want your end product to be like. Olive oil is a great choice for culinary infusions, while almond or jojoba oil may be better suited for skin and hair. I use coconut oil because it is widely available and works well in skin products, culinary, and non-edible infusions.
How To Make Oil Infusions
- Start by sterilizing a clean jar in boiling water. Allow the jar to air dry in order to minimize bacteria.
- Crush your plant matter into small pieces. A sterilized mortar and pestle is a good tool for this step.
- Next, add plant matter to your jar until it is about 1/2 full.
- Add the oil of your choice to the jar, completely covering the plant matter, with 1–3 inches of oil over the top of the crushed plants. If using coconut oil, warm the coconut oil until it is liquefied, then add it to your jar. Should the plant material float you can tamp it down with a sterilized spoon.
- Close the lid of your jar tightly. Now, put your jar in either a brown paper bag or cover it with an opaque cloth.
- Find a warm sunny spot, like a windowsill to place your jar.
- Gently shake your jar once a day, to ensure the plant matter stays coated in oil.
- After 2–6 weeks your oil is ready to be strained. I like to use a cut piece of old pantyhose for straining because it catches even the smallest pieces of leaves and herbs. You can also use a coffee filter, an old t-shirt, or a regular fine-mesh strainer for this step. Make sure you press/squeeze the oil out of plant matter to avoid waste.
- Lastly, pour your strained oil into a sterilized jar, close the lid, and store in a cool, dark area.
Oil extracts can be stored for up to a year. However, if your extract begins to change color, smell funky, or become cloudy, please discontinue using it (especially culinary oils!).
Disclaimer: Eucalyptus is extremely toxic when ingested. Please do not make eucalyptus oil or other non-edible oils with utensils you use for cooking. Keep toxic oils away from children and animals.
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Photo: Jessi Ferguson