The process of infusion is literally to soak a substance (in this case a flower) in a liquid (a vegetable oil) in order to infuse the oil with the essential oils from the flower or herb. This is a particularly helpful process to obtain essential oils from plants that cannot be expressed (such as citrus) or distilled. Maceration is infusion with the addition of heat. Some plants cannot easily be distilled because the fragrance and healing properties of the oil will not hold up to the heat of the distillation process. In this case, infusion, or maceration is an ideal alternative.
Here is what you’ll need to make your own infusion:
- Vegetable oil. Many people use olive oil or sunflower seed oil for these infusions, but my favorite vegetable oils to use are sweet almond or apricot kernel. These oils have their own healing properties for skin care, and only add to the therapeutic benefit of the infusion. If I am not going to use all of the oil in a short time period such as within 3 months, or if I want it to have a long shelf life, I will use Jojoba which has a much longer shelf life.
- Dried flowers. Flowers particularly noted to be good for skin care are Calendula (Calendula officinalis), Arnica (Arnica montana), and St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum).
- An infusion jar. Almost any large jar with a tight lid will do. Spanking clean canning jars, a mayonnaise jar or a sun tea jar are good examples of what you might have on hand.
- A strainer. You can use a wire mesh strainer or cheesecloth. I use coffee filters which I find to be ideal fpr this purpose.
First, prepare the flowers. If you grow your own flowers, this is a wonderful way to use them for a “start-to-finish”, do-it-yourself project. Be careful here that you have the correct flower. For example, there are many types of marigold flowers, but the therapeutic marigold is Calundula officinalis, not the usual marigold you see in flower gardens. If you choose to use your own flowers, be sure that moisture has been removed. When you dry them, dry them in a cool dark space. If you purchase the dried flowers be certain that they are organic, and that you purchase them from a reputable company.
Next place the dried flowers loosely in the jar, and then add the cold-pressed vegetable oil such as sweet almond or apricot kernel. Seal the jar so that it is airtight and leave it for one to two months. Every day, you should pick up the jar a shake it vigorously. This will help the oil cells release from the plant into the vegetable oil. An approximate ratio to use is 1 cup of dried flowers to 1 ½ cups of vegetable oil. This will yield about 1 ¼ cups of flower oil. Some flowers absorb a lot of oil, so you may need to add a bit more during the process.
As an easy alternative, what I like to do is to use a crock-pot and apply low heat to quicken the process. I just put the dried flowers in the crock-pot, cover with oilive oil, sweet almond or apricot kernel oil, and then cook on low for about 24 hours. This would make it a macerated oil.
At the end of this soaking time, strain the oil from the flower bulk. I first use a wire mesh strainer, and then use a coffee filter to strain the oil one more time. This wonderful finished product is then sealed in a dark bottle. Be sure to label your oil with date and ingredients. Store it in the refrigerator to extend its shelf life.
These wonderful flower oils are then used for their own therapeutic properties or as a carrier for the therapeutic essential oils in aromatherapy. They add so much to the healing properties. You can purchase your own macerated oils, but it is very satisfying to be able to make your own. You can also use this technique to make body oils from plants such as gardenia, lilac, and wisteria that are not available as natural essential oils.
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