Infused Oils: How they are made, and how to use them

Facts about Infused Oils

Used to enhance taste and smell to different oils

Can be used in many different products such as food and soap

Has been used for therapeutic uses for more then 5,000 years

Infused oils can also be used as a colorant

Infused Oils : How They Are Made and Their Uses

Infused or macerated oils can be used to add scent, flavor and health benefits to different types of carrier oils, such as olive, coconut or sweet almond oils. To make infused oils, herbs, flowers, peppers, nuts or other plant-based ingredients are typically transferred to specific types of oil and cooked over extremely low heat for long periods of time. This method is called digestion. Other methods of infusing oils will be discussed later in this article. Infused oils differ from essential oils in that they are less concentrated, and different processes are used to make them.

History of Infused Oils

The use of infused oils dates back centuries. According to Aromatherapy: An A-Z, by Patricia Davis, infused oils existed prior to the extraction processes used to make the essential oils used today. The first infused oils were made by Israelis, who placed plant materials into jars of oil to macerate in the sun for as long as 50 days, depending on the materials used. Infused oils made from flowers took less time.Infused oils have, for generations, been regarded as a cure-all by homemakers, monks, doctors, chefs and others, and have remained steadily popular.

Tessserard, (1977, 1988) notes that the use of aromatic plants and oils that used these plants for therapeutic uses, goes back over 5,000 years, where, in Egypt, they were used for both medicinal and spiritual uses. Even earliest civilizations burnt aromatic herbs and woods to drive out evil spirits, which we might now interpret as mental illnesses. In any part of the world, fragrant plants have been, and still are an integral part of the rituals of sorcery, healing and religious practices.

Unlike contemporary times, home kitchens of the past did not have access to the many plants and plant products currently used in infused oils. They were either too expensive or difficult to come by. During these times, only a few essential ingredients were kept at hand. However, today, with help from the Internet, delivery services and well- stocked stores, products used to make infused oils are more within reach.

In early Rome, essential oils were obtained when fat was placed on two pieces of glass with herbs or pressed flowers were placed between them. The essential oil saturated the fat and produced what was known as a chassis. This would be cleared of the plant material, and the process would begin again When the chassis was completely saturated with scent, it was referred to as a pomade, which would be treated with alcohol to create an absolute.

The process was tedious and would take numerous pressings before the oil was strong enough to be used. The resulting product was so expensive to use that only the rich could afford it. This was when infused macerations of oil gained popularity.

An article published by Gritman Essential Oils, entitled, Macerations: the Ancient Art of making Essential Oils, notes that during the early days of making essential oils, they were obtained when fat was placed on two pieces of glass with herbs or pressed flowers were placed between them. The essential oil saturated the fat and produced what was known as a chassis. This would be cleared of the plant material, and the process would begin again When the chassis was completely saturated with scent, it was referred to as a pomade, which would be treated with alcohol to create an absolute.

The process was tedious and would take numerous pressings before the oil was strong enough to be used. The resulting product was so expensive to use that only the rich could afford it. This was when infused macerations of oil gained popularity.

Infused or macerated oils can be used for many different purposes that include:

  • Aromatherapy
  • Insect bites
  • Diaper rash
  • ​Drawing salve
  • ​Body butters
  • ​Herbal massage melts
  • ​Balms
  • Soap making
  • ​Room fragrances
  • ​Food products
  • ​Various medicinal purposes
  • Many others

What is the Difference Between Essential Oil and Infused Oil?

Essential oils

Essential oils are oils that have been distilled from the bark, leaves, roots and other aromatic portions of a plant. These kinds of oils evaporate and have a concentrated aroma. Essential oils are distinct from fixed or carrier oils. They are highly aromatic plant oils. Natural essential oils appear in complex combinations that have specific compositions for each plant.
According to David Bunting of the Herb Pharm Chronicles, essential oils are, when isolated from the plant from which they originated, are considered to be both herbal products, and plant constituents. These oils are volatile, highly aromatic oils that are traditionally used in flavorings, fragrances and medicinally, in aromatherapy. They can vaporize easily at moderate temperatures, and it is this quality that enables their aroma to reach the olfactory receptors to be perceived as fragrances. They are not soluble in water and only marginally soluble in alcohol. Bunting goes further to state that natural essential oils have a specific composition for each plant, and occur in complex combinations


How are Essential Oils Extracted?

Lower quality essential oils are usually extracted from plant material with the use of certain types of solvents. Higher quality oils undergo a process in which steam is passed through the herb or other plant material. Certain essential oils, such as orange, lemon, and other citrus oils, are simply pressed from the fresh plant.

Infused Oils

An infused or macerated oil, consists of a carrier oil or fixed oil, that has been permeated with herbs or other plant matter, such as citrus, nuts or organic vanilla. Infused oils are not as strong as essential oils. However, they do have many of the same beneficial properties. Like essential oils, infused oils are hydrophobic, or resistant to water, so they work well together in combination.


Check out this simple-to-follow video on how to make your own Infused oils, by our friends at Danny Macs Kitchen.



Fixed or Carrier Oils

Oils, such as olive oil, which is used in cooking, consist of lipids or fats. These types of oils are known as fixed oils because they do not readily vaporize. Fixed oils, or carrier oils, contain fatty acid chains. Fixed oils that are cold-pressed from seeds and fatty fruits are considered to be the highest quality. Sesame and olive oils are the oils used most commonly in herbal dietary supplements, but many different types of oil can be found in cosmetic products that use herbs.

Commonly used Carrier Oils

  • Almond oil
  • Avocado oil
  • ​Coconut oil
  • ​Castor Seed oil
  • ​Grapeseed oil
  • ​Olive oil
  • Palm Kernel oil
  • ​Jojoba oil
  • ​Apricot Kernel oil
  • ​Rosehip Seed oil

What You Need to Know About Essential Oils

Essential Oils have been used for thousands of years in various cultures for medicinal and health purposes. Essential oil uses range from aromatherapy, household cleaning products, personal beauty care and natural medicine treatments.

The particles in essential oils come from distilling or extracting the different parts of plants, including the flowers, leaves, bark, roots, resin and peels. In ancient times, Jews and Egyptians made essential oils by soaking the plants in oil and then filtering the oil through a linen bag.

Essential oil benefits come from their antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.


How are Infused Oils Created?

There are numerous ways to make macerations or infused oils. According to the Online Herbal Encyclopedia, Infusing herbs and other plants into oil enable its active medicinal ingredients to be extracted. The encyclopedia notes further, that cold infused oils are cured naturally in the sun, and that those hot infused oils are simmered over low heat.

Heat infusion works best with berries, barks, and roots, so long as the oil is not heated above from 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent harming the oil. Care should also be taken not to burn any herbs that are used, as this will destroy the intended chemical composition of the mixtures and yield unsatisfactory results. Both types of infused oil can be used externally as massage oils or added to creams and ointments. There are other methods for extracting plant properties for infused oils as well.

Recipes differ regarding the amounts of plant material used in infused oils, whether the plant material is fresh or dried, the amounts of oil used, and the varieties of oils used for the processes. For instance, the solar infusion method entails placing plant matter, such as herbs, flowers, leaves, and bark into the bottom of a glass container, filling the container with a fixed oil, and setting the container in the sun for up to four weeks. On her website about herbal oils, Wellness Mama lists a number of other methods for infusing oils:

Slow Cooker Method

The slow cooker method of infusing oils entails placing plant matter and oils in a jar according to the same instructions used for the solar infusion method. A dishtowel is placed into the bottom of the cooker. The jar is added, then several inches of water, with the level staying lower than the top of the jar lid. Next, the slow cooker should be set at the warm setting while it allows the oils and plant matter to infuse for as many as 24 hours. The temperature should be checked every 4 hours to ensure it does not exceed 130 degrees. The longer the plant matter infuses in the oil, the stronger the oil will be.

Double Boiler Method

This is a fast method for infusing oils. To proceed, place 2” of water in a double boiler. Place the plant matter and oils in the top of the double boiler and cover. Turn on medium heat until the water begins to simmer. Reduce the heat to low. Simmer the mixture on low heat for up to 4 hours, checking the temperature and water levels periodically. When the oil turns dark and begins to take on the scent of the herbs, remove the double boiler from the heat and strain through a cheesecloth or strainer.

How are Infused Oils Used in Soap?

In an article by New England Handmade Artisan Soaps, it is noted that using infused oils in soap can imbue unique qualities in the soap. For instance, chamomile or calendula infusions can impart a lovely butter yellow to the finished product. The oils add slight scent as well.

Here are some unique, fragrant combinations of ingredients that can be used in infused oils for soap making:

  • Citrus, nuts, organic vanilla
  • Rosehips, mint
  • ​Lavender, mint
  • ​Lemon balm, mint
  • ​Rose, chamomile
  • ​Coffee bean, organic vanilla
  • Marshmallow root, comfrey
  • ​Plantain (herb), marshmallow root
  • Verbena, lemon

Using Infused Oils for Soap Coloration

Jo Haslauer's article in Modern Soapmaking, mentions that clear, bright colors can be achieved by using specific plant infused oils. The author states that she replaces a percentage of her base soap making oils with infused oils. For instance, to make a deep purple soap, she used oil that was infused with the European plant, Alkanet. Here are some other soap colorations created with the use of oils infused with the following plant materials:

  • Orange -Turmeric
  • Orange -Paprika
  • Blue- Woad
  • Pink-Yellowdock
  • Pink - Rhubarb
  • Yellow -Saffron
  • Yellow-Annatto
  • Purple - Gromwell
  • Purple - Ratanjot
  • Green - Comfrey
  • Green - Nettle

Did You Know? A Note About Nut Oils

There exists a certain amount of confusion about using nut oils in infused oils. Most of these types of oils are not infusions but are the oils that are pressed from the meats of the nuts. Nut oils are not generally used for cooking but rather used in cold preparations, such as certain salad dressings, and as condiments. The exception is coconut oil.

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