How to Infuse Herbs in Healthy Oils for Natural Soapmaking

Want to make healthy, natural soap? Here's how to infuse herbs in oil for soapmaking.

Whether you grow medicinal herbs or prefer to forage them in your yard or nearby fields, it's easy to infuse them in oil so you can use them to make healthy, natural soaps and salves.

I have a small herb garden containing healing plants, and our yard has a variety of wild herbs. A walk through the horses' pasture provides even more plant material for my soaps and salves. You're not restricted to herbs though: you can experiment with flowers and spices too.

Cayenne is a spice that helps to relieve pain. Rosemary and dandelion are often used in shampoo bars. Plantain, yarrow, comfrey, chickweed and others will help soothe skin irritations. Soap made with jewelweed-infused oil is said to work wonders on skin exposed to poison ivy. Other flowers and spices will change the color of your soap naturally.

If you'd like to infuse herbs for soap and salve-making, here's what to do.

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Harvest and prepare the plants

The first step in infusing oils is to harvest your plant material. Whether it's something you've grown or something you've foraged, gather your plants in the morning after all the dew has dried, but before the heat of the day has released the plant's volatile oils.

Roll the plants up in a towel and let them rest in a warm place for a couple of hours before you begin the infusing process. This helps reduce the moisture in the flowers and leaves, reducing the possibility of mold forming down the road.

Using dried plants

Can you infuse dried herbs in oil? Absolutely yes! In fact, many salve-makers now prefer to use dried herbs in their products. Dry plant material is less likely to mold. If you wish to use home-dried or purchased plants, you can skip those first two steps and start here!

How to infuse healthy herbs in oil for soapmaking.

Solar Infused Oils

There are two methods of infusing oil. The first, and easiest, is to add the plant material to a clean, dry jar and add the oil you're using. Make sure the top of the oil is at least an inch above the plant material. Label the jar with the date, the type of plants and type of oil. Cover the jar and put it in a sunny windowsill for several weeks, gently shaking it daily.

After four weeks, strain the oil through a fine sieve, cheesecloth or muslin into another clean, dry jar. The herbs can be discarded or added to your compost pile.

Infusing herbs in oil enables you to add healthy benefits to your handmade soap.

Heating Method

The second method is the one I use most often. What can I say, I'm impatient!

I use a small slow-cooker like this (affiliate link) to infuse oils. Mine has a "warm" setting that's perfect.

Add the plant material to the slow-cooker and cover with oil. I usually use olive oil in my infusions but there are other oils that would be appropriate if you want to use something different, such as grape seed or sunflower oil. If you plan to use the infused oil in soapmaking, use an oil that's included in your soap recipe.

I set the little slow-cooker on the warm setting and leave the lid off. Letting the oil warm for several hours helps to draw the medicinal properties out of the material.

When finished - and there isn't a rule about how long you need to let the herbs infuse in the oil, just do it for as long as is practical for you - strain out the plant material from the oil. I like to do this right away while the oil is thin, but the oil is hot so be careful if you do this. I strain it through a wire strainer first to get out the larger material, and then pour it through muslin into another jar. The muslin will catch smaller particles. I let the muslin cloth cool and then squeeze it to get out all of the oil I can.

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Double and Triple Infused Oil

My signature herbal soap is made with chickweed, plantain and yarrow, but they grow at different times of the season. I infuse olive oil with chickweed, then refrigerate the strained oil until the plantain is ready. I use the same chickweed-infused oil to infuse the plantain, and then I triple-infuse this oil with yarrow in the summer. This oil is a beautiful jewel-green color when finished and turns my soap a light green or yellow-green color.

Make healthy, natural soap by infusing herbs in your soapmaking oils.

Using and Storing Infused Oil

The oil is ready to use right away in your soap-making recipe or for another use. Infused oils can also be used to make salves, balms and ointments, lip balm, mullein oil to relieve earaches, lotion bars and so much more.

Store your infused oil in the refrigerator if you won't be using it right away.

To use infused oil in soap, measure it just as you would plain olive oil (or whatever oil you used to infuse the herbs). The infused oil replaces the normal olive oil in your recipe.

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Related Posts:
How to Make Dandelion Salve
How to Harvest and Dry Yarrow
Why You Should Grow Comfrey

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