Letting herbal oils steeeeeeeep.
Subject: [herb] infusing
From: "Janine P" <Janine.HerbaTherapy.com>
Date: Sat, 12 Jan 2002 15:44:25 -0700
I continually see people saying they infuse herbs in oil all summer long, not straining and putting in new material, just using the same material. Now *I* think that once the properties of the herbs come out of the oil, they are out and no amount of time is going to make the infused oil any more potent. Am I incorrect in this?
Also, is there anywhere online or off, where I can find the maximum temps herbs can take before the medicinal properties are killed?
From: "Sarah Head" <sarah.headology.co.uk>
I don't think there is a cut and dried answer to this. It depends on the potency of the herb, the strength of the sun, the kind of oil you're using etc etc. One example I've found is with St John's Wort infused oil. I use sunflower oil because I was recommended to use a light oil. I was also recommended by an experienced herbalist to let it sit in the sun for at least 6 weeks and 6 months wouldn't be too long. As you know, British summers can be somewhat disappointing. The first year with a brand new plant, I infused in my window sill for about 6 months and the oil was light pink. The second year I infused for about 2 months on the windowsill and the oil turned a beautiful deep red. The third year I gave up on the sun and put the jar into my "hot cupboard" for about 4 months (I forgot about it!) and it came out exactly the same deep red. Both oils are wonderful.
Someone on the list who has really hot summers only left her oil to infuse for a week before it went that deep red.
Most of my oils I make with dried herbs using the double saucepan 2x2hr infusion method. There was a detailed discusion on the list last year about the temperatures used for individual oils. I'm not sure if this included the effects of cooking on the herbs itself. I would have thought herbs can withstand fairly high temperatures given that we often boil them for varying lengths of time! But then I'm only a kitchen sink herbalist, so I like to keep things fairly simple.
Hope that helps
From: "Janine P" <Janine.HerbaTherapy.com>
Thank you Sarah, that was most helpful.
When I was at Natural Foods Expo West one year, the guy from HerbPharm was there and told me how to make SJW oil. He said the 'trick' was to make sure it never cooled down. He said when people put it outside during the day, it would always cool off at night, either in or outside the house. He said it *must* be kept at an even temp at all times. I made mine in the sunlight in Sacramento when I was there. It turned red, but didn't help any of my pains. It was beautiful though! <g> Then when I saw his, it was a deep maroon color, looked like plasma! After he told me this trick, I infused it that way, in the crock pot, and what a *difference*! Dark, deep maroon and works like a charm. I combine this with the chapparal infused oil and have no pains at all. I have all the tested points of fibromyalgia, [but I don't admit it to my body] and have been rubbing the chapparal oil on my legs, esp the shin area, where a slight push will send me thru the roof. While a push now makes me know it's there, the push is much harder and I am still in my chair. <smile>
I will get some cardamon tea and try to see what I can see in the archives here.
From: psilver.cix.compulink.co.uk (Pat Silver)
> I was also recommended by an experienced herbalist to let it sit in the sun for at least 6 weeks and 6 months wouldn't be too long.
I would never infuse oils in sunlight. Ultraviolet light dramatically accelerates the oxidation of the oil and particularly with polyunsaturated oils like almond and sunflower it can go rancid within a few weeks. The only real function of the sun is to provide gentle warmth, so either put the container in a warm place like your hot cupboard, or else cover the container with black paper (or thick brown packing paper works pretty well) to keep out the UV whilst allowing the oil to warm.
From: Henriette Kress <hetta.saunalahti.fi>
> I continually see people saying they infuse herbs in oil all summer long,
Yes. In fact, you're pretty sure to get mold in there if you leave the herb in the oil for long enough. Even the usual 4-6 weeks is enough for that, which is why I do _all_ my herb oils (including SJW) in a waterbath. (The SJW has to be done fresh, and after straining the oil it gets to sit in the sun and turn red for four days - after that I decant the clear oil off the bottom muck). Sure, it gets heated that way, but I make my oils into salves anyway, so they'd get heated anyway.
> Also, is there anywhere online or off, where I can find the maximum temps herbs can take before the medicinal properties are killed?
Different herbs can take different temperatures. Also, for some the medicinal effects are never killed.
So, go with traditional methods for traditional effects, and you won't go far wrong.
Ie. decoct your uva ursi, infuse your mints... except, ever made mint syrup? And _how_ long did you say you boiled that liquid? 2 hours? Does it taste of mint? And work for coughs? Yep? Hmmm... see, the one that says to infuse herbs with volatile compounds isn't written in stone, either.
From: Sharon Hodges-Rust <mwherbs.dshome.net>
well I have had some SJW oil sit at an even temp for months at a time and then set it out on a window sill or in the sun for 3 days and have the whole jar turn a wonderful shade of blood red. Now I start with putting it in a jar in the field and pouring the oil right on put the lid on and let it sit in the sun for several days and they always turn and it has always worked for pain. I did find that when I had some shipped and it was suppose to come over night but came in 3 days instead wasn't as strong, but I also wouldn't have picked some of plants that were sent to me if I had been out in the field picking. I have some gardening neighbors who have been trying to grow some satisfactory plants for here in Tucson, what we have right now has a great deal less oil in the leaves so takes more by volume to achieve the same effect, guess we will see what happens this year.
sharon in tucson