Herbal oils and botulism.

Date: Mon, 22 Jul 1996 12:35:00 PST
From: Terry AE King <terryk.JUNO.COM>
Subject: Re: Herbs & Olive Oil

> I am using Olive Oil as a base for extracting properties of fresh and dried herbs. What are the concerns regarding olive oil spoiling, shelf life of massage oils and liniments etc.? Also, I am making an Hot Pepper Oil. I picked up the bottle of peppers and oil today and the cork blew off. The oil also looks a bit cloudy. Any suggestions?


Any time a non-acid food (above ph 4.6) or herb is immersed in any oil or other oxygen excluding substance or container there is the potential for Botulism spores (Clostridium botulinum) to activate and grow, producing deadly neurotoxins. It has been observed growing in temperatures as low as 38F and as high as 118F. This is dangerous to use IMO even for topical application as the toxins may absorb through the skin or be introduced into the mouth. Botulism toxin can be neutralized by bring to 212 degrees for 10 minutes at altitudes of 0-2000 ft, add one minute for every additional 1000ft of elevation. But heating a herbal product intended for medicinal use can destroy the beneficial properties of the herb. Alcohol, glycerine, water and vinegar extractions are much safer and more effective.

Any product showing the signs you described should be discarded following the instructions below. (These are just a teensy bit over the top. Throw the oil out, wash the jar, you're set. -Henriette)

Detoxification Process: Carefully place the suspect containers and lids on their sides in an 8 quart or larger pot. Wash hands thoroughly. Carefully add water to pot to completely cover the containers with a minimum of 1" above the containers. Avoid splashing the water. Place a lid on the pot and heat to boiling. Boil 30 minutes. Cool and discard the oil, containers and lids in the trash or bury DEEPLY in the soil.

Thoroughly scrub works surfaces, equipment, and clothing and hands, discarding sponges and cloths used by placing in a plastic bag and discard in trash.

I know this sounds alarmist but with bacteria that can cause the damage that botulism does its best to be safe than paralyzed for life or dead.

I would suggest using a alcohol/glycerine extraction and then adding it to the oil on as needed basis.

Glycerine is pharmaceutic grade of glyceral. Glyceral is an alcohol that is a component of fats. It is soluable in ethyl alcohol and water.