Natural Soapmaking (once Soap Naturally) Natural Skin Care Handbooks
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Making your own herbal infusions and infused oils
Herbal decoctions and herbal teas can be used on their own or as ingredients in water-based applications (creams, lotions, skin toners, after-shave spritzes, and body mists).
Making your own herbal decoctions and teas is very simple. Choose the herb or combination of herbs based on application and skin type, and proceed as follows:
- Bring to the boil two cups of distilled or purified water in a stainless steel or heat resistant glass/ceramic jug.
- Add 1 or 2 teaspoon of herb.
- Allow to steep for 3 to 5 minutes.
- Strain and pour directly into a sterile glass bottle (if you are planning to use this tea as is), or into a suitable sterile container if you are using the tea for a more complex application.
Herbal teas will keep up to 3 days if kept refrigerated. If you wish to add herbal teas to your skin care applications, you might need to add appropriate preservatives and/or anti-oxidants.
- Add 1 to 3 tablespoons (15ml) of fresh or dried herbs to 2 to 4 cups of distilled or purified water.
- Allow to steep in cool water for a few minutes.
- Bring to a slow boil and simmer on very low heat for 10 to 30 minutes.
- Strain and pour directly into a sterile glass bottle (if you are planning to use this decoction as is), or into a suitable sterile container if you are using the tea for a more complex application.
Herbal decoctions will keep up to 3 days if kept refrigerated. If you wish to add herbal teas to your skin care applications, you might need to add appropriate preservatives and/or anti-oxidants.
Herbal infused oils
Herbal infused oils are made by steeping the plant material in oil, and keeping the infusion warm over a period of time to extract the beneficial constituents of the herb. In the past, herbal infused oils were extensively used for all medicinal, cosmetic and perfumery applications.
Infused oils are similar to essential oils, in that they have many of the same properties, and can also retain the benefits of other plant constituents that are not present in essential oils. Herbal infused oils can effectively replace essential oils when the herb or plant materials have a very low yield in volatile constituents, and would therefore be too expensive for the production of essential oils. Another advantage of herbal infused oils is that they can be easily prepared at home, and do not require any special equipment. Also, because they are not as concentrated as essential oils are, infused oils can often be used without further dilution.
As the water content in fresh herbs might encourage the growth of fungi (mould) and bacteria, infused oils are best prepared from fully dried plant materials.
After choosing the herb or combination of herbs based on application and skin type, prepare your herbal infused oils as follows:
- Half-fill a mason jar (a heat resistant glass jar, with an air-tight cap) with well dried plant material. The plant material should be crushed or crumbled, but not powdered.
- (Optional) Add to the jar with the herbs a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar for every cup of oil that you're going to use. As with the plant material amount, this is based on the volume of the jar. Place the lid on and shake vigorously to distribute the vinegar. Shake the jar several times, over a few hours. Vinegar acts as a mild solvent, and helps release constituents that are not oil-soluble.
- Fill the jar with a cold pressed oil that has good keeping (shelf life) qualities. Jojoba, macadamia and high-oleic sunflower oil are all suitable for herbal infused oils.
- Firmly fasten the cap, and keep the jar with the oil infusion in a warm place (45ºC / 113ºF) for at least 24 hours.
- Gentle heat and a sufficiently long steeping time are fundamental to extract from the plant material its beneficial properties without losing the most volatile constituents, which would evaporate if the infusion is exposed to high temperatures. You can for instance keep your jar on a sunny windowsill, or place it in an "incubation box" heated by a reading lamp, or use a crockpot on the appropriate setting (remember, the temperature should never go above 50ºC / 122º F).
- At the end of the steeping period, filter the oil through a sieve and then through a cheesecloth.
- If you want to keep your oil as a "single infusion", squeeze well the cheesecloth to reclaim as much oil as possible.
- Double and triple strength infused oils are made by adding the infused oil to a new batch of plant material, and repeating the process.
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