Fresh vs Dried Herbs for Infused Oils

Raise your hand if you have ever ruined (or suspected ruined) an infused oil.

*Raises both hands and grows a few more just to raise more.

An herb infused oil was the first herbal (non essential oil) remedy I first learned to make all those years ago. They are still my favorite go to remedy for a lot of things.

In my introduction to herbal medicine making workshop, we cover different methods of creating infused oils but today I want to talk about the plant material going into your oils.

Fresh vs Dried Herbs for Infused Oils

The biggest concern with oils going bad is with the introduction of water. This can introduce all sorts of mold and bacteria to your oil. With dried plants, we don’t have to worry about THAT aspect but with some plants, infusing fresh is actually best (St Johns Wort, for example).

Have no fear, you can use fresh herbs for your infused oils! It is as simple as….wilting.

Wilting for several hours or even up to a day, helps gently remove water from the plant. With this reduction, the risk of spoilage is low. This is especially true for those doing slow infusion (solar infusion) vs a heat based, faster infusion (oven, double boiler, slow cooker etc).

With some plants, you can even slightly saturate in alcohol (in the jar before adding your oil) to help extract more medicine and keep that contamination at bay. This is how I make my Calendula oil - as the healing resins need that alcohol to extract into the oil.

St John’s Wort, known for its beautiful red color, is a fresh plant infusion. I let mine wilt for about 4 hours before infusing the oil. LOVE how deep red it is.

Lastly, if you are noticing condensation in your jar - remove the lid and let it evaporate. Keep a close eye on that particular oil to ensure that you are letting that water evaporate because if it remains in the jar, it will cause problems.

After you have been making oil infusions for a while, you will start to be able to smell problems. I had a batch that I, in my excitement, didn’t let part of the plant matter wilt and it went rancid. The oil didn’t smell bad but it didn’t smell “right”. I wish I could better explain that but trust me, you will know what I am talking about when it happens.

Are fresh plant herb infused oils better?

If you are choosing high quality dried plants (especially from local or US grown herb farms), you will have a beautiful infused oil. Red Moon Herbs and Zack Woods Herb Farm are two that I frequent for dried herbs and have been highly satisfied.

I do recognize the price different from these two shops compared to ones you can buy on Amazon. I have difficulty with this in my home - as I want to supply my apothecary with herbs that are not only high quality but are grown and harvested with people I trust to give gratitude to the plants in all stages of growth. From the planting of the seed/plant all the way to the processing. It can feel cost prohibitive at times BUT when I buy from these shops and make medicine with them - I connect deeper with them than from a mass produced herb. That connection then deepens the medicine.

If you have any questions about fresh vs dried herbs in your infused oils - ask in the comments below!

Photo from Dancing Rabbit during the herbal medicine making workshop - May 2017

Photo from Dancing Rabbit during the herbal medicine making workshop - May 2017

Raven McGinnityComment