I had almost forgotten how easy it is to make a nice herbal infused oil in the summer in the desert. For the most part, I'm a huge fan of FRESH plant herbal oils. Dried plants really don't lend themselves well to oil, unless you fog the plant material with alcohol prior to blending in a blender for 10 minutes until it is hot and then straining.
I have a number of problems with this method, not the least of which involves the amount of fossil fuel energy required to produce and ship alcohol, produce and ship a blender, and the electricity required to run said blender. Second, I really have disliked the residue of alcohol in my oils when I've done this. Third, it is in NO way a traditional method of oil extraction that our wise grandmothers would have used.
As some of you may know, I'm tending towards moving away from non traditional methods of administering herbs, including the use of tinctures. I haven't given them up entirely, but if I can use a tea, a powder, an oil, or other more traditional method, I will. SO...that leads me to dislike the idea of using alcohol to extract plant medicine into oil.
Many traditional peoples would infuse their herbal medicines into bear fat, buffalo grease or other animal fat, probably over a warm fire or coals. Later, plant material is set into olive, sesame or other plant oils to infuse for a couple of weeks. This is good and fine for dried plant material, but if you leave fresh plant material macerating in oil for more than a few days, more than likely you'll get mold, rancidity and plain old nastiness ( ask me about the horrid fresh ginger coconut oil I tried to cold infuse. GAK!).
So, what is an herbalist to do? In general, I find the fresh plants extract beautifully into oil if given a little heat over a 48 hr period. I've often put fresh plants into a jar, covered with oil, put a lid on, and placed into a warm water bath for two days. I never let the water boil, just get steamy hot. After two days, I pull the oil out, strain out from the plant mater, and let any water settle to the bottom in a wide glass measuring cup. Then I pour off the clear oil from the water into a clean bottle. Perfect, effective fresh plant oil, sans moldy nastiness.
This can also be done with dry plant material, but requires more work, time, and heat, and in my opinion often renders a less potent oil. But, that said, warm infused dried plant oils are a good choice in some cases. I know herbalists who use warm water baths for this as well, and it is the method I used in the winter, or when I'm living somewhere not so sunny.
I recently harvested fresh alder leaves and bark, and subsequently decided to make oil with them. But in this dry heat, my leaves and bark were already dry by the time I got to making my oil. So I ground up my alder, and put it in my jar, and topped it off with oil. No alcohol. Outside it went, under the shade of the ramada, where it is nice and hot. 1 day later and that oil is becoming a rich shade of greenish red. It's obvious that the plant is giving its properties to the oil readily in the warmth of the desert summer. I love how easy it is to make a nice oil in the desert. I'll give this oil another few days until it looks dark and smells rich.
I faithfully follow this method when making a fresh chaparral/creosote bush oil. I've seen some pretty sad looking salves and oils supposedly made from chaparral, which are just plainly the color of the olive oil it was infused in, scented weakly of chaparral. When I make my fresh chaparral oil in the warmth of the desert summer, it turns a rich, dark greenish, black, and is full of the resinous intensity of the plant. I've seen this oil turned to salve retain a very dark green color, a strong scent and hold it for years. This medicine is always potent, and effective. I've seen it relieve and soothe cases of eczema, psoriasis, ringworm, sunburns, stove burns, bug bites, rashes and more.
I'm planning on getting some fresh chaparral in the next several weeks as the monsoons hopefully shed some moisture on the desert and the chaparral plants green up a bit. I'll oil this medicine up in olive oil, or even better jojoba oil and begin making salves. If you'd like to order some of this potent desert medicine, please e mail me to arrange the quantity and type of oil you'd like.