Can You Use Fresh Herbs To Infuse Olive Oil?

Preparing herbal oils or herb-infused oils, also known as macerating oils, is one of the easiest ways to benefit from the healing power of the plants around us. It is simple, cheap, and can naturally alleviate common diseases.

With infused oil, you can say goodbye to food wastage and loss of good flavor. Olive oil is one of the most popular oil used for different purposes. The oil can be infused with different fresh herbs, depending on the purpose. 

It’s an important practice in the therapeutic industry. A carrier oil can be immersed or infused with the beneficial properties of herbs or flowers for weeks or hours depending on the method.

The process involves the use of herbal plants for the purpose just to extract the essence, active ingredients, and healing properties of the plants. 

By soaking herbs and flowers in oil for some time, we can extract many powerful therapeutic properties available in the form of plant properties. The infused oil is used topically for therapeutic purposes and as a basis for cosmetics. 

The added oil can be used to make skincare formulas, balsams, ointments, creams, hair care products, soaps, etc. Many herbs are suitable for infusions, both those with a high proportion of essential oils and those with fat-soluble components. 

The basic idea is that the plant is soaked in a high-quality carrier or solid oil. 

So can olive oil be used? Yes, fresh herbs can be infused into olive oil just like any other oil. The choice of dried or fresh herbs depends on what you want to achieve. 

The infused oil is a good way of cutting food wastage. Moreover, the desired flavor of your oil is well preserved when infused with the right herbs. Olive oil is not an exception here. You can infuse olive oil with fresh herbs.

How to infuse herbs into oil

There are two main ways in which an oil can be infused: the cold infusion method, and the heat infusion method. Here’s each method in more detail:

For heat infusion:

This method allows the oil to penetrate quickly so that you can use it later. If you only heat half of the oil first, it won’t be wasted if you accidentally burn it.

  • Pour about half of the oil into a thick-bottomed saucepan and heat it over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the spices sizzle and the oil starts to foam slightly.
  • Cook for approximately 5 minutes. At this time the oil should be very fragrant, turn off the heat, put the oil and seasonings in a bowl, put in the refrigerator to cool, or just set it somewhere.
  • Season the oil again if after cooling it doesn’t have a strong spicy taste and aroma. If not, add more flavors and reheat.
  • Add the remaining half of the natural oil to the seasoned oil, filter with cheesecloth if necessary, put the oil in a bottle, and store it in the refrigerator. 

Note: Store the spices in an airtight container that is protected from light. The whole spice is stored for about a year; the ground spice can only be stored for a few months.

Cold infusion:

There is another way of doing this using the sun. The solar infusion method. This is the traditional way of soaking oil in the sun. The warmth of the sun gently heats the oil and promotes the infusion process.

  • Firstly, clean and disinfect the glass jar and make sure it is completely dry. Dried herbs of your choice. (Do not use a wet container or mixing spoon to clean the herb or add water during processing).
  • Use the carrier oil of your choice and pour the oil on the herb to make sure it is completely covered because any air gap will oxidize and destroy the oil. Gently press the handle of the spoon or toothpick along the edge of the container to release air bubbles.
  • Put the lid on and place it on a warm sun stand or window sill for six weeks. Some people put the jars in paper bags so as not to damage the oil.
  • After six weeks, filter out the contents of the jar with a muslin cloth, and then squeeze everything to remove all the oil. Let the oil stand before use.

The most important point in making herbal oils this way is to keep the heat as low as possible as you don’t want to “boil” the herbs. All you have to do is put the herbs in a double boiler, slow cooker, or water bath, cover with the oil of your choice, and gently heat the herbs over low heat for 26 hours. 

Turn off the heat and let them cool down. Strain the herbs through a muslin cloth and the oil is ready to use. The oils will infuse, they will likely take on a new color and smell. 

Herbal oils have a shelf life of about a year if properly stored in a cool, dark place. Some oils are more prone to rancidity than others. Vitamin E oil can also be added to extend the shelf life.

Why is olive oil not preferred for infusion?

Olive oil is a good base for some herbal oil infusions, but it is prone to getting bad more quickly than other oils.  Olive oil lasts for about a month, while other oils can stay fresh for about two months. 

The reason why storing infused oil in the refrigerator is recommended. Also, Olive oil one of the most adulterated oils in the world, unless you buy olive oil directly from a wholesaler (or manufacturer in 200 kg drums) or you have the latest generation of oil analyzers used for oil analysis, there is no way to know if your oil is fake. 

Even if your olive oil is “real” olive oil and is not diluted with other cheaper vegetable oils, it is difficult to determine how much of it is pure and refined. Unrefined olive oil is rich in plants Sterols and squalene, with strong color and unique aroma that will affect your infusion. The taste is just a mixture of fatty acids.

How long does fresh herb-infused olive oil last?

Olive oil is a good oil and is very useful for many purposes. But when infused with herbs, it becomes rancid more quickly. After infusing olive oil with herbs, it should last at its peak condition most 4 days naturally before it begins to deteriorate. 

To extend this shelf-life, it is highly recommended to store infused oils in the refrigerator.  When stored in the refrigerator it will keep up to 1 month (if made with some other oil, can stay up to 2 months).

How to make infused oils last longer

Protect the oil from heat and sunlight. Although they can be stored safely at room temperature, if they are stored in the refrigerator or freezer, the quality will be better for a longer period. 

The dark bottle protects the oil from light. Make sure the bottle or jar is clean and edible.

Why did my infused olive oil turn cloudy?

Like most fruits, olives have a layer of wax on the skin (cuticle) that protects them from insects, dehydration, and other weather conditions. For example, these natural waxes make apples glow. 

Freezing and filtering stearate: The standard test to determine if olive oil is sufficiently free of waxes is to place it in an ice-water bath (32 °F) for 5 hours. There should be no clouding or formation of crystals. 

The oil that has not been winterized will clump together and form needle-like crystals at refrigerator temperatures when the longer-chain fats and waxes in the oil freeze, but the oil will generally not harden completely if not further cooled. 

Cool temperatures cause the waxy esters in extra virgin olive oil to solidify. This often happens in winter, in cool warehouses, or after cooling. To make the olive oil clear again, put the bottle in warm water and let the olive oil stand at room temperature.

Is cloudy olive oil OK to use?

Cloudy olive oils are safe to use. The sediment in unfiltered olive oils is nothing more than bits of olive that add flavor to the oil. Some olives form wax and form elongated crystals.

Other olives form wax that hardens into rosettes, slimy clumps, clouds, swirls of protein-like substances, or white deposits that consumers may worry about spoiling.

These visual defects can also be formed outside refrigerators where oil is exposed to low temperatures during transportation in winter. 

The white cloudy color of the cold oil does not indicate deterioration. To clear olive oil that has become cloudy due to temperature, simply leave it at room temperature. Fat that has curdled in the cold will naturally settle out. 

Cooling or freezing olive oil will not harm it, and the oil will return to its normal consistency after heating. The ideal temperature for storing olive oil to reduce oxidation and avoid it clouding is about 50°F.

Dried or fresh herbs, which is best for infusion

The biggest problem with spoiled infused oil is the presence of water, which will bring various molds and bacteria to the oil. We do not need to worry about dry plants as regards this, but for some plants, the fresh infusion is the best option. 

St. John’s wort is a classic example of such a plant. This is because Hypericin (a compound in the herb that turns or stains the oil red) is one of the main ingredients to look for when infusing oil with St. John’s wort.

This color will not be achieved if a dried one is used as the pigment would dry off. Another reason why St. John’s wort collected at the wrong time will not turn red.

On the other hand, most other plants are the best oil-infused as dry plant material. Using fresh and dried herbs can prevent mildew and oil deterioration of the herbs. If you are using fairly thin herbs such as light-colored, thin leaves, and flowers, can be infused fresh. 

However, you should let them wither in the shade for a few hours or overnight before you put them in the oil. Withering for a few hours or even days helps to gently remove water from the plant. With this reduction, the risk of deterioration is small. 

This is especially true for those who use slow infusion (solar infusion) instead of faster thermal infusion (oven, water bath, slow cooker, etc.). Some plants can even be gently soaked with alcohol (in the bottle before adding the oil) to extract more medicine and prevent contamination. 

This is best for marigold oil because medicinal components must be extracts more with alcohol before adding the oil. Do not place freshly washed herbs with residual moisture or fresh herbs wet with water in a carrier oil for infusion. 

Thicker plants, such as marigolds or dandelions, are best used in the dried form for infusion in oil because they retain too much water inside and you will rarely get a good unspoiled infused oil when they are used fresh. It is best to let them dry completely before infusion.

How long does it take for herbs to infuse in oil?

There are two main methods for infusing fatty oils with herbs: hot infusion is quick and relatively painless, while cold infusion requires 6 to 8 weeks. 

Gently heat the herbs over very low heat, preferably between 100° and 140° Fahrenheit. It should take between 1 to 5 hours until the oil takes on the color and scent of the herb. Some texts recommend heating the oil for 48 to 72 hours at a controlled temperature of 100° F. 

Turn off heat and allow it to cool. Herbal oils made from dried plants can be infused indefinitely, although the standard time is 4-6 weeks. The most important thing to remember is the expiration date of the herbal oil. 

However, it is not necessarily better or more effective than oil that has been infused for 6 weeks, because most of the ingredients are already in the oil.

Can infused olive oil make you sick?

When using fresh, undried ingredients, there is always a risk of botulism, especially olive oil with added garlic. 

Clostridium botulinum is a bacterium that can be found in most parts of the earth. Since garlic is a tuber picked from the ground, botulinum is an anaerobic bacteria (meaning it thrives in an environment without oxygen), It will die in the presence of oxygen. 

Olive oil is essentially combined with oxygen. When food is mixed with oil, it becomes an ideal breeding ground for these potentially deadly bacteria. It is best to kill any bacteria in these items before adding them to the oil. 

To do this, you can soak the food in a citric acid solution to lower the pH and kill any bacteria that may be present.

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