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Make It Yourself Monday: Herbal Infused Oil

Posted by Sarah Stogryn on

I was preparing goldenrod flowers to infuse this afternoon when my neighbour stopped in.  He asked incredulously "WHAT are you doing with THAT?"  I explained that Goldenrod, although it has an unfair reputation for causing allergies like ragweed, is actually a superherb when it comes to muscle pain.  Just rub a little of the flower-infused oil into sore, cramped, injured, or spasming muscles and the relief is immediate.  He didn't believe me.  Lol.  His reaction isn't unusual actually.  As soon as I mention Goldenrod people turn up their noses and tell me they're allergic.  Which is a sad state of affairs for the Goldenrod, because it's one of my favorite medicinal herbs.   Goldenrod is so valuable, and abundant, (although sadly misunderstood) that I decided to post a DIY tutorial so you can make use of this awesome herb yourself.  

First, a little more about the plant.  Yes, it is indeed related to ragweed - they are both members of the Aster family.  But did you know that chicory, dandelion, blessed thistle, black-eyed-susan, coneflowers, arnica, sunflowers, Jerusalem artichoke, yarrow, daisy, feverfew, and chamomile are ALSO in the Aster family?  It is of course possible to be allergic to Goldenrod just like you can be allergic to almost anything, including other members of the Aster family.  The pollen produced by Goldenrod is too heavy to be carried by the wind though, and so usually people are reacting to ragweed pollen, which grows nearby, and is wind-borne.  While I tend to use mostly the flowerheads for muscle mending salve, all parts of the Goldenrod plant have been used historically by Canada's Native people for a wide variety of ailments.  "Edible & Medicinal Plants of Canada" by Lone Pine Press is a fantastic book if you want to learn more.  But for today, let's get on with making a flower-infused oil.

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Step1:  Gather your goldenrod flowers when they are in full bloom, on a hot sunny day if possible. Be sure to pick a plant that looks healthy and robust, and select plants that are as far away from the roadway or other sources of pollution as possible.  The drier the plant is when you harvest it, the less likely the chance of your infusion developing mold while it is infusing.  Be kind to the plant, and don't whack off the whole thing.  Take just a branch or two from each plant in an area, and be sure to say "thank you" as you work. Once you have a good-size bunch, give it a shake to scare any bugs loose before bringing it indoors.

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Step2:  Cut the goldenrod into roughly inch-length pieces.  The smaller you cut it the more efficiently it will infuse into the oil.   Sometimes you just get bored of cutting.  That's ok.  For our purposes, we don't need the leaves or stems so they can go into compost when you're done.

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Step 3: Place the chopped flowers into a sterilized mason jar.  Sterilizing your jar first isn't strictly necessary according to everyone, but again, it reduces your chance of the infusion being ruined by mold.  To sterilize your jar wash it well in hot soapy water, then pour boiling water over it and allow it to dry.  The weather turned damp while I was picking so my jar is only half full in the picture, but I'll be topping it up with more goldenrod today.  It's best to fill your jar completely as this helps prevent condensation from forming and causing mold.

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Step 4:  Cover the chopped flowers with a good quality organic vegetable oil, then put a sterilized lid on the jar. I prefer something light and relatively non-greasy like grapeseed oil in this preparation because it's massaged into the skin, but generally olive oil or sunflower oil are your best choices as they resist turning rancid  longer.  It is important to make sure all the plant material is covered by oil, as any flowers that are exposed to the air in the jar face the risk of mold.  If there is space in the jar between the oil & the lid, and you have the jar in a sunny place, then condensation can create problems. If you fill the jar right to the brim with oil then you reduce the chance of that problem occurring.  I haven't had mold ruin a jar of herbal oil yet, but I know its possible.  

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Step 5:  Place your jar in a warm sunny place and allow it to sit for the next 6 weeks.  If you want it to absorb some moonlight goodness too, place your jar somewhere it can catch those 'rays' as well.  Keep an eye on the jar for mold.  Give it a shake from time to time.  Sing to it.  Think about the healing that jar contains and say thanks.  In reality, I watch the herb more than the calendar.  When the herb is plump and swollen looking, and the colour has run out of the herb into the oil, I say it's had enough sunlight and bring it to a less sunny location, or even a dark cupboard, to finish.  
If you prefer though, you can put the jar inside a paper bag or in a dark/shady place to infuse.  Do what feels right to you.  

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Step 6: When your six weeks is up, pour the contents of the jar out and through a fine mesh strainer.  This will catch the biggest pieces.  Then take the oil - which is probably kinda cloudy and filled with flower bits - and pour it through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth.  Give the cheesecloth a good squeeze.  The resulting oil should be clear, and a lovely shade of gold.  If it's not clear, allow it to sit undisturbed for a few hours till all the sediment is at the bottom, then carefully pour the oil through fresh cheesecloth, being careful not to get any of the sediment-filled oil.  

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Step 7: When you have lovely clear golden oil, pour it into a clean, dry jar and store it in a dark cool place.  Whenever you have sore, achey, crampy, spasming, or injured muscles... just pour out a little goldenrod oil, rub it in to the affected area... and breathe a sigh of relief.  This picture is of the last drips of Goldenrod Oil from last year... it's a good thing I've got more started.  Grapeseed oil doesn't keep as long as olive oil does at room temperature, so feel free to store it in the fridge, &/or add a couple drops of Vitamin E to help preserve it longer.  As long as your oil looks good and smells good, you can still use it.

Coming soon on Make-It-Yourself-Monday:  
How to turn infused oils into salves, and links to the places where I get my supplies.

P.S.  In a hurry?  You can do this in a double boiler over VERY low heat on your stovetop in 2--3 hours, or in a waterbath in your crockpot.

P.S.#2  Like the sound of this but don't want to make it yourself?  Check out my Muscle Mend Salve on the Products page.

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