Infusions are made by pouring boiling water over plant material in a cup, covering and letting it steep. Leaves and flowers are most suitable for such preparation.
A decoction is made by slow simmering of tougher plant parts (roots, bark, fruit and stems) for 10-60 min.
- Measure dried calendula petals into the dry jar and compact them lightly.
- Add carrier oil* of your choice to cover the petals by about 2-3 cm (I use almond oil as it has very faint and pleasant fragrance, which isn’t overpowering when I use the oil in creams or soaps).
- Shake well, then leave the jar in a bright place (but out of direct sun for 4 weeks).
- Strain the oil to remove petals and store it in a dark glass container with a lid for up to one year.
- First, create a chassis: a base sheet of glass or a layer of thick undyed cotton fabric is laid flat, then thick animal fat is spread thinly and evenly on it (important note: both the fabric and fat should be devoid of their natural smell as much as possible).
- The next step involves laying fresh flower petals on the fat, and covering them with another piece of chassis. Over time the fat absorbs essential oils from flowers. The timing of this process was a jealously guarded secret skill of the perfumers’ guild and it depends on the season, flowers used, ambient temperature etc
- Further treatment depends on the flower species, or rather stability of its oils. In some cases, the fat can be scraped from the chassis then gently liquified in the lowest possible temperature. The petals are strained and the perfumed fat after being cooled down and solidified can be reused as chassis for multiple times. It can also be used to add fragrance to leather products and be incorporated in creams.
- Fragile oils which cannot be treated in raised temperatures are extracted from the fat using alcohol. The oils then transfer to the alcoholic solution, which in turn is evaporated, leaving behind a semi-solid product called absolute.
- Finely chop leaves and stems or grate roots into a stainless steel pot.
- Add carrier oil and gently heat up on the stove. Because oils can be heated to above 100 degrees Celsius before they reach their boiling point, water present in fresh plant parts boils away, visible as small, silvery bubbles and steam.
- It is important to remove the liquid from the heat source when the number of water bubbles diminishes, to avoid frying the plants.
- Strain the hot liquid immediately into a clean glass bowl, let it cool down, then use in a cream-making recipe or put in a glass container with lid for further storage.
And, last but not least, a short list of plants worth growing for extracting oils:
Uses: C = culinary, CR = creams/ointments, M = medicinal, S = soap making
Chickweed (Stellaria media) M, CR
Citrus fruit (mainly grapefruit, orange and lemon) C, CR, S
Comfrey = Knitbone (Symphytum officinale) CR, M, S
English marigold (Calendula officinalis) CR, M
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) C, CR, M, S
Lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora) CR, S
Mints (Mentha spp.) depending on variety, mints have a wide range of uses: CR, CU, M, S
Rose geranium (Pelargonium_graveolens) CR, C, S
Rosemary (Rosmarinum officinalis) C, CR, M, S
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) C, M
Valerian (Valerianum officinalis) M