Learn how to make herb infused oils, pastes and poultices, vinegar, tinctures, electuaries and infused honeys right out of your own kitchen with these simple recipe tips from The Captains Lady.
Herb Infused Oils
The Traditional Method
This is the preferred method. Gather your herbs. Do not add any water to the process by washing, using a wet spoon, or a wet jar. Place dried herbs into a clean, dry glass jar that has a tight fitting lid. Dark glass is preferred. Light can change the quality of your oil. Fill the jar with 1 ounce of dried herb to 10 ounces of oil or half full of chopped, fresh full of fresh herbs topped off with Extra Virgin Olive oil or another carrier oil.
Cap the jar tightly and place in a warm place like a sunny window. If your jar is clear glass, cover your jar with a sack or cloth so that the oil is not exposed to direct sunlight. Turn the jar over a couple of times to make sure everything is coated with oil. Then, turn it upside down every day once per day for 2-6 weeks, or until the oil takes on the color and aroma of the herb.
When it's ready, strain using a cheesecloth. Squeeze all of the oil through. Store in sterile, dark glass bottles. Clear glass bottles will do just as well as dark ones when stored in a cool, dark place. Herbal infused oils will store for at least a year. Be sure to label your bottles with dates and ingredients.
How to Create Herbal Infusions a Little Quicker
When you need herbal oil in a pinch, you can use the stove, in a double broiler, or in the oven. You can even infuse your herbs on a hot plate or a radiator, but it takes about 10 days this way. The important thing is to make sure you are very careful about not burning your herbs. Once that the oil is ready, you strain, label, and store as mentioned above under the 'Wait' Method.
On the Stove: Place the herb filled jar in a sauce pan that has been filled about ¼ full of water, simmer for 4-8 hours. Remove jar from saucepan and allow to cool. Strain, bottle, label, and store as mentioned above.
In a Double Broiler: Place the herbs and oil in a double boiler and bring to a slow simmer. Slowly heat for 30-60 minutes. Cool. Strain, bottle, label and store as mentioned above.
In the Oven: Place the herbs and oil in a large oven proof dish in a preheated 250 degrees oven. Turn the oven off and keep in the oven for 24 hours uncovered. Cool. Then, strain, bottle, label, and store as mentioned above.
Hot Plate/Radiator: Place the herb and oil filled jar on a heat element such as a hot plate or radiator for 10 days. With this method you will keep the jar open, as this will promote water evaporation. This heat should never be warmer than 125 degrees at any time. After 10 days this infused oil can be strained, bottled, labeled, and stored as mentioned above.
The Captains Lady's Hot Ginger & Chile Oil Infusion Recipe
Warm 1/2 cup olive oil with 1 inch of fine chopped Ginger (or 2 teaspoons of ginger powder), 1-2 finely chopped chilies (or 1 teaspoon of Chile powder) in a small pan for half an hour. You can also add in black pepper. You can use the warmed oil right away or place in a jar and let brew for 14 days before straining and re-bottling. Rub into sore spots several times a day or as needed.
Pastes & Poultices
Pastes consist of water added to ingredients to form a paste, which can be used topically on the skin, usually to relieve stings or other irritations, or orally (as in tooth pastes). They are one of the easiest old world remedies to create.
A poultice (the Latin word for porridge) is a soft, moist mass spread on a cloth and then applied to the skin to draw out infection, to relieve congestion, and to reduce inflammation, ache and/or pain.
A poultice can be used to heal skin eruptions, lesions and itchy rashes. Herbs can be ground with a pestle and mortar or crushed leaves may be applied between layers of dampened cheese cloth or gauze (see Mustard Poultice below).
Even good old fashioned mud can be a remedy for things like mosquito and bee stings to draw out the poison and reduce swelling.
TCL's Healthy Gum Paste
Take 1 Teaspoon of baking soda and just enough hydrogen peroxide to make a paste. Work it under the gum line with your tooth brush or your finger tip. Leave on for a few minutes and rinse really well. Do not use if you are allergic to peroxide.
TCL's Ginger Poultice for Boils
Mix equal parts of Ginger powder and water to make a thick paste. Apply over the boil, splinter or pimple, cover with a piece of plastic, and bandage in place. Applying heat with a hot water bottle over the bandage will draw out infection that much faster.
TCL's Turmeric Paste for Acne, Psoriasis or Insect Bites
Add water to 1 Tablespoon dried Turmeric to form a paste. Stir until it reaches a consistency which easily absorbs into a clean gauze. Apply to area affected, 45 minutes at a time. Use 3 times per day. Turmeric does stain skin temporarily. The stain may not come out of clothing, however, so keep away from clothing and other materials.
TCL's Mustard Poultice for Dry Cough, congested Lung Mucus & Inflammation from Cold & Flu
Combine 1-2 tablespoons of ground mustard with 1 cup of flour. Add water to make a paste. Apply paste onto a piece of t-shirt material or muslin. Apply olive oil to the chest to keep poultice from burning the skin (mustard can burn). Then, place the mustard pack mustard side down on chest. Put a thin cloth over that and lay a hot water bottle (warm water) on top. Relax for 15-20 minutes and then remove and wash off. If you are not sure of a possible sensitivity to mustard, continue to check the skin every 3-4 minutes for any sign of irritation.
Vinegar & Tinctures
Medicinal vinegar is created much like tinctures, but don't take as long to make. Tinctures are made with alcohol, which draws out more of the herbs medicinal qualities. Vinegar doesn't draw out as much. However, vinegar does draw out more of the plants vitamins and minerals. Like tinctures, there are dosage guidelines that must be followed. Apple Cider Vinegar is the standard vinegar used in medicinal herbal vinegar.
Instructions for Creating Medicinal Vinegar Extracts
First, place your herbs in sterile, quart glass jars (preferably dark glass) with tight fitting lids. Into your jar, place 3-4 fresh sprigs of herb, just one garlic clove, or fill 1/5 of your jar with dried herbs. Next, pour Organic Apple Cider Vinegar over the herbs in the jars. Cap tightly. Label with date and ingredients. Place the jars in a dark, cool place for 14 days.
After 2 weeks, strain the herb through a cheese cloth. Place the strained liquid in a capped jar on a shelf and allow the sediment to settle overnight. The next day, strain again, and pour into its final jar. Medicinal vinegar extracts and tinctures may be stored and used for several months, even years.
1 tablespoon up to 5 times per day, preferably mixed with water or tea, as vinegar is acidic and you want to avoid harming your teeth. The exception to this would be if your herb is extremely potent.
1 tablespoon per one cup of water for douches, washes, and disinfectants.
1 cup of vinegar for the bath.
Photo Credit: Old Bottles by Raymond Russell
Electuaries are made up of powdered herbs rolled in honey to make the medicine go down a little sweeter if you don't like the taste of an herb. The texture can be syrupy (less herb powder) or pasty, resembling a peanut butter texture or quite dry and more along the lines of little pea size balls (more herbs). because honey is naturally antibacterial, electuaries have a long shelf life.
First, decide on what one dose of dried, powdered herb would be. This will be determined by the herb you are using and what you are using it for. Say, you are going to use Sage for menopausal hot flashes for the next 7 nights. Sage can be used to make tea. One serving of Sage is 1 Teaspoon (heaping) to 1 Cup of near boiling water for tea. To make an electuary you would count out 7 Teaspoons (heaping) of dried, crumbled Sage and place it in a bowl. Add honey to the dried herbs and create whatever texture you desire. The result equals 7 servings. Store in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. There is no need to refrigerate. Each night for the next 7 nights you would scoop out an equivalent of 1 serving and swallow.
Always use raw honey, preferably Manuka honey, which is known for its medicinal qualities.
Note: Do not give Honey to children under the age of 1 year. And, ideally, not under the age of 3. Honey contains spores (Clostridium botulinum), which babies have not yet developed the ability to digest properly, and can cause an allergic reaction.
Raw honey is one of nature's super foods and is an antimicrobial and antioxidant. it's packed full of germ fighting properties that can kill viruses and bacteria.
Raw honey contains 27 minerals, 22 amino acids and 5,000 live enzymes. It keeps you healthy by helping to fight the Herpes Simplex Virus and boosting your digestive system.
Manuka Honey is best (more powerful), which is a type of evergreen plant grown in Australia and New Zealand, but any raw, wildflower honey will do.
If you can, always choose wildflower honey over Alfalfa or Clover honey found readily available at grocery stores. Why wildflower honey? Alfalfa and Clover crops are often sprayed heavily with pesticides and tend not to have the medicinal properties available in multiple plant honeys. Furthermore, commercial bee keepers may feed their bees sugar water, which dilutes the power of the honey. Here's a tip. Pure wildflower honey has a very unique tastes, it smells a little odd, and will slightly burn or sting at the back of the throat when taken undiluted. These are classic signs of a great honey.
Buy raw honey from a local beekeeper or farmer's market. Decide which herb you want to use. For example, the best herbs for helping to put cold sores, shingles and genital herpes in remission are Clove, Lemon Balm, Cinnamon, Oregano, Rosemary, and Lavender. Yes. You can spread a light coating of honey directly on blisters. If you are diabetic, a honey and cinnamon infusion can do the rick to ease your sweet tooth. Also see Diabetes: Honey & Cinnamon.
You'll need a glass jar to place your honey in. The lid needs to fit tightly. Fill the jar half way with fresh herbs or a quarter full with dried. Top with honey, stir, and cap it. Place the jar in a sunny window and turn it over once per day for at least one week. During the week, if the herbs swell and rise above the honey, add more honey to cover them.
Strain once you reach the flavor you are seeking and use as a sweetener in your tea, drizzle over fruit, pancakes or toast, desserts, or cereal. You can also use as a sauce or marinade. To strain your honey, you can use a colander. For larger projects, using a bucket top strainer works best. They cost between $5-6. You can also put a colander across the strainer for double straining.
Directions for Use: One daily spoonful in your tea or spread on your toast is all that is needed to reap benefits. Use no more than 1 Tablespoon each day to avoid blood sugar issues.
Note: Infants and toddlers should not eat honey, as they may suffer an allergic reaction. Honey is considered safe for diabetics when used moderately. It may interest you to know Cinnamon helps to keep blood sugar from spiking as much as it normally would without it, so if you are diabetic adding Cinnamon to your honey infusion would be very beneficial.
TCL's Honey Poultice for Skin Infection
A honey poultice, especially made from Manuka honey, draws infection out of the body. The honey must be 'raw' honey. Store bought honey is often poor quality or not even honey at all. Spread a thick layer of it over the area to be treated and cover with leak proof material (plastic wrap will do) for 24 hours. Repeat as necessary. Always remember to see your doctor for serious or worsening infections.
Disclaimer: TheCaptainsLady.com is a website belonging to the legally registered business, The Captains Lady, The information provided by TheCaptainsLady.com is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. It is not intended to replace any medical or behavioral care from a licensed health care practitioner, or in any way to practice medicine. Information provided is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional.
Affiliate Disclosure: The author of this site, Mari J. Dionne, is a trusted affiliate of some of, but not all, businesses she advertises and does receive monetary compensation for any sales of products as a result of any sales made directly through interactive product links on and throughout her website, social applications, programs, e-books, newsletters, emails and any other promotional materials. The author does not accept any responsibility regarding information, promises or guarantees her affiliate associates make with regards to information or the products or services they provide.