"The LORD is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?"

- Psalms 27 : 1

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Mixology : Infusions 101


Oils & herbs are great ingredients for any healthy hair regimen regardless the texture. Both oils & herbs are dear staples and it's no wonder when you think about the nature of the goodies they are packed with - vitamins, minerals & other nutrients! To use herbs I usually do a hair rinse and for oils, it's mostly a deep conditioning treat. However, sometime later, I started asking myself if there wasn't a way to use these 2 types of ingredients together instead of having to use them separately. It wasn't long that I discovered I could...by making infusions.

Infusions is the process of introducing something into another. In my case, extracting all the wonderful properties of my favorite herbs into carrier oils. The benefits are tremendous : not only would I be using be benefiting from the properties of a simple carrier oil, I'd also have the added bonus of getting all the goodness of herbs. This means I could also use my herbs in my deep conditioning mix or easily use them in mixes whether it be for my skin or my hair. As you could imagine, I got excited real fast & came up with some amazing infusions. 
Making infusions are easy but there are a few things to know before attempting it : 
Firstly, choose your carrier oil wisely. You are going to need one that is stable enough to not quickly go rancid. Olive oil & jojoba oil are top picks. The oil you choose also depends on the purpose of the infusion (hair, skin, scalp, lip etc). For infusions were you are aiming for maximum scent avoid oils that come with their own scent such as olive oil.

Secondly, know your herb. The infusion you are trying to make has to have a purpose. Herbs are great for a number of things but you need to know what you are after to be able to make your choice.

Thirdly, get prepared. To make an infusion -  you'll need, apart from your herb and oil - a sterilized jar, a sieve (an empty teabag or cheesecloth will also do).

There are two methods for making infusions. The hot method & the cold one. I use the latter. The hot method is achieved by heating up the oil and herb to speed up the process. This makes the volatile particles move from the herb to the oil. With the cold method, the same process is achieved but with natural heat from the sun or no heat at all.

To make an infusion--

1. fill up the CLEAN empty jar with the herb. I fill to 1/3 of the jar but it's up to you the quantity you use depending on the herb and the strength you are trying to achieve however, the herbs should be able to swim in the oil.
--always label your infusions by putting the name of the herb, oil and date! You will be grateful for it in the future. It is always good to keep account of what you put on your body
--working with DIRTY hands and tools will pollute your oil

2. add the oil. Fill the jar  to the neck and not below. Leaving too much air space in the jar can lead to rapid oxidation of the oil which will turn the oil rancid.
--you can add some pure vitamin E to prolong the shelf life of your oil and avoid it getting rancid during or after the infusion.

3. cover the jar. Now shake it up real good

4. place the jar in front of a window that has access to sunlight and wait...at least 4-6 weeks to get a full infusion.During this time, shake your jar at least twice a week to help with the process. You can also open it up once in a while (but not too often) to smell if it's gone rancid. This is the hardest part. You're going to need a bucket full of patience for this. When I was making my first infusion, I  was worried I'd be too impatient but time really sped by and before long the 6 weeks had passed.
--some oils easily break down when exposed to light so be careful not to use them or your infusion could easily go rancid

5. after the wait, your infusion is ready. You will be able to tell by the change of color in the oil or the change in scent. When your infusion has reached desired strength, you are reading to strain. Get your sieve//tea bag//cheesecloth and pour your infusion through it and into a clean container. With your CLEAN hands squeeze the rest of the oil from the herb to get ALL the good stuff
--when bottling, it is best to use an amber bottle to avoid light getting into your precious oil and making it easily vulnerable to rancidity
--don't forget to label your oil!! The shelf life depends on the original oil used and how old it was (remember, vitamin E prolongs shelf life but does not reverse rancidity!!) 

You're done!

To choose your oils--

hair : olive oil//coconut oil//jojoba oil
skin : olive oil//sweet almond oil//Safflower oil

Some herbs to consider--

hair : horsetail//coltsfoot//lavender
skin : calendula//comfrey//lavender

This list is nowhere near exhaustive but rather a way to inspire you & get you started. Experiment with herbs & oils to see what you like best!

:)




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