I’ve had a fascination with botanical extracts lately so I thought it apt to start a new blog series on just this: Botanical Extracts!
Unfortunately natural botanical extracts are hard to find in South Africa. Luckily there are a few ways to produce botanical extracts at home. In this new blog series, we will discover the various ways you can make your own extracts with natural ingredients as solvents.
We have discussed water-based botanical infusions to some degree in the shampoo and hair care blogs, but we’ll come back to those at a later point. To start off we’re going to go back to the OG of botanical extracts: oil macerations.
Oil macerations or infused oils, are oils that have been used as solvents to extract the therapeutic properties of botanicals. They are simple to make and there are endless variations. Let’s dive in.
Oil macerations are delightfully simple: all you need is an oil, botanicals and a glass jar.
If you are using botanicals from your garden, make sure to properly dry them first before use.
You can use any botanical you like - this is the beauty of botanical extracts! Choose botanicals that are suited to your needs or wants in your products.
Chop up your dried botanicals as finely as possible. This will help the oil penetrate further and absorb more of the properties of the plant.
To choose an oil, start by thinking about what you plan to do with it. Is it going in a facial serum or a soap, an oil-based product like a lip balm, or a lotion? Assess your needs and what type of oil you would usually use in those circumstances.
Use good quality cold pressed oils like olive, sunflower, sweet almond or even jojoba. Rice bran, macadamia, baobab and castor oil (think how divine an infused caster oil in a lip gloss would be!) are other excellent options depending on what you plan to use your maceration for.
Go for oils that are neutral in scent otherwise the inherent scent of the oil may overwhelm the properties of the botanicals.
Be aware of the colour of your oil and the colour of your botanicals. The green colour of avocado oil may not be the best option if macerating brightly coloured petals for instance.
How much oil you use is of course up to you. There isn’t a set ratio of oil to botanicals to use, just make sure there is enough oil to sufficiently cover the botanicals.
Lastly, blend in 0.1 - 0.5% Vitamin E tocopherol to your oil as an antioxidant. This will help protect the oil from any oxidation and will extend its shelf life.
Once you have your botanicals and oils ready, clean a glass jar and fill it with botanicals. Then pour the oil over, making sure the botanicals are covered. Tightly seal up the jar and put it in a warm spot for about three weeks - maceration works best when gently heated. Stir the mixture up every day and replace the dried botanicals with a fresh batch every week so more properties are extracted.
Once the oils have finished macerating, strain out the botanicals and bottle your oil infusion. It will keep for an easy 6 - 12 months when stored in a cool place out of direct sunlight.
You can speed up the maceration process by gently heating the oil and botanicals over the stove on the lowest possible heat. Slowly heat the mixture for 3 - 4 hours until you are happy with the infusion. Never let the mixture get too hot or boil, or you will ruin both the botanicals and the oil.
Oil infusions can be used in skincare formulas as ‘actives’ in quantities of 5-10%, or you can use them in larger amounts to replace carrier oils in other recipes.
Here are some great ideas to get you started! Oil macerations are not only fabulous additions to your ingredients but also make stunning gifts on their own.
Vanilla pods in jojoba oil yields a pretty, vanilla scented oil.
Try making an oleoresin with myrrh or frankincense and jojoba oil. Grind the resin into a fine powder and then use the gentle heating method of oil maceration for about 4 - 5 hours, stirring regularly. Strain and leave to sit for a day so that any residue sinks to the bottom. Then pour off the oleoresin and bottle. This method will absorb properties from the resin that even the essential oil cannot offer and is a wonderfully therapeutic practice too.
Have fun making your macerations!
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