Greensgrow is one of Philadelphia’s longstanding gems. An urban farm nestled in-between the city’s Fishtown and Kensington neighborhoods, it’s a place that has influenced a growing sustainably minded community over the last twenty years. Today, people from across the city flock to the farm in order to shop local organic foods, to find plants and tools needed for their organic garden, to make friends, and to learn at one of the farm’s many workshops. The workshops cover everything from beer making and hay bale gardening to last week’s medicinal herbs workshop. Local herbal wellness coach, blogger, and Greensgrow CSA member, Kristin O’Malley, gathered us around to talk about filling your medicine and beauty cabinets with good, homemade, herbal concoctions. Together we prepared an infused oil of Calendula, Yarrow, Comfrey, Plantain, and St. John’s Wart – a combination good for healing cuts and scrapes. Using the oil, we learned how to make a salve, and along the way covered the ins and outs of using medicinal herbs. The Basics Oil: The most common kinds of oil to infuse are extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, jojoba oil, almond oil, and grape seed oil. If making a product for the face, refrain from using olive oil, and no matter which type you decide to infuse, always choose organic! Methods of Infusion:
- Solar: infused outside in a jar, using the heat of the sun. Good for liquid consistency oils (i.e. olive oil, jojoba, almond oil, etc.)
- Crockpot: be careful when infusing oils in the crock pot, and make sure that the oil never goes above 110F. This method is good for hard oils such as coconut oil.
- Double Boiler: you can craft your own double boiler with a pot, mason jar ring, and glass pyrex. Fill the pot with water and set the pyrex in so that it’s propped up on the mason ring and not touching the bottom. As the water heats, it will warm your glass pyrex.
- Lunar: following the 28 day lunar cycle, set your jar outside at night, preferably uncovered. This method is more spiritual and thought to give the oil a cooling, healing energy.
Herbs: it is generally best to used dried or powdered herbs when making an infusion. If you are going to use fresh herbs, cut them from the plant, and let them sit in the sun for a day or two. Oils made with fresh herbs will not last as long because the water in the plant causes oil to turn more quickly. Creating a Solar Infused Oil for Cuts & Scrapes Ingredients:
- Calendula – the go to for skin, calendula is good for toning, strengthening the skin, and rebuilding skin cells.
- Yarrow – good for hemostasis, which means that it stops bleeding.
- Comfrey – also called bone knit, comfrey is good for just that – fractures and broken bones. Applied topically, it will encourage skin to stitch together, closing up a wound.
- Plantain – will extract infection from a cut or wound. It literally sucks bacteria out.
- Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- One sterilized mason jar
- Wooden skewer
- Label your jar with the date, type of herbs, and kind of oil you are using.
- Fill container half way with dried herbs.
- Fill the mason jar and cover herbs completely with oil.
- Mix up herbs and oil with a wooden skewer.
- Seal and let sit outside for 2-4 weeks. If it’s an extremely hot day (80F+), set the jar in a shaded spot. Otherwise, set the jar in direct sunlight.
- After 2-4 weeks, line a mesh colander with cheese cloth and strain your oil. Ball up the cheese cloth to really wring out every last bit.
- Rubber band a coffee filter to the top of your mason jar, and pour the oil back into the jar through the coffee filter, straining it one last time.
- Your oil is now good to use. Store in a cool, shaded place.
- Infused Oil
- Vitamin E – good for the skin and also helps to preserve the salve
- Lavender Essential Oil
- Beeswax (can also use carnauba wax if looking for a vegan option – just note that the end product will have a harder consistency)
- Double Boiler (can also use the pyrex method previously mentioned)
- Container(s) for finished salve
- Get water warmed up in your double boiler.
- Pour oil and beeswax into the top boiler and let the beeswax slowly melt. The general ratio used is 1 cup oil to 2-4 tbsp beeswax. The amount of beeswax depends on your desired consistency. Once melted, you can always take a bit on a spoon, and stick it in the freezer to test the thickness.
- While beeswax is melting get your containers ready.
- Once beeswax is fully melted, remove from heat and add essential oils and vitamin E.
- Pour salve into container(s) and let cool.
Further Reading Medicinal Herbs by Rosemary Gladstar Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health by Rosemary Gladstar Organic Body Care Recipes by Stephanie Tourles Big thank you to Greensgrow & Kristen for inviting us to the workshop! Read more about Greensgrow. Check out Naomi’s blog Numie Abbot.