How to make an infused massage oil

By Sebastian Pole

What are infused oils?

Colourful, fragrant and nourishing herbal oils are an essential part of every home apothecary. Infused oils are made by soaking herbs in a carrier oil. You can use an organic olive, sesame or sunflower oil to infuse fresh or dry herbs for applying to your skin, or as a base for a salve or a cream.

Finely chopping or grinding the herbs breaks up the cell walls of the plant allowing the lipophilic or fat-loving molecules to infuse into the oil. This combination is gently agitated daily and placed in the dark or sunlight (depending on the herb), and or/with warmth to enable the active constituents of the plant to be absorbed.

The constituents are all of the oil-soluble compounds present in the plant including the essential oils. Once the carrier oil has fully absorbed all the precious phytonutrients the mixture is carefully filtered. This process is similar to the long and slow brewing of a tea but a carrier oil is used instead of water.

What are infused oils used for?

For a massage and to help dry, irritated skin. Also for helping support the skin’s natural repair mechanisms after a bump or a bruise.

Which herbs can I use to make a salve?

How do I make an infused oil?

There are various methods to make an oil: a Simple Infused Oil, a Cold Infusion Oil, a Warm infusion oil and a Decocted Oil.

A Simple Infused Oil is made by simply filling a jar with fresh herbs and covering with oil, allowing it to infuse for a couple of weeks. There should be a couple of cm of oil covering the herbs. Any floating material should be stirred back in.

A Cold Infusion Oil uses the same technique but with more specific measurements for more precise concentration of the phytonutrients. For example, it is often made at proportions of 1 part herb : 4 parts oil – though this will vary for each plant and intended use.

A Warm Infusion Oil involves ‘digesting’ the herbs by infusing them in warm oil heated over a bain-marie or in a low-temperature oven (40C/100F) for a few hours. Strain the oil off, leave it to settle for a day and then filter to avoid any sediment in your oil.

Here we will use Arnica and St John’s Wort as examples of cold infusion oils.

Prep Time
30 mins

Infusion Time
2-3 weeks


  • 100g Arnica of St John’s Wort flowers
  • 400ml Organic oil (olive, sesame or sunflower)


  • A clean and dry jar
  • Pen and label


  • Fill your jar with Arnica (or St John’s Wort) flowers.
  • Pour the oil over the flowers.
  • Seal shut and label your jar.
  • Keep in a dark warm spot for 2-3 weeks.
  • Give the jar a little shake every day.
  • Strain the flowers and store the oil in a dark and cool place.
  • Rub a small amount on any bruise or bump (but never on broken skin**!)

Helpful Hints

  • If you are using fresh plants you should ‘wilt’ them first to remove some moisture and then filter off very carefully to ensure no water is left in the oil. You can do this by simple separation as you pour off.
  •  It is IMPORTANT not to use arnica on broken skin or take internally.

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