Difference Between Carrier Oils and Infused Oils
An article about the difference between carrier oils and infused oils and how to use them in aromatherapy practice. By professional aromatherapist and author Sharon Falsetto.
When I first studied aromatherapy, I was introduced to carrier oils as a means of using essential oils safely. I knew little about infused oils and the possibilities that they created for aromatherapists. Today, I see a renewed interest in using, and making, infused oils which is encouraging given the world crises we are facing with regard to climate change and the sustainability of plants and oils, under a burgeoning industry.
Here’s a quick look at the difference between carrier oils and infused oils – and how to create a simple infused oil at home.
What is a carrier oil?
Carrier oils are vegetable oils composed of beneficial components such as linoleic acid, linolenic acid, oleic acid, and omega fatty acids, as well as vitamins. Use cold pressed carrier oils for aromatherapy use (with the exception of grapeseed (Vitis vinifera) which is always hot pressed).
Carrier oils can be thin, thick, or somewhere in between in consistency. They can be used alone, combined with another carrier oil, or combined with essential oils. Carrier oils can also be added to lotions and creams and other skincare products.
Carrier oils are extracted from seeds or kernels of a plant with the use of an expeller or hydraulic press. Examples of carrier oils included jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis), sunflower (Helanthius annuus), and olive (Olea europaea).
What is an infused oil?
An infused oil uses a carrier oil as its based and it is then infused with a plant of choice to produce a final infused oil. Although in theory any carrier oil can be used as a base for an infused oil typical examples are sunflower (Helanthius annuus) and olive (Olea europaea).
CARRIER OIL + PLANT MATERIAL—>
Common infused oils include calendula (Calendula officinalis) and St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum). However, many herbalists (and aromatherapists) can make their own infused oils from plants available in their garden or through local, sustainable wild crafting.
You can use plants to make infused oils with plants that are commonly used to make essential oils or with plants that don’t have an aroma but do have therapeutic properties. However, bear in mind that the chemistry (and thus the subsequent therapeutic properties) of the infused oil will be different to that of the essential oil due to the different extraction process and a number of other factors.
|Tip: To use an infused oil therapeutically, look to the main therapeutic properties of the plant you are extracting.|
How to make a simple infused oil
Infusing oils with plants can be a complex process and a work of art, depending on the plant used, the number of infusions carried out, and the method of infusing. There are different methods for different plants, so I will attempt to summarize the basic (folk) method for leaves and flowers as follows. This is the basic sun infusion method.
- Choose your carrier oil to use for the infused oil.
- Gather plant material you want to use.
- Allow the plant material to dry (time will vary depending on plant and location).
- Cut into small pieces and add to a clean mason jar.
- Pour your chosen carrier oil over the plant material. Make sure all the plant material is covered.
- Screw on the lid and label the jar with contents and date.
- Leave on a sunny window ledge, shaking gently each day, for up to 4 weeks (depending on location and intensity of sun).
- Strain the plant material from the oil and discard the plant material (or compost). Re-label the jar with contents and date.
About the Author:
The author of this article has been working in the health care industry since the 1990’s and in the aromatherapy industry since the 2000’s. She is UK-certified aromatherapist and a NAHA Certified Professional Aromatherapist®. She is both a published author and editor in aromatherapy, a consultant, custom blend formulator and herbal studies student. She is the author of Authentic Aromatherapy and the current chief editor of the NAHA Aromatherapy Journal. She has taken the online Master Gardener short course series with the University of Oregon. Sharon works from her garden studio in Sedona, Arizona, where she gardens and distills plants from her own aromatic gardens, surrounded by natural fauna and flora on an original pioneer homestead property.