Here’s a few ways that I use plants from the garden that might inspire some ways for you to use yours.
1. Calendula infused oil.
I swear by the slow infusion method, which uses dried (or mostly dried depending on the plant) material. Too much moisture is a breeding ground for bacteria, so if you’re just starting out, I recommend using fully dried plant matter. I always wash and sterilize my jars in the oven for at least 20 minutes on 200F beforehand.
To make a slow infusion: Loosely fill the jar with dried plant material, and fill to the top with oil. Poke a knife or chop stick around to release air bubbles. Set the jar aside in a dry, dark place for about 6 weeks. Check on it regularly and give it a shake each time. I mostly use avocado or olive oils because they are nourishing for sensitive skin.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis) is a good, skin healing herb so I use the oils in my homemade skin and lip balms. I infuse the whole flower head and not just the petals; however, if you use just petals you will get a more pigmented oil, especially if your calendula is orange or one of the darker varieties.
2. Plantain (Plantago major) and nettle leaf (Urtica dioica) infused olive oil simmering on low on the stove:
This is the fast method for making infused oil when you’re in a rush. I rarely use this method because I don’t think it brings out all of the constituents of the plant as well as a gentle, slow infusion and there’s always a risk of overheating. However, since I’ll be using the oil in soap and not a skin balm, I’m going with it. I need the oil now, not 6 weeks from now!
The trick to this method is to keep the temperature as low as possible so as not to diminish the integrity of the plant properties. For this reason, I prefer using a crockpot set on low rather than in a pot set on the stovetop. However, in this case I’ve set the jar of oil on top of a steamer basket inside the pot to keep it from sitting right on the hot pan where it meets the heating element.
3. This is a slow infusion of plantain leaf (Plantago spp) that I made a few months ago. Plantain leaf is so good for dry skin as well as insect bites and nettle stings. I use it in skin and lip balms along with calendula. You can infuse the two at one time in the same jar, but I do them separately so I have them on hand for a range of uses.
4. This is a lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) and glycerine tincture (aka glycerite) that I made months ago using dried leaves. Lemon balm is a wonderful, relaxing herb that can reduce anxiety and aid in digestive issues. Using glycerine instead of alcohol to tincture produces a mild medicine that is suitable for kids or those who don’t want to consume alcohol. Make sure to look up ratios for adding water since that’s not something you want to get wrong.
5. I pulled some English lavender flowers off of stems to use in a soap. It smells so good in here now! This is ‘Hidcote,’ my favourite lavender variety because it tastes and smells amazing so you can use it for anything. Some lavender varieties are great for cosmetic use, but don’t taste good. ‘Hidcote’ is also cold hardy & best for those of us gardening in colder climates.
6. Don’t toss your lavender stems. I add mine to infused oils along with the buds. You can also use them to weave small baskets.