The other day, I was shopping at Spar and saw some wonderful fresh basil and thyme and picked up a packet each. Unfortunately, when cooking for one, there’s only so much you can use. After making some pasta with basil and avocado sauce, a couple of other dishes and a toner with thyme, I was wondering what to do with the remainder while it was still fresh.
It struck me that I could try making an infused oil with them along with other things I had at home. My goal was something that would stimulate hair growth and combat hair loss. Unfortunately, Bangalore has been mainly cloudy of late, plus I don’t have any sunny window-sills or terraces, so I realized I couldn’t use the usual method of infusing for weeks with the help of the sun. Besides, when using fresh herbs, they need to be dried first or else the oil will develop mold from their moisture content.
Also Read : How to infuse herbs in oil?
I’ve seen many people heating the herbs in a base oil directly in a iron wok or kadhai, but I wasn’t sure about the herbal contents withstanding the heat, as some of them produce volatile extracts. I looked up the kashayam process commonly used in Ayurveda to make herbal oils. But that process involves first boiling the herbs in water and then heating the extract in oil. While this does have its benefits, I decided to shorten the process by directly infusing the herbs in the oil as many people do, but using an oven instead. I have a gas oven at home with reasonably accurate temperature controls, and I checked the lowest temperature setting on mine is around 70-80 deg C, which is not too high for this purpose. Some newer models may have even lower settings than that.
For those concerned that heating oils reduces their efficacy, what you need to be concerned about is the smoke point of the oil used. It is only after an oil has exceeded its smoke point that is begins to break down. For sesame oil, which I used, the smoke point is approximately 232 deg C/ 450 F. If using cold-pressed oils, the smoke points are lower. For those interested, you can easily find sites on the net listing smoke points of various oils.
BENEFITS (of herbs used) –
- Thyme – stimulates blood circulation, supports hair development, cleanses the scalp and clears dandruff, helps with thinning hair by promoting thicker growth
- Holy Basil – as you probably know already it’s used to heal both mind and body. This is also anti-bacterial, promotes blood circulation, hydrates the scalp, combats hair loss and graying of hair.
- Curry leaves – a popular addition to many home-made hair oils, with good reason, curry leaves contain anti-oxidants & amino acids which restore strength to damaged hair follicles, treat premature graying due to their Vitamin B content. They are also rich in beta-carotene & proteins and moisturize the scalp.
- Green tea – this is truly a powerful herb, packed with anti-oxidants & catechins that suppress hair-loss causing DHT, so reduces hair fall. It has anti-inflammatory properties and compounds like carotenoids, zinc, chromium etc which boost hair growth. It contains poly-phenol which strengthens roots and activates hair follicles, as well as being anti-fungal and anti-bacterial.
- Fenugreek – another popular ingredient for hair, it controls hair fall & dandruff and is used in a myriad of hair problems.
- Rosemary – anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, treats dandruff, darkens hair, improves blood circulation in the scalp for better hair growth, is extremely rich in Vitamins A & C, as well as pyridoxine & folic acid.
- Nigella sativa – although popularly known as black onion seed, black cumin etc, these are not its true names. It is also called kalonji in Hindi. With over a 100 nutrients and vitamins to replenish skin & hair, and is a highly potent remedy for balding & hair loss, as well as promoting faster hair growth. This can actually treat bald spots.
- Spearmint leaves – this is a milder form of the common mint or pudina leaves that we use. This also has anti-inflammatory properties as well as suppressing DHT.
- Amla – another power-packed herb for hair health, it improves blood circulation and has a very high Vitamin C and anti-oxidant content.
- Ginger – an excellent remedy for hair growth which triggers hair follicles, has anti-inflammatory properties and reduces hair loss.
Phew! And that’s the short version! Seriously, though, this is a great list of ingredients, which I happened to have on hand. I would recommend you use a combination of whichever of these you happen to have available if you don’t have them all.
- 2 Tbsp fresh thyme
- 2 Tbsp fresh basil
- 2 Tbsp fresh curry leaves
- 1 Tbsp green tea leaves
- 1 Tbsp dried rosemary
- 1 Tbsp fenugreek seeds
- 1 Tbsp Nigella sativa (kalonji)
- 1 Tbsp dried spearmint leaves
- 1 Tbsp amla powder
- 1 Tbsp dry ginger powder
- 400 ml sesame oil
Making this is as simple as dumping all ingredients into an oven safe dish and making sure you pour enough oil to cover the herbs and powders completely. The 400 ml (approx) that I used was enough for this. I didn’t cover the dish as the moisture needs to evaporate. As mentioned earlier I set the oven temperature to the lowest setting which was around 70-80 deg C. Then I just left it in there for around 2 hrs. What you need to check for is when large bubbles stop forming, that means all the water from the fresh herbs has evaporated completely, which for me was just under 2 hrs. And that’s it! Take it out of the oven, leave to cool and strain into a bottle.
Make sure to have some snacks around as this literally smells good enough to eat! The herbs will be all browned & fried looking, that’s how it’s supposed to look. once strained, it’s a clear brown oil, the colour mainly from the thyme and tea leaves.
I will try and post my results on this after a few months at least of using it, to get a clear picture. Personally, the excess hair fall I was having earlier has more or less reduced, my aim as of now is to regain thickness, so that’s what I will be observing. Do let me know if you’ve tried any of these herbs yourself and how they helped you.