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.