How to make your own lavender oil
Updated: Mar 29
Lavender and Almond Oil: Luckily come the Spring, our hill on the edge of the Serra do Caldeirão in the Algarve is ablaze with the vibrant colour and scent of wild lavender. Hardly making a dent on what is there, thus ensuring the bees are happy I still cut a good crop of stems with the newest buds and the process begins. If you wish to make your own lavender oil this is how it is done:
Cut sprigs of fresh lavender or you can purchase them dried if you don’t have your own lavender: Cut off the stems of lavender along with the flowers, in 6 inch (15 centimetre) segments or longer. The leaves and new stems can be used to infuse oil as well as the flowers, although the woody, thick stems near the base should be avoided.
Let the lavender dry: If you are using fresh lavender, dry it first in shade or wrapped in a cloth, to enhance its aroma and minimise the chance of the oil becoming rancid. Tie the sprigs up with rubber bands or string and let it hang upside down in a dry, warm area but keep some distance between the bunches as you can find it goes mouldy and it’s actually good to have a little airflow too. I have actually found that using a clothes airer is a perfect way to dry my lavender bunches upside down and then leave this in a spare bedroom with the curtains or outer blinds shut. Exposing it to sunlight will dry the lavender out much faster, but could break down some of its aromatic oils. Fresh cut lavender may take two weeks to dry fully but I do check mine every day as it can dry in a matter of days. You want it withered but not crunchy.
Lightly crush the lavender and place it in a jar. Crumble the lavender apart with clean hands, or bruise it slightly with any clean, heavy object to expose its fragrance (I like using a rolling pin). Place it in a clean jar (I tend to use Kilner jars) and you want the jar to be ¾ full so choose the size depending on your crop. Wash your hands and jar first if they are dirty, but dry thoroughly before bringing them into contact with the lavender. Mixing water into the oil may interfere with the infusion so I actually dry my jars off in the oven on a low heat for ten minutes and then let them cool just prior to use.
Pour oil over the flowers. Pour any non-scented or lightly scented oil into the jar (I personally like to use almond oil which I can buy in 5 litre bottles from a good local health shop but extra virgin olive oil is fine in particular if it will be used on the body other than the face, fully covering the lavender but leaving 1–2 inches (1.25–2.5cm) of space at the top to allow for expansion.
Soak the lavender if you have time and sunlight. Cover the jar tightly and leave the mixture to soak in a sunny location. I will be honest, my Kilner jars go on an outside window sill and stay there for four to six weeks with me turning and giving the jars a gentle shake every day.
If you do not have enough sunlight or time to use this method then you can adopt the next step: A faster alternative to the sun-steeping method is to heat the oil and lavender mixture in a double boiler or crockpot for 2–5 hours, keeping it at a steady temperature between 100–120ºF (38–49ºC). This is only recommended if you have a cooking thermometer and a well-controlled, low temperature heat source, as too much heat can affect the aroma and the shelf life of the oil. I would say that if you are lucky enough to be in the Algarve or a similar climate you don’t need to consider this method.
Strain the oil. Lay a piece of muslin or cheesecloth over a bowl and pour the oil and lavender mix over it. Discard the flowers and other lavender pieces in the compost or garden.
Add a few drops of vitamin E (optional). Vitamin E can be added at the end of the infusion to increase the shelf life of the oil. This is recommended if you do not have a cool, dark place to store the oil.
Store your oil in a dark and cool place. The shelf life for lavender infused oil depends on the type and freshness of oil used, but can typically last for months if kept in a dry, dark location. The quantities I make, I found last for a year if well preserved but I am sure because of the almond oil I am lucky to buy. The oil I make is not just for our own use but I bottle up smaller jars and give them to friends. The pleasure of handing over a jar of this wonderful oil makes me as happy as receiving one.
So now to the uses of your oil once made …
As a healing facial moisturiser: One of my favourites is using lavender oil on my face. I make my own lavender oil using lavender cut from our own hill and almond oil as the carrier and it's truly an amazing pick-me-up for the skin: you can of course buy lavender oil in many good health food shops and from artisan suppliers and I recommend using it several times a week. It is also wonderful used on any part of your body when your skin is feeling dry or irritated. This can also work for chronic conditions like psoriasis, eczema, and acne.
Oil cleansing method: Lather up your face with lavender oil (more than you’d use for moisturising), and massage it in for 30 seconds to a minute in the same way you would with face wash. Next, heat up a clean washcloth with hot water and steam your face for about 30 seconds: this opens up your pores and draws out impurities with the assistance of the oil. Rinse the cloth and repeat. Finally, wipe away the excess oil with a moist towel.
Removing makeup: Oil Makes a great natural makeup remover! Oil naturally draws out impurities, while the lavender soothes redness, inflammation, and targets acne. Please avoid contact with sensitive areas around your eyes though.
Use as an ingredient in skincare products: You can use lavender oil as a base ingredient for super-nourishing body butter, cream, salve, ointment, soap, and more!
To condition hair, moisturise your scalp, and potentially thicken hair: While I wouldn’t recommend using oil as your daily hair conditioner, studies have shown that lavender can actually help stimulate hair growth and dandruff! Apply an even coat of oil to your hair, massage it into your scalp, (if you have long hair, pin it up away from your clothes), and allow it to sit for anywhere from 15 minutes to a few hours. Then use shampoo as usual to wash away the oil.
In cooking, use the oil in a marinade or other sweet and savoury recipe:. Lavender is especially popular to use in fish and meat marinades and baked goods. Where a recipe calls for oil simply swap out all or part of your usual selection with lavender oil. Of course, ensure your carrier oil is edible (and tasty) though. When ingested, lavender works the same way to help boost the immune system, fight bacterial and fungal infections, and reduce inflammation.
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