I’m almost to the bottom of my last jar of dandelion salve, which I made in late June. I’ve been using it as a hand and body lotion and have found it to be both soft and luxurious. Because dandelion season is long past, and I did not dry any flowers for future use, I had to brainstorm and search for what I could use from my garden or from the forest to make my next batch of salve.
I settled on starting with making a rose hip salve, since they are ready for harvesting and using in mid-fall, after the first frost. Rose hips are not only nutrient-rich, but they also smell amazing! I have one large rose bush in the yard, but it did not produce many blooms after its mid-summer pruning, so there are very few hips to use. I decided instead to head out into one of the many large parks near my home where there is an abundance of wild roses.
I chose a bright sunny day, put on my sturdy hiking boots, grabbed a paper bag and scissors and went foraging. The walk itself was beautiful, and I found an abundance of wild rose bushes with hips in various stages. I chose rose hips that hadn’t started to dry out and decay yet (decaying rose hips look like deer droppings on a branch).
When foraging for rose petals or rose hips, wear long sleeves, long sturdy pants like jeans, and gloves. The thorns on many rose bushes are quite sharp. If you are new to foraging and wildcrafting, I recommend reading my post on the basics of wildcrafting before starting out.
After washing and sorting the rose hips, I ended up with about one and a quarter cups. I found many recipes online for infusing oil with rose hips and chose the simplest one. It called for using a ratio of 2 to 1, oil to rose hips. I chose a blend of coconut, sweet almond, and jojoba oils, with a splash of olive oil for additional richness. If I were making it for use on my face, I would leave out the coconut oil, as it can be comedogenic and clog pores. If you are like me and are prone to breakouts, avoid coconut oil in facial products that you buy or make.
I don’t have a double boiler, so I improvised by filling a large pot with a steaming insert to just above the steamer bottom. Then I put a smaller pot inside the steaming insert (see picture). I poured out the washed, trimmed rose hips into the small pot and then added the oils. I let the water in the pot come to a boil, then reduced it to a gentle simmer. After putting the small pot inside the larger pot, I used a meat thermometer to periodically monitor the temperature of the oil infusion. I let the rose hips infuse for four to five hours, then strained the oil through cheesecloth over a fine metal mesh strainer. For a more purified oil, you can use fine muslin cloth instead of cheesecloth.
I have heard of people using a slow cooker or even a yogurt maker for infusing oils, but I prefer to have a dedicated pot just for infusing oils and leave my other kitchen appliances for cooking food.
Step by Step Instructions for rosehip infused oil
- Rose hips (fresh)
- Carrier oil (coconut, jojoba, sweet almond, grape seed, and olive are some good options, but go easy on the olive oil as it has a stronger smell and can overpower the scent of what you are infusing it with)
- Double boiler (or an improvised combination of pots)
- Cheesecloth or muslin
- Colander and metal mesh strainer
- Gather or purchase rose hips. Look for hips that are bright red, with little to no wrinkling of the outer skin.
- Rinse rose hips in a colander to get off any surface dirt or other plant matter. Pat dry gently.
- Trim off any excess stems or leaves. You can also snip off the top hairs, especially if they have gone black, but as the resulting infused oil will be strained through cheesecloth or muslin, this is not absolutely necessary.
- Fill the bottom of a double boiler or pot assembly with water, bring to a boil and then reduce to a gentle simmer (I used the lowest setting).
- Place the rose hips either in the top half of the double boiler or in a separate pot inside the larger pot(s). Cover with carrier oils (remember the ratio: 2 parts oil to one part rose hips)
- Allow the rose hips to infuse over a period of 4-8 hours. I let mine infuse for 5 hours.
- Check the temperature of the oil periodically with a meat or candy thermometer to make sure the oil isn’t getting too hot. Ensure that the oil does not go above 100 degrees F (38 degrees C).
- Once enough time has elapsed, remove the pot from the heat. Allow it to cool until the oil is cool enough to be safely strained (you will want to squeeze the muslin or cheesecloth, so make sure the oil is not too hot to handle). You can wear gloves if you don’t want to get your hands greasy, but I personally prefer to work without gloves, after washing my hands thoroughly.
- Pour the oil and rose hips through the cheesecloth and mesh strainer, into a container of your choice. I used a large Pyrex measuring cup but then poured the cooled oil into a mason jar.
- Squeeze the cloth to get as much as you can out of the rose hips. Discard the rose hips and cheesecloth. You can compost the oil-soaked hips if you have used plant-based oils, but it will slow down the composting, so I don’t advise it unless you have a huge compost heap.
- Allow the oil to cool, with your container lightly covered. You can cool the oil in the fridge if you don’t want to wait for it to do so naturally. Store in an airtight container, in the fridge or in a cool, dark place. You can use the infused oil as is for a body or facial oil, or use it as a base for homemade lipgloss, salve or balm.
If you give this a try, please let me know how it went in the comments. I will post the instructions I follow for using infused oils to make basics salves in an upcoming blog post. Note that if you are not able to obtain fresh rose hips, you can use dried, but you do not need to do a hot infusion. Use the same ratio of oil to hips, and let it infuse in a mason jar for a few weeks in a dark cool place before straining.