How to Make Alcohol Intermediary Herb-Infused Oils

Have you heard the phrase, there’s more than one way to garble an herb? If so, you can certainly apply that to herbalism when it comes to making various herbal preparations. There are many variations and methods of making herbal infusions, tinctures, syrups, and yes, even herb-infused oils—there’s something for everyone’s skill level and preference. 

Some of these variations speed up the time it takes to make a preparation, some cut down on complicated measurements, and others work to create a more potent end product. 

I’m over on the Herbal Academy blog this week sharing a lesser-known way to make herb-infused oils. These oils are known as “alcohol intermediary herb-infused oils.” This preparation will not only take your herbal preparation skills up a notch, but will also help save you time, increase the shelf life of your oils, and create a strong oil that will help you get the results you’re looking for. 

CLICK HERE to read all about this method of making herb infused oils and get some sample recipes to try this summer!

  1. Katelyn Hinckley says:

    Is it possible to use 151-proof alcohol for making alcohol intermediary infused oils? Also, if all the plants + oils used are edible, could it be used as a fat based tincture rather than a topical? Thanks so much!!

    • Meagan Visser says:

      The reason why 190-proof alcohol is recommended is that it adds very little water to your oil. Using 151-proof alcohol would add more water to the overall preparation and could lead to early spoilage. Yes, if your oil is edible, you could totally consume it. However, if you use a 151-proof alcohol and there’s an increased risk of spoilage, I would not eat it. Hope that helps. If you have any other questions, just let me know!

  2. Alexis says:

    Hi Meagan, thank you for this post! I use this method now and I love it. My only concern is the alcohol smell. I use ethanol, blend > five minutes and even do Bain marie after I strain it and the alcohol smell is still super strong. I would really appreciate any insight you have to share.

    • Meagan Visser says:

      If you’re using 1 ounce of alcohol, perhaps cut it back to 1/2 an ounce. Be sure you’re using a full 8 ounces of carrier oil as well. Lastly, you need to heat the oil longer to allow more time for the alcohol to evaporate. If that doesn’t work to minimize the alcohol scent, you can either skip the alcohol entirely or try to cover the scent with some added essential oils. Hope that’s helpful!

  3. Melissa Pacheco says:

    Can I use 190 proof Organic Sugarcane alcohol (ethyl alcohol) instead of grain alcohol?

  4. Cila etanna says:

    Overall, will any alcohol do the job?

    • Meagan Visser says:

      No, it needs to be 190-proof (95% alcohol), such as Everclear or another grain alcohol. The reason is that you’re trying to not add any water to your herb-infused oil and most alcohols are 40-60% water.

  5. Diana Benito says:

    Hi, thanks for the lovely method. Instead of double boiler heating method, can I keep the infusion (after adding oil to the herb and alcohol mixture) in sun for warming/heating or in a dark place for a few more days for a more potent oil. Kindly suggest.

    • Meagan Visser says:

      The double boiler method is used to help any remaining alcohol evaporate out. If you were going to use the sun, I would keep the mixture in an open container with a cheesecloth covering the opening (to keep bugs and debris out), and then I’d set it in a shady spot outside on a hot day and stir it ever so often. That would be my best guess at how to get the remaining alcohol out of the oil while protecting the herbs from the direct rays of the sun. Hope that helps!

  6. Missy says:

    Hi there. I’m very new to infusing flowers/herbs and want to try the alcohol-intermediary method due to the safety, purity, & shelf-life of the end product (less chance of bacteria compared to other infusion methods). However, I live in CA where it’s illegal to sell 190 proof, but legal to purchase online & have shipped here. The site I’ve found only offers “200 Proof Food Grade Ethanol” in the smaller sizes. Is 200 proof Food Grade Ethanol okay to use for this particular method of infusing herbs for the sake of infusing dried lavender, ginger, eucalyptus, chamomile, etc. for topical use only?

    • Meagan Visser says:

      Yes, from my understanding, the highest alcohol proof that can be sold in stores (in some states) is 190-proof, which is 95% alcohol and 5% water, but a 200-proof is even stronger being 100% alcohol. Either is acceptable to use in herbal extractions. The 200-proof is also great to use with fresh herbal tinctures or any other situation where you’d need a high-proof alcohol to extract the constituents from the plant material, such as when working with resins. Hope that helps!

  7. Britney says:

    Hi there. It against my beliefs to use grain alcohol. I am curious if 99 percent isopropyl alcohol would be sufficient as this would not be used for internal consumption just topical use only

    • Meagan Visser says:

      Isopropyl alcohol is quite processed. The highest I’ve ever seen for use on the skin is 70%. While it would work as a substitute for grain alcohol in an intermediary herb-infused oil, I’m not sure if a 99% isopropyl alcohol would be safe on the skin. I realize there’s not much in the final oil, but I’m just not sure. I’d research isopropyl alcohol, precisely that strength, before trying it. Otherwise, if it were me, I’d stick with regular herb-infused oils. You can always use powdered herbs and keep the jar warm (using a seed warming mat) to get a really good extraction. Straining it will be a pain, but it’s doable. Hope that helps!

    • Jes says:

      Fwiw, I get 91% isopropyl alcohol on my skin often (it is VERY drying, so after awhile of this your skin will HATE you, but there will be SO little of it in the final infused oil, esp if you evaporate it off during a heat infusion after blending the alcohol-steeped herbs in the oil). Note: I don’t slather the alcohol just on my skin for the heck of it, but I use it in sanitizing A LOT-a lot (so does my mom & her mother before her) & it’s always been fine for us. it’s just a bit of a stronger alcohol & in my xp, not a big deal at all. Now, obviously take this w/a grain of salt as it’s anecdotal & I’m very much a novice re: herbalism, but if you’re wondering if a very small percentage of high potency isopropyl alcohol is safe for the skin? Fwiw? Yes, absolutely, in my experience.

      • Jes says:

        PS 91% isopropyl alcohol (& similarly strong perfumer’s alcohol) is used in hand sanitizers & more diy perfumes / perfume recipes kind of all the time. It smells a lot worse than ethanol, imo (& I’m not the only one who feels this way fwiw), but re: “is it safe to use on skin, if diluted”: yeah, pretty much absolutely yes <3.

  8. Kiki says:

    Hi is it possible to use the new machines that are blenders and have temperature co trolls all in one? Like you can heat the herbs while they are being agitated by the blade instead of using a blender until it gets warm? What would the temperature have to be so the oils wouldn’t go rancid? Or is this overkill since the alcohol already extracts the herbs? Thank you

    • Meagan Visser says:

      I know the machines you’re talking about, but I’ve never used them. The beauty of the alcohol intermediary method is that the herbal oil is ready in 1 day as opposed to weeks when making a traditional herb-infused oil. Anytime you’re making an herb-infused oil, the goal is to keep the oils right around 100-120 degrees — warm enough to speed up extraction time, but not too warm that it damages the molecule structure of the oil, which will cause it to go rancid more quickly. Now the oil you are using will determine the temperature as well, so be sure to do some research to find out the ideal heating point for your oil. Hope that helps!

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