Herb-infused oils boost taste and health

Herb-infused oils boost taste and health

Feeling run down? Maybe it's time you changed your oil. Herb-infused oil, that is.

Mixing herbs with oils is nothing new, but combining them in creative ways — from aromatherapy to cooking — is a new twist you won't want to miss.

"It's very interesting what you can do with herb-infused oils," says Elaine Shaughnessy, vice chair of the Herb Society of America. "It's really only limited by your imagination."

Rhavda Emison, owner of Scents of Success in Arlington, Texas, says dried and fresh herbs can be mixed with a variety of oils for a multitude of healing purposes. Rosemary oil may be used for joint pain. A couple drops of peppermint oil on the back of the neck have been known to relieve migraines. And rose oil — which Emison specializes in — "is the best hormone balancer I've ever run across," she says.

It's best to test the oil on your skin to make sure you are not allergic before you use it. The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy Web site ( is a useful starting point in your research about using herb-infused oils for massage, baths, salves, inhalation and more. From there you can explore your local offerings and let your creativity take over.

And if you're into cooking, consider using an herb-infused oil to enhance the flavor of everything from pasta to pork.

"When I see a recipe in a magazine that calls for oil, I just think of what herb-infused oil would go good with that," says Shaughnessy. "That way you're giving a whole different spin to the recipe."

Shaughnessy recommends using canola and safflower oils, which have a longer shelf life and are not as strong to the taste as olive oil. Emison also uses coconut, sunflower and vegetable oils.

For spaghetti sauce, Emison recommends pouring a half-ounce each of rosemary and basil oil into a cooked sauce. Shaughnessy suggests using rosemary and tarragon infused oils when cooking chicken or making a salad. "I've used mint-infused oil with fish and pork, and that gives a totally interesting flavor," says Shaughnessy.

By combining Mediterranean-type oils — oregano, parsley, thyme, rosemary and basil — you can create an intriguing marinade. And consider replacing your traditional vegetable dip or the olive oil you dip your bread in with an herb-infused oil.

Emison suggest making herb-infused oils to give as gifts. Just pour the finished product into a colored bottle or baby food jar and wrap in a bow.

"Be creative," says Emison, who is also the North Texas Regional Director of the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy. "Use it as a Christmas gift or a birthday present."

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