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Herbs such as rosemary can be used to make culinary and medicinal infused oils. ChamilleWhite / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Herb-infused oils are wonderful to have on hand. Depending on the dried herb used, many infused oils are versatile. You can cook with them, use them as a moisturizer, treat small scrapes and cuts and more.

The best oils to use for infusing your herbs are pure plant oils that have a low smoke point and long shelf life. Consider using such oils as almond, olive, coconut or sunflower, though many recipes call for olive oil since most people have it in their pantry. I'll recommend common herbs you can find in your backyard, garden or through a friend, along with a few family stories about useful remedies for each.

Herb-infused oils are wonderful to have on hand. Depending on the dried herb used, many infused oils are versatile. You can cook with them, use them as a moisturizer, treat small scrapes and cuts and more.

The best oils to use for infusing your herbs are pure plant oils that have a low smoke point and long shelf life. Consider using such oils as almond, olive, coconut or sunflower, though many recipes call for olive oil since most people have it in their pantry. I’ll recommend common herbs you can find in your backyard, garden or through a friend, along with a few family stories about useful remedies for each.

Herb-infused oils, whether used for culinary purposes or traditional medicine, can be prepared in two ways: the folk method or heat method. The folk method is also referred to as a cold infusion or a solar infusion, as you let the herbs naturally infuse into the oil in the sunlight for a few weeks. The heat method sometimes makes use of a simple saucepan, but commonly, you’ll use a double boiling method — this method is the quickest. Here are five easy herb-infused oils you can make right now.

Garlic-Infused Olive Oil (Heat Method)

My family would prepare many recipes with fresh garlic as the cold season set in. When the cold nipped you, you bit back with herbal remedies. Soups laden with garlic were common at the sign of a cough or fever, an herb which has antiviral and antimicrobial properties

Some folk remedies recommend placing fresh garlic in your socks when you’re sick to draw out inflammation, but thankfully, I never fell asleep that way. Here’s a more effective recipe for garlic-infused olive oil that’s great for small cuts and family recipes.

Using a small saucepan, heat four smashed garlic cloves in a fourth cup of olive oil. Slowly stir the garlic cloves every few minutes so they don’t burn. Simmer the ingredients until the cloves are a light brown (about 30 minutes). Then, remove the pan from the heat. 

Let the mixture rest for another 30 minutes. Finally, strain the infused oil through a sieve or cheesecloth into a pint-sized mason jar. Seal the jar. The recipe will keep in the refrigerator for at least a month.

Lemon Balm-Infused Olive OIl (Folk Method)

Lemon balm contains antioxidant properties and has also shown promise as a tonic and diuretic. Its scent is “lemony” and adds zest to any recipe.

My grandaunt used lemon balm in salads and would infuse leftover dried leaves into olive oil to use as a dressing. There’s no exact measurement for the amount of leaves used. She simply used whatever was left over from her garden. Here is her simple recipe using the folk method.

Add dried lemon balm leaves to a mason jar, and fill the jar up to a third. Then, top the herbs with olive oil, sealing it. Allow it to sit in a sunny spot in the window for about four weeks before straining. Store the oil in your refrigerator for up to a month.

Lavender-Infused Oil (Folk Method)

Aside from lavender-infused lattes, you might not consider using lavender-infused oils in your cooking. However, this oil is surprisingly versatile on both savory and sweet dishes. You can also rub the lavender oil into itchy spots on your skin or as a massage oil to help you destress.

If picking your own lavender, select the buds just as they’re about to open. Let them dry out in a sterile clean jar, filled up to a third of the way. Cover the flowers with a carrier oil of your choice, such as olive oil or almond oil.

Strain the oil into another jar, using a cheesecloth placed into a funnel. If you prefer, you can use a bottle with a dropper if turning the recipe into a massage oil. Store in your refrigerator for about a month.

Plantain Leaf-Infused Oil (Folk Method)

Plantain leaf can be used both internally and externally, and it contains anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and astringent properties. My grandmother used to crush up the leaf and rub it on cuts before placing a bandaid on my finger. The dried herb can also be used in homemade tea remedies to soothe a sore throat or cough. On its own, plantain leaf may not lend much flavor to heated foods, but it could be a soothing addition to a spring or summer salad as a dressing.

Pick fresh plantain that hasn’t been exposed to chemicals, pollution or pets, and let it dry out in a sterile area. Fill a mason jar with dried plantain, up to a third of the way. Cover the herb with olive oil. Then, cover it tightly. Let the oil infuse in a sunny spot for about four weeks.

Strain the oil into another sealable jar of equal measure using cheesecloth in a funnel. It should keep in your refrigerator for a month.

Rosemary-Infused Oil (Folk Method)

Rosemary has symbolic associations with good memory, wealth and protection. In terms of culinary and medicinal use, it’s both delicious and beneficial — indeed, rosemary contains cognitive-improving and antioxidant properties. However, I’ve made this oil solely for use in pasta dishes.

Fill a mason jar with dried rosemary about a third of the way. Fill it with olive oil. Let it sit for two to four weeks. Strain the oil through a cheesecloth and funnel, but many prefer leaving some of the rosemary in for aesthetic purposes. The recipe will keep for a month in your refrigerator.

Additional Tips

  • Some folk method recipes require as little as two weeks or up to six weeks. Each recipe varies. The length of time required can be due to the bulk of the herb, the amount of sunlight received and other variables.
  • If using a heat or double-boiling method, slowly heat the oil on a slow simmer. Check on the oil every few minutes to ensure it’s not overheating. Heat method recipes should not take longer than an hour to make.
  • Dry herbs by hanging them upside down or placing them flat and spaced apart. Let your herbs completely dry out before using them. If you don’t dry your herbs before making an infused oil, you run the risk of contamination.
  • When collecting herbs, make sure you know the land well. Never pick herbs near the road due to the likelihood of contamination. Avoid where pets frequent. Never take more than a third of a plant to ensure the plant’s survival into the next season. Always get permission before picking if the land isn’t your own.
  • Never use a plant if you’re not 100% confident you’ve correctly identified the plant. It would be better in such cases to order dried herbs through a local store or online.
  • Always label your oils with the date you’ve made them, how long they’ve steeped and the estimated expiration date. You can store oils in a dark, cool corner of your cabinet, but they may not keep as long. I recommend storing them in your refrigerator for about a month, but this time can vary by recipe.
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The Ikea at San Diego's Mission Valley. Dünzl / ullstein bild / Getty Images

Swedish furniture-giant IKEA wants to bring the power of the sun into U.S. homes.

The company announced on May 12 that it was partnering with residential solar provider SunPower to make “home solar solutions” available to its U.S. customers. 

Swedish furniture-giant IKEA wants to bring the power of the sun into U.S. homes.

The company announced on May 12 that it was partnering with residential solar provider SunPower to make “home solar solutions” available to its U.S. customers. 

“At IKEA, we’re passionate about helping our customers live a more sustainable life at home,” IKEA U.S. CEO and Chief Sustainability Officer Javier Quiñones said in a press release.  “We’re proud to collaborate with SunPower to bring this service to the U.S. and enable our customers to make individual choices aimed at reducing their overall climate footprint.”

The name of the new initiative is Home Solar, and the program will first launch in certain California markets in the fall of 2022. The program will enable IKEA Family customer loyalty program members to purchase solar energy infrastructure for their homes through SunPower that allow them to both generate and store clean energy.

“The launch of Home Solar with IKEA will allow more people to take greater control of their energy needs, and our goal is to offer the clean energy service at additional IKEA locations in the future,” Quiñones said. 

The new program builds on IKEA’s broader sustainability initiatives both in the U.S. and abroad. The company has pledged to model a circular economy and be climate positive by 2030. It has already pledged to phase out plastic packaging by 2028. Further, it exceeded its goal of generating more renewable energy than it uses by 2020, according to Fast Company. It invested in two solar farms in the U.S. and a wind farm in Romania and also installed solar panels on nearly 90 percent of its stores worldwide and 90 percent of its U.S. stores.

It is also not new to offering home solar: It sells solar panels in 11 non-U.S. markets including the UK, according to Insider. Last year, it also launched a program in Sweden that allowed homeowners to purchase renewable energy from wind and solar parks and track their energy usage via an app, as Reuters reported at the time. IKEA Sweden head of sustainability Jonas Carlehed said he hoped that both the renewable energy program and residential solar panels would be available to all of its markets eventually. 

“IKEA wants to build the biggest renewable energy movement together with co-workers, customers and partners around the world, to help tackle climate change together,” the company said in a statement reported by Reuters.

IKEA’s partner in bringing home solar to the U.S. is the California-based SunPower, The Hill reported. The company has been in the solar business for more than 35 years, according to the press release. 

“We are thrilled to deliver exceptional solar products to IKEA customers through a unique and simplified buying experience,” SunPower CEO Peter Faricy said in the press release. “Together with IKEA, we can help introduce the incredible benefits of solar to more people and deliver on our shared value of making a positive impact on the planet.”

While IKEA has made efforts to become more environmentally friendly as a company, it has still faced criticism for generating both climate and air pollution by shipping goods to the U.S. 

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A plant grown in lunar soil is placed in a vial for genetic analysis. UF / IFAS photo by Tyler Jones

For the first time ever, scientists have grown plants in soil samples collected from the Moon fifty years ago, a feat that could have implications not only for prolonged space exploration, but for plants trying to thrive in harsh conditions on our planet.

During the study, which was funded by NASA, University of Florida scientists grew Arabidopsis thaliana, a plant in the mustard greens family, in lunar soil samples collected during the Apollo 11, 12 and 17 missions, NPR reported.

For the first time ever, scientists have grown plants in soil samples collected from the Moon fifty years ago, a feat that could have implications not only for prolonged space exploration, but for plants trying to thrive in harsh conditions on our planet.

During the study, which was funded by NASA, University of Florida scientists grew Arabidopsis thaliana, a plant in the mustard greens family, in lunar soil samples collected during the Apollo 11, 12 and 17 missions, NPR reported.

“This research is critical to NASA’s long-term human exploration goals as we’ll need to use resources found on the Moon and Mars to develop food sources for future astronauts living and operating in deep space,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, according to a NASA press release. “This fundamental plant growth research is also a key example of how NASA is working to unlock agricultural innovations that could help us understand how plants might overcome stressful conditions in food-scarce areas here on Earth.”

The study, “Plants grown in Apollo lunar regolith present stress-associated transcriptomes that inform prospects for lunar exploration,” was published in the journal Communications Biology.

Arabidopsis thaliana is a plant that is related to mustard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and other cruciferous vegetables, the NASA press release said. Arabidopsis thaliana is native to Africa and Eurasia.

Lead author of the study Anna-Lisa Paul, who is the director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Biotechnology Research and a research professor in the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida, said samples of the lunar soil —a loose layer of debris called regolith — were “fine” and “powdery,” though the seeds the researchers planted did sprout successfully, reported NPR.

A gram of regolith was used to grow the Arabidopsis, the press release said. The scientists added seeds to the moistened soil, along with a daily mixture of nutrients. As a control, the researchers also planted the Arabidopsis seeds in volcanic ash to simulate the lunar soil.

Plants grown in the volcanic ash lunar simulant, left, were compared with those grown in the lunar soil, right.
UF/IFAS photo by Tyler Jones

“After two days, they started to sprout!” Paul said, according to the NASA press release. “Everything sprouted. I can’t tell you how astonished we were! Every plant – whether in a lunar sample or in a control – looked the same up until about day six.”

The plants planted in the regolith and simulated lunar soil didn’t grow as well as those grown in terrestrial soil, however. The plants also grew differently depending on what group they were in. Some grew more slowly and had roots that were stunted, while others had stunted leaves with a reddish coloring.

The scientists harvested the Arabidopsis after a period of 20 days, just before they began to flower. They then ground up the plants so that they could study their RNA. After sequencing the RNA, they found that the plants exhibited patterns seen in Arabidopsis under stress from growing in different harsh environments, such as when there are too many heavy metals or salt in the soil.

The NASA press release said the research provided a starting point for growing plants on the Moon in the future. It also posed the question of whether the results could help scientists learn how to make the soil on the Moon more amenable to plant growth, and if the study of how plants grow in Moon regolith might possibly be able to help scientists learn more about the regolith on Mars and the prospect of growing plants there.

“Not only is it pleasing for us to have plants around us, especially as we venture to new destinations in space, but they could provide supplemental nutrition to our diets and enable future human exploration,” said program scientist with NASA’s Biological and Physical Sciences Division Sharmila Bhattacharya, NASA reported in the press release. “Plants are what enable us to be explorers.”

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