Saturday, December 28, 2013

Brown Barn Oil Infusions

Infused shampoo, infused oil, herbal infusions, botanical infusions, gem name it and lately it seems to be on market shelves. We know its good for us but what is it? Why do we want it?

What is "Infused"? Infused means that plant material or some other component has has been instilled into a base oil, water or other liquid. Think of it like making tea, you infuse the flavor and antioxidants present in the tea into water which you drink. It's that simple. Brown Barn makes botanically infused oil using plant material. We also have made limited edition lotions with Gem Infusions such as Turqouise and Citrine. (You will see a whole new line of this in the future at Brown Barn!)

Why Infuse? Each plant has special characteristics. We love the qualities that can be added to Brown Barn products by using the infusion method. Some plants, such as Raspberry Leaves, are full of Polypeptides and Flavonoids to help fight aging while others, such as Calendula and Chamomile, soothe irritated skin. By infusing our oils with these natural skin enhancing plants we are able to bring a wide variety of qualities to our products without the use of chemicals.

Why not just use Essential Oils? Aren't they the same thing? Essential oils are much stronger and more highly concentrated than infusions. They are wonderful too and Brown Barn uses them freely in conjunction with their infusions. Think of the difference between Essential Oils and Infusions as the difference between a really strong cup of coffee (the Essential Oil) and a weak cup of tea (the infusion). Essentials oils are made using a different type of process, they are distilled thru a process that often uses expression, steam, or solvents to pull the oil from the plant. It takes far more plant material to make essential oil than to infuse. For example it takes about 150 pounds of Lavender plant to produce 1 pound of Lavender essential oil! When deciding between using an Essential Oil or Infusion we think about how much of the quality we are seeking is needed, for example we use Lavender primarily as an Essential Oil because we want to take advantage of the aromatherapy benefits Lavender brings with it as well as the physical skin enhancing traits of Lavender.

We love the gentle nature of infusion, the smaller footprint made on the environment and the fact that we can perform the infusion ourselves in our own labs. We love that we can actually grow and trace down that exact cultivar of Calendula that will bring the perfect color or attribute to our product. By growing the plants themselves or harvesting them from our own plots we can trace their origins - we know what storms that plant struggled thru, how old it is, what day of the year it was harvested. Why, we can even sing to it to help it grow if we want to! 

By infusing our own oils we can also bring uinque plant materials to our products that are not readily available thru distributors. For example this year we launched Brown Burl wildcrafted products which use materials we harvest ourselves from the forest. Essential oils can drive the price of your products up very quickly with little real difference in outcome between using essential oil or infusion. Also, because essential oils are so strong we can sometimes be limited in how much essential oil is used in a product where infusions can be countless because of the type of process we use. 

How is it done? There are several methods Brown Barn uses to infuse their oils. One is to simply place fresh or dried plant material into a container and pour oil or another base on top, mix and allow this mixture to sit for a length of time. Another is to warm the oil/plant mixture over very low heat or by solar heat for many hours until we are confident the plant has released its properties into the oil. We typically choose oils that have already been selected to be included in the formula such as apricot kernel oil or soy oil. 

Do I have to use Infused Oil in another product? Can I just use the oil straight on my skin? Yes! You can use infused oil straight on your skin! It's so gentle it actually makes a fabulous body oil. You can purchase infused Calendula, Chamomile or Lemon Balm Oil from Brown Barn. You can use this oil as either a massage oil, body oil, bath oil or a product booster. For example, just put a bit of it in your hand, add your favorite lotion and mix together and you have boosted your lotion! Even though we refer to these oils as "unscented" they do carry a very light natural plant scent brought to the oil by the plant material infusion process.

Who can Infuse? Anyone can infuse. There is no FDA regulation on infusing products. However, you should seek reputable formulators when purchasing any body product. Unfortunately, due to lack of FDA regulation and enforcement of the rules they do have, there has recently been a surge of people claiming to be "home" formulators and making bath products that they have learned to make from shared You-Tube videos or other questionable resources. We are not against new people entering the marketplace and encourage all new ventures, afterall, we started out on a farm and in our greenhouse! However Brown Barn has a history of generations of women who have passed down their plant knowledge and infusion methods to us, with myself learning at their knee. Our formulator (and my daughter, Alyssa Untiedt) is a certified Aromatherapist and holds a University degree in Biology, we are members of the Cosmetic Chemists Society and National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy and are experienced researchers. We research...all the time, everything. We have created our own databases of plant knowledge that we apply to our formulas. Our formulas are tested and are constantly being revised for improvement. And we utilize sound manufacturing practices in our production labs to ensure our customers are receiving healthy products.

What is the future for Infusions at Brown Barn? We began expanding our infusion practices this year and are planning a much larger expansion in 2014. This year we began adding our infusions to our formulas and educating customers about infused oils, we launched Brown Burl wildcrafted products, which use plant materials we harvest and infuse from our private farm and woodlands. Unique plants such as Birch, Pine and Violets are used in these products. We also launched a small selection of Artisanal Infused Oil for our customers to purchase. Lastly, we launched our all natural Skincare line which uses infused oils and astringents. This line represents our techniques used to full advantage and has been proving itself effective over and over.

In 2014 we will expand to utilizing our own greenhouses to grow the majority of the plant material we use in our infusions (right now we use a combination of our plants and those purchased from reputable dealers). Brown Barn customers will enjoy an expansion of the infusions in their products - making Brown Barn's already unique and fabulous formulations even better! 

We hope to have both of our labs and our greenhouse USDA Certified as Organic Processing Facilities by the end of the year. We will be revising and expanding our line of Artisanal Infused Oils to accomodate a higher demand for non-GMO base oils. And we will also be addressing this same issue in all of our Brown Barn products. We will be adding more Solar infused oils by using our glass greenhouse as a processing facility, allowing the oil to heat and soak in warm sunshine as part of the process.

Lastly - and I think most exciting - we will begin using our infused oils in Bar Soap production. When Brown Barn opened its first store, we made all of our own Bar Soap in our lab however we grew so fast and all of our products were so popular we found we had to find help from another fine handmade soaper to keep up. While we continued to produce our own Shampoo Bars and Molded Soaps, we distributed the bar soap. This also allowed us to concentrate on our higher end formulations such as lotions and facial products. While this soap is fantastic we want to bring our own formulation to the table as well. We will continue to sell our distributed line (because our customers love it so much!) but will be adding to this line our own bars to choose from. Now we are almost done opening a second lab, located on our little farm, dedicated to making bar soap. This soap will utilize our infused oils and other plant materials, with the goal of bringing a truly luxurious and therapeutic level to our bar soaps.

We look forward to sharing more Infusion Information with you as we add new infusions and products in the coming year!

Christine Untiedt
The Brown Barn Company llc