By Kate Briggs (herbalist, nutritionist)
It is common to find herbal-infused oils employed as the base for medicinal salves, lip balms, and body oils – but we needn’t stop there! Infused oils can be used in a variety of ways, opening the door to a whole world of healing applications.
Experimenting with chocolate-making for the first time, I discovered yet another outlet for herbs and infused oils. Making chocolate from scratch simply involves combining melted Cacao butter with Cacao powder, but it can be a creative and medicinal project when custom flavors and textures are added.
I infused Cacao butter with Damiana. Damiana (Turnera diffusa) is beloved as a warming aphrodisiac and offers a unique floral note to chocolate candies spiced with Cinnamon and Vanilla. Don’t wait for Valentine’s Day to come around again to try the recipe below!
Crock Pot Method In a small jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine Cacao butter and Damiana and securely attach lid. Place jar in a crock-pot, and fill the pot with water until it reaches about 2/3 up the sides of the jar. Turn crock pot onto its lowest setting (‘warm’ is ideal but ‘low’ may work too). Allow oil to infuse 4-6 hours. Remove jar from water bath and thoroughly dry to prevent water from contaminating the oil.
Place a small saucepan on the stovetop, fill with several inches of water and cover with a small bowl. Place the Cacao butter and Damiana in the bowl and turn the heat to low. Allow oil to infuse for 4-6 hours. Make sure that the oil never bubbles and keep an eye on the water level below the bowl. Adding more water to the pan may be necessary throughout the process. Place several layers of cheesecloth over another clean jar (if reserving infused Cacao butter for another use) or into measuring cup (if continuing into chocolate making). Pour oil through cheesecloth and gently squeeze cloth to collect remaining oil.
Place the Cacao butter in a double boiler on the stovetop (see Double Boiler Method for ideas, above). Heat the Cacao butter on low. Once it has fully melted, whisk in the Cacao powder until completely incorporated. Remove from heat and stir in the Maple syrup, Vanilla extract, and Cinnamon powder. If using Honey instead of Maple syrup, whisk until the Honey is completely dissolved and again before dispensing into molds. Pour into molds (silicon or plastic) and place into refrigerator or freezer to cool. Once the chocolates are completely cool, pop them out of the molds and enjoy. Extras should be stored in the freezer or refrigerator.