How can I use an extract instead of a DIY infusion or hydrosol?

Sometimes a recipe will call for a DIY infusion (perhaps an herb-infused oil or a water-based infusion) or hydrosol, but you already have a commercially produced extract and would prefer to use that instead. No problem!

Step 1: Check the solubility. Extracts can be oil or water-soluble, and the solubility of the extract needs to be compatible with the product you are making. If the end product is an emulsion, with both an oil and a water phase, either an oil or a water-soluble extract will work. If the product you are creating is strictly hydrous or anhydrous, the solubility of the extract will need to match (for example, if you wish to replace an herb-infused oil with the extract of that herb in a 100% oil/wax base, the extract must be oil-soluble to work).

Step 2: Check the recommended concentration rate for the specific extract you have. It’s probably 5% or less. Your supplier should supply this information.

Step 3: Make the swap!

Let’s say the recipe originally called for 30% calendula infused olive oil, but you have an oil-soluble calendula extract you’d like to use, and you can use it at up to 3%. You’ll want to use 3% calendula extract and 27% olive oil in the recipe (3% + 27% = 30%).

If a formulation called for 30% lavender hydrosol, but you have a water-soluble lavender extract you’d like to use instead, you’d use the extract at whatever it’s average to maximum usage rate is (I’d generally let the price and the scent of the extract guide this choice) and replace the rest of that with more distilled water. So, if you used the lavender extract at 5% you’d need 25% distilled water (5% + 25% = 30%).

Be sure to pay attention to if the extract can be heated; it likely can’t, so include the extract in the cool-down phase. If this was a watery thing, that called for 40% herb-infused water, and you have an herbal extract that can be used at 5%, you’d use 5% extract and 35% water (35% + 5% = 40%).

Posted in: Substitutions