People commonly confuse the term essential oil with infused oils, not realizing they are in fact two different types of extraction. We also have the term herbal oils or aromatic oils, which also contributes to the confusion, as these terms have all been used interchangeable and applied to both essential oils and infused oils.
Infused oils are prepared by using a fixed oil, such as olive, sunflower, jojoba, or any kind of carrier oil and combining it with fresh or dried plant material and letting it steep or macerate for a few weeks. Maceration softens the matrix of the plant and helps to release and infuse the essential/volatile oils of the plant, mixing them into the carrier oil, rendering an infused aromatic oil that can be used topically or internally. Infused oils can be used in baths with epsom salts, topically as a moisturizer, used to make salves in medicinal herbal preparations and in the kitchen for culinary purposes like salad oils and marinating dressings.
While infused oils are often made from aromatic and resinous plants- just like the essential oils- they can also be used be used for plants that don’t yield essential oils.
One thing that’s great about infused oils is that you don’t need a lot of equipment or plant material to prepare them; just a cup of oil, a handful of herb and a jar will do just the trick! Whereas to prepare distilled essential oils at home requires some laboratory glassware that can run at least a few hundred bucks.