Herbal salves are an ideal way to enjoy the therapeutic effect of herbs directly on the skin. A salve (pronounced “sav”) is a semi-solid, somewhat oily herbal mixture prepared for topical use. When applied to the skin, the salve softens and provides a healing, emollient, protective, or nourishing action depending upon the herbs and oils used to make the salve. A balm is simply a salve with a relatively high concentration of aromatic essential oils that increases the therapeutic intensity of the salve.
The base of most salves is a combination of herb-infused oils, carriers oils, wax (typically beeswax, but emulsifying wax is an alternative vegan option), and essential oils. Body heat melts the wax when the salve is applied and the oils foster absorption of the plant medicinal constituents into the skin.
The basic salve recipe is simple. However, you can vary the combination of herb-infused oils, carrier oils, and essential oils to achieve different therapeutic effects. For example, you can create a salve to help heal and disinfect cuts, scrapes, and abrasions, an anti-inflammatory salve for achy joints, bruises, and sprains, or a sore muscle balm for tired, over used muscles. The basic salve recipe can also be used (with the addition of a little extra beeswax) to create a lip balm that heals and protects cracked lips. Really, the possibilities are endless. Check out this post on Herbs for Topical Skincare to learn about herbs with healing (vulnerary), anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and skin regenerative properties you might want to incorporate in your salve. And, to create you own herb infused oil check out this post for DIY infused oil instructions.
The basis salve recipe below incorporates Calendula infused olive oil, which you can make yourself of purchase here. Calendula (Calendula officinalis) is one of the most versatile and useful herbs for topical skincare. In a salve it is soothing to irritated, inflamed skin and aids in healing wounds, burns, boils, rashes. It is an excellent topical remedy for most skin conditions and all skin types. It also relieves itching and can reduce the swelling and pain of bee stings. Keep in mind you can substitute other infused oils or carrier oils in place of the Calendula Oil.
Ingredients // Materials
- 1 cup (8 fl. oz.) Calendula Infused Oil
- 1 ounce by weight of Beeswax—pastilles or grated into small pieces
- 1-2 tsp (100-200 drops) of essential oils (optional)
- Glass Measuring Cup
- Double Broiler or Glass Measuring Cup inside a Pot (see picture below)
- Tins or Lip Balm Containers
- Set aside a small amount of your oil (or oil blend) and a small amount of beeswax to adjust the consistency of your finished product if necessary.
- Place the oil in a steel, enamel, or glass container with the beeswax and slowly warm over low heat until the beeswax is fully melted.
- To test the finished consistency of your product, remove the mixture from the heat source, dip a clean spoon into the mixture. Place the spoon in the freezer for a few minutes where the sample will cool quickly. If the sample is harder than you would like, add some of the reserved oil into your salve mixture. If it is softer than you would like, add some of the reserved beeswax and allow it to melt.
- Continue to test and adjust the consistency until you are satisfied with the result. At this point, if you are using essential oils, there are two options:
- If you are making a large batch, quickly and gently stir your essentials into the still warm oil/beeswax mixture and quickly pour the mixture into appropriate containers to cool.
- If you want salves with different essential oils, add your essential oils to small individual containers and pour the warm oil/bees wax mixture into each container to cool.
- Allow salves to rest for 24 hours. If you notice an cracks or blemishes while the mixture is setting you can use a blow dryer to melt the top down and perfect their appearance.
I hope you have fun making your own salve and that you feel more empowered to take care of yourself and your family. Do let me know if you have any questions.
wishing you health and happiness,