All-Purpose and Adventure Ready DIY Herbal First-Aid Salve
This DIY herbal first-aid salve is an excellent remedy to have on hand for small, everyday accidents or caught-in-the-wild mishaps that call for a little TLC. Salve is a medicinal ointment used topically to promote healing and typically made with herb-infused oils and beeswax. This recipe also incorporates essential oils to boost its antiseptic, soothing and pain-relieving properties. Use this homemade all-purpose first-aid salve for minor cuts, scrapes, and other small insults to the skin, for dry cracked skin, bug bites and stings, and minor aches and pains. Stock this versatile salve in your home medicine chest and in your travel first-aid kit. This recipe also makes enough for lots of small containers to share with family and friends.
An antiseptic describes a substance that helps inhibit disease and infection causing organisms. In this salve recipe the antiseptic properties come from the chaparral (Larrea tridentata), and lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) and tea tree (Melaluca alternifolia) essential oils. When applied to the skin, chaparral (whether in the form of a tea, tincture, oil or salve) inhibits bacterial growth and exerts antimicrobial activity. It’s also a powerful antioxidant that promotes healthy skin. Lavender essential oil, in addition to its antiseptic properties, helps relieve itchy bug bites and minor aches and pains. Tea Tree essential oil is a potent antimicrobial, with antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. This DIY herbal first-aid salve also incorporates calendula (Calendula officinalis) infused oil for its ability to promote healing and soothe irritation. You can read more about the properties of Calendula in Radiant Skin: Herbs for Topical Skincare.
DIY Herbal First-Aid Salve Recipe
This salve is made in two steps. First, make the infused chaparral and calendula oils, then use the infused oils to create the finished salve. The infused oils can also be used on their own or in combination with essential oils, rather than in a salve. You can also skip step one by purchasing chaparral oil and calendula oil.
1 ounce dried chaparral leaves
1 ounce dried Calendula flowers, ground
1.5 cups (12 ounces) olive oil
1-1.5 ounces beeswax
½ tsp lavender essential oil
½ tsp tea tree oil
Step 1 – Infused Herbal Oil
Place the whole chaparral leaves and powdered calendula flowers in separate jars with tight-fitting lids, add half the olive oil to each jar and mix well. Note: though I usually recommend grinding the herb to a powder before mixing it with the oil, I don’t recommend this for chaparral because the feisty resins in this herb will forever permeate your grinder.
Allow the mixture to settle. If necessary, add more oil to cover the herb with at least ¼ inch of oil. Cap the jar tightly. The mixture may absorb more oil in the first day. After 24 hours, add more oil if necessary so there is still ¼ inch of oil on top of the mixture.
Warm and allow the herbs to steep in the oil for 7 – 10 days, shaking or stirring the mixture frequently—several times per day if possible. There are two options for warming:
Solar Method: Place the closed jar in a thick bag or box and place in a sunny place for 7 – 10 days. Shake or stir the mixture frequently, always returning the jar to the bag or box to keep out direct sunlight.
Alternative Method: Instead of using the sun to warm the mixture, you can use a hot water bath, a yogurt maker, dehydrator, or other apparatus that allows you to maintain a consistent temperature around 100°F. Keep covered. Shake or stir the mixture several times per day for 7 - 10 days.
After 7 - 10 days, strain the oils. Place a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and drape a square of unbleached cotton muslin over the strainer. (You can purchase unbleached cotton muslin at any fabric store. Be sure to wash it before using.) Pour in all of the herb-oil mixture. Take up the corners of the muslin and twist into a small bundle to express as much of the infused oil as possible.
Allow the oil to sit covered and undisturbed for several days which will allow any unwanted sediment to settle to the bottom. Pour off the refined oil for use in Step 2.
Step 2 – Herbal First-Aid Salve
Set aside a small amount of your infused oils and a small amount of beeswax to adjust the consistency of your finished product if necessary.
Place the oils and beeswax in a steel, enamel or glass container and slowly warm over low heat until the beeswax is fully melted.
To test the consistency of your finished 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 oils 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.
Remove from the heat source and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes. Gently stir in the essential oils and quickly pour the mixture into appropriate containers to cool.
Allow salves to cool and harden for 24 hours. If you notice cracks or blemishes while the mixture is setting you can use a blow dryer to melt the top down and perfect their appearance. Label your salve containers.
While I hope your needs for a first-aid salve are few and far between, I know you and your family will be glad to have this salve on hand for adventures and everyday accidents alike. I always enjoying seeing your finished products—snap a picture of your DIY herbal first-aid salve, tag it #nectarherbandtea and post it to Instagram and we might reshare it!
Wishing you good health and happiness,