Homemade Medicinal Salves

SALVE/sav/Noun:  An ointment used to promote healing of the skin or as protection.

How many out here use Neosporin for your cuts and burns?
How many out here would like to make your own salves with your own homegrown herbs for little to nothing?

I do grow a lot of my own herbs. That's how I learned how to grow many of the fruits and vegetables that we grow now after all. Herbs are great for the novice gardener as most of them really do not want or need much attention. Think of weeds. For instance. Dandelion. Broadleaf Plantain. Chickweed. These are all plants that tend to propogate themselves freely in many yards, much to many homeowners dislike and yet every one of these is edible and actually useful to us. Herbs benefit from an almost lack of care usually so my garden usually has an odd assortment of both medicinal and culinary herbs.

There are really three basic ingredients to any salve.
  1. Oil. 1 CUP. I really like Olive Oil the best as it tends to be the cheapest overall. I can buy it in bulk at big box stores to save some $$$. There are other oils that are good as well but the price tends to go up. I have no interest in making super expensive salve when lower cost salve works just as well.
  2. Beeswax. 1 Ounce. I bought mine bulk at Michaels Craft Store long ago and I just shave a bit off each time I need it. From what I understand you can get the nicer, more pricey beeswax but I use just a simple block of it for my salves. End result still spreads very nicely. If you do want a smoother, softer salve you can add a bit of store bought Vitamin E oil and add that to the finished product. My finished salves end up harder but then soften once applied. 
  3. Herb/Herbs. Here is the fun part, where you get to play around a bit. There are so many different things medicinal herbs can treat. From sore muscles, sprains, bruises, minor cuts, burns, joint pain. I could go on for a while.

Here is a list of the most common medicinal herbs and their uses.
  • Calendula: Useful for a wide variety of skin irritations and conditions. These include wounds, insect bites, rashes, scrapes, abrasions, cuts, inflammations.
  • Chamomile: Hemorrhoids, minor abrasions, cuts, scrapes, and wounds.
  • Chickweed: Soothing, helps with skin conditions including psoriasis, eczema, minor burns, rashes, and other skin irritations.
  • Comfrey: Relieves pain, swelling, promotes the growth of muscle, cartilage, and bone. Assists with healing a wide variety of conditions including sprains, eczema, dermatitis, viral skin infections, broken bones, arthritis, wounds, and bruises.
  • Echinacea: Antibacterial, beneficial for sores, wounds, insect bites and stings
  • Eucalyptus: Used for rubbing on sore muscles, as an inhalant, and chest rub for colds. Decongestant, antibiotic, antiseptic and antiviral. Used as a topical antiseptic on sores and fungal infections such as ring worm.
  • GingerRoot: Warming, use for arthritis and sore muscles.
  • Lavender: Soothing, calming, relieves hemorrhoids, pain, has healing properties beneficial for wounds and numerous skin conditions.
  • Plantain Leaf: Antibacterial, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antitoxic properties. Helps speed the recovery process, prevents infection, relieves and soothes insect bites and stings, pain, poison ivy, itching, rashes, sores, bruises, blisters, and damaged skin.
  • Thyme: A strong antiseptic used for cuts, scrapes, and sore muscles
  • Wintergreen: Warming, great for sore muscles or joints. Active ingredient in Wintergreen is methyl salicylate which is related to aspirin. Never use internally due to possiblity of overdose.
  • Yarrow Flowers: Apply to bruises, sprains, wounds, cuts, rashes, eczema, scrapes, and areas with swelling and bleeding.
    I actually did not grow enough lavender last year and I have had little success with Comfrey so those were purchased from Mountain Rose Herbs. Broadleaf Plantain in bowl picked fresh around my neighborhood.
Mountain Rose Herbs. A herbs, health and harmony c
First and foremost, let me say, this list above is relatively short. This is a quick list just to get started. These are some of the most common herbs that can be used in salves. I know I have personally seen plants like plantain, yarrow, chickweed, and chamomile grow wild. The others I included because I have personally grown them and they do tend to be extremely easy to grow, even in small pots. If you like you can purchase fresh herbs and even tins for keeping your salves at Mountain Rose Herbs. I have provided the link above.  Many times I will purchase from them when I don't have just quite enough of one thing or another.

Now onto salve making. First, you have to make your infused oil. There are basically two ways to make the herbal infused oil. The expediated way or the longer way.

Fast way?
I simply take my crockpot. Fill it with one cup of your oil of choice. Take your herb/herbs of choice and dump into oil.
I always make sure my herbs are more or less covered by the oil regardless of the way I am infusing my oil so I cannot actually say "a cup of this, a half a cup of that" because I tend to just eyeball most of my salves. I promise, if you put an extra teaspoon or remove a tablespoon it will not change the end product by much. This is not an exact science. I simply stir it to ensure all leaves, roots or what not are covered by the oil. I turn on my crockpot onto the very lowest setting for about 15 minutes and then I just switch it to warm. The trick here is to make sure you do not "FRY" your herbs. You don't need or want crunchy burnt leaves. Keep your temperature down to around 100 to 140 degrees. When I am setting up to make salves for the day and I am using this method I set up my crockpot early in the morning, turn it to warm before I leave the house and then come back 8+ hours later and strain the finished (herb infused oil) product into a clean bowl/mason jar. This way has one extra benefit. Your house (depending on the herb) will smell lovely afterwards. If I have time I move to the next step immediately. If not I store in a mason jar for later.

Longer way?
Fill a mason jar with your choice of herbs. Fill with one cup of your choice of oil. Once again the herbs should be completely covered. You do not want the herbs exposed to air. For best result make sure you have about an inch or two of oil above the herbs. Place, with a lid screwed on, in a warm location, out of the way. It will need to sit for the next two to six weeks. Make sure to shake it every so often. Like the other way, this is not an exact science. If your herbs absorb some of your oil and your herbs are becoming exposed to air, just add a bit of olive oil to the top, put the lid back on, shake and then just put it back in your warm location. I tend to use my laundry room actually as its the warmest area in our entire house. When your time has run out, just simply strain the finished product into a clean bowl/mason jar.

Now you want to melt your beeswax.
I do not have a double boiler so instead what I tend to do for ease of clean up is simply fill a pot with water and then place a glass bowl in pot so it is floating. Add the one ounce of wax. Heat water to a simmer and let wax fully melt. Add herb infused oil to melted wax. Once they are fully incorporated pour carefully (CAREFULLY HERE. IT WILL BE HOT!) into your jars or tins of choice.

Let cool and store covered in a cool, dry location.
These will last, if stored correctly, for several years. Salves really do not go bad by the way. They just lose their potency and smell. 

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