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Hands down the biggest thing I get asked about regarding herbal remedies is my Healing Salve. I always have some in my purse and on our bathroom counter. I give it as gifts and have taught others how to make their own.
It works fantastically for cuts, scrapes, hangnails, chapped lips, burns, diaper rash, general rashes, eczema, chafing, and just about anything skin-wise that you’re not sure what to do with.
To make the salve, you need three things: Herbs, Oil, and Beeswax.
This is not difficult to make! I even included a printable recipe for you at the bottom of this post. (And I’m super excited to tell you that you can now purchase This Herbal Salve at The Sparrow’s Home shop!)
I learned the basic ratios and method in my favorite book on herbal home health care. Giving the recipe in ratios allows you to customize based on how much you want to make. My general theory is: if I’m making it, I’m making enough to last awhile.
Herbs and Essential Oils
I use equal amounts of the following dried herbs (note that I included essential oils in this list. They are added separately from the dried herbs, at the end of the process):
Calendula – pain relieving (analgesic), anti-inflamatory, antibacterial
Calendula can heal the skin so effectively that the German Commission E verified its effectiveness in healing wounds and reducing inflammation.
Comfrey – (note: you can buy comfrey leaf and comfrey root – I use both) contains allantoin, which doubles the rate of cell growth, rapidly speeding up the healing process
Comfrey heals extremely quickly. Be sure that wounds are properly cleaned before applying. My family has seen drastic improvement in wounds using comfrey alone.
Yarrow – anti-inflamatory, antibacterial, helps stop bleeding (astringent)
Plantain – detoxifying and pain relieving
Not the banana looking fruit, once you learn to recognize the wide, flat leaves of wild plantain growing, you’ll notice it everywhere! Plantain is the best remedy for stings or bites.
Lavender Essential Oil – skin healing, pain relieving, good for burns and eczema
Tea Tree (Melaleuca) Essential Oil – antimicrobial, antifungal, antibacterial
If you’re interested in reading more about various medicinal herbs, this Medicinal Herb Chart is a fantastic resource!
I buy pretty much all of my herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs. Great prices and very high quality product. And I love that you can buy a small amount or in bulk.
And I buy all of my essential oils from Rocky Mountain Oils. Same reason–great prices, high quality (and I love that it’s a direct online order store…easy peasy!)
After you’ve collected all the good stuff you want in your salve, you need to infuse your oil with it. I use a mixture of Olive and Coconut Oil, 2/3 Olive Oil to 1/3 Coconut. (And may I insert here: use regular old Olive Oil…save the extra virgin for your salad.)
The basic ratio I follow is 2:1 – oil:herb mixture. You can relax here, it is not an exact science. You want herbs in your oil. You want roughly double the amount of oil to the amount of herbs. (I know this is killing some of you detail oriented folks out there. Stick with me!)
There are several ways to infuse your oil. You can fill a jar about 1/2 full with your dried herb mixture, then fill the jar with oil and set in a warm, sunny spot for a few weeks. Or, you can make a quicker infusion using low heat with your stove top or oven.
–Stove Top Method. Put your dried herb mixture and oil(s) into a double boiler. (Alternately, you can put them in a canning jar and set in a pan of water. Just be sure the water comes at least ½ way up the jar).
Bring water to a low simmer. Heat for ½-1 hour watching carefully that oil does not overheat. (See picture: I found this pitcher at Goodwill and love the pouring spout.
A jar, glass measuring cup, or your regular double boiler would work just as well). The key here is low simmer.
–Oven Method. Set your jar of herbs and oil in a pan with enough water to come about halfway up the jar. Set your oven to “Warm” or the lowest setting, and leave for several hours.
This method works great when you’re going to be around the house all day. You can do more than one jar of oil at a time, too. A big plus of this method is that you don’t have to worry about the oil overheating.
–Crock Pot Method. Same as the oven method, but set jars in crock pot and fill with water. When I did this method, I heated on high for about 8 hours, then shut the crock pot off over night and heated again the next day all day as well.
It worked well with very little supervision. I think this is my favorite method!
The general rule tends to be that the lower the heat and longer the infusion, the more constituents of the herbs get into your oil.
I have done all of the above methods with great results and my best advice would be to not overheat the oil. I did that once and ended up with crispy herbs, a stinky kitchen, and had to throw it all away and start over.
If you’re wondering how much oil to use…keep in mind that one cup of infused oil will typically yield about one cup of salve.
Once you have your infused oil, you need to strain it. You can do this through cheesecloth, but I usually just use my mesh strainer and it gets the job done. I don’t mind the occasional fleck of herb in my salve.
Be sure to press the herbs to get out every drop of precious oil.
Beeswax is what thickens your oil into a salve. I have purchased it online, at my local co-op and from a local beekeeper.
Here’s the trickiest part of making salve — you have to use a kitchen scale.
I have tried measuring my oil by “cups” and have ended up having to tweak my final product to get the right consistency…adding more oil or beeswax.
Invest in a cheap kitchen scale that will measure in grams and ounces and you will be set for lots of medicinal herb projects.
For every ounce of oil, you want to add 1 tablespoon of grated beeswax.
You can see in the picture where I’ve grated the corners off of my block of beeswax, if you use the pellets, it’s a lot easier to pour and measure.
When you’ve got the right proportions of oil and beeswax…all you need to do is mix them together!
It is recommended that you use a double boiler to do this, because again, you don’t want to overheat the oil. All you are trying to do is melt the beeswax.
(I use my metal pitcher, set in a water bath, but a jar or a glass measuring cup would work fine too. The handle and spout do make pouring into containers easier). Be careful, though, as whatever container you use — it will be hot!
Now is the time to add in your essential oils.
Depending on the size of your batch, the amount will vary. For a batch using 3-4 cups of oil, I usually do 12-20 shakes of lavender and about half that much of the tea tree, (yes, I count shakes not drops).
Use your nose and do what you prefer. I don’t really like the smell of tea tree, so I use a lot less of it. The lavender is nice, so I add more. Very scientific, I know.
You can test the consistency once it’s melted. Dip a cold metal spoon in, or put a dab on some wax paper and stick it in the fridge or freezer.
You’ll know if you need to add more beeswax or a little plain olive oil to get you to the right place. If you followed the correct ratios, you should be just fine. It should feel firm to the touch, but spread easily.
Last, you just need to pour your salve into containers.
I use these tins. The 4 ounce ones are my standard container. 1 ounce tins are great for travel and to carry in your purse.
If I run out of tins, I pour the extra into a canning jar—pint or half pint depending on how much extra I have. It stores well in there, and when my tins are getting empty, I scoop it out of the jar and re-fill them.
So there you have it.
Your very own multi-purpose, wonderfully effective Herbal Healing Salve.
Check out the printable recipe below to have on hand when you’re ready to get started. And once you get hooked on salve making and are looking for something new, check out my recipe for arnica salve.
Please do let me know how it goes when you make this! I promise it’s not difficult!
** Information on medicinal uses for herbs are provided on this site for educational use only, and is not intended as medical advice. I’ve made every attempt at accuracy, but cannot make guarantees. If you have any serious health concerns, you should always check with your doctor before self-administering herbs.**