DIY Herbal Salves Let You Decide What You Need
Just like from-scratch cooking can’t be beat, DIY herbal salves, aka herbal creams, are some of the best in natural health care and require only a few ingredients and a bit of time. And the best benefit is you get to choose which ingredients to include and which ones to keep out. Here’s a quick run-down of this simple, two step process.
Step 1: Create an Infused Oil
Select a carrier oil. Virtually any oil may be used and is often a matter of personal preference. However, organic olive oil tends to be the most commonly used oil as it is both healing, soothing, and moisturizing to most skin types. The one potential drawback to EVOO is that it can clog pores, so keep that in mind if your cream is intended for facial care. If you need a lighter, less clogging oil, try sweet almond oil, instead. This is the oil of choice in our household for teenage skin and baby behinds as it is both gentle and effective for acne, rashes, and other skin ailments.
Next, select which dried herb/s you’d like to infuse into the oil according to the herb’s medicinal qualities. For example, calendula is perfect for irritated skin such as rashes and inflammation. Plantain effectively soothes insect stings and dry, painful irritations. Cayenne, on the other hand, is especially helpful when combined with rosemary to ease sore muscles. Use your creativity, and always remember to research the herbs you’re interested in before making a final decision.
Once you’ve selected your herbs and oil, crush enough herbs to fill a clean glass jar halfway full. Fill jar with oil and cover securely with a lid. Place in a warm, dark area—or sunny window if jar is covered in a bag or towel—for several weeks, shaking each day. Infusion is complete when oil takes on the scent and color of the herb.
Alternatively, heat oil and herbs in a double boiler over low heat for half hour or longer until oil takes on the color and scent of the herb. Strain infusion through cheesecloth, discarding herb. Store infusion in clean glass jar in cool, dark location.
Step 2: Create the Herbal Salve
Once you’ve strained your infusion, you’re ready for the final step. You’ll need to select a wax or butter to thicken the oil into a spreadable, semi-solid salve.The easiest way is through the addition of beeswax. (If you’d prefer a vegan alternative, try carnauba wax. I haven’t personally tried carnauba wax, but I’ve understood it works quite well.) However, I’ve successfully used both shea and cocoa butter, so make a selection and experiment with what you like best.
To make an 8 oz. container of salve, pour 8 oz. of infused oil into a heat proof container. Set container in a double boiler and gently warm on medium heat. Add 1-2 oz. beeswax to start with until you get a feel for your particular mixture. Using a clean utensil, gently stir oil/beeswax until all wax/butter is melted.
Once beeswax has completely melted, place 1/4 tsp. mixture on a cool plate and allow to harden. If salve is of desired consistency, allow to cool slightly. Stirring with clean utensil, add 10-20 drops of essential oils if using. For a firmer salve, add additional beeswax and repeat testing. When finished, pour into clean glass jar and store in cool, dark location.
Enjoy your herbal cream as needed and don’t forget to make notes as to what worked and what you’d like to change. A big part of this sustainable living thing is making lots of notes and keeping what works and tossing what doesn’t!