how to make herbal salve
1. We moved to Baltimore. During a snowstorm. It all worked out and this city has *just* the right amount of grit, art markets, old churches, mohawks, communist bookstores and Old Bay paraphernalia to satisfy our running list of what defines the “perfect” city for us. In short, we’re in love.
2. For the record: living with your best friend is awesome.
3. I started a new job. I STARTED A NEW JOB! After four years at the same gig at NPR, I am now a digital strategist at a PR firm in DC. It feels fantastic.
5. This weekend’s full moon is a doozy. Can you feel it? The astrological report from Kaypacha, per usual, is spot on.
6. Spring is almost here, really. If your poor chapped hands and lips are begging for mercy, for goddess sake, make some herbal salve. I made a big batch of medicinal herbal oil during the last summer solstice, and made it into salve during the winter solstice. It’s a great way to honor the seasons, care for yourself, and share your care with others. It’s easy to make and it really works – one friend used my salve on her lady turtle (yes, turtle) who was battling an infection that turned septic, and she got better. Plant power!
solar-infused herbal salve
carrier oil of choice -
Olive oil and almond oil make a great combo, and that’s what I used. A blend of coconut oil and coconut butter is delicious.
organic beeswax (I bought mine here)
10-20 drops essential oil of choice, such as lavender or tea tree (optional)
dried herbs of choice -
Choose your herbs depending on how you’d like to use your salve. You could make a basic, all-purpose salve for chapped skin and minor irritation, or a salve that’s specifically formulated to help heal cuts, rashes, and bug bites. You can also use fresh herbs, but you have to ensure that all moisture is removed from the herbs before using, because any moisture in the infused oil could spoil it.
Some wonderful, all-purpose healing herbs for the skin include St. Johns wort flower, comfrey leaf, and calendula. A salve with goldenseal, echinacea, and 10+ drops of lavender oil make a great disinfectant. Rosemary Gladstar has a divine recipe for pregnant belly oil that calls for 1 part roses, 1 part lavender, and 1 part chamomile.
In my summer solstice salve, I used equal parts chamomile, lavender, oatstraw, rose, St. Johns wort leaf, calendula, comfrey leaf, and marshmallow root.
For other recommendations on what herbs to choose, check out the list on the bottom of this page.
First things first – infuse your carrier oil with your herbs. You can do this in a couple different ways. The most common (and easiest) is through solar infusion. The sun is increasing in power with the coming of spring, so this might be an option for you if you have a very sunny spot in your home. Otherwise, you can infuse your oil in a double boiler or on very low heat in your oven.
Solar method – Pack a sterilized glass jar with your herbs. Fill the jar with herbs to just 1-2 inches below the rim. Fill the jar with oil to the very top and seal with a clean lid. Note: Make sure the herbs are fully submerged in the oil, and the oil comes to the very top of the jar (no air spaces), to avoid spoilage. Stick the jar in the direct sun for two weeks to infuse completely.
Double boiler method – Put your herbs and oil in a double boiler or crockpot, leaving 1-2 inches of oil above the submerged herbs. Cook, low and slow, for 1-5 hours. Be careful not to fry your herbs!
Oven method – Fill a glass jar (or jars) with herbs and oil in the same manner as the solar method. Put the jars in a larger pan or oven-safe pot and fill that pot with enough water to cover the bottom half of the jar. Turn the oven on the lowest temperature possible (100 F is ideal) and allow the herbs to infuse for 1-5 hours. Check frequently to prevent the herbs and oil from overheating and burning.
When your oil is sufficiently infused with your herbs, strain it through a fine cheesecloth or jelly bag. Store the oil in a clean, airtight jar. You can use the oil directly, or combine it with beeswax to make your salve.
Make the salve – In a pot, combine your medicinal oil with beeswax on very low heat until the beeswax is fully melted. The basic formula is 1 oz. beeswax per 8 oz. oil. To test the mixture for proper firmness, place one tablespoon of the mixture on a small plate in the freezer for a minute, and check for firmness. If it’s too soft, add more beeswax; if it’s too firm, add more oil.
When your salve is at a consistency you like, quickly pour it into prepared tin containers or small glass jars and allow to cool completely before using. Salves will keep for 1-3 years.