How to Make a Salve (and Medicinal Oil)
Making a healthy, skin nourishing salve is an easy and fun activity. The result is a cosmetic medicine that you can use for your family or gift to friends. Ingredients are inexpensive and it is a great way to get hands on with some of your favourite plants. Plus it allows you to make your own skin care treatments without the chemical extra additions found in other skin care products.
2 cups of carrier oil (Olive Oil used here)
1-2 cups of medicinal plant material
Brick of Beeswax
Vitamin E oil
Essential oils (optional for scent)
Decide on your Strategy and Gather your plants
Depending on what sort of effects that you want your salve to offer, choose herbs that offer that medicinal benefit and start gathering some. If you want to have a soothing and cooling effect on irritated skin, such as bee stings, rashes, bug bits choose a herb such as plantain, chickweed, calendula, etc and if you want to have some antiseptic, or antibacterial action as well choose a plant that is well known for such an action, such as cottonwood buds.
Possible uses to develop your recipe to treat: Eczema, Abrasions, Cuts, Diaper Rashes, Scratches, Bed Sores, Wounds, Burns and Open Sores
When you have chosen, gather your plants fresh (or pick up dried herb from store) and depending on how much water content the plant contains you may have to dry the plant out before starting your oil infusion.
If you use cottonwood buds you can use them immediately in oil and no need to dry out.
Infuse in Oil
Choose your carrier oil and consider: price, smell and skin use. This is the oil that you will use to infuse your herb and extract the medicinal components.
For body, bath and massage oils, use sweet-scented, light oils, like Apricot or Almond.
Olive Oil – good quality oil useful on skin, has slight olive smell
Grape seed Oil – little to no smell to oil, is reasonably priced, but not as high quality an oil for skin care products. Bonus is that it is very quickly absorbed into the skin.
Almond Oil – best for quality of skin treatment, but tends to be expensive
Fill a jar with your herb of choice, loosely (do not pack down) but almost to the top then pour the carrier oil over top and fill until it is almost full to the brim. Allow 2 cm of room below the top. Cover with a breathable material such as cheese cloth and fasten an elastic around it. Make sure you label your jar with the date and contents inside. Place in a cool dark place away from the sun and allow it to infuse for a month.
Separate Oil from Plant material
After sufficient time has passed (2-4 weeks) pour off the oil from the plant contents and use a strainer to squish out all bits of oil from the plant.
If you have made a plant infused oil to use for massage or body care then you can stop here, but if you wish to make your oil into a salve continue onwards.
Oil to Salve
Salves are applied externally as a semi-solid skin treatment and the best way to both preserve the oil and keep it solid as a salve is to use natural bees wax. You can purchase a brick of beeswax at a herbal dispensary or go to your local farmers market and anyone who is selling honey is likely also selling beeswax for $5-10. One brick should last you several salve making projects.
Use a double boiler method and warm up the oil-herb blend. Add pieces of beeswax into the solution and stir to melt the beeswax. You want sufficient beeswax that the salve becomes semi-solid when it cools, to test this take a dipped spoon from the oil mixture and make a droplet on your hand (reminder this is hot). Let the oil cool and watch how quickly the oil becomes semi-solid. For 2 cups of oil you will need at least 2 tsp of beeswax chunks, but play with it to adjust it to how you would like.
Pour into jars for storage
Applied externally whenever a soothing emollient is needed. Gently apply the salve on the skin irritation, if there is an open wound make sure that the wound has first been disinfected and cleaned. Beeswax is a natural preservative and as long as there was enough added to your batch then it should stay good for a least a year. If not enough was added, keep your salve in the fridge.