How to Make a Salve

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.

Ingredients:

2 cups of carrier oil (Olive Oil used here)

Pour your carrier oil over the jar full of your plant material, consider if the plant material needs to first be dried or can be used fresh.

Pour your carrier oil over the jar full of your plant material, consider if the plant material needs to first be dried or can be used fresh.

1-2 cups of medicinal plant material

Cheese cloth

Jar

Elastic

Brick of Beeswax

Vitamin E oil

Essential oils (optional for scent)

 

 

Decide on your Strategy and Gather your plants

Cottonwood buds gathered in earl spring.

Cottonwood buds gathered in earl spring.

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. 

strain the oil from the material, this is getting sweet smelling cottonwood buds separated form oil.

strain the oil from the material, this is getting sweet smelling cottonwood buds separated form oil.

Plantain smells equally beautiful but a little like deep fried donuts in my opinion.

Plantain smells equally beautiful but a little like deep fried donuts in my opinion.

use a double boiler to make salve after you have left the oil to infuse with the plant material for at least a month.

use a double boiler to make salve after you have left the oil to infuse with the plant material for at least a month.

Chunks of beeswax brick shaved off to use to help solidify the oil into the semi-solid state of the salve.

Chunks of beeswax brick shaved off to use to help solidify the oil into the semi-solid state of the salve.

Stir and remember to check the consistency by dripping a drop onto your hand (careful it's HOT!) and watching how quickly it becomes solid. You want it to dry and solidify quickly.

Stir and remember to check the consistency by dripping a drop onto your hand (careful it's HOT!) and watching how quickly it becomes solid. You want it to dry and solidify quickly.

Pour salve into jars while still hot once you have the consistency that you want based on your skin test.

Pour salve into jars while still hot once you have the consistency that you want based on your skin test.

Let cool without a lid.

Let cool without a lid.

Now you can cover with lids and label contents.

Now you can cover with lids and label contents.

Finished product, this salve contains plantain  and cottonwood buds. Pick your herbs based on the effects that you want the salve to have.

Finished product, this salve contains plantain  and cottonwood buds. Pick your herbs based on the effects that you want the salve to have.