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Homemade Healing Salves

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When I was pregnant with baby number three, I discovered a handcrafted herbal salve at a local natural food store. It was rich and creamy and smelled strongly of herbs and wild things. It was the one product I tried that relieved my itchy tummy, and I was instantly hooked. I went through four bottles of the stuff in three months at a cost of $20 per bottle. Ouch!

Fast forward to my fourth pregnancy. This time, I decided to learn how to make my own salves. I did some research and discovered that salves and ointments are not only simple to make, but are actually a lot of fun—think bubble, bubble, toil and trouble. Herbal salves usually include three ingredients—an oil that acts as a solvent, drawing the medicinal properties and fragrances out of the herbs; the herbs themselves; and beeswax, which thickens the salve.

Basic Instructions

To make salves and ointments, you must first make a medicinal oil. Combine a pleasing mixture of herbs, such as lavender, lemon balm, and chamomile, in the bottom of a slow cooker. Pour a high-quality vegetable, seed, or nut oil over the herbs. Try olive oil, almond oil, canella oil, apricot oil, or grape seed oil.

Heat the oil and herbs in the slow cooker on low for two to four hours, taking care not to burn the oil. Allow the oil to cool and strain it through a colander lined with cheesecloth. Pour the oil back into the slow cooker and add a few ounces of grated beeswax. Allow the beeswax to melt and mix it thoroughly with the oil. Place a spoonful of the mixture in the refrigerator and let it cool. If it’s too hard, add more oil to the mixture. Too soft? Add more beeswax. Once you have the right consistency, allow it to cool slightly and pour it into clean, dry containers.

You can also make salves in a pot on the stove. Keep the heat on low and watch it closely so it doesn’t burn.

Advanced Concepts

Unbelievably simple, right? Well, before you get too cocky, let me tell you a few secrets. First, moisture is your enemy because it causes mold. Make sure all your equipment is completely dry. Use dried herbs, especially as you are learning. Later, if you want to try fresh herbs, lay them out overnight in a shady, protected area. Mix them with the oil only after they’re fully wilted to remove as much moisture as possible. When you pour the salves into the jars, fill the jars completely because room at the top encourages mold growth. To further preserve ointments add one teaspoon of vitamin E oil or one teaspoon of an herbal tincture. Finally, store the jars in a cool, dry spot, or even the refrigerator so they last longer.

If you become addicted to the art of handcrafting salves, consider making them as gifts or even selling them. Once you get to this level, make the medicinal oils in a roaster oven rather than a slow cooker. The roaster ovens hold a lot more oil and have lower temperatures than slow cookers, so you can cook the oil for several weeks, resulting in a very fine, fragrant product.

I like a fairly fragrant product so I add essential oils, such as lavender or eucalyptus, to the salves. You can also experiment with other emollients like coconut oil. You’re sure to find a few favorites.

Locate Supplies

Most of the supplies you need for making salves are readily available. Grow your own herbs or buy them dried in bulk at a natural food or herb store. Find pure, organic oils at natural food stores, as well.

Find jars, equipment, and other goodies through online vendors. You can even find beeswax, oil, and herbs in bulk online.

175 Homemade Herbal Formulas for Glowing Skin & A Vibrant Self

Salve Recipes

Below are a few of my favorite salves. To prepare them, follow the directions outlined above. Before long, you’ll be ready to experiment with your own herbal concoctions.

Pregnancy Salve

Pregnancy is the time to nurture yourself and your unborn child. Slather this healing salve over your growing belly to relieve itching.

  • ¼ cup lavender flowers
  • ¼ cup chamomile flowers
  • ½ cup comfrey leaves
  • 2 cups almond or wheat germ oil
  • 2 cups cocoa butter

Diaper Rash Salve

This healing salve treats diaper rash, eczema, poison ivy, and almost any other skin irritation you can think of. Trust me—you’ll want to make it by the quarts.

  • ¼ cup St. John’s wort flowers
  • ¼ cup calendula flowers
  • ¼ cup comfrey leaves
  • 2 cups almond or wheat germ oil
  • 2 cups grated beeswax

Antiseptic Salve

Use this salve to treat minor cuts and burns. Goldenseal and echinacea both have disinfecting, antibiotic properties.

  • ¼ cup goldenseal
  • ¼ cup echinacea
  • 1 cup almond oil
  • 1 cup grated beeswax

Cold-Relieving Salve

Forget that stinky, greasy ointment the next time your child is congested. Rub this on her chest instead for instant relief.

  • ½ cup Echinacea
  • ½ cup rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon Eucalyptus radiata essential oil
  • 1 teaspoon lavender essential oil
  • 1 cup pure olive oil
  • 1 cup grated beeswax

Antifungal Salve

Use this salve to treat athlete’s foot or fungus infections.

  • ¼ cup chaparral
  • ¼ cup black walnut hulls
  • 1/8 cup goldenseal
  • 1/8 cup echinacea
  • 2 cups almond oil
  • 2 cups grated beeswax

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