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Handcraft Your Own Versatile Herbal Healing Salve

Some time ago I grew tired of using products with ingredients so complicated I had to sit down at the computer to define the chemicals listed. I decided then if I can’t pronounce the word, I probably didn’t want to put it in me, on me, or anywhere around me. Additives, preservatives, artificial colors, chemically-based fragrances – most are all unnecessary! But with a small herd of children, a husband, and myself to look after, what was I to do? Bug bites, rashes, dry skin, wounds: they all needed topical ointments and salves. Already growing and drying my own herbs to create medicinal teas, I started researching the herbs necessary to make a topical, herbal salve that would take care of most skin ailments without drenching my family in toxic waste. This salve recipe is the result of my researching and experimenting. I have used it on all sorts of rashes, eczema, sunburn, insect bites and stings, seasonal dry skin, unexplained itches, scratches and cuts, and have even applied it to small spider veins. If you don't have the time to make this salve for yourself, I sell it in my Ebay store, FARMHOUSE FAVORITES.

Herbal Property Definitions

Analgesic: relieves pain
Antibacterial: destroys bacteria or slows the growth of bacteria
Antifungal: prevents or diminishes the growth of fungi and yeasts
Antihistamine: reduces or blocks allergic reactions
Anti-inflammatory: reduces swelling
Antioxidant: reduces or stops damage to cells
Antiseptic: disinfectant
Antiviral: kills or reduces viruses
Astringent: contracts the skin, blood vessels, etc in order to reduce bleeding or to close pores

Herbal Ingredients Defined

Calendula is a flowering herb from the daisy family, Asteraceae. If you’re allergic to the daisy family, omit Calendula in your topical salve. It is included as an anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antiviral and astringent. It’s good for all sorts of topical skin issues.

Lavender is an antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic flowering herb with fragrant properties. Lavender should not be used while pregnant or breast feeding as it is a uterine stimulant.

Goldenseal is also an antibacterial herb, as well as an anti-inflammatory, antifungal and astringent. Goldenseal should not be used while pregnant or breastfeeding as it has been shown to cross to the placenta and the antibacterial properties are too powerful for the developing fetus. It can also cause premature contractions in pregnancy.

Nettle, also called Stinging Nettle, is an anti-inflammatory and antihistamine containing herb. It tightens skin tissues and reduces irritation.

Comfrey is a mainstay in many country households. It’s known for being an anti-inflammatory, an astringent, and it aids in rapid cell regrowth and lessens scarring. Comfrey should not be used while pregnant or breast feeding as studies have shown liver damage to the fetus. Comfrey should never be applied to any wound exhibiting signs of infection. Because it causes rapid cell regrowth and healing, Comfrey may cause the wound to heal and close before the infection can drain.

Mullein is from the snapdragon family and serves a whole list of functions: analgesic, antihistamine, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal. It is also a skin softener.

Elder Flowers, from that wonder bush, the Elderberry, serves as an antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral and analgesic. There is some controversy about the safety of using anything Elderberry-related during pregnancy. Check with your doctor or midwife before using.

Echinacea is a plant in the daisy family, Asteraceae. People with allergies to the daisy family should leave the flowers, leaves, stems and roots of this plant out of this topical salve. It provides analgesic, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antibacterial and antioxidant properties.

Chamomile has many uses beyond a soothing, sleep-inducing tea! Topically, chamomile has antifungal, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Chamomile should not be used while pregnant or breastfeeding because there is insufficient data to prove if it is safe for fetus/infants and it is a uterine stimulant. Chamomile is also a plant in the daisy family, Asteraceae. Avoid if you have allergies to the daisy family.

Vitamin E is excellent for the skin as it is an antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory capabilities. It reduces signs of aging, tissue damage, helps blood to clot, and boosts the body’s immune system.

Olive oil is known for being a “wonder” cure for the skin with its antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory among other properties. It softens and protects the skin.

Beeswax, though primarily used as a thickener in the salve, also has anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antioxidant characteristics. Beeswax also has a natural fragrance.

Herbal Salve Recipe and Instructions

All measurements given are for DRIED herbs.  The finished product will yield about 24 ounces of salve. Making the salve is a time-intensive, but labor-easy process. For the first month, your herbs will steep in olive oil to create“infused oil”. In a pint canning jar (or 16 ounce jar), combine the following dried herbs. I like to grind my herbs as fine as possible to increase their potency, but it’s not necessary. Pour the olive oil over the herbs. Seal the jar and place in a sunny window for at least one month. Shake the jar daily to stir up the herbs.

1 TBS Calendula
½ TBS Lavender
½ TBS Goldenseal
½ TBS Nettle
1 TBS Comfrey
½ TBS Mullein
½ TBS Elder Flowers
½ TBS Echinacea
½ TBS Chamomile
2 cups Olive oil (approximately)

Items required after the oil has infused:
Clean jar (16 oz or larger)
Double boiler pan
Muslin (cheesecloth is not fine enough)
Rubber band
10 drops Vitamin E oil
1 cup shredded beeswax
Clean, recycled containers or new containers (recycled face cream jars, etc. New containers can be purchased online and in craft stores)

Once the month has passed, secure a piece of muslin over another jar with a rubber band. The muslin should be loose so it forms a “pocket” where the infused oil will be poured in order to strain it. Pour the infused oil along with the spent herbs into the muslin pocket over the jar. Use a spoon to stir the oil/herbs as it drains into the jar below.

When you have gently pressed the oil from the herbs on top of the muslin, carefully remove the rubber band and gather the muslin in a bunch. Squeeze the muslin/herbs to extract as much oil as possible into the jar. Compost the herbs. (The great thing about this project is your hands will be very soft when you’re finished!)

Bring the water in the lower section of a double boiler pan to a boil.  To the empty top section of the double boiler pan, add the strained infused oil. Add 10 drops of Vitamin E oil to the infused oil. You can buy Vitamin E oil online, from health food stores, and in some grocery stores.  Add 1 cup shredded beeswax. Stir gently until the wax has melted.

Test the firmness of your salve: pour 1 tablespoon of the liquid salve into a container and place it in the freezer for 2 minutes. If it seems very runny, add up to 1/8 cup shredded beeswax to the liquid salve (stir until melted) and retest.

Pour the salve into your clean containers. I boil my containers to sterilize them. The salve will shrink as it sets up, so top off the containers of salve with a little more salve until level/full. Place lids on the containers. I put my containers onto a cookie sheet and place them into the refrigerator to set up. They will set up without cooling, but it will take longer. Store the finished salve in the refrigerator if you want a firmer salve. When stored at room temperature, the salve will be more like an ointment.  This herbal healing salve is FOR TOPICAL USE ONLY. Refrigerated salve will last about a year and non-refrigerated salve about 6 months.

I add an adhesive label to the lid and a label listing the ingredients to the bottom of the container. You can print your own labels or use an online retailer like Vistaprint. I find the cost of colored ink to be more expensive than having them printed professionally, but your printer’s ink may be more cost effective. Of course, the labels aren’t necessary if you’re making them for personal use, but labels make the product look professional for gift giving or selling at craft fairs and other venues.

Resources: Dried herbs can be purchased online through sellers on Ebay, Etsy, Amazon and through various health food type online retailers.  If the seller doesn’t clarify, ask if the herbs are grown organically for cosmetic/medicinal purposes. Some sellers grow herbs for use in potpourris and sachets, and you want to make sure you’re getting medicinal/organic grade herbs. Most of these herbs are easy to grow and if you intend on making multiple batches of salve, you might want to try your hand at growing and drying some of the herbs.  Any type of olive oil works, but the more virgin the oil, the lighter in color your salve will be. The color does not alter the quality of the salve. Beeswax can be purchased in the same places mentioned for dried herb suppliers. Wax can be purchased in solid blocks, as pellets, as pastilles (little “drops), in bead form, and in sheets. I tend to buy a big 2 pound block of beeswax every few months to use in various herbal projects.  Generally, the wax blocks are the least expensive option because you have to do the work of shredding it. I shred my wax with a vegetable grater that I reserve solely for my herbal projects. Store dried herbs and beeswax in cool, dark places. Dried herbs should be stored in airtight containers.

As with all herbal products and remedies, results may vary according to how you processed, mixed and created the salve. This salve is not intended to replace the diagnosis or advice from your doctor. If you are prone to allergies, always consult your doctor before applying or using an all natural, herbal product such as this salve. Results of herbal products such as this salve will vary according to each individual person's specific body, etc.

Look for other useful tips and projects in my journal index! http://angelinehawkes.livejournal.com/180046.html

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