Yesterday I made herbal salves for the first time!
Here’s the basic recipe (and some nice photos).
I’ve been dabbling in DIY skin scare for a few years. One of my go-to recipes is a toner that’s basically just a tea made with thyme, lavender leaves and calendula flowers. I keep a small jar in the fridge and use it up in a week. Especially in the summer, it’s very refreshing and clarifying.
I like growing my own calendula flowers to harvest and dry during the summer. They are so sunny and beautiful, and very commonly used for wound healing and skin irritations. (But, lots of great herbs for skin care are just things you might already have in your kitchen, so you don’t definitely don’t have to start your own herb garden to dabble in making fun things. Just do some Googling and see what you can do with easy to get herbs, teas or a few drops of essential oils.)
I’ve been using calendula-infused oils for skincare for a few years now. My face is sensitive and used to be very dry and acne prone. I use a few drops of almond oil with calendula at night and it is much, much happier than it used to be.
I was inspired by my visit to Wintergreen herbal market on Saturday to try making my own salves. I found that they’re surprisingly easy to make: you heat up some oil with herbs in it until you’ve made an infusion, and then you add some shavings of beeswax and let it cool in a clean container.
So, I tried it out!
Coconut oil salve
I used dried calendula flowers and lavender leaves from plants I grew last summer. Both are antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and good for skin.
I also used coconut oil as a base, a few spoonfuls of beeswax shavings, and a splash of vitamin E oil. Coconut oil is supposed to be somewhat antibacterial oil and vitamin E is used as a preservative in skincare products, so along with the herbs, I think the salve should last decently well.
Here’s the general process:
- First I took about a cup of coconut oil and put it in a clean jar.
2) Then I set the jar in a pot of boiling water until the oil melted. Then I turned the water down to a low simmer.
3) I added some herbs and let them steep in the oil for about an hour, while I hung out in the room doing something else. (I also used the boiling water to water to clean some little tins to re-use.)
4) When the oil seemed well infused I strained the herbs out by pouring the mix through a few layers of cheesecloth into a different jar. (I should have taken a picture of the pretty yellow oil, but I was so excited that I forgot.)
5) I put the strained jar of oil back in the boiling pot and added a few spoonfuls of wax shavings. The the more wax you add, the thicker and harder the salve will be. The recipes I found online vary from about 1:6 wax to oil for a soft, buttery salve, to 1:4 wax to oil for a hard, lip-balmy salve. I used about 1:6.
6) When the wax melted I gave it a stir and then poured it into a liquid measuring cup. From the cup I poured the mix into sterilized, dry tins. The tins went outside (it’s a cold day) to harden, but you could stick them in the fridge too.
It only took a few minutes in the cold to solidify the salves.
I’m very happy with them! Except recently I’ve been finding that the smell of coconut oil is a bit too strong for me. It completely overpowered the lavender, when I was hoping that the lavender would be the dominant smell. I see now why recipes call for lavender essential oil– the smell would be much stronger then.
Almond oil salve
Today I tried using almond oil, because I am obsessed with the smell of almonds and prefer it for my face because it feels lighter. I made a much smaller batch and kept a bit as just infused oil (in case I don’t like the salve for my face, though I’ve used Badger Balm salves on my face and like them just fine).
This time I used more calendula and less lavender, and definitely more herbs relative to oil, because the batch was so small. It took just a few shavings of wax to get a solid but very soft and spreadable consistency.
I’m very happy with the results!
This one doesn’t smell very strongly of almond to me. The herbs are definitely the dominant smell. I used just a little bit of lavender but it was enough to get a light but noticeable scent. Calendula smells interesting- I can’t really describe it. It’s not bad, but it’s not a sweet perfume-y smell. I guess it just smells like plant.
I’m not an expert, but let me know if you have any questions. Or if you are an expert, I would love your tips! I will definitely share future adventures and new recipes as I try them.
(And, common sense, but I should probably say: be careful of any allergies you have, and test ingredients on your wrist if you’re worried about possible reactions.)