Sharing a different kind of recipe today, and for something that isn’t food! Instead, I’m bringing you a recipe I’ve been making all summer for herbal salves. Salves are the most approachable project for anyone interested in herbalism or natural beauty products, but if you’re not familiar with them they can sound a little complex. Don’t let the medical sounding name put you off, they’re easy as pie. Salves are semisolid ointments infused with traditional herbs that heal skin ailments from cuts to eczema. While many different method to make salves exist, I thought I’d share my favourite method and recipe with you in preparation for the upcoming dry season.
Calendula infused salves are my favourite to make, and probably the most useful. Calendula is an ubiquitous plant that you’ll find in everything from garden beds to tea shops, to a topping on trendy smoothie bowls or in bath products, but it is a potent herb full of many medicinal properties. It’s anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-fungal and basically all around super healing. It’s often applied to small cuts, burns, and bug bites, but come autumn and winter, I love using it on my dry skin, elbows, and cracked hands or feet. This slave is gentle, hydrating, and simple to make. Plus, it makes for a perfect gift.
Making a salve is a two step process where you begin by first making an infused oil then setting it with either a beeswax or a carnauba wax. While beeswax adds to the healing properties of the slave, it is not vegan, so if a plant-based product is important to you use a carnauba wax, derived from palms. Besides using calendula flowers there are a variety of other herbs you can infuse oil with (see below). Just make sure that both the herbs you are using and the wax comes from a reputable source and is organic or pesticide free. As for the olive oil, a run of the mill store-brand should work just fine.
HERBS FOR SALVES
Any of these herbs can be used to make infused oils and turned into salves. Just follow the steps below.
- Arnica flowers – Great for swelling, bruises, as well as aches and sprains.
- Lavender – The perfect herb to make a relaxing and antibacterial salve. Great to use before bed.
- Chamomile – Like the tea, adding chamomile makes for a calming salve.
- Comfrey – A great plant to help with pain and inflammation, I’ve also used it for eczema.
- Lemon Balm – Cooling and calming on skin irritations. Good for bug bites.
- Peppermint – A great oil to massage into sore muscles and feet.
- St. John’s Wort – A deep penetrating oil for sore limbs.
I get my calendula flowers at a local bulk store, but you can also buy them online, or dry your own if you happen to grow them.
1 Cup Olive Oil
1/2 Cup packed dried Calendula Petals (or dried flower heads)
- Combine the calendula flowers and oil and follow either method below to infuse the oil.
This method of making infused oil is often the preferred method, but it’s not the only way. To make the solar version, cover the herbs with the oil and place in a sterilized glass jar (crush the flowers if they’re whole). Cover the jar with a brown bag or something to keep out the sunlight. Let this mixture sit in a warm sunny spot for 2-3 weeks (shaking daily) or until the oil takes on the colour and smell of the herbs.
This method is faster, and one I use most often. Begin by setting up a double boiler, but make sure that the water does not touch the bottom of the top bowl. In the bowl combine the oil and herbs. If you want to do this super-fast, cover the bowl with a lid and allow the water to come to a simmer on leave on low heat for 3-4 hours (check the water level often so that the pot doesn’t burn, and to keep an eye on the herbs to make sure they don’t get deep fried).
When the oil takes on the scent and colour of the herb it’s done. I prefer a lazy version of this method where I bring the water to a low simmer for 10 minutes then turn it off and let the herbs steep. I do this off and on again just about each time I enter the kitchen over a two day period – say 8-12 times total.
2.Once the herbs are infused in the oil, drain the mixture through cheesecloth, squeezing the herbs to get all the goodness out. Once the herbs have extracted all the oil, compost the herbs and transfer the oil to a dark glass jar or use right away in the salve.
1 Cup Calendula Oil (see above)
1 Ounce (28 g) Beeswax, or Carnauba wax to be vegan (grated on a box grater if it’s in a large chunk)
Optional – Lavender or Chamomile Essential oils, and a few extra dried calendula blossoms.
- Combine both ingredients in a double boiler. Stir over low heat until the oil is melted. If desired add a few drops of essential oil. Carefully pour the hot oil and wax mixture into clean and dry containers (make sure they are tempered and will not shatter or melt). I like metal tins, but you can reuse old jam jars, tea tins, etc.
- Let the mixture partially set before topping with some petals (this is purely aesthetic) or leave plain. Once the wax is set the salve is ready to use.