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For about the last year, since I started my herbal journey, I’ve been wanting to learn how to make my own DIY herbal salve. But, honestly, I’m a cheap ass and when I want something that I’m actually willing to pay for, I want it now. So, ordering ingredients online just hasn’t appealed to me.
I finally decided that for a little homemade Christmas present for the hubby, I would make a DIY herbal salve. He has spots on his cheeks that have been really red and irritated lately. He says he’s “tried everything”, though I don’t know what “everything” is, because we’ve only bought like 2 creams for it and he really doesn’t use anything like that often. Creams often get used once around my house and stuffed in a drawer. I guess he expects miracles from using something once!
My first DIY herbal salve
So, I went to my trusty Pinterest to find some ideas on how to do my own custom herbal salve. I read a few articles to get the general jist of it and decided I could customize it. I went to The Original Boise Co-op and found that they have all sorts of herbs and such in bulk. Talk about exciting! I could buy as much or as little as I needed. And I could get it now, instead of waiting to get it shipped to me.
I happily snagged a few baggies and put some calendula, some lavender, and some beeswax in them. I also bought a nice blue jar to put it in and a nice sized bottle of olive oil. It cost about 11 dollars total but 6 dollars of that was the oil and I had quite a bit left, so it was pretty cheap. I decided, due to lack of time, to do a “quick infusion”. Putting about a cup and a half of olive oil in a small crock pot, I added the calendula and lavender to it. I decided that I wanted more healing ingredients in it as well.
So I pulled out the dried rosehips and plantain that I had foraged in the fall and dried in the dehydrator, and I threw those in there too. Calendula is a must for skin, lavender is soothing and calms redness. Rosehips are very moisturizing and anti-aging, and plantain is wonderful for healing skin irritations.
I let this steep overnight in the crock pot on low setting, turned it off in the morning and let it continue to infuse until I got home from work. Side note: the better, more traditional way to infuse herbs in oil is to do a “slow infusion”, which is simply putting herbs in oil, setting in a sunny location, shaking once a week or so, and let sit for about 4 weeks. At the end of the infusion period, you just strain all of the herbs out and use the oil however you want to.
After work that day, I strained the oil through some cheesecloth and poured it into a glass bowl, giving the cheesecloth a good squeeze to get most of the oil out of the herbs. I put the glass bowl in a pan of water, double-boiler style and heated the oil slowly. Then I added about an ounce of beeswax to the oil and stirred gently until the wax is fully melted. I then poured it into the blue glass jar and left the lid off for the salve to set up. Once set, I put the lid on it and called it good.
Update: I have done a lot of herbal salves since then. I just love how easy and versatile they are! You can put whatever herbs will help the condition you are wanting to treat. So customizable!
Common herbs for DIY salves
Here are some herbs that are great for DIY herbal salves, feel free to try any of these and customize to your liking.
- Calendula (for cuts, scrapes, burns, dry skin, itching, rashes, promotes healthy skin)
- Plantain (great for cuts, burns, itchy skin, and rashes)
- Dandelion (for sore muscles and joints)
- Rose hips (for healthy skin, anti-aging)
- Cottonwood buds (for Balm of Gilead)
- Rose (for scars, stretch marks, eczema, and psoriasis)
- Lemon balm (for cold sores and fungal issues)
- Lavender (soothes redness and burns)
- Chamomile (soothes redness, calms itchy skin)
- Arnica (for sore muscles and joints)
- St. John’s Wort (for bumps and bruises)
- Meadowsweet (good for arthritis and muscle pain)
- Yarrow (good for rashes, bug bites, cuts, scrapes, and burns)
- Goldenseal (antiseptic, antibiotic, good for cuts)
It is very important to use high-quality dried herbs for your DIY herbal salve. Anything fresh has moisture, which increases the potential to mold. If you need a good place to get high-quality herbs, you should definitely check out Starwest Botanicals.
Slow infusion vs. quick infusion
There are two basic methods to infuse oil for salve making. The more traditional, slow infusion; and the quick infusion for those in a time crunch.
The slow infusion takes about 4 weeks to complete, though there isn’t very much labor involved, and no electricity. You simply put the herbs in a jar and cover completely in your desired oil. Put the lid on tightly, and set in a sunny window sill to infuse for 4 weeks. Some traditional herbalists use the cycle of the moon to time their infusions.
The quick infusion only takes 12-18 hours. The labor is still pretty minimal, but you will be using electricity. The trick here is to use gentle, low, slow heat. 100-130 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal. Hotter temperatures can actually kill the beneficial properties of the herbs. You can use a slow cooker or a double boiler. Just make sure that the oil doesn’t burn or singe to the bottom.
How to make a DIY herbal salve
1 1/2 cups infused olive oil
1 ounce of beeswax (more or less, depending on the consistency desired)
Essential oils (if desired)
After infusing the olive oil, allow it to cool. Then strain all herbal material out using a fine mesh strainer. Pour the oil into a small bowl, then into a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler: Put the small bowl in the bottom of an empty small pot. Use a canning lid or something similar to lift the bowl off the bottom of the pot to avoid scorching the oil. Put water into the pan, being careful not to get water into the oil in the small bowl. Add water until the level is just below the top rim of the small bowl.
Heat the pot to a low boil. The oil should have small bubbles forming at the bottom and sides. Add the beeswax, stirring constantly until it is fully melted into the oil. If you are adding essential oils as well, add them now. The consistency will be very thin, but don’t add more beeswax unless you have made some before and you know it’s too runny. Pour into a glass jar and allow to cool and set up fully before putting the lid on.
I gave my first DIY herbal salve to the hubby for Christmas, and surprising enough, he and the whole family are using it! And my daughter’s sister-in-law absolutely loves it for her son’s dry patches, she is now asking me to make more for her. It is so soothing on dry skin and is great for many skin issues. I will definitely be making more salves as I continue on my herbal journey, and hope you will join me. Do you have a favorite DIY herbal salve? Please share in the comments.
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