Make Your Own Pain-Relieving Herbal Salve

Whether you're at home or on the go, this simple herbal salve will bring topical relief with just three ingredients—lavender, white willow bark and cayenne pepper!

by Bevin Cohen
PHOTO: Heather Cohen

Topical salves are a great way to harness the healing power of herbs. They can be made with limited equipment, using just a few ingredients. And you can easily toss an herbal salve into your purse or backpack to take on the road for whenever you need relief.

This particular salve is perfect to ease tired and sore muscles and to relieve the pain caused by inflammation, stiff joints and arthritis. 

In our recipe, we’ll be using lavender flowers, white willow bark and cayenne peppers. It’s recommended to use dried herbs when creating a salve. The moisture in fresh plant material will encourage mold growth and spoilage of the final product.

We’ll infuse our herbs in oil, and we all know that oil and water don’t mix!

An Herbal Powerhouse

Lavender flowers may be most well-known for their calming effect. But they also offer analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. That’s why we’ll make them the main ingredient in our muscle and joint pain salve.

White willow bark contains a compound known as salicin. Salicin is similar to what is used to make aspirin and considered a powerful inflammatory.

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The spice from cayenne peppers derives from the chemical capsaicin. Capsaicin is widely recognized as a pain reliever. 

Together, these three herbs will make a potent and useful salve that you can apply whenever needed to bring relief from a wide variety of aches and pains. 

Read more: Make your own DIY herbal lip balm with this recipe!


The first step in making a salve is to create an herb-infused oil. This is a as simple as placing the herbs into a jar and covering them with the oil of your choice. Then just cap off the jar, label it and place it away in a cupboard or other cool, dark location to steep for four to six weeks. 

During this time, the fat-soluble chemical constituents of the herbs will be extracted into the oil. You’ll often notice that the oil will pick up the colors and scent of the plants you are using. This means your extraction is working!

Once your herb infused oil is ready, you’ll strain out the plant material using a cheesecloth, coffee filter or fine mesh screen. Put the infused oil into the top of your double boiler and add your beeswax. 

If you don’t own a double boiler, use a stainless steel bowl placed over a pot of boiling water. But be very careful, as the bowl will get quite hot!

herbal salve pain relief lavender white willow bark cayenne pepper
Heather Cohen

Turn the heat to medium and gently stir the oil to ensure the beeswax blends well as it melts. Once the beeswax is completely melted, turn off the heat. Then gently pour the oil into your container.

As it cools, the beeswax will solidify. Your handcrafted herbal salve is ready!

This article appeared in Healing Herbs, a 2021 specialty publication produced by the editors and writers of Hobby Farms magazine. Healing Herbs includes herb profiles, projects such as this one, directions for foraging herbs and more. You can purchase this volume, Hobby Farms back issues as well as special editions such asBest of Hobby Farms and Urban Farm by following this link.

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