Crafting herbal salves is an easy and rewarding way to use the herbs that are already growing in your gardens. You can make health, wellness and beauty products for yourself, your family and your community.
Identify & Gather
The first step to crafting an herbal salve is to identify and gather the ingredients. Depending upon your recipe you may be gathering leaves, bark, roots or flowers. Properly identifying plants gathered from the wild is very important. But herbs from your garden or even your spice rack are all useful for crafting topical salves.
You will also need beeswax and oil to make your salve. Beeswax is available online or at your local co-op or health food store, but I recommend seeking out your local beekeeper and asking to purchase beeswax directly from them.
Once you have gathered your ingredients, fill a jar or other container with your chosen herbs. Use dried herbs whenever possible, as this will extend the shelf life of your final product.
Next, cover the herbs with the oil of your choice, until the plant material is completely submerged. This is important to avoid any spoilage that might occur otherwise. Using a chopstick (or similar item), poke and gently stir the herbs to release any air that may have been trapped under the oil.
Tightly cap the container and label the jar with the types of herbs and oil being used as well as the date. Place the jar into a cool, dark location such as a cupboard or pantry and let infuse anywhere from four to six weeks.
Alternatively, herbal oils can be infused utilizing a crockpot or slow cooker. Simply fill the crockpot with your ingredients, cover and set on the lowest temperature. Allow the herbs to infuse for three to five days.
Make the Salve
Once your oils are infused, strain out the plant material using a funnel, screen, coffee filter or similar tool. Be sure to squeeze all of the oil out of the herbs to avoid wasting any! Now your herbal oil is ready.
It’s time to make the salve.
Simply add the oil and a proper amount of beeswax into a double boiler and place on the stove to warm up. A good starting ratio is 1 1/4 ounce of beeswax by weight for every 16 ounces of oil by volume.
Feel free to adjust this formula to fit your preference. More wax will lead to a stiffer product while less wax will make softer herbal salves.
Once the beeswax has completely melted into the oil, stir the mixture. Ensure it is well blended, then carefully pour the warm oil into your container.
Any container will work: specialty tins from a supplier, reused baby food jars, or whatever else you have available. Try to avoid using soft plastic, since the oil you’ll pour into the container will be hot.
As the oil mixture cools, it will solidify. Once the herbal salve is ready, be sure to label the container!
To learn more about the many benefits of working with herbs, including how to craft herbal products such as salves, lotions, balms and more, check out my book The Artisan Herbalist: Making Teas, Tinctures and Oils at Home.