No home-based herbal medicine cabinet is complete without an herbal salve to help the range of maladies from scratches, cuts and scrapes to insect bites, and even sore muscles.
At its most basic an herbal salve is an herb-infused a carrier oil with beeswax to firm and protect the skin and selected essential oils depending on the type of healing needed and to help preserve the salve.
While herbal salves are available commercially, making them yourself ensures the highest quality ingredients and no unwanted chemicals. What you put on your skin matters. Cheap commercial salves contain toxic chemical residues, rancid fats, and preservatives but even the best natural products often have to include unwanted products used as preservatives or for other reasons. Use these herbal salve recipes and you can avoid them.
These homemade herbal salve recipes allow you to have complete control over the type and quality of the herbs used, you can personalize the salve to the needs of a sensitive baby or an active teenager, depending on the herbs and essential oils you choose.
Plus it is fun! Summer in Alaska is about getting out and enjoying the wild places. On your next hike, responsibly pick some wild comfrey to help knit bones or some devil’s club aka Alaska ginseng to soothe rashes, burns or dry skin. Fireweed flowers and leaves make an excellent stomach soothing tea. Carry a copy of Janice Schofield Eaton’s Guide to Alaska’s Edible Harvest and experiment.
Coconut Oil – As a carrier oil, coconut oil acts both as the vehicle for transferring the healing properties of the herbs as well as a form of nourishment to the skin in its own right. The anti-bacterial and antioxidant properties of coconut oil also help to naturally preserve the salve.
Olive Oil – Easy to use, olive oil will need more beeswax as it remains liquid at room temperature.
Beeswax – Good quality beeswax turns the infused herbal oil into a smooth, easy-to-apply salve. More importantly, beeswax acts as a moisture barrier for the skin, sealing in the rich herbal oil and keeping out unwanted moisture or debris. Beeswax is generally sold in blocks, which can be grated when used, or pastilles, which are small pearls of beeswax ready for melting.
Infuse carrier oils with single or multiple herbs, depending on your needs. Make a variety of herbal-infused oils to keep on hand so that you can easily craft your specific salve whenever you need it!
Arnica flowers – Can help treat physical trauma, bruises, strains, and occasional muscle pain. Use immediately after strenuous exertion or injury to prevent, relieve, and reduce swelling, bruises and pain.
Burdock root – Burdock has been used topically for centuries to address skin rashes and acne. It is also used to purify toxics from the blood stemming from a congested liver. Caution: not for use by pregnant or lactating women.
Calendula Flowers – Known as one of the best soothers of the skin, calendula has a place in every salve. The flowers of the calendula plant infuse the oil with their healing properties while the yellow flowers imbue the herbal oil with a delicate color. With all-around healing properties useful for a wide variety of skin irritations and conditions including wounds, insect bites, rashes, scrapes, abrasions, cuts, calendula is suitable for sensitive skin and babies.
Chamomile flowers – Soothe minor abrasions, cuts, scrapes, and wounds.
Comfrey leaves and/or root – One of the must-haves for every herbal cabinet and garden, comfrey is one of the most reliable herbs to have in your arsenal. Comfrey has also been known as knitbone for its muscle, cartilage, and bone tissue-mending properties. Used on sprains, strains, and breaks, it also aids in decreasing both swelling and pain.
Cayenne Pepper – Warming, add to herbal salves being made for occasional sore muscles or to alleviate occasional pain, and itching.
Chickweed – This tangy, edible garden weed is also soothing and helps with skin conditions, minor burns, and other skin irritations.
Devil’s Club – This spiky-showy plant has been nicknamed Alaskan ginseng. Made into a healing salve devil’s club is wonderful treatment for eczema, burns, scratches, and dry skin and is a topical pain reliever. It is also legendary for warding off danger and evil spirits when hung over doorways—or maybe it’s just pretty. Caution: do not ingest if pregnant or nursing.
Echinacea herb and/or root – Beneficial for minor sores, wounds, insect bites, and stings.
Ginger root: Warming, use for occasional sore muscles.
Goldenseal leaf and/or root – Useful for treating minor wounds and skin conditions.
Lavender flowers – Soothing, calming, relieves occasional pain, has healing properties beneficial for minor wounds and numerous skin conditions. Also great in relaxing baths and pretty when added to soaps.
Myrrh Gum – Grind to a powder and add to herbal salves for cuts, scrapes, scratches, and abrasions. Myrrh Gum infused oil is also great for irritated, inflamed gums and gingivitis and is a wonderful remedy to sooth the gums of teething babies.
Nettle leaf – Another wild and effective herb that soothes many skin conditions.
Plantain leaf – Helps speed the recovery process, relieves and soothes insect bites and stings, poison ivy, itching, minor sores, bruises, blisters, and damaged skin.
St John’s Wort – Although recently popularized as an aide to calm and soothe the nerves, St. John’s Wort is also helpful for maladies of the skin. This herb has been used for centuries to bring down inflammation and aid cuts, bruises, rashes, and scrapes. Caution: St John’s Wort should not be used with children or if you are pregnant or lactating. St John’s Wort interacts with many drugs and medications. If you are on any prescription drug at all please consult your prescribing doctor or pharmacist for interactions. St John’s Wort tends to elevate blood pressure and renders your skin sensitive to sunlight. Some people experience nausea and other digestive upsets, dizziness, headaches and lack of libido.
Yarrow – A common wildflower known widely for its aid to bleeding wounds, yarrow is also helpful for bruises, rashes, swelling, and sprains.
Thyme – Used for cuts, scrapes, and occasional sore muscles.
Please note that this is only a partial list, many other healing herbs can also be incorporated into salves.
Select your oils based on the purpose for your salve and blend to achieve pleasing aromas. Please note, if you are pregnant or lactating—or have other medical issues—always consult your health practitioner about the appropriateness of essential oils or herbs.
Black Pepper Oil – Black pepper is one of the best oils for muscular aches and pains. It is highly warming and improves circulation while also having direct pain relieving properties. A great addition to salves made to ease stiff joints and sore muscles.
Blue Cypress oil (Callitris intratropica) – Note: other forms of cyprus may irritate the skin. But blue cyprus with its antispasmodic properties and woodsy, pleasant scent of cypress helps to clear out cramps, stress, tension and swelling. It is a great oil to add to your sore muscle mixture and also has been used for centuries in skin and wrinkle products.
Eucalyptus Radiata oil – We often associate the smell of eucalyptus with salves that ease aches and pains of overworked muscles, The reason is eucalyptus oil’s strong analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Ginger Oil – Get relief from aching, spasming muscles with ginger’s warming and analgesic (pain reducing) properties. Soothe painful joints, muscles and symptoms of arthritis.
Lavender Essential Oil – An all-around soothing, calming, and healing oil; lavender is known for its ability to heal and soothe the skin. The oil has a calming effect that helps ease the emotional aspects of cuts and burns—just as needed as tending the physical ones.
Peppermint oil – An energizing oil with a cool, tingling skin sensation, peppermint is wonderful for headaches, sore joints and muscles, digestive issues and nausea, swelling and inflammation, respiratory issues, low energy, anxiety… very versatile. Use with carrier oils infused with arnica, calendula, and comfrey for a wonderful sore muscle or sports massage salve.
Rosemary oil – A fantastic all around oil, rosemary is both antiseptic for healing salves and analgesic to reduce aches, pains and even arthritis when used in muscle salves. There is even some evidence that rosemary applied topically can help reduce cellulite and improve hair growth.
Tea Tree Essential Oil (Melaleuca Alternifolia) – For scratches and cuts, tea tree oil is an excellent antisceptic for wound salves. Tea Tree is both anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. Tea tree oil is considered a “hot” oil in that its potency can burn sensitive skin. For that reason only small amounts are necessary for a broad spectrum salve such as this.
Thyme Oil – Warm and soothe achy joints and muscles that have been over-exercised. Thyme also offers benefits and relief for arthritis and rheumatism. It also lowers blood pressure while also increasing blood circulation.
The first step is to infuse the coconut oil with the herbs; you can choose one of two methods.
Relatively slow: The first is a slow infusion through the power of the sun. Put the herbs and carrier oil into a clear glass jar making sure the oil covers the herbs by at least 1 inch. Place the glass in the sun to infuse for at least two weeks and up to six weeks.
Relatively fast: Gentle, low heat via a crockpot set on warm or a very low double boiler can speed things up. Place herbs and carrier oil in the jar as above, then place in a 100 – 140 degree environment for a few hours or up to a couple of days.
Either infusion method will transfer the properties of the herbs into the oil as indicated by the oil taking on some of the color of the herbs.
Place a strainer lined it with the cheesecloth, muslin, or towel over a bowl. You can use a fine strainer but that will leave some tiny pieces of herbs in your carrier oil whereas the cheesecloth will not. Slowly pour the oil and herb mixture into the lined strainer and allow it to drain. Repeat with any remaining oil and herbs until all herbs and oil have been transferred to lined sieve.
Carefully wring the herbs and cheesecloth over the strainer/bowl until as much of the oil has been removed as possible. Dispose of the dried herb remnants.
You can now label and store your infused oils or use them right away. If you store them, just rewarm them into their liquid state for measuring and use.
In a glass jar set into a pan of boiling water, double boiler style, melt the herb-infused oil if it is not still liquid. Combine 1 ounce (30 mls or approximately 2 Tablespoons) of beeswax for every 8 ounces (1 cup) of herb-infused carrier oil.
Once the beeswax melts into the oil, remove it from the heat, stir in your chosen essential oils 10-30 drops total per one cup of herbal oil.
Quickly pour the liquid salve into waiting containers.
This is a lovely, easily stored and used salve because coconut oil with bees wax added stays solid at room temperature but still warms to the touch and temperature of your hands for easy application.
About Young Living Essential Oils: After personal inspection of many companies—and there are a number of reputable companies—I elected to become a distributor for Young Living as a provider of consistently high quality and even food quality oils. I’d love to have you join my team and explore the world of essential oils together.
For 24% off the cost of Young Living Oils, sign up here: www.youngliving.com/signup and say member #2838107 sent you.
Disclaimer: None of the recipes on these pages are intended to be taken as any medical advice whatsoever. These are fun and aimed at giving safer options than their chemical counterparts.