Numen Resource Guide
photo by Larken Bunce
How to Make Herbal Salves & Balms
By Dana L Woodruff, community herbalist, health educator, and medicine maker. Dandelioness Herbals, Montpelier, VT. © 2010
A salve is a blend of oil, herbs and wax, used externally to soothe and protect the skin. Depending on the herbs you choose, you can make a heal-all salve for cuts, dry skin, burns, stings and scrapes, or you can make salves for specific ailments such as bites, diaper rash and fungus. There are many methods for making herbal salves. Here is one:
Warm 1 cup of herb-infused oil in a double boiler or a pan over very low heat. Add 4 tablespoons of grated or chopped beeswax, stir and let the wax slowly melt into the oil. Dip a spoon into the mixture and blow on it until it's solid, or put in the freezer for a few minutes to cool quicker. If the salve is too hard, add more oil. If it's too soft, add more beeswax. Once you get it to the consistency you're seeking, remove from heat and pour it into dry, clean containers right away. If you wait too long, the salve will begin to harden in the pot. Either just before or just after you pour the salve into containers, you can mix in extra ingredients such as vitamin E oil or essential oils. Each essential oil (EO) is different, and each person is more or less sensitive to them than the next, but in general you can add 1–2 drops of EO per lip balm tube and 2–3 drops EO per ounce. If you choose to add them before pouring, give the liquid a stir so that the EO blends together with the other ingredients. Let the salves harden slowly, allowing them to cool completely before moving them. Be sure to have plenty of extra jars because when the oil and wax warm and blend all together a magic alchemical reaction always seems to happen, somehow making more salve appear.
Most salves keep for about a year. They last longer if kept in a cool, dark place, rather than letting them melt and remelt in a hot car, for example. You can use an array of herbs, oils, waxes and other ingredients. Lip balms are made as above, but usually with more beeswax, for a harder consistency.
Some possibilities for salves and balms
- Heal-all salve with calendula blossoms, plantain leaf, and St. Johnswort flowers.
- Antifungal salve with calendula blossoms and black walnut hull oils, and tea tree essential oil.
- Decongestant salve with essential oils of peppermint, eucalyptus, thyme, rosemary and/or pine.
- Mint chocolate lip balm with cocoa butter and essential oil of peppermint.
- Lip gloss with oil infused with alkanet root, which gives a red color.