Lesson 2: Healing Salve
by Lulu Sliker
Last publication I wrote of the Magic of making herbal oils and tinctures from your own backyard. Now that those oils have had a bit of time to set up I am ready to give you the run down on how to transform your infused oils into awesome healing salves.
Now that you have lovely jars of herbal infused oils sitting in your cupboard, what are you going to do with them? Many of the oils are wonderful for massage and soaking into dry itchy skin. Did you know that olive oil alone is great for your skin? Did you know that your skin is the biggest organ…not sure if that is the proper word for it…of you body? Did you know that olive oil nourishes you through your skin?
Imagine what chemical based lotions and ointments must do to your body. Your skin absorbs everything you rub into it so why not make your own oils from a nourishing base to feed it.
Oils made from healing medicinal plants, infused slowly are the perfect foundation for jumping into the art of salve making. My favorite skin healers grow abundantly here on our land. Wild Plantain and Chickweed, oh, I do love you so, and to find my friends Comfrey, Calendula to the garden we go. These are my first go to choices for salve making but there are so many wonderful herbs to play with that I encourage you to find the ones you love. Get to know them and go for it! It is really fun.
Things you will need are your herbal infused oil, a large pyrex measuring cup, a chopstick, beeswax, a sauce pan and clean small jars.
After you have made your jar of herbal infused oil, you must wait for 4 to 6 weeks for the oil to infuse with the medicine of the plant. Mark your calendar so you can easily check on the ready date.
Once the ready date has come the next step to transforming your oil it into a salve is decanting. That means removing the plant matter from the oil. To do this take you handy dandy 4 cup pyrex measuring cup and put a strainer over it. These can be easily found with the straining holes being the size of screen you would put over a window or cheese cloth if you prefer. Open the jar and slowly pour the oil and the plant matter into the strainer and let the oil drip or run down into the measuring cup. Once the oil is mostly drained you may squeeze the plant matter in order to get all the good oils into you cup as you can. Compost the herbs and transfer your oil to a clean jar,label it and if you are like me, rub all the oil that is sticking to the measuring cup into you skin.
Now you have a lovely herbal infused oil that is almost ready. You may notice that the oil took on some of the color of the plant. Some are more golden some more green. If you remember the beginning of learning how to make the oil you probably started with fresh green herbs. Green plants hold water. During the process of infusing some of the water in the plants was pulled out in into the oil. Water is heavier than oil. Any of the water that came out into the oil will sink to the bottom of the jar. It is extremely important to let your newly decanted oil to sit over night so this may occur. Water in salve will cause mold eventually. In the morning you will see a few water bubbles in the bottom of the jar. It is really pretty cool.
Now what you will need to do is gather up your supplies.
Put the sauce pan on the stove with a couple of inches of water in it on low heat Place your empty measuring cup in the pot. You may now carefully pour your oil in the cup. As you are pouring the oil into the cup keep an eye on the water bubbles at the bottom of the jar and stop pouring just before the water can spill into the measuring cup. I usually make about 6 to 10 ounces at a time. It really usually depends upon how many jars I have to fill. You do not have to use all your oil at once. You can put a lid on any left over and store it for later use. Keep in mind you will be adding beeswax to the cup as well, so do not fill it too high. Your salve can be a single herbal infused oils or you can mix them. I love Calendula by itself. My Bear Stuff All Purpose Salve has a mix of 2 ounces Chickweed, 2 ounces Plantain and 2 ounces Comfrey usually. It is up to you.
OK…where were we. Your oil is in your pyrex measuring cup which is slowly warming on the stove top in the pan of water. The water is important as it keeps the oil from heating too fast and keeps you cup safe too. You do not need too much water. Just enough to keep a nice gentle simmer or boil. A couple of inches is plenty.
As your oil heats up get out the beeswax and use a comfortable knife to shave off nice thin slivers. You can use a cheese grater if you wish. I find the knife works better and it is easier to remove the wax off the blade than the grater.
Slowly add the shaved wax to the oil a little at a time. Generally it is about a table spoon of wax to each ounce of oil.
I now get out my trusty chop stick and kind of swirl the wax around in the oil. I love watching it and feel that I am giving some kindness and compassion to the healing medicine brew I am concocting. I often find myself remembering the green plant and the beautiful sunny day in which it was harvested as I stir. What a wonderful gift to the human race that they would give of their life and energy so that we will be well. R E S P E C T find out what it means to me…yes you can sing to it too.
The wax will slowly melt down. I will stress that adding, oh, say a third of the wax at a time is a good idea because you will be able check to see what the finished consistency will be like and not get it too hard. Soft salve soothes wounded flesh better than hard chunky salve.
While the wax is melting and between stirring you can get your jars ready by lining them up near the stove top. I put them on paper towels most times because I sometimes get a little messy pouring the warm oil into the jars and again when done you can rub the salve infused paper towels all over your body.
Once your first batch of wax is melted dip the chop stick into it and let a few drops fall onto a cool part of the stove or counter top. Give it about 30 seconds to harden and test it’s consistency with your finger. Too soft, add more wax, let it melt and try again until you have added enough to make it “just right”. Again, as baby bear would love. You can always add more oil if you do put in too much wax.
Now you are ready to fill your jars. I get a dish towel and carefully pick the measuring cup up out of the pot. The handle will be hot so hold it with the towel. Once I lift it out I use the dangling part of the towel to dry off the sides of the cup so no water will drip into my salve as I pour it.
At this point it is still in a liquid form and you can carefully pour it into your jars. In a few minutes you will see the bottom of the jars begin to change color as the oil and wax cools and it begins to set up. Once all your liquid salve has been poured into the jars leave the lids off while it cools. If you put them on too soon condensation will occur on the lids. Again, there will be left over salve sticking to the sides of the measuring cup and you know what I do with that…yep…rub it all into my skin and hand the cup to my roommate or put some on the dog! The oil and salve is even good for rubbing into rattle and drum beater handles or any such wooden type of treasure you have laying around.
An hour or so later you have cooled down jars, full of yummy, healing, magical homemade goodness. Wow! Put on the lids and if ya want to get fancy make some nice labels for the jars.
There is such a great sense of satisfaction when the job is done. I got a call from my daughter last week requesting another batch of Baby Bottom Healing Salve for my Granddaughter. She says nothing works better.
Have fun yall. There is always magic all around us and healing to be found in your own backyard!
Photos courtesy of Sara Nagy.