Making Healing Herbal Salves With Infused Oils

One of the most adaptable tools in an artisan herbalist’s toolkit is herb-infused oil. Its broad range of uses and the variety of products that can be made from it make this type of extraction an invaluable component of any apothecary.

Herbalists can use their infused oils to produce salves, balms, lotions, or even apply them directly as a pure oil for both topical and culinary purposes. Regardless of the chosen method, they will appreciate the simplicity of creating these items and the potent, beneficial properties of the final products.

Gathering the ingredients

Creating herbal-infused oils is a straightforward yet highly rewarding activity. Similar to other types of extractions, it begins with selecting the right ingredients and assembling the necessary equipment. Beyond the herbs and oils, a container is essential, with a glass jar, preferably with a screw-on lid, being highly recommended. Glass is much better than plastic or metal for long-term storage of medicinal oils. Clear glass works well since the oil will be kept in a cool, dark place during the extraction process.

Choosing the right oil

When crafting herbal oils, the focus of most recipes typically centers on the herbs to be used, their medicinal benefits, and the desired purpose of the final products. While these are all obvious and important considerations, many herbalists fall short by not taking more time to understand and properly select the other main ingredient: the oil.

Just as the herbalist selects particular herbs based on their active chemical constituents, the oils used (also derived from plants) have their own characteristics and chemical constituents. This suggests that different oils have different uses, benefits, and applications. Taking the time to choose the proper oil—one that complements and enhances the herbs being used in the formula—will increase the product’s potency as well as the herbalist’s success.

The oils most commonly used by at-home herbalists are olive, coconut, grapeseed, and sunflower. All of these are fine choices; which to use will depend on what you’re trying to accomplish and your preferences. If carbon footprint is a concern, consider purchasing oils that aren’t imported from far away.

Sometimes, it’s possible to source oils that have been pressed locally. You can even try pressing your own! Small, home-scale oil presses are available for purchase and may be a viable option for herbalists interested in a more do-it-yourself approach to their craft.

When searching for quality oil to purchase, look for oils that are labeled as cold-pressed or expeller-pressed. You don’t want oils that are produced using heat (which degrades the nutritional value of the oil) or those that are extracted by the use of chemicals.

Chemically extracted oils are refined oils; they have very little flavor, scent, or color but also lack any significant nutritional value. While they may serve a purpose for some, these are not the high-quality oils that should be chosen for an herbalist’s work. Chemically extracted and purified oils should be avoided, especially when the herbalist is crafting topical, oil-based wellness products.

Infusing herbs

infusing herbs

Once you have selected the appropriate herbs, oil, and vessel, it’s time to begin the extraction process. Here is a comprehensive guide to ensure the best results:

Preparing Your Materials

Select Your Herbs: Choose herbs that suit your intended purpose, considering their medicinal properties and compatibility with your chosen oil.

Choose the Right Oil: Pick an oil that complements the herbs. Common options include olive, coconut, grapeseed, and sunflower oil.

Choose a Vessel: A glass jar with a screw-on lid is ideal for this process. Ensure the jar is clean and dry.

The Extraction Process

1. Packing the Herbs

Step 1: Place the herbs in the glass jar. You can use fresh or dried herbs, but ensure they are free from moisture to prevent mold growth.

Step 2: Fill the jar loosely with the herbs, leaving enough space for the oil to circulate around the plant material.

2. Adding the Oil

Step 1: Pour your chosen oil over the herbs, ensuring they are completely submerged. The oil level should be about 1 to 2 inches above the herbs.

Step 2: Use a small tool, such as a dowel, skewer, or pencil, to gently poke through the submerged herbs. This helps release any trapped air bubbles, ensuring the plant material is fully immersed.

3. Releasing Air Bubbles

Step 1: Carefully stir and poke the mixture a few more times until no more air bubbles rise to the surface. This step is crucial as trapped air can cause the herbs to spoil.

4. Sealing and Labeling

Step 1: Once the herbs are fully submerged and there are no more air bubbles, place the lid on the jar and secure it tightly.

Step 2: Label the jar with the date of preparation and the contents (type of herbs and oil used). This is important for tracking the extraction process and shelf life.

Storing and Infusing

Step 1: Store the jar in a cool, dark place to prevent the oil from going rancid and to protect the herbal constituents.

Step 2: Allow the mixture to infuse for 4 to 6 weeks. Shake the jar gently every few days to ensure even extraction.

Straining and Using the Infused Oil

Step 1: After the infusion period, strain the oil through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth into a clean, dry jar. Squeeze out as much oil as possible from the plant material.

Step 2: Store the strained oil in a dark glass bottle to protect it from light and extend its shelf life.

Tips for Optimal Results

Quality Control: Ensure all your materials (herbs, oil, and jars) are of high quality and clean.

Avoid Contamination: Keep your hands and tools clean to avoid introducing bacteria into the mixture.

Monitor the Process: Regularly check for signs of spoilage, such as mold or off smells. Discard any batches that show signs of contamination.

By following these detailed steps, you can create high-quality herb-infused oils that capture the full benefits of the herbs and oil, ensuring a potent and effective final product.

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Crafting a Salve

The herbal salve is possibly the most well-known wellness product crafted from infused oil, and it can be used for a wide range of ailments and conditions. While the formula can and should be adjusted by the artisan herbalist to their preference, the basic ratio is 1.25 parts beeswax by weight to 16 parts oil by volume.

Basic Salve Recipe

Ingredients:

  • Beeswax: 1.25 ounces (by weight)
  • Infused Oil: 16 ounces (by volume)

Yield:

  • Approximately 18 ounces (by volume) of final product.

Equipment:

  • Double boiler or a stainless-steel bowl and a pot
  • Stirring utensil
  • Containers for the salve
  • Plate (for consistency testing)
  • Freezer
  • Labels

Steps to Make the Salve:

1. Melting the Beeswax

Prepare Your Double Boiler: Fill the bottom part of your double boiler with water and bring it to a gentle boil. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a stainless-steel bowl over a pot of boiling water. Remember, this bowl will become very hot, so handle with caution to avoid injury.

Combine Ingredients: Add the 1.25 ounces of beeswax and 16 ounces of infused oil into the top part of the double boiler or the stainless-steel bowl.

Melt and Blend: Gently stir the mixture until the beeswax is fully melted and blended into the oil. Ensure the mixture is well-combined.

2. Testing the Consistency

Test the Salve: Before pouring the mixture into containers, test its consistency. Place a small amount of the blended oil on a plate and put it in the freezer for a few minutes. This is similar to testing jam or jelly.

Adjust if Necessary: Check the cooled mixture. If it’s too soft, add a bit more beeswax to the main mixture. If it’s too hard, add more oil. Repeat the testing process until the desired consistency is achieved.

3. Pouring the Salve

Prepare Containers: Choose containers based on your needs. Avoid soft plastic as it can melt when in contact with hot oil. Glass or metal containers are ideal.

Pour the Mixture: Carefully pour the hot oil and beeswax mixture into the prepared containers. Be cautious as the oil will be very hot.

Solidify: Allow the mixture to cool and solidify completely. This will form the final salve consistency.

4. Labeling

Label the Containers: Clearly label each container with the contents and date of creation. This helps with identification and tracking the product’s shelf life.

Follow these steps and you will create a freshly handcrafted herbal salve, tailored to your preferences and needs, using the infused oil you prepared. Enjoy the satisfaction of making a versatile and effective wellness product that can be used for a variety of purposes.

Alternatives to Beeswax

alternatives to beeswax

Some herbalists may decide—for themselves, for family, or for their clients—not to use beeswax in their formulations. This can be due to a vegan lifestyle or for various other reasons. Although beeswax is mentioned a number of times in various recipes, there are certainly alternatives to this ingredient.

Carnauba Wax

Origin: Carnauba wax is a vegetable wax obtained from the leaves of the Brazilian palm tree, Copernica cerifera.

Properties: It is the hardest natural wax available and is used widely in various commercial cosmetic and pharmaceutical applications.

Usage: Carnauba wax can be substituted for beeswax in most recipes, though adjustments might be necessary due to its harder consistency.

Emulsifying Waxes

Types: These products are made from either vegetable or petroleum-based waxes.

Processing: They are treated with detergents to create a white, waxy solid.

Applications: Emulsifying waxes are used extensively in commercial lotions, balms, and other blends due to their ability to help mix oil and water.

Considerations for Ingredient Selection

Personal Preference: It’s up to the individual to choose which ingredients they prefer to use in their products.

Skin Absorption: Remember that everything applied to the skin is absorbed directly into the body.

Ethical Choices: It’s wise for the artisan herbalist to always choose the most responsibly harvested, ethical, and safe ingredients for use in their formulas.

Using Carnauba Wax in Your Recipes

When substituting carnauba wax for beeswax, it’s important to note that carnauba wax is harder and has a higher melting point. This means you may need to adjust the amount used or combine it with other oils or butters to achieve the desired consistency. Start with a small batch to test and refine your formula.

Using Emulsifying Waxes

Emulsifying waxes can be a great alternative if you’re looking to create a product that incorporates both oil and water, like lotions. These waxes help to create a stable blend that won’t separate over time. However, be mindful of the source of your emulsifying wax and opt for vegetable-based options when possible to ensure a more natural and skin-friendly product.

My 2 cents

While there are many alternatives to beeswax, the key is to experiment and find what works best for you and your needs. Always prioritize high-quality, ethically sourced ingredients to create safe and effective herbal products. By doing so, you ensure that your formulations are not only beneficial but also aligned with your values and those of your clients.

A Few Healing Salves You Should Give a Try

lbor1234Sore Muscle Salve

This basic recipe is a perfect blend of herbs for the topical treatment of sore and tired muscles.

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Combine and Infuse: Mix equal parts of cayenne peppers and wintergreen leaves. Infuse this mixture in your oil of choice for 4 to 6 weeks.
  2. Process: Follow the instructions described in the “Crafting a Salve” section.
  3. Application: Use topically as needed for sore muscles.

Arthritis Relief Salve

This herbal blend brings relief from inflammation, joint pain, and arthritis.

Ingredients:

  • 2 parts nettles
  • 1 part cayenne
  • 1 part witch hazel
  • 1 part turmeric

Instructions:

  1. Combine and Infuse: Mix the ingredients and infuse them in your oil of choice for 4 to 6 weeks.
  2. Process: Follow the steps described in the “Crafting a Salve” section.
  3. Application: Apply topically as needed to relieve arthritis and joint pain.

Bug Bites and Bruises Salve

This is a topical ointment for healing minor abrasions, skin irritations, and insect bites.

Ingredients:

  • 1 part comfrey
  • 1 part yarrow
  • 1 part chickweed
  • 1 part plantain

Instructions:

  1. Combine and Infuse: Mix the ingredients and infuse them in your oil of choice for 4 to 6 weeks.
  2. Process: Follow the instructions described in the basic salve recipe.
  3. Application: Use topically as needed for minor cuts, abrasions, and insect bites.

Detailed Steps for Crafting a Salve

1. Infusing the Oil

Select and Prepare Herbs: Ensure your herbs are clean and dry before combining them.

Infuse the Oil: Place the herb mixture in a jar and cover it with your chosen oil, ensuring the herbs are completely submerged. Let the mixture infuse for 4 to 6 weeks, shaking gently every few days.

2. Preparing the Salve

Melt the Beeswax: Using a double boiler or a stainless-steel bowl over a pot of boiling water, melt the required amount of beeswax into the infused oil, stirring gently.

Test the Consistency: Place a small amount of the blended oil on a plate and put it in the freezer to cool. Adjust the amount of beeswax or oil if needed to achieve the desired consistency.

Pour the Mixture: Carefully pour the hot mixture into containers. Use glass or metal containers to avoid any reactions with the hot oil.

Cool and Solidify: Allow the mixture to cool and solidify completely.

Label the Containers: Clearly label each container with the contents and date of creation for easy identification.

Additional Tips

  • Quality Ingredients: Always use high-quality, organic herbs and oils to ensure the effectiveness and safety of your salves.
  • Storage: Store your salves in a cool, dark place to prolong their shelf life.
  • Testing: Test the salve on a small patch of skin before widespread use to check for any allergic reactions.

Useful resources to check out:

10 Things Cowboys Carried With Them In The Wild West To Survive

A few survival food recipes everyone needs to learn

The vital self-sufficiency lessons our great grand-fathers left us

How to become your own doctor when SHTF

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