Salves are soothing medicine for the skin in a convenient form. Nourishing oils thickened with waxes or butters and enhanced with the goodness of herbs and essential oils, salves can sooth irritated skin, bring healing to minor injuries and bring soothing warmth to aches and pains and congestion. All salves are based on the same basic recipe – A carrier oil and a thickener combine to form a semi-solid paste that melts into the skin.
First, you need an oil. You can choose from a variety of oils. The choice of oils might depend on the ultimate purpose of the salve. If you want a salve that’s strongly scented, you might want to avoid an oil that has a scent of its own that might conflict with the essential oils and herbs you wish to use. Or you may choose an oil that will enhance the properties of the herbs you are using in your salve, perhaps an anti-fungal or anti-inflammatory oil. You may need to take allergies into account, avoiding oils made from nuts, for example, or you may be restricted by what you have available to you. Most oils can be suitably turned into salves. You could even use lard, and it won’t need much, if any, thickening.
You can make a salve without adding any herbs or essential oils to it and get a smooth, spreadable oil that soothes the skin. However, most people add herbs and/or essential oils to salves. Herbs should be infused into the oil before making the salve and essential oils should be added right at the very end or they might just evaporate before you’re finished. An infused oil can be used without a thickener, but thickening your oil makes it less messy and more convenient to use and more portable.
The final ingredient is the thickener. Again you have several options. You can use a wax, like beeswax or carnauba wax or you can use a butter like cocoa butter or shae butter. The same considerations can be taken into account here as with your choice of carrier oils, including fragrance, cost and availability, allergies and the specific properties of your oils.
On to the recipe
You will need –
4 parts oil
1 part butter OR 1/2 part wax
Depending on the oil and wax or butter you are using, you may need to adjust these quantities, but don’t worry, if your salve turns out too thick or too oily, you can always just re-melt it and make your adjustments as needed.
Step 1 – Melt your butter or wax. Use a double boiler or put about 2 -3 inches of water in your crock pot (electric cauldron) and place a canning jar inside. To speed things up and to make it easier to measure, you can chop your butter or wax into small pieces or use a cheese grater to shred it or you can buy them in “pastilles” which are already quite small, usually for a modest price increase.
Step 2- Add your melted butter or wax to your oil. Stir it with a spoon. You can check the thickness of your salve by placing the spoon in the freezer for a few minutes, but really, I find you don’t really know till the next day.
Step 3- Add your essential oils.
Step 4 – Pour the salve into labeled jars, let sit covered but not sealed overnight in a cool place. You can also pour a thick version of your salve into a lip balm or underarm deodorant mold to create a balm that you can carry in your bag and rub directly onto your body where needed for extra convenience.
If your salve is not right
Sometimes we look at the salve we mixed up in the warm kitchen and find that it’s more like a candle on a cold morning or the salve we mixed up in the air conditioning is more like a massage oil out in the summer heat. No worries. You can fix it.
Place your jar, uncovered, in the top of a double boiler or in the electric cauldron (crockpot) with some water and heat until it melts. Now pour it out of the jar, clean the jar and set it aside. Add more oil or melted wax/butter as needed and stir. You’ll probably need to freshen up your essential oils. Return the salve to the jar and carry on.