DIY: Herbal Salves

Salves are such a simple, effective, and useful medicine! They can easily be slipped into a purse, pocket, or first aid kit.  Although semi-solid at room temperature, salves soften once applied to the skin, making them less messy to apply than oils.  They also make great gifts and are an easy and approachable way to introduce newbies to the medicinal properties of herbs.  Plus, salves can be crafted for a wide variety of topical uses including: arthritis, bruises, cuts, rashes, inflammation, insect bites and stings, sores, sprains, strains, wounds, and other skin irritations and conditions.  The addition of beeswax offers additional benefits including protective, soothing, emollient, nourishing, and healing properties.

DIY Herbal Infused Oil

Part 1: Make Herbal Infused Oil

To make salve, first craft your herbal infused oil(s).  This will take several weeks, but once finished, the rest of the salve making process will only take minutes!   You can also purchase pre-infused herbal oils if needed or if you wish to skip the process of infusing the oil.

Solar Method: When making herbal infused oils, we prefer the solar infused method.  Place dried botanicals into a dry and sterilized glass jar.  Some herbalists coarsely crush or grind herbs first, while others finely chop herbs and leave delicate flowers whole.  Cover with Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or other carrier oil of choice with a stable shelf life) leaving at least 1-2” of oil above the herbs to allow the herbs to swell.  Cap the jar tightly and place in a sunny, warm window.  If desired, the jar can be covered with a bag or box so that the oil is not exposed to direct sunlight.  Shake the jar once or twice per day, or as often as you remember. If the herbs absorb the oil, then add more oil so that they are always submerged.  Allow to infuse for 2-6 weeks, or until the oil takes on the color and aroma of the herb.  Once the oil is ready, strain using cheesecloth, and bottle into dry and sterilized amber bottles for storage.  Make sure to squeeze as much oil as possible from the herbs so that you do not waste any precious oil!  Herbal oils will keep for approximately a year if stored properly in a dark and cool place.  Vitamin E Oil may also be added to prolong the shelf life.

Quick Method: Another way to infuse oils, which is sometimes necessary when herbal oils need to be created in a pinch, is the quick method which utilizes heat.  Much care needs to be taken when creating herbal oils this way because you do not want to deep-fry your herbs!  Place herbs in crock-pot, double boiler, or electric yogurt maker, and cover with Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or other carrier oil of choice) leaving at least an inch or two of oil above the herbs.  Gently heat the herbs over very low heat (preferably between 100 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit) for 1-5 hours until the oil takes on the color and scent of the herb.  Some texts recommend heating the oil 48-72 hours at a controlled temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  Turn off heat and allow to cool. Once that the oil is ready, strain using cheesecloth, and bottle into dry and sterilized amber bottles for storage.  Store in a dark and cool place, Vitamin E Oil may also be added to prolong the shelf life.

Beeswax for turning your infused oil into a salve!

Part 2: Turn that Oil into Salve!

• 8 oz herbal infused oil(s) of your choice.  Choose one or a combination.
• 1 oz Beeswax (use Carnauba Wax for a vegan salve)
• Vitamin E Oil (optional)
• 10-20 drops essential oil of choice (optional). Some essential oils commonly used are Lavender and Tea Tree.
• Glass Jars or Tin Containers

Place Herbal Infused Oils and Beeswax over a double boiler, and gently warm over low heat until the Beeswax melts.  Remove from heat and add the essential oil and Vitamin E Oil (if using).  Quickly pour into prepared tins or glass jars and allow to cool completely.  Salves should be stored in a cool location where they will remain semi-solid and will not continue to re-melt and re-solidify.  If stored correctly, salves will last for 1- 3 years. Yields 8 oz.

Note:  The consistency of salves can easily be adjusted depending on your preferences.  Use less Beeswax for a softer salve and more Beeswax if you’d prefer a firmer salve.  You can test the consistency by placing a few spoons in the freezer before making your salve.  When the Beeswax melts, pour a little salve onto one of the cold spoons and place it back into the freezer for 1-2 minutes.  Once cooled, you can make adjustments by adding more oil (for a softer salve) or more Beeswax (for a firmer salve).

DIY Herbal Salve

Herbs for Salve

You can make salve with a single herb or multiple herbs, depending on your needs.  It’s useful to make a variety of herbal infused oils so that you can easily craft salve whenever you need it!

Arnica flowers: Can help treat physical trauma, bruises, bunions, strains, sprains, some kinds of arthritis, and muscle pain. Use immediately after strenuous exertion or injury to prevent, relieve, and reduce swelling, bruises and pain.

Burdock root: For treating psoriasis, eczema, and skin infections.

Calendula flowers:  Wonderfully healing with all-around healing properties useful for a wide variety of skin irritations and conditions including wounds, insect bites, rashes, scrapes, abrasions, cuts, inflammations, and much more.  Suitable for sensitive skin and babies.

Cayenne Pepper: Warming, good for arthritis and sore muscles, alleviates pain and itching.

Chamomile flowers: Hemorrhoids, minor abrasions, cuts, scrapes, and wounds.

Chickweed: Soothing, helps with skin conditions including psoriasis, eczema, minor burns, rashes, and other skin irritations.

Comfrey leaf and/or root: Relieves pain, swelling, promotes the growth of muscle, cartilage, and bone. Assists with healing a wide variety of conditions including sprains, eczema, dermatitis, viral skin infections, broken bones, arthritis, wounds, and bruises.

Echinacea herb and/or root: Antibacterial, beneficial for sores, wounds, insect bites and stings.

Ginger root: Warming, use for arthritis and sore muscles.

Goldenseal leaf and/or root: Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, useful for treating wounds and skin conditions.

Lavender flowers: Soothing, calming, relieves hemorrhoids, pain, has healing properties beneficial for wounds and numerous skin conditions.

Myrrh Gum powder: Antiseptic properties, used for cuts, scrapes, scratches, and abrasions.

Nettle leaf:  Anti-inflammatory, an effective treatment for many skin conditions.

Oregon Grape root: Skin disinfectant, antibacterial, anti-microbial, helps heal wounds.

Plantain leaf: Antibacterial, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antitoxic properties. Helps speed the recovery process, prevents infection, relieves and soothes insect bites and stings, pain, poison ivy, itching, rashes, sores, bruises, blisters, and damaged skin.

St. John’s Wort: Craft the deep red-colored oil from fresh flowers.  Anti-inflammatory and astringent properties.  Beneficial for wounds, cuts, bruises, swelling, varicose veins, insect bites and stings, nerve damage, scrapes, rashes, burns, and pain.

Thyme: A strong antiseptic used for cuts, scrapes, and sore muscles.

Yarrow Flowers: Apply to bruises, sprains, wounds, cuts, rashes, eczema, scrapes, and areas with swelling and bleeding.

Please note that this is only a partial list, many other healing herbs can also be incorporated into salves.

Happy salve making!

~ irene

For educational purposes only This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

47 Responses to “DIY: Herbal Salves”

  1. [...] another article on making herbal salves from Mountain Rose Herbs:  http://mountainroseblog.com/diy-herbal-salves/.  Mountain Rose Herbs are a fantastic herb supply company, and I find their blog informative and [...]

  2. [...] http://mountainroseblog.com/diy-herbal-salves/ This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. ← Ibuprofen use: Help or hindrance? [...]

  3. [...] diy herbal salves on the mountain rose herbs blog (did you know they have a blog? I just discovered it and a lot of [...]

  4. [...] everything, you need to know to make your own herbal salves, starting with herb-infused oils. This thorough tutorial from the folks at the Mountain Rose Blog gives you detailed information on the uses of quite a few [...]

  5. [...] Mountain Rose Herbs had a great post on how to make herbal infused oil and then how to turn that oil into a slave. They also listed a bunch of herbs and what the salves can be used for. Can’t wait to make a few of these to add to the medicine cab. [...]

  6. [...] for a Good Cause DIY Herbal Salves Heavy Metals Cilantro Detox 30 Most Popular Herbs for Natural Medicine 14 Reason to Have Compost [...]

  7. avatar janet says:

    Hi
    I’m new to making herbals and I have many questions. I’d like to make some ear oil drops and deep tissue massage oil. How do I know which oils to use as a base? Can I mix ready made oils together for blended varieties? How do I make menthol oil from the menthol crystals you sell?

  8. avatar janet says:

    What keeps oil infusions fom going bad/rancid?

    • avatar Irene says:

      Hi Janet,

      Thank you for the great questions, and welcome to herbal medicine making!

      Herbal oils will keep for approximately one year if stored properly in a dark and cool place. Vitamin E Oil may also be added to prolong the shelf life. I usually use Olive oil or other oils with a shelf life of two years for my herbal infused oils.

      You can use a variety of carrier oils as your base, our carrier oil profiles list whether or not they are suitable for cosmetic use. Simply click on the “Learn More” profiles under each listing to verify the oil’s uses. You can certainly blend multiple oils together for your base.

      We have instructions for dissolving Menthol Crystals available on our website: http://www.mountainroseherbs.com/learn/menthol_crystals.php

      Happy medicine making adventures!

      ~ irene

  9. avatar Liane says:

    Would love your opinion. I’m planning to make some salves this summer, primarily with calendula petals I’ve been collecting. Is coconut oil a good “carrier” oil? do you prefer olive oil?

    If I wanted to add a bit of thyme oil could I just use an essential oil?…it’s only just occuring to me to make my own thyme oil.

    Love your blog and don’t know how I missed it until now. I did a calendula post on my blog today and added a few links to you. http://prairiegarden-liane.blogspot.com/

    Thanks :-)

    • avatar Irene says:

      Dear Liane,

      Thank you so much for your comment, and welcome to our blog!

      We usually use Olive Oil when making infused oils and salves, but you could certainly make an herbal infused oil with Coconut Oil too. Olive oil is the standard oil used in infused oils and salves because it works so well, is nourishing, there are generally no allergies to it, and it also has a long shelf life. However, you can definitely experiment with other oils! Coconut oil has a long shelf life and beneficial properties, and can make a very effective infused oil.

      You could certainly add Thyme essential oil to your salve, simply add it after the beeswax has melted and just before pouring the mixture into your containers. You could also make a Thyme infused oil and incorporate it into your salve along with the Calendula oil. So many options!

      Thank you again for your questions, and best of wishes for all of your salve making adventures!

      ~ irene

  10. avatar Liane says:

    Thanks Irene,

    I have another question (hope you don’t mind). I am growing a Thai chili plant that I’m told will yield up 300 chilies per pant. !!! Oh my !!! Do you know if I could use it as you would a cayenne pepper (for arthritis and muscle aches)? Do I make and oil as I will with calendula?

    Thanks so much!
    Liane

    • avatar Irene says:

      Hi Liane,

      Thank you for the wonderful question. Wow, that’s a lot of chili peppers!

      Like Cayenne, Thai chili peppers should be beneficial for arthritis and other conditions. I would recommend drying the peppers first, and beginning your herbal infusion with just a few chili peppers. You can test the oil regularly, and add more peppers as needed. Making an oil that is too strong could burn or irritate skin.

      We wish you the best of luck with your herbal infused oils. We’d love to hear how they turn out!

      ~ irene

  11. avatar Liane says:

    Thanks again Irene.
    I just joined HerbMentor.com so I can start doing my own research rather than making you do it for me :-)

    Seems like a great site!

    Take care

    • avatar Irene says:

      Hi Liane,
      Oooh, exciting!
      This is a wonderful program and I think that you’ll really enjoy it. Learning how to make your own herbal medicine is so rewarding.
      Thank you for reaching out to us and for your great questions. We look forward to hearing about your medicine making and herbal education adventures!
      ~ irene

  12. avatar cattie says:

    Hi,
    This is great! I have been studying essential oils for animals for the past 8 months and have realized that herbalism plays a big role in this as well. Which I am very excited about, there are so many fascinating things to learn from and about nature. Anyway, I was wondering, do you need to sterilize the tin before you put the salve into it? If so, do you boil them, like jars for canning?

    Thanks for a great blog & post! :-)

    • avatar Irene says:

      Hi Cattie,

      Welcome to our blog! Thank you so much for your wonderful comments and thoughtful question.

      I have never personally sterilized tins when making salve, but you could certainly do so. It wouldn’t hurt! It might be easiest to dip the tins in an alcohol like Vodka to sterilize them, but you could also try the boiling water method for canning. It’s important to make sure that the containers are completely dry afterwards and that there is no remaining moisture. You can also use Vitamin E Oil, Rosemary Antioxidant, Benzoin resin oil, or essential oils with antibacterial and antioxidant properties to help preserve and protect the salve. And, always dip clean fingers into the salve! Storing the salves in a cold, dark area will also greatly help prolong their shelf life.

      Thank you again, and please let us know if you have any other questions or concerns! We’re excited to help you along your herbal journey. :-)

      ~ irene

  13. avatar MaidMirawyn says:

    I first made a healing salve about a year ago, using only calendula. Your recipe was so easy! My best friend and I split the small batch, half for her and one of her cats and half for my husband and I.

    Back in July, I had a can of leather protectant spray rupture in my face. I remembered what to do from chemistry class (lots of flushing with water, basically) and a friend drove me to the emergency room afterward.

    They said I had done everything right, so there was no trace in my nose, mouth or eyes. But the skin around my eyes felt very irritated. I tried everything I could think of, all day, with no success.

    Finally remembered my calendula salve the next morning. And guess what? It worked immediately, the very first time.

    HERBAL SALVES WORK! So glad I made more when the first batch ran out. You can bet I’ll never be without it.

    • avatar Irene says:

      Hi MaidMirawyn,

      Thank you for sharing this inspiring story with us! What a scary incident, we’re so glad that you weren’t hurt.

      We were very touched by your story, what a perfect reminder of how powerful herbal medicine is! I’m so glad to hear that our recipe was useful and so effective.

      We really loved hearing your story about the healing power of Calendula. Thank you again for sharing!

      ~ irene

  14. avatar hjkimbrough says:

    Hi! Late to the game on this one! I have Calendula flowers but Comfrey and Goldenseal powders. How would I infuse the powders? Should I infuse the flowers and then mix in the powders afterward? Thanks!!

    • avatar Irene says:

      Hi hjkimbrough,

      Thank you for the great question!

      Powders can be infused in the same manner as cut herbs. They are a bit more difficult to strain, I often use a piece of woven cotton fabric instead of cheesecloth when straining them in order to remove all of the powdered material.

      You can make infusions with a single herb, or with multiple herbs. Some folk prefer to make infusions with a single herb, and then blend the oils afterwards. This allows you the option of creating multiple combinations from the same basic infusions. However, you can also blend all of the herbs and infuse them together. It’s up to you! For this combination of herbs, I would make a Calendula infusion and a separate infusion with the powdered herbs. Then, would mix the oils together once they’ve finished infusing and have been strained.

      Thank you again for your question, and for reaching out to us. Happy medicine making!

      ~ Irene

  15. avatar hjkimbrough says:

    Irene,

    Thanks so much for the FAST reply! I have one follow-up question, if you wouldn’t mind.

    Is there a rule of thumb to follow when substituting dried herbs with powdered herbs? For example, if my recipe is calling for a half-cup of dried Comfrey (root or leaves), but I have powder, is there a guideline for how much powder to use instead? I would think that a direct substitution (half cup of powder) would make an infusion WAY too strong.

    Thanks!

    Jacob

    • avatar Irene says:

      Hi Jacob,

      Thank you for your reply!

      According to the book “Making Plant Medicine” by Richo Cech, the basic formula would be 1:5, dry herb weight in g: volume in ml. In one of the formulas in his book, Richo uses 100 g dried and ground Comfrey root to 500 ml Olive oil. He also recommends allowing the oil to stand undisturbed the night before you press the oil so that the powdered herbs will settle out to the bottom of your jar, making the oil easier to strain.

      I hope that this helps! Best of wishes for your herbal infused oil!

      ~ Irene

  16. avatar Karin says:

    Thank you for the instructions for making salves! I am just beginning to from commercial products to herbal & organic, so I’m trying to research as much as possible.
    When using dried herbs, you suggested using a woven cotton fabric to strain after infusion. Would it be possible to cut a small piece of fabric, pour the powdered herbs in the center, tie it up with string or jute, and infuse?
    Thanks!
    Karin

    • avatar Irene says:

      Hi Karin,

      Thank you for asking such a great question!

      You can strain the mixture using any natural fiber woven cloth – cotton, hemp, linen, etc. I often use a clean cut piece of fabric or fabric napkins to strain my infusions. I have never infused the oil with powdered herbs enclosed in the bag, but believe that it would make a less potent infusion. However, you could certainly try a side-by-side comparison using each technique. We’d be curious to hear the results!

      Thanks again, and we wish you the best of luck with your medicine making adventures!

      ~ Irene

  17. avatar pat clark says:

    Thank you for the lessons. I have made a couple of different oils, daisy and lemon balm, use them to make salves. love making things out of nature.

    • avatar Irene says:

      Hi Pat,
      Oooh, Daisy and Lemon Balm infused oil and salve sound divine! Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. Making medicine from nature is such fun. :-)
      ~ Irene

  18. […] are many great articles out there on which medicinal herbs are good for different uses, such as this one from Mountain Rose Herbs.  It’s also the base recipe I used for my salve, and they have […]

  19. avatar whit says:

    I was wondering if you can add herbal extracts to the oil when making a salve? If so, how much?

    • avatar Kori says:

      Good morning and thank you for your question. You can definitely use essential oils or infused herbal oils when making a salve, but you won’t want to add any water or alcohol based extracts to your salve as the “science” just doesn’t allow for those sorts of ingredients. I hope this answers your question and good luck! ~Kori

  20. avatar lucy b says:

    Hello! I am helping a friend make salves. He is quite experienced, but doesn’t know how to avoid the dip or slump created after the salves cool. His solution has been to pour the salves twice, so that the second pour yields a smooth, even surface. He’s tried cooling the glass jars first, heating them, changing the formula and many other things over the years. We’d love to figure out a way to achieve an even surface with a single pour. Do you have any suggestions?

    Thank you!

    Lucy B

    • avatar Kori says:

      Hi Lucy~Thank you for reading the blog and for your question. I don’t know if there is a fool-proof way to create a totally smooth, even top on your salve. I have heard of folks doing a second pour and I have also seen folks who over-fill their containers to allow for the fact that it settles and dips a bit as it hardens. I wish I knew the magic secret but I hope you’ll let us know if you discover one! Wishing you the best ~Kori

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  22. […] on June 6, 2014 by junebugmemphis DIY: Herbal Salves « The Mountain Rose Blog. Posted in Uncategorized. (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if […]

  23. […] soothing, emollient, nourishing, and healing properties. Click the link to read more. via  DIY: Herbal Salves « The Mountain Rose Blog. Posted in Uncategorized. (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if […]

  24. […] a dark and cool place, Vitamin E Oil may also be added to prolong the shelf life. via DIY: Herbal Salves « The Mountain Rose Blog. Posted in Uncategorized. (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if […]

  25. […] This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. via DIY: Herbal Salves « The Mountain Rose Blog. Posted in Uncategorized. (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if […]

  26. […] If you’re going to be making your own herbal infused oils, one of the best methods (practically speaking, when you have only a short few days to fill an order) is to warm (not cook!) the jars of herbs/oil in a crock pot of water, for several days. Our family has 3 crock pots (2 larger and 1 smaller), which I can fit about 17 canning jars of herbs into. Of course you can always opt out of the crock pot method, by infusing your herbs via the solar method. […]

  27. avatar Azaharys says:

    Hi, I’m very excited to try making this but have one question, how much vitamin e oil shoul I used? Thanks

    • avatar Kori says:

      Hi there! Thank you for your question. You can add anywhere from 1-3 teaspoons of Vitamin E oil to a recipe this size, if you choose. Wishing you the best and enjoy your salve! ~Kori

  28. avatar Angela says:

    Hello! I was wondering whether you can use fresh herbs for this? I went on a wildcrafting expedition and have gathered some fresh yarrow and fresh arnica flowers. I would like to make two different salves with these but am not sure whether this would work the same if the herbs are not dried. Thanks!

    • avatar Kori says:

      Hi Angela~Thank you for checking in with us! You could definitely create an infused oil from your freshly-gathered herbs and flowers. Once you allow the oil to infuse and strain the flowers, you can use it in your salve creations. Good luck! ~Kori

  29. […] If you’d like to make your own herbal infused oils, you can learn how to make them in this blog post: http://mountainroseblog.com/diy-herbal-salves/ […]

  30. avatar Miranda Carie Cunningham says:

    Someone mentioned using lemon balm for a salve. I have this in the garden. What kind of salve would this be good for? Is there a good resource for me to find what to use the herbs I grow for? Also my lavender did not bloom this year. so little did with the cold lasting so late into the season. can I infuse the plant its self instead of the blooms? That or I have dried cooking lavender I use to infuse with sugar for cookies.

    • avatar Kori says:

      Hi Miranda~Thank you for checking in with us. Lemon Balm is a wonderful plant to have in the garden! Because we are an herbal supplier, we cannot tell you all the medicinal uses of Lemon Balm. There are some wonderful resources online and http://www.herbmentor.com/public/ is one of those resources that may help you with your research. We also carry some wonderful books and you can find them on our website: https://www.mountainroseherbs.com/catalog/home-goods/books. You can use lavender leaves for many of the same purposes and recipes where you would use lavender flowers. They are not as well suited for projects where you want the lovely looks of lavender flowers, but they work fine for infusions, teas, etc. I do hope this helps and thank you again for reading the blog. ~Kori

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    Erin is the Marketing Director at Mountain Rose and studied herbalism, botany, and ethical wildcrafting at the Columbines School of Botanical Studies. She spends her days making botanical illustrations, playing in the garden, creating culinary gems, and formulating medicine in the magnificent Oregon Cascades.
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