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Salves, Lotions, Gels

DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.

Salve3-C Skin SalveBarrier SalveVapor RubHerbal Oils


The herbs used here are those which have been successfully used down through the centuries for their skin healing benefits. Three of these are calendula, comfrey (not for internal use), and chickweed.

Salves are useful for dry, chapped and work-worn skin.

Burdock root is another notable skin herb. Although it is not used here, it has long been used for itching skin. The following recipe has also worked well on the family pets for irritated skin. Pets are prone to many more skin afflictions than humans and respond as well to tender, loving care from their owners as they do to the actual products at times.

Making a salve takes a bit longer than making a cream, but is actually easier.

The difference is that the herbs for salve are steeped directly in the oil and the recipes contain no water. The shelf life of salve is considerably longer as well.

Procedure for Making Salve

Equipment you will need:
an electric skillet
the top of a double boiler pan (or a pyrex bowl)
a cooking thermometer
*a suitably sized jar to hold the salve

*Wide-mouth 4-oz canning jars are particularly suitable and can be easily sterilized.

Step 1:
Powder the herbs in a blender or coffee mill.

Step 2
Combine the oils and herbs in the double boiler or bowl.

Step 3

Place 3/4 inch of water in the bottom of the electric skillet to protect its finish. Turn the skillet control to where the control light just comes on, then keep raising it little-by-little until the temperature of the water reaches about 100º F. (also known as fiddling-with-the-controls)

Step 4
Place the double boiler pan (which hold the herbs and oils) in the center of the skillet and switch the thermometer from the skillet to the inside of the double boiler pan.

Step 5
When you are sure that the temperature of the combined herbs and oils is constant at 95-98 degrees F., allow to remain uncovered for 12 to 14 hours or until the herbs look 'used up'.

Step 6
Strain the herb-oil mixture through muslin or fine cheesecloth and get out as much oil as you can. After the initial straining, you may wish to do it again in order to remove as many of the herb particles as possible. Do the second straining into a measuring cup and have a salve jar standing by.

Step 7
Take note of the amount of oil you have and pour into your cleaned double boiler pan. (Write it down so you don't forget). Raise the temperature of the skillet so the oil is at 150º F., (Beeswax melts at approximately 148º F).

Step 8
When 150º F has been reached and maintained steadily, add the grated beeswax and vitamin E (if desired). Stir while wax is melting.

Step 9
When wax is completely melted, remove from heat and add 1 drop Tincture of Benzoin (or grapefruit seed extract) for each ounce of liquid you measured. Test the consistency of your product by dripping a couple of drops onto the bottom of the salve jar (or onto a plate). Allow a minute for it to harden and then test the consistency. If suitable, pour contents into your jar. If it is too loose, add a bit more grated beeswax (a tiny bit at a time). If too firm add a teaspoon of oil. Any more should not be necessary.

Historically, herbs were simmered in lard to make a salve and can still be done that way to cut costs. Some herbalists believe it is still a superior method of delivery to the body.

The usual method is to combine lard and herbs in a large pan in the oven on low heat (about 125º F. for 12 hours). Lard can still be used in the skillet method.

3-C Skin Salve

1/2 oz. chickweed
1/2 oz. calendula petals
1/2 oz. comfrey leaf
6 oz. sweet almond (or other vegetable oil such as olive)
1/3 oz. grated beeswax

Powder herbs and combine with oil in double boiler. Proceed as per instructions above.

Barrier Salve

A useful salve for skin which has taken a beating or to protect skin while doing really tough work (like gardening!) This salve is both protective and healing.

3/4 oz. calendula petals
1/4 oz. chickweed
1/2 C. non-petroleum gel
1/2 tbsp sweet almond oil

Powder herbs and combine herbs, gel and oil in top of double boiler. Place double boiler pan in electric skillet and proceed with Steps 3 through 7 for making salve. Once the mixture has been strained, pour it into a waiting sterile jar.

An alternative method is to proceed exactly according to the salve recipe.

Combine the powdered herbs together with 1/2 cup plus 1/2 Tbsp of oil and allow to simmer for 12 to 14 hours. Strain and return to cleaned double boiler pan with 1/8 oz. grated beeswax. Test for consistency, adjusting if necessary, pour into jar and allow to set up.

Vapor Rub

This is a homemade version of that old medicine-shelf staple Moms' have used to rub on our chests since time immemorial whenever we had a cold or flu.

Never apply it (either the purchased one or your own homemade one) directly on the skin. Spread some on a clean, soft cloth, fold it over and place it over the chest.

1/2 C. non-petroleum gel
1/2 Tbsp sweet almond or other vegetable oil
1/2 tsp essential oil of Eucalyptus
2 to 3 drops of tea tree oil (optional)

Combine NP-gel and almond oil in top of double boiler. Melt the two ingredients together, blending well, and remove from heat. Blend in the Eucalyptus (and the tea tree oil if using). Pour into a jar and allow to set up. A small amount for immediate use can be poured out thinly onto a saucer and be ready in a few minutes.

Herbal Oils

Two of the most useful oils are Calendula oil, for skin care, and St. Johnswort oil, which is used for a number of neurological complaints such as neuralgia, as well as for burns, bruises and sprains.

A third oil with a long history of use for earache is Mullein oil.

To make Calendula or Mullein oil, harvest a handful of Calendula petals or Mullein flowers. Place in a sealable glass jar and cover with olive oil. Cap the jar and allow to sit in the sun for several days or until the herbs look well 'used up'. Strain and bottle being sure to label and date your bottle.

A shortcut method is to use the electric skillet method as described above for infusing herbs in oil (the beeswax is omitted).

St. Johnswort oil is made by harvesting a handful of flowers and placing in a sealable glass jar. Cover with olive oil, cap the jar, and place in the sun until the oil has acquired the characteristic red color of St.Johnswort oil. Strain and bottle and label.

©1997 Ernestina Parziale CH