Posted on May 25 2019
In herbal craft there is not a consistent definition of what a salve is. Via Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, a salve is “an ointment used to promote healing of the skin or as protection.” However, a salve can also refer to a balm, ointment, or cream. Technically, a salve is something made with oils and waxes that absorbs more easily into the skin. Below is a quick rundown of the differences [in terms of what each consists of] between salves, ointments, balms and creams.
SALVES: herbal oils mixed with beeswax. The consistency ranges from solid to soft.
BALM: herbal oils mixed with butters and beeswax. The consistency is more solid.
OINTMENT: herbal oils and butters. The consistency is more liquid and greasy.
CREAM: herbal oils, water and emulsifying wax. The consistency is that of a lotion.
The impressive thing about salves is the customizability. With an understanding of herbs a salve can be created to treat a variety of issues ranging from sore muscles to eczema and everything in between. Salves can also be created to be used as perfume or cologne.
The base and most important part of salve making is the herbal oil preparation. There are two methods involved in this:
The first one is called hot infused oil, which can take anywhere between 15 minutes to 3 hours depending on what part of the plant is being used (roots verse leaves).
The second is the cold infused oil, which can take anywhere between 2-6 weeks to make.
The process used is entirely dependent on the herbalist. One process is not better than the other, however, some herbs are more suitable for one process over the other. “More suitable” meaning the essence of the herb is drawn out more effectively. For example, St. John’s Wort and Calendula are more suitable for cold process while Mullein, Chickweed and Comfrey are more suited for the hot process. Personally, I use the hot process for all the herbal oils as it is more time effective for me. I have never had issues with any of the herbs using the hot process.
For both hot and cold infused oil the standard is 250g of dried herb or 500g of fresh herb to 70ml (3 cups) of oil. The herbal oil itself will stay fresh for up to a year.
Do not use a stainless steel double boiler as it burns the oil and herbs due to it heating up so rapidly.
Hot Infused Oil Process:
1. Using a double boiler or a glass bowl over a saucepan, stir the 250g or 500g of herbs into 70ml of oil of your choosing. Stirring occasionally. Let simmer for 20 minutes for most common herbs and 30 minutes minimum if using bark or roots. If using both bark/roots and leaves do the bark/roots first then at the 10 minute mark add the leaves and simmer for the remaining 20 minutes.
2. Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool.
3. For this part I use cheesecloth, a strainer and a candle making pouring pot. I place the strainer on top of the candle making pouring pot then add the cheesecloth inside the strainer. I pour the contents of the double boiler into the cheesecloth and strainer. Then wearing gloves I gather the cheesecloth and squeeze out all the remaining oil from the mixture.
5. Pour the infused oil into a clean dark glass bottle. Dark glass bottle because it keeps the oil from going bad. Seal and label the bottle and place in a cool dark place.
Cold Infused Oil Process:
1. Place the 250g or 500g of herbs in a clear glass mason jar. Pour in the oil until it completely covers the herb. Place the lid on the jar and shake vigorously. Take the lid off and place a cheesecloth over the top of the jar, then secure the lid back on the jar. This will keep the herbs fresher and make the rest of the process easier.
2. Place the jar in a sunny spot and leave for 2-6 weeks, shaking once or twice per week.
3. After 2-6 weeks, take the lid off and secure the cheesecloth with a rubber band. Pour out the oil into the candle making pouring pot. An alternative is to use the candle making pouring pot, strainer and cheesecloth. Place the strainer on top of the candle making pouring pot. Place the cheesecloth inside the strainer. Taking the cheesecloth off the mason jar, pour the contents of the mason jar into the cheesecloth and strainer. Gather the cheesecloth and squeeze out the remaining oil.
4. Pour the infused oil into a clean dark glass bottle. Dark glass bottle because it keeps the oil from going bad. Seal and label the bottle and place in a cool dark place.
Essential Oils with Salves: Most salves use herbal oils not essential oils, which is what makes them safer for children. That is not to say one cannot use essential oils when making salves, but care and caution need to be taken in terms of dilution for kids and adults. The easiest method, if using essential oils, is use the baby dilution and apply more salve for adults and kids.
When talking about essential oil dilution, what it means is how much carrier oil to essential oil drops are in the compound.
Below is a chart that show how many drops off essential oils equal the percentage of dilution per ml.
|Carrier Oil Amount||.5%||1%||2%||3%||10%||25%|
|1tsp or 5ml||1||2||3||10||25|
|2tsp or 10ml||1||2||4||6||20||50|
|3tsp or 15ml||1.5||3||6||9||30||75|
|8tsp or 30ml||3||6||12||18||60||150|
.5%-Infants or babies
1%-Children, Elderly, Sensitive Skin
2-3%-Daily skin care
10-25%-Short term use
Always check with your pediatrician or health care professional before using any salves.
Wolf and Dragon Apothecary has several herbal salves available for purchase: Dragon Salve (Adult), Wolf Salve (Children), Congestion Relief (Adult), Congestion Relief (Children), Itch Relief Salve, Diaper Rash Salve, Muscle and Bruise Salve, Wolf and Dragon Healing Salve, Wolf and Dragon Drawing Salve, Earthy Cologne and Furry Friend Salve.
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