All summer I'm busy foraging for wild herbs and making salves and ointments with them.
What's the difference between a salve and an ointment?
Salves and ointments are very similar, and some (including me) use the names interchangeably.
Both salves and ointments are healing in nature and are meant to be used externally. The oils and herbal ingredients sink in through the skin where they can work in the body; the beeswax and some of the oil stay on the skin's surface where they form a protective layer and moisturize your skin.
How to infuse herbs in oil
To infuse herbs in oil, chop the fresh herbs to release the essential oils inside, place in a Mason jar and cover with a good grade of olive oil. You can either place the jar in a sunny window for 4-6 weeks, or you can place the herbs and oil in a slow-cooker and warm gently for a few hours.
I tend to use the slow-cooker method because I'm just a bit impatient.
My go-to salve, which I make every year, contains plantain, yarrow, lemon balm, and comfrey. I infuse oil with plantain first because it appears first in my yard in the spring. After straining this oil, I store the jar of oil in the refrigerator until the yarrow is ready to pick. I use the same oil to infuse the yarrow, and later the lemon balm from my garden, and then comfrey. This quadruple-infused oil is packed with herbal goodness.
How to make salve or ointment
To make salve or ointment, you simply combine beeswax and your infused oil. Be careful not to get water in your oil or beeswax. Water will make your preparation more likely to mold.
Place the beeswax in the double boiler or tin can and simmer the water gently until the wax has melted. Don't leave melting wax unattended. When the wax is melted, add the infused oil and stir until combined. You can add some vitamin E oil as a preservative if you wish, and if you are adding essential oils, now is the time to add them.
The ratio of beeswax to infused oil is up to you. Less wax makes an ointment, more wax makes a salve, and you might like yours softer or firmer than I do. You might start with one part beeswax to five parts oil, and add more beeswax a teaspoon at a time, if needed.
Where to find containers
I save all the little jars that come my way, such as plastic spice jars and the glass mustard jars in the cheese and sausage gift packs that hubby likes so much. Altoid tins work well for stiffer salves. You can also find jars and tins at Amazon and at Mountain Rose Herbs. (affiliate links)
Do you make salve? What herbs do you use?
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Mountain Rose Herb's DIY Herbal Salves
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