When I recently wrote Making Salves and Ointments, a reader commented that she'd love more information on what kinds of salves and ointments to make, and how.
Here are the salves I've made so far and how I use them, plus a preview of a new one I made last week.
I started with plantain salve. Plantain was the first plant I learned to identify in the wild and I was thrilled to be able to find and use it.
This post has some tips on identifying plantain from other plants. One of the easiest ways to identify plantain is by its seedheads. This is narrow-leaved plantain:
and below is broad-leaved plantain:
You can use either narrow or broad-leaved plantain in salves, or use both if you are lucky enough to find both kinds.
Plantain salve is wonderful on itchy insect bites. One thing Oklahoma has in abundance is bugs! Ticks and mosquitoes love me, I'm afraid, not to mention the possibility of chiggers, fleas and other critters. Plantain salve soothes the bites almost on contact. I even carry a small jar of it in my purse. It's also effective on poison ivy, minor sores, bruises and blisters.
It's not effective on scorpion stings. Don't ask me how I know that...
Most years I add other herbs to my plantain salve too. This can be done in one of two ways: you can combine oils that are infused with single herbs, or you can double-infuse the oil, infusing one herb first, then straining the oil and infusing another herb. (If you're just venturing into the world of infusing oils and making salves, start with a single herb for your first project.)
Some of the herbs I've added to my plantain salve are yarrow, chickweed, chamomile, calendula, lemon balm and comfrey. Each makes a healing salve on its own too.
Yarrow is known as "nature's bandage" because you can cover a wound with the leaves and stop the bleeding. Salve made from yarrow flowers and leaves soothes rashes, cuts and scrapes, and swelling. Yarrow's white flowers make it easy to find in my horses' pasture.
Chickweed is an excellent herb to use on skin irritations and minor burns. Chickweed grows wild here on Oak Hill in early spring.
Salve made with chamomile flowers is good for minor cuts, scrapes, abrasions and minor wounds. I had a chamomile plant in my herb garden for one short summer before it gave up and died, unfortunately. I've had trouble growing it from seed, but I haven't given up trying.
Calendula is an annual that I grow from seed each year. The flower petals are healing for bug bites, rashes, scrapes, cuts and much more. Calendula is mild and gentle and is suitable for use by babies and those with sensitive skin. If you have children, you need to make calendula salve.
Lemon balm has antiviral properties and helps prevent infections. It's effective on bug bites, rashes, cold sores, cuts and other wounds. I have several big pots of it in my herb garden; I love to brush the leaves and inhale the bright, lemony scent. In fact, lemon balm is also effective in aromatherapy as an antidepressant.
Comfrey salve is well-known for its healing properties. It relieves pain and swelling, and supports muscles and bones. I used to buy comfrey at our local health food store, but now I grow my own. I've made comfrey salve and have also used comfrey leaf in my plantain salve. Here's why you should grow your own comfrey too.
I've also made cayenne pepper salve to relieve muscle soreness. Cayenne pepper addresses arthritis, sore muscles, and sprains. It works well on muscle and nerve pain because the capsaicin in cayenne blocks a neurotransmitter that sends pain messages to the brain.
Last week I made dandelion salve with my daughter. This will treat rough, dry skin. Watch for the post next week.
Directions for making salve are pretty universal: strain the plant material from the oil, measure the oil, melt the beeswax, add the oil, add essential oils if using, and pour into small jars or tins. You'll find more detailed directions in Making Salves and Ointments.
How to Make Mullein Flower Oil for Earache Relief
Making a Cayenne Tincture
Measuring by Parts
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