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July 11, 2016

Salves I've Made and How I Use Them

A list of the salves I've made and how I use them.

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 make most often and how I use them.


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, but that post goes more in-depth in case it isn't the right time for plantain to be in seed in your neighborhood. This is narrow-leaved plantain:

Plantain leaves and seedheads

and below is broad-leaved plantain:

Plantain seedheads

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.)

Salves in jars

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 to use in salve-making

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. You can read about harvesting yarrow here.


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 flowers

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 leaves

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.

Jars of comfrey salve

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.

Ground cayenne pepper

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 a beautiful dandelion salve with my daughter. Dandelion salve helps relieve rough, dry skin, sunburn and more.

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.

Related posts:
How to Make Mullein Flower Oil for Earache Relief
Making a Cayenne Tincture
Measuring by Parts

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This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops


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  1. What a wonderful post! I, too, make herbal salves and *LOVE* their benefits! Thank you for sharing at Tuesdays with a Twist! -Marci @ Stone Cottage Adventures

  2. I started with single herbs, but now combine all my infused oils to make a great healing salve - good for the bug bites, cuts, scrapes and other "owies".

    1. That's the best way to do it, Michelle!

  3. Thank you so much for the information! I will definitely try the lemon balm salve.

    1. You're welcome, Ellen. I hope you will give it a try, and I hope you love the lemon balm salve.

  4. I have just begun learning about making homemade salves and creams in the past year or so, so this post is really helpful to me. Pinning it for future use :-)

    1. I'm glad it was helpful, Gwen. Let me know if you have any questions when you get around to making some, ok?

  5. This is great information! My family could definitely benefit from having a few of these around. And my Hubby would especially like the tips about the cayenne peppers.

    1. Cayenne pepper is a terrific plant in more ways than one, Jamie. I'm glad you found the info helpful.

  6. What a great list! Thanks for all the ideas, I should really give these a try.

    1. You're welcome, Kailyn, I hope you'll check them out.

  7. Nature sure does provide for any ailment we may have! Thank you so much for sharing with us at The Homesteader Hop

  8. Another useful post from you Kathi, thanks for sharing with Hearth and soul blog hop, pinning and tweeting.

    1. Thank you for sharing, Swathi.

  9. Stopping by from the Floyd Homestead Hop!

    I make a salve with calendula, plantain and comfrey that I like a lot, but never considered the pepper.
    Do you mix it with any herbs, or just add to your carrier oil as is?

    1. I used cayenne alone, but ginger is supposed to be an excellent addition too, Melissa.

  10. Amazing to have all those handmade salves. I'm especially intrigued about the cayenne one.

  11. Thank you, Anya. I hope you'll try one someday. The nice thing about cayenne is that you can purchase the powdered herb in any grocery store, so it's very accessible.

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