How To Make Homemade Healing Balm or Salve
Healing balms or healing salves was one of my greatest surprises when starting to make my own natural cosmetic products. They are just too simple to make and very versatile, not only being very conditioning, but also having several medicinal properties, such as anti-septic, anti-inflammatory, or skin regenerating.
They can be as much as the oils and medicinal plants you use on them.
So What Are Healing Balms Actually?
Healing balms are solid oil-based products, that will melt once rubbed on skin. They are tipically a deeper conditioning treatment to dry, damaged skin from cold/dry weather, but they can also treat other skin conditions, depending on the ingredients you use.
They can treat skin problems like scrapes, bruises, rashes, burns, eczema, psoriasis, etc. They can also be anti-septic, anti-microbial, or go as far as treating ischemia or muscle aches.
And Healing Salves?
Healing salves are just like healing balms, just a bit softer. I had the same confusion about telling the difference between a healing salve and a healing balm, so I’ve searched the net and found this article. For such trivial question I was happy enough with the answer: healing balms usually use a 1:1 ratio of wax to oil, while healing balms may use a ratio of wax (1:4 wax to oil), therefore, making them softer.
The homemade natural lip balm recipe I’ve presented before in this blog is the example of a balm with 2:3 wax to oil ratio. The healing salve I am going to show on this tutorial has a 1:8 wax to oil ratio.
Healing balms and healing salves are made basically of infused oils and a hardening wax.
… What Is An Infused Oil?
An infused oil consists of a so-called carrier oil like sunflower oil, sweet almond oil, olive oil, coconut oil, etc., that are infused with plant material, like leaves, flower petals, roots, bark. This way, the infused oil imparts its plant medicinal properties into the balm or salve. The infusion can either be cold infusion (takes four weeks or more to prepare) or hot infusion (uses heating to accelerate the process).
Very important: use only dry plants to make oil infusions. Use fresh oils to prevent spoilage. Learn how to make hot and cold infusion in this article.
For this recipe, we are going to prepare two oil infusions: sunflower oil and calendula flowers; sweet almond oil with plantain.
Sunflower oil and sweet almond oil are two very good carrier oils, low comedogenic – meaning that they won’t clog pores, and are good to prevent skin issues like acne -, and helping the skin with hydration, anti-oxidants and vitamins, wound healing, anti-inflammatory properties and providing a skin-protecting barrier against dryness.
Calendula (or calendula officinalis) is well known for its skin healing and regenerating properties. Several studies support its ability to help with skin burns, scrapes and rashes, due to its antiedematous (preventing edema), anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and wound healing properties. If you’re curious, you can also see my article about calendula and other plants for cosmetics.
Plantain (or plantago) is also a medicinal plant. The herb, very used in folk medicine, is astringent, anti-toxic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-histamine. A poultice of the leaves is useful for insect bites, poison-ivy rashes, minor sores, and boils.
With these four ingredients, it is possible to make a healing balm or salve potent enough to notice some healing regeneration on your skin when you use it. It is also very soothing and calming to the skin.
Use only dry plants to make oil infusions and only fresh oils. You can learn more in How to Make Infused Oil.
Wax or Solid Oils
Wax and solid oils are added to add hardness and structure to the balm or salve. Waxes like beeswax and soy wax or solid oils like coconut oil, shea butter and cocoa butter are commonly used.
This salve recipe uses beeswax, due to its wonderful properties. Beeswax as the name says, is a wax produced by honey bees to buld their own beehive. Thanks to its antibacterial agents, beeswax has a long history of being used in cosmetics and also for certain skin issues. Historically, this has included treating burns and wounds.
Beeswax is ideal for moisturizing sensitive skin, hydrating the skin and soothing certain skin conditions. This makes beeswax a very good candidate as a wax for our healing salve as a hardening agent.
In order to learn, I like to keep my recipes very simple. Something that frustrated me a bit when starting to learn and experiment on soaps and natural cosmetics was the big amount of not-so-common ingredients we need to have to make a cosmetic: olive oil, castor oil, shea butter, palm oil, and so on…
So I didn’t make your life very easy on this tutorial by using 5 ingredients…
I have made 2 oil infusions with 2 different because at the same time I was experimenting on oil infusions as well. So, I wanted to give you a recipe of the exact product I’ve made.
Fact is you can only use one of the carrier oils, no need to use both. Sunflower oil is usually cheaper and is almost as good as sweet almond oil, so you can use it for both infusions. You also can use only one of these plants, although the healing salve won’t have so many medicinal properties. In other recipes I will also add butters and solid oils, but for learning purposes, we keep it simple.
Another reason to use simple recipes is the fact that you still get wonderful products with a homemade 3-ingredients recipe, We usually believe that good ointments, creams and lotions are supercomplicated to make, requiring heavy machinery and a big load of ingredients, only possible for big industries.
Fact is… you go to your kitchen dispenser, purchase one or two additional ingredients, and all of a sudden you have a cosmetic product as good as, or most of the times even better than commercial, expensive ones. And I love this reality in natural cosmetics 🙂
How to Use
The herbs in this healing salve are good for healing dry skin and nails, tiny cuts and scrapes, and softening rough patches and calluses. It’s completely oil-based and rubs in rather nicely. After a few minutes, your fingers won’t feel greasy but soft and conditioned. The essential oil gives it a beautiful scent too, whether is rose geranium, eucalyptus or rosemary.
Although all the herbs in this recipe are considered safe, you should speak with a physician if you have any concerns. Avoid applying the salve on deep cuts or wounds, instead smoothing it around the injured areas.
Use this healing salve as and when required. You can also gift your extra pots to friends if you can part with them. They’ll love how it works but also that it came handmade from you.
Homemade Healing Salve
- Digital scale
- Heat-resistant jug with spout (or a double boiler)
- Pan (for bagne-marie)
- Clean, dry and sterilized tin on glass containers
- 75 g sunflower oil calendula-infuse oil
- 75 g sweet almond oil plantain-infused oil
- 22 g beeswax
- 1/2 tsp essential oil (optional) rose geranium, eucalyptus or rosemary
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Make the infused oils
- Learn how to do cold-infused oils in this article.
- Begin making the two infused oils needed for this recipe at least four weeks before making the salve. If you're using homegrown plants, ensure that it was harvested in its peak, and is now fully dried out. If there's any moisture in the herbs, it can impact the shelf-life of your salve. You will need enough dried calendula flowers and plantain leaves, to fill a 150g jar two-thirds full for this recipe.
- Fill your jars – clean and sterilized – with 2/3 of plant material. Then pour the carrier oil over them (sunflower oil for both, sweet almond oil for both, or one for each as I did), and fill them up, leaving 7mm to 1 cm to the top. Seal the jars, shake them and leave them in a warm place out of direct sunlight. If you're leaving them near a window, make sure to cover them with a paper bag to prevent direct UV sunlight exposure.
- Give the jars a shake every day, and leave them for at least 4 weeks. After that, strain the oil from the plant material using a cheesecloth and a sieve. Discard the plant material and put the oils in new clean and sterilized jars for storage – you can also use the oils for the salve immediately 🙂 The oils have a shelf-life of up to one year, or the best-by date of the oil, whichever is closest. Store the jars in a dim and dry place and room temperature.
Make the Healing Salve
- Fill your pan with water and place it over heat until it starts boiling
- Measure the beeswax in the jug with the spout and place it inside the pan with boiling water.
- Let the wax melt completely (it melts at around 60ºC). Then pour your herb-infused oils. Stir untill the oils and wax are completely mixed and liquid.
- Take off the jug from heat, and place it in a heat proof surface (a cloth for example).
- Let it cool a bit for one minute or two and then pour the essential oil. You can choose your essential oil according to your scent preference. I personally love the scent of rosemary or eucalyptus in oil products (besides, both are cheaper essential oils 🙂 ), but use what's best for you.
- Pour the mixture into containers. It is best to use small containers than large ones: more even oil hardening, reduction in contaminants over time on the salve, ease of use. It is also better to offer your family and friends.
- Let the mixture harden for 4 hours inside the containers, without covering them (to avoid condensation inside the container). Put the lids in the containers when they are completely cooled.
- Your salve is ready for use!! As for shelf-life, it is given by the closest best-by date of your ingredients, or up to one year.