Sunday, May 08, 2011

Herbsteading 101/Salve Making


                I'm growing extra herbs this year for salve making then soap making, so since I already know how to make salves, here is lesson 2 in my herbsteading lessons.  Salves are magical. There's a salve for every skin aliment known to man, and then some. First, you need to decide what you want your salve for? A rash, insect bite, or just rough skin? For your first batch, let's go with all purpose itch, with summer soon upon us, you will be using this alot.  The basic formula is simple: 1 part oil to 5 parts beeswax. If you made the herbal oils from my first lesson, you can use it here instead of adding the herbs to your carrier oil.  As with the herbal oils, your carrier oil can be any good natural oil, some favorites are sunflower and  grape seed and most of all olive oil, extra virgin is best. Do not use vegetable oils. I prefer olive oil.  If using fresh herbs, wash well and make sure they are completely dry, remember, water and oil don't mix. For this recipe, were using Plantain, which can be bought or harvested from the wild. If you are using your herbal oil, you are set to begin. If not, you will need to infuse your herbs in the oil. To do this, a old crock pot works best, simmer herbs and oil on low for at least 3 hours if you plan to make your salve the same day. If you are planning ahead, you can make up batches of infused oils to have ready for salve making. Drain oil over cheesecloth and store in airtight container until salve making time. If you don't mind the herb to be loose in the salve, chop fine.

      Once your oil is ready, you will need the beeswax. I get mine at the farmer's market from a local beekeeper, who sells it reasonable. Any good health food store will carry it too. You will need 5 parts, which means if you are using 1 cup herb oil, you will need 5 cups beeswax, which will make a lot, I would advise you to start with smaller portions.  Keep in mind, you will need containers for your salve. I like using baby food jars. In a large metal pot, warm oil and beeswax till just melted, use a wooden spoon that can be kept for this purpose only. A good rule of thumb is to add the contents from one vitamin E capsule to each batch for good measure, since vitamin E is very beneficial and soothing. Remove from heat once the mixture is warmed well. At this point you can add a few drops of essential oil of your choice, used more for scent so choose a nice smelling oil. I mainly use lavender in mine but if you want a extra healing agent, add a few drops of Tea Tree oil instead. Blend well. To test for thickness, drop a spoon onto wax paper to set, allow to cool. If you'd like it harder, add more beeswax and if you'd like it thinner, add more oil. Once you got it the way you want it, pour remaining salve into clean jars and allow to cool.

      This recipe is wonderful for insect bites, heat or diaper rash. A soothing balm that will also nourish the skin as it heals. The hardest part of this whole lesson was finding enough jars, you can buy them online if you want to get fancy or if you know someone with a baby, have them save you all the baby food jars. Thats what I did, it took awhile but they were free. The major benifit from making salves yourself, is you can custom  make them, experiment with different herbs and essential oils to find your favorites. Salves are a natural balm that attacks the skin right away to heal, and making your own is a satisfying feeling.

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