What is a Salve? Salves 101

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Once you become a part of the crunchy, homesteady community, you’ll hear the term salve bouncing around. If you’re anything like me, you hate to ask what you believe might be a silly question, so you Google it. Don’t feel bad. I was constantly searching terms like tincture, kombucha, and scooby. My hope is that Google brought you to my doorstep so I can help answer those questions you have.

You many have heard the term salve bouncing around the crunchy community and not know what it was. A salve is something applied topically to heal the skin.

What a Salve Is

A salve is basically just something applied topically to heal the skin. It can be a balm, ointment, or cream. They are made with oils and waxes to create a semi-solid material. To keep them shelf stable and thick, there typically isn’t any liquid content, except when a small amount of tincture is added.

A tincture is a method used to extract the beneficial compounds of an herb into a liquid form. Alcohol is most commonly used, but glycerine, or even raw apple cider vinegar may be used. – Learning and Yearning

A few examples of oils that can be used are olive, coconut, sunflower, sweet almond, and apricot. Each one has it’s own properties that make it unique. Coconut oil is loaded with saturated fats, which holds moisture in the skin. Apricot oil may have anti-inflammatory properties. Animal fats use to be used for the oil base of salves and this practice is coming back. You’ll often hear of it referred to as tallow. If you’re making your own salve, be sure to research the various types of oils and their unique benefits.

Beeswax is the most commonly used wax used to bind everything together. Candelililla and carnuba are also suitable options, but candelilla can be hard to find and carnuba is a pain to chop. Ask me how I know (several band-aids later). Beeswax on the other hand is easy to find, easy to prepare, and can even be purchased as pastilles (little beads) for easy measuring.

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Why Use Salves

The ingredients in a salve serve many functions, which make the completed product very multi-purpose. You can use a basic salve for…

  • Dry skin
  • Diaper rash
  • Chapped lips
  • Sunburns
  • Eczema (my favorite use of all)
  • Cuts and scrapes (my second favorite use)

If course, if you intent to use your salve for a specific purpose, you can choose oils and waxes accordingly and infuse herbs in the oil for a medicinal punch.

Making a Salve

The nice thing about making a salve at home is that you can customize it the way you wish. The process isn’t super difficult, but it can be time consuming and messy. I really enjoy making them, but the cleanup of all the oily spoons, bowls, and containers has me regretting my decisions some times.

You many have heard the term salve bouncing around the crunchy community and not know what it was. A salve is something applied topically to heal the skin.

My friend Colleen of Grow Forage Cook Ferment has a great tutorial for making an herbal salve. In the tutorial, she talks you through the process and give tips for success. This is a woman who knows her herbs, so definitely take some time to search through her herb-specific posts to find the ones that are right for you.

Buying an Herbal Salve

You many have heard the term salve bouncing around the crunchy community and not know what it was. A salve is something applied topically to heal the skin.

Sometimes it’s easier just to buy a salve from a trusted source. It’s still homemade quality, it just doesn’t dirty your kitchen. I recently got a gift in the mail from my friend, the above mentioned Colleen. I carefully unwrapped the beautifully burlap wrapped package and found the two items she just listed in her new Etsy store, Coco’s Herbals.

First is her Signature Herbal Salve, made with coconut and olive oils that are infused with calendula, comfrey, yarrow, and plantain. It is a salve that can be used everyday around the house. The timing couldn’t be any better. My dog got me on the cheek with a toenail the other day while we were rough-housing (there is a reason why I tell the kids not to do that). I put some of the salve on it. The crustiness of the scab softened and the skin began to heal. By day two, there was a big difference. No more concealer trying to hide the wound. Today, it’s just a shadow.

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You many have heard the term salve bouncing around the crunchy community and not know what it was. A salve is something applied topically to heal the skin.

The second goodie was love at first smell. Seriously folks, this is the time of year for orange and spice, which is why I’m head over heals about Colleen’s Orange Spice Lip Balm. Even if it just smelled yummy, I would have been a fan. The fact that it works beautifully makes it fabulous. Due to my coffee habit (a lack of hydrating all day), my lips are always chapped. This lip balm is going in my pocket and staying with me everywhere I go. For my fellow coffee lovers, the scent when you sip coffee wearing the balm is intoxicating.

Coco’s Herbals

Colleen has been enjoying being a scientist and herbalist in the kitchen for years. She had been gifting her homemade products and sharing her recipes on Grow Forage Cook Ferment for a while now. I am so glad she has decided to take that next step, selling them so we can all enjoy her creations. Her passion is palpable which is why I was eager sharing her with all of you. Make sure you stay in touch with her Facebook page and be sure to favorite her Etsy shop so you find out when she adds new products made with love, experience, and enthusiasm.

You many have heard the term salve bouncing around the crunchy community and not know what it was. A salve is something applied topically to heal the skin.

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About Jessica Lane

I am a non-traditional homesteader. What is a non-traditional homesteader? I'd like to think we are the people who don't fit the mold. I am a busy mom on a small bit of property with not a lot of financial resources, but I am figuring out how to live the life I want. A homesteader's life.

Comments

What is a Salve? Salves 101 — 2 Comments

  1. That’s an interesting article! I knew nothing about salves really, even tho my dad was an old fashioned MD mainly practicing in the 40s. He used the term “salve” a lot.

    Being a very new blogger myself, I took special notice of how you gave lots of credit to Colleen, which is something we should do as bloggers!

    You painted some great word pictures!

  2. I used my first salve two years ago after I received this nasty gouge on my leg. Should have had stitches, but who wants to go the after-hours clinic with kids in tow at 7:30 in the evening?

    The first two weeks I didn’t do anything but keep it clean and covered, and it looked horrible. My friend gave me some lovely salves with comfrey, calendula, plantain, and yarrow, and immediately I saw a huge improvement. Now there is a slightly discolored area but the skin is smooth (despite the jagged appearance when it happened). Sorry for the gory details, but it was just so incredible.

    I make my own skin lotion using oil infused with comfrey, plantain, and calendula (basically, the lotion is like a salve in consistency). I use after my shower daily, and my skin is great year-round. Good for my daughter’s eczema too.

    It is a pain to make, but I make a large batch and keep small portions in jelly jars – less clean up.

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