Once you become a part of the crunchy, homestead 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.
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 its 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. Candelilla and carnauba are also suitable options, but candelilla can be hard to find and carnauba 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.
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
- Eczema (my favorite use of all)
- Cuts and scrapes (my second favorite use)
If course, if you intend 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 sometimes.
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 gives 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. I, for one, like to use calendula.
Buying an Herbal Salve
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 beautiful 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 every day 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.
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.
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.
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