Discovering your inner aspiring herbalist.
Making salves is one of my favorite activities on the homestead. The transformation from seed, to blossoming plant, to dried herbal blend, to healing remedy makes me feel so connected to our land. When we set out to become sustainable on the homestead I knew that I wanted to make use of every resource available to us. I spent many a day walking through our woods and fields cataloging plants, where they grew, and the time to harvest them. This gave me a catalog of resources available right in our own backyard that I wanted to understand how to better put to work for us.
The same concept can be said for the beeswax I utilize in our salves. Our worker bees convert the sugar contents of honey into wax through their glands, which oozes through the bees small pores to produce tiny flakes of wax. That whole process is what makes honeycomb, which is the beeswax that transforms our salves from a liquid to a solid.
With all that energy working in harmony to produce just one of these tins of salve, how can we not be in awe of the healing power of this humble, herbal remedy? When I speak about making each batch of our salves with intention it is with that thankfulness for creation and a desire to help others in their healing that is foremost in my mind.
So what is a salve and how do we use it?
Simply put a salve is a balm or a topical herbal treatment. Our skin is one of the gateways by which our body can absorb the benefits of herbs; salves and infused oils have been used for centuries to treat various ailments. The process of making your own salve and entering the world of natural wellness is much easier than you might imagine. I prefer to use herb infused oils for my salves to really put some healing strength behind my remedies. This process allows us to extract the medicinal plant constituents and infuse their healing power into the carrier oil. If that aspect is still a bit intimidating for you, then you can certainly forgo infusing your oil for now and simply use essential oils in your remedy. The beauty of this homestead skill is that each maker adjusts the recipe to best serve their needs!
Making an Herb Infused Oil
You will need:
4 oz. dried herbs
1. Finely chop your dried herb and add to the mason jar.
2. Cover with carrier oil leaving headspace at the top of the jar.
3. Place cap on the mason jar and gently shake to distribute the herb throughout the oil.
4. Place the jar in a water bath in a crockpot (Place a mason jar lid ring under the jar with your oil in it, so the glass is not directly on the bottom of the pot).
5. Gently heat the water and oil for 3–5 days, the “warm” setting on a crock pot is ideal.
6. Shake the jar of oil and herbs a few times a day and replenish water in the crockpot as needed.
7. After 3–5 days, remove the jar and let the oil cool, then strain your oil through muslin cloth to remove the dried herbs.
8. Store your oil in an airtight jar in a cool, dark place.
You've made your first herb infused oil! Look at you getting your herbalist on. It's a simple and yet exciting milestone in the journey to achieving a more natural wellness plan for yourself and your family, so congrats! Ready for more? Then, let's learn how to put that infused oil to work for you in a salve.
Make an Herbal Salve
You will need:
8 oz. infused herbal oil
2 oz. beeswax pellets
a double boiler
essential oils, if desired
1. Warm oil in double boiler on medium-low heat.
2. Add beeswax and stir until melted (you can test the consistency of your salve by dipping a clean spoon into the mixture, and putting it in the freezer for a few minutes. If it’s softer than you prefer, add more beeswax).
4. Pour the warm salve into containers.
5. If you would like to add essential oils now is the time. Add a few drops as desired and stir.
6. Allow salve to sit undisturbed for 12-24 hours.
7. Put the lid on and store in a cool, dark place.
With the proper storage these infused oils and salves will last you a year. Don't forget to do a patch test before applying liberally. This can be done by applying a small amount to the skin and monitoring for allergic reaction. This is an important step before utilizing anything new on your skin.
Here we are at the end of your first step to becoming an aspiring herbalist. I remember feeling excited and empowered at this stage of my wellness journey and I hope you do too! Try some simple recipes for scrapes, rashes or dry patches to add to your natural treatment regimens and you are well on your way to filling your first aid kit with powerful, homemade remedies!