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Herbal Salves for Natural Skin Care

Updated: Jul 9


Herbal salves are useful for a variety of skin issues, including cuts, scrapes, bruises, irritated skin, dry skin, acne scars, arthritis, and so much more.  They’re also easy to make, so this is the perfect project for beginner herbalists.  Some herbs can be grown in your garden; if you don't wish to start from seed, purchase seedlings for your local greenhouse or from The Grower's Exchange (thegrowers-exchange.com). If you’re adventurous, try foraging for wild herbs while hiking or camping.  You could also purchase good quality dried herbs from a reputable company, such as Mountain Rose Herbs (mountainroseherbs.com).  Here’s a list of some common herbs used in salve-making and their benefits; be sure to tailor your salves for your specific needs.


Calendula (Calendula officinalis) is an anti-inflammatory herb that is also a strong antimicrobial, antiseptic, antiviral, wound healer, and skin tonic. So, use this salve for dry, cracked, irritated skin, wounds, scrapes, and bug bites. Calendula is also an excellent anti-aging herb. When applying it to open wounds, be sure to clean the wound first, because Calendula promotes rapid healing and may seal the infection and dirt into the wound.  Calendula is also an excellent anti-aging herb.


Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) has been used for centuries to reduce pain and promote healing of injuries.  Recent research has shown that the topical application of Comfrey is a very effective pain killer.  Comfrey is commonly called “knit bone” and has been used to help heal bone fractures.  Additionally, it’s used for burns, wounds, and skin ulcers.  It also protects the skin and promotes new skin cell growth  It contains “allantonin”, particularly the plant’s roots, which promotes cell proliferation, so it makes wound healing much quicker.  Comfrey also contains “rosmarinic acid”, which makes it a strong anti-inflammatory. It will reduce swelling and help with faster recovery from bruises.  Comfrey can also help relieve dryness and skin irritation. 


Lavender (Lavandula) is a wound-healer and a strong anti-fungal herb, which makes it useful for all wounds and fungal infections of the skin.  It’s a muscle relaxant and antispasmodic, so rub some of this salve into aching muscles.  Lavender also helps with dry skin, as well as inflamed or reddened skin.  It can also help with acne and acne scars.  Lavender is a nervine and sedative, so it can help relax you and promote a good night’s sleep.  Massage a little bit into your temples.  I like to place a dab under my nose, so that I can inhale its scent. 


Mullein Leaf (Verbascum thapsus) is a wound healer and anti-inflammatory. But it's also a bronchodilator, and it breaks apart mucus.  If you add Eucalyptus Essential Oil to this salve, you’ll have a nice chest rub.  When making this salve for chest rubs, I use less beeswax than usual, so that I can apply it easily to the chest and massage in. 


Nettles a.k.a. Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica) is a wound-healer and anti-inflammatory, as well as an old fold remedy for treating muscle and joint pain, including arthritis and gout. It's also a bone tonic; consider blending Nettles with Comfrey.


Plantain Leaf (Plantago major) is a cooling anti-inflammatory herb that’s also antimicrobial, antibacterial, and a good skin tonic.  It’s a strong wound healer as well, so use Plantain to treat burns, wounds, insect bites, blisters and topical irritations, such as dermatitis. 


Rose (Rosa, L.) is the “Queen of Flowers” and is a cooling anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antiseptic herb, which makes it great for wounds and skin inflammation.  This sweet herb will also relax you and make you feel grounded.  It’s an antidepressant as well.   Massage a little bit of the salve into your temples and place a dab under your nose so that the aroma relaxes you.


St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is a nerve growth tonic and a strong neuroprotective, so it repairs damaged nerves and protects nerve health. It's also antimicrobial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and a wound healer.  Use this salve for any wounds, but especially for wounds where nerves have been damaged.  (With this herb, you'll need to infuse the fresh flowers in the carrier oil. Or you can purchase the infused oil from Mountain Rose Herbs.)


Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is a pain-relieving herb, so massage the salve into achy muscles and joints.  It’s also a strong antimicrobial, antifungal, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory herb, which makes it beneficial for a variety of skin issues, such as cuts, scrapes, and bruises.  Yarrow is also an anti-aging herb like Roses and Calendula, so blend these herbs together to use on aging skin. 


To make your salve, you'll need to make an infused oil first.  I like making solar-infused oils; see these instructions But another method that is much quicker is the stove-top method. Place dried herbs in a mason jar (about 1/2 way); and pour enough olive oil to cover the herbs by an inch. Screw the lid on the jar, but not tight.  Place the jar in a medium-sized pot that's filled 1/2 way with water. Next, heat on low for 4-6 hours (periodically check the water level to make sure that it doesn't evaporate). Remove the jar from the pan and strain through cheesecloth into a clean jar.


To make your salves, gather the equipment listed below and follow the directions.


Equipment:

  • 1/2 cup herbal infused olive oil

  • ½ oz. grated Beeswax

  • ½ tsp. Vitamin E

  • Double boiler or a small pot inside a pot of water

  • 6, 1-oz. tins or glass jars

  • Optional - essential oils of your choice; see this article for a few ideas


Directions:

  • Follow my instructions on making an herbal infused oil.

  • Pour ½ cup of your infused herbal oil into the top of a double boiler. Add in the beeswax, and over low heat, allow the beeswax to melt.

  • When fully melted, take a teaspoon of the hot liquid and place in the freezer for two minutes. (Placing a bit of the liquid in the freezer for two minutes will give you an idea of the salve’s consistency when it solidifies.)

  • While the teaspoon is in the freezer, get your tins or jars ready by placing them on a hand towel on a flat surface. If using essential oils, add 5-10 drops of the essential oils to each tin or jar.

  • After two minutes, take the spoon out of the freezer and touch the salve. If you like the consistency, then you’re ready to move to the next step. However, if it’s too loose, then add a little more beeswax to the pot, melt it, and try again.

  • Pour the liquid into a warm measuring cup, and stir in the vitamin E. (I place a glass measuring cup into a pan of hot water to warm it up while the spoon is in the freezer. This way, the oil won't harden too quickly.)

  • Quickly pour the liquid into your jars or tins before the liquid hardens.

  • When cool, place the caps on the jars or tins.

  • Create labels with the name of your salve, the list of ingredients, and the date. Place the labels on the jars or tins; store in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight.


To use your salve, simply apply a small amount to the affected skin and gently massage in. 

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