Learn how to make a plant-based salve for the skin with Wild Woods Emporium and Creative Active Lives CIC. This tutorial uses foraged plants, so check out our guide to plants you can forage when you go out for a walk.
WHAT IS A BALM?
A balm is a mixture of butters, waxes and and oils used in skincare as the base to which essential oils or other active ingredients are added, such as plant material. Creams are very similar, but they also contain water. This means that they need preservatives such as an anti-microbial to avoid the cream from going off, unlike balms, which do not contain water.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A BALM AND A SALVE?
A balm is thicker, so it needs to be rubbed in with more force than a salve which is softer. While salves contain a lower ratio of beeswax since they tend to be of a milder and softer consistency.
TYPES OF OIL:
Which oils to use:
Any pressed oil will work, if using the heating method. Many oils are fine, but why waste expensive oils? Below is a list of some you may consider using:
- Sunflower oil – It is cheap and fairly neutral in smell
- Olive oil – It is cheap, nourishing but does have a stronger scent, it is good for those who may have nut allergies.
- Almond oil – beneficial for dry and sensitive skins with a light scent. It does cost more than the other than the first two.
- Grapeseed oil – good choice for oily skins as it is light and easily absorbed. Another slightly more expensive oil.
- Butters: Shea, cocoa and coconut are all great to use with methods using heat unless you live in a hot country where the sun can do the work for you! Once strained and cooled, they will go hard by themselves, so it’s a basic method and also a way for vegans to avoid beeswax in balm recipes.
TYPES OF PLANT MATERIAL:
Here is a short list of some great herbs to try out first time. You can use fresh or dry plant material, When washing plant material make sure it is dry as you don’t want water in your balm as it will shorten the shelf life.
- Calendula flowers (Calendula officinalis)– Great for skin healing, it is soothing and a mild anti-microbial.
- John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) –This oil is used for nerve pain and aching joints. It is also an fantastic remedy for pain and the scar reduction of minor burns, It is also anti-viral. Pick the yellow flower and leaf tops when just in opening in midsummer, to get the most pollen and then the infusion should turn a deep ruby red colour. Infuse only using the sun-method way as it is very delicate.
- Elder Leaf (Sambucus nigra) – Pick them before the tree flowers and use the spring leaves create a dark green oil used for inflammation and pain of strains, sprains and bruises
- Daisies (Bellis perennis) – This makes a fabulous oil is for bruises
- Rose petals (Rosa spp.)– pink and beautifully scented, great for calming & relaxing remedies.
METHOD FOR INFUSING OIL
There are two basic methods of extraction – Using 4 oz plant material to 8 fl oz of oil.
COLD– Place oil in a clear glass container and add the herbs, place in a warm place or in the Sun for two to three weeks and shake daily. Then filter into a dark glass container, generally a better method if you live in a hot country.
HOT-In a ban-marie place the oil and the herbs simmer for two hours then remove the herb material and add a fresh batch, simmer again for another two hours.
USES: Used in food or massage, the oil can also be processed into soap, balms or creams.
HOW TO MAKE THE SALVE
The recipe is for a comforting salve – good for general first aid use on minor bumps, scratches and swellings, using a combination of Daisy, Plantain and Cleavers.
Daisies are easy to identify, grow everywhere, are quick to pick, and they are great for bumps and bruises.
Plantain is widespread, is good for all manner of minor burns, cuts, and stings. It’s well-known as a treatment for bee and wasp stings. It is also beneficial for all manner of skin irritations and minor inflammatory conditions, from eczema to minor allergic reactions.
Cleavers works wonders on skin complaints, insect bites and burns. It can be used to treat chapped skin, minor burns and any irritating insect bites.
For this recipe we will be using Olive oil, Shea butter and Bees wax
Shea butter is a fat extracted from the nut of the African Shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa). Raw Shea butter is yellow in colour, which becomes white when refined. The large amount of natural vitamins and fatty acids in Shea butter make it incredibly nourishing for your skin.
Beeswax forms a protective barrier that helps protect skin while holding in moisture and reducing dryness. Beeswax is also a natural humectant, which means that it attracts moisture.
- 100g Olive oil double infused with chosen plant material
- 65g Shea butter
- 50g beeswax
- 10 drops lavender essential oil
Double Boiler (or saucepan and heatproof bowl) Salve Tins (or small mason jars)
Kitchen mixing bowl (stainless steel for ease of cleaning) Spoon for mixing ingredients
- Heat the plant infused oil in a ban-marie
- Add the bee’s wax
- When the bee’s wax is nearly melted add the shea butter
- Use a spatula to mix and stop the mixture sticking to the sides
- When all has melted add the Lavender oil
- Mix thoroughly and pour in to sterilized jars but work quickly as it will start to harden
- If you want a smooth surface on your salve, don’t touch the pots while they are cooling! Once cool, cover tightly, label and date your pots
Makes 227g approx 15 pots of 15g
Should have a shelf life of around a year, store in a cool dry place
Always seek medical advice before using herbal remedies