Thursday, 26 June 2014

Which salve should I make?

When a herbwife first starts infusing oils, it is tempting to turn every herb into a double infused or sun infused oil just to know what it looks like, how it smells and experiment with use.  After a couple of years when your shelves are groaning with oils you thought might be a good idea, the reality hits that actually there are several which aren’t really doing anything except be handed round for people to sniff during talks and demonstrations.  

My unused oils were mugwort, tansy, southernwood and vervain. They could be used as an anointing oil during ceremonies or in ritual bathing. Mugwort, tansy and southernwood have a strong, pleasant scent, so I might try using them in a future experimental lotion.

Every household is different, so the oils you find useful will probably differ from those I love and use regularly. Even so, the following list may help you think about the oils you wish to create. If you’ve never made a herbal oil before then go and read this post first.

Single oils to have within easy reach

For skin and internal tissues
Calendula – this oil goes in most of my skin preparations
Plantain – can be used in any hand or skin lotion, can also replace comfrey in any formula
Yarrow – wonderful healing oil for anything to do with blood
Chickweed – anti-itch, soothing and moisturising, lovely as a bath lotion
Elder bark or leaves – really good for bruising
Comfrey – for broken bones, bruises, varicose veins
Nettles – anti-inflammatory and anti-itching/irritation, moisturising
Horsechestnut – good for strengthening artery/vein walls

For hair and scalp
Rosemary – promotes good blood flow, anti-fungal, moisturising
Thyme – anti-fungal, anti-bacterial
Nettle – promotes hair growth, so useful for alopecia

For ears
Mullein – very good for children’s earache
St John’s wort – there are “scientific studies” which show this oil is as effective as antibiotics for ear infections.
Garlic oil – often combined with mullein to give maximum anti-viral and anti-bacterial effect.

Marshmallow – my favourite moisturising agent
Violet or heartsease – my second favourite moisturiser

St John’s wort – I tend to add this oil to any combination “just because”. It’s specific for nerve pain and anti-bacterial
Meadowsweet – for all kinds of pain, contains salicylic acid
Agrimony – for pain caused by constriction
Solomon’s seal – for joint pain
Dandelion flower – light muscle pain, breast massage
Goldenrod – for deep muscle pain
Violet leaf – for breast tissue pain, breaking up fibrous tissue lumps NB Always get any lumps or bumps medically checked out first!


Angelica – lovely massage oil for tight muscles
Ginger – gives a gentle, warming oil
Chilli – use in small amounts as this will heat quickly

Salve combinations
Basic hand salve – plantain, calendula and violet or marshmallow
Old wound salve – comfrey, plantain and yarrow
Eczema preventive salve – calendula and chickweed
Eczema breakout – calendula, chickweed and St John’s wort
Diabetic foot salve – St John’s wort, plantain and marshmallow
Tight muscle pain salve – St John’s wort and agrimony
Varicose veins – horsechestnut and calendula
Joint pain – Solomon’s seal and agrimony
General pain – meadowsweet and St John’s wort
Winter heating oil – Non Shaw's’s hot oil recipe can be found here

Simple Creams
If you want to learn how to make a simple cream which doesn’t separate, read this post.
Aftersun soother – St John’s wort oil plus marshmallow with aloe vera gel and elderflower tincture
Rose moisturising cream – equal parts rose oil and rose tincture
Elderflower face and body cream – elderflower oil and elderflower tincture.

There are innumerable combinations of herbs to provide the perfect salve for the person, condition or moment. What is your favourite?


EMMA said...

Great stuff - you just reminded me that I have calendula flowers from my garden drying since last summer!! - do you think they will still be good to use?
I was planning to make an infused oil and then perhaps a salve. What oil would you recommend - it's mainly for my son who is 5 and gets eczema during the winter? Should I include any essentials oils?
I've just joined a foraging society here in france so I hope to be making lots of new things this year.

Sarah Head said...

Hi Emma, I would suggest you use the oil you are most comfortable with. I tend to use sunflower oil for most of my herbal infusions but if you have a cheap source of olive oil or jojoba, then you might want to try one of those. Olive oil is more easily absorbed through the skin but if more expensive over here in the UK, so I tend to keep it for "heavier" plants such as comfrey or rosemary. I wouldn't use any essential oils in a salve which is intended for children. I had a nasty experience of a 3 yr old using her mum's salve which had ylang ylang in it where her whole face swelled up and since then I've not added eos to anything, just in case. You don't really need them, especially for a skin condition such as eczema. Calendula is such a lovely plant to make an infused oil from. I've been harvesting from some second year plants which overwintered in my garden and look forward to making my next infused oil. Good luck with your salve.