October 31, 2023
Healing wound salves sure do come in handy. Life’s adventures (and misadventures) cause all manner of scrapes, rashes, bumps and bruises along the way. Add to that summertime mosquito bites, that patch of poison ivy found accidentally while hiking, and swelling due to bumping an elbow or toe...you can see why it would be handy to have healing salves close at hand in medicine cabinets, camping gear and your vehicle’s first aid kit.
Now, granted, wound ointments and salves can be found in every pharmacy, big box store as well as online. There’s a wide array to choose from that promotes healing, soothes skin irritation and adds protection from bacteria. However, healing salves can easily be made at home which are just as good as what is offered for sale, at a far less cost to you. A few easily found ingredients and you are well on your way to becoming more self-sufficient. This is what our ancestors did, looking to the healing properties of both wild and cultivated plants as first aid. There wasn’t always a doctor close at hand, or the cash. Being self-sufficient is becoming even more important as uncertain supply issues have shown us. Added to that is making a wound salve that’s suitable for your specific wants and needs at a low cost. That effort gives you a good feeling of self-reliance. Hint, friends and family members would appreciate some jars of healing salve as well.
Picking Your Plants
So, to do this, what is needed? Plants with healing properties are first, and they are easily found in fields, wild areas, as well as in cultivated flower gardens. There are so many to choose from. In some cases, the tea aisle of your favorite health food or grocery store can also provide the botanicals needed. Just as important, be sure not only of accurate identification, but also that they are free of pesticides. Do you have dandelions growing nearby? The flowers, leaves and stems are fantastic to use in wound salve. These easy to identify lawn weeds grow just about everywhere.
Dandelions: (Taraxacum Officinale) are chock-full of anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties making them an ideal choice. In addition, they are anti-inflammatory so reduce swelling and can help to cleanse clogged pores. Dandelion also helps to detoxify by being diuretic, it flushes liver and kidneys. Now, care should be taken if a person has kidney issues or pregnant as it can cause the need to urinate more than normal. This can lead to dehydration, so a good plan when starting any new-to-you health regimen is to check with your health care provider and seek advice. It’s far better to err on the side of caution. Another caution is allergies. If allergic reactions occur when exposed to sunflowers, marigolds, dandelions or other plants that belong to the daisy family, it’s best to avoid the use of dandelions in salves. No worries, there are plenty of other plants to choose from.
Calendula: (Calendula Offinalis): Helps dry skin, relieves rashes, while reducing and helping with inflammation. Bug bites are soothed and scrapes are protected with antibacterial properties but be cautious as they too are in the daisy family.
Yarrow: (Achillea Millefolia): Another easily found choice for salve making. Found growing in fields, along roads and in gardens, it helps to regenerate new skin. It’s soothing to minor burns and can help ease itching due to bug bites.
Lemon balm: (Melissa Offinale): A wonderful plant. Not only does it make delicious tea, it can be used in wound care. It reduces swelling, is anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. If you are going to grow lemon balm, (which I heartily recommend), be sure to give it space. It’s related to mint and is very enthusiastic about trying to take over the whole yard and very possibly the neighbor’s yard as well. As I said, it’s enthusiastic.
Self Heal: (Prunella Vulgaris): Another member of the mint family. In early spring you can see vast areas in lawns, with a gloriously beautiful purple flower. The name gives it away, as it is a great healing plant. It works hard to repair tissue and speeds healing. A very useful plant indeed.
Plantain: (Platago Major): This can also be frequently found in yards and is one of my favorite go to botanicals for making salves and poultices. This is Plantago Major, which is the weed and not the tropical fruit (Musa Pardisiaca). It helps with reducing the appearance of scars and helps to draw out infection. It has anti-
bacterial, anti-microbial as well as anti-fungal healing properties.
So now that we have talked about plants, it’s time to harvest them and start the drying process. Select unsprayed leaves, flowers and stems, rinse and allow to dry. Drying is an important step as thoroughly dried plant material will not mold while infusing in the carrier oil. Using a dehydrator is one way to take out moisture, or another option is drying the plants in a single layer on a tray in an oven. Leave the oven door ajar; set the temperature for 200 F, checking frequently. When they are crispy dry they are ready for the next step, infusing. The carrier oil can be olive oil, grape seed oil, sunflower oil (again watch those allergies!) coconut oil or rice bran oil. I personally prefer to use olive oil but other people may have a different favorite they like more. Here are some tips on choosing a carrier oil. Olive oil hydrates, is anti-inflammatory and provides antioxidants.
- Grape Seed Oil: Useful for acne prone skin and helps to fade scars. It is good for sensitive skin.
- Sunflower Oil: Aids in keeping pores unclogged which is beneficial to help ease blemishes. It, like the other oils have antioxidant features.
- Coconut Oil: Excellent for damaged skin and assists in collagen production. It may be a bit much for those who have acne breakouts.
- Rice Bran Oil: Really aids with skin circulation. It reduces inflammation, helps to regenerate new skin and is good for sensitive skin.
Infusing the Oil
To infuse the oil, nothing could be easier. Take a mason jar or reuse a glass jar that has been cleaned thoroughly. Whatever jar you choose, it needs to have a cover. Place the dried plant material in the jar then completely cover with the oil you have chosen. The plant material could be a single type or a combination of two or more types of plant material. Then cover the jar, label and date what’s inside. This is an important step to keep track of what’s inside and for how long. Trust me on this. In the past I was far more casual, but learned my lesson in trying to figure out what’s exactly in the bottle a couple weeks later. Store covered for a couple weeks, then strain through a fine mesh strainer or piece of cheesecloth. What you want to use is the oil, so the leftover plant material can be discarded. Since the plant material is full of oil, put it in the trash. Avoid putting it down the sink or adding to a compost pile.
Making the Salve
Now comes the exciting part, making the salve. Measure the oil to determine how much beeswax is needed. A good ratio is 4:1. That means 4 parts of beeswax to 1 part oil. If you would like a softer, creamier salve adding a bit more oil will produce that creaminess you desire. For a harder salve, add a bit more beeswax. Sometimes even while measuring I decide at the last minute to add more of one or the other. Fortunately it’s quite forgiving. I have found working with small batches is easier, so I measure out both the oil and beeswax into a glass container that easily fits into a pan of water. This creates a double boiler effect and acts like a Bain Marie.
Bring the water up to a simmer on the stove, and stir the oil and beeswax until completely melted. Then pour the melted salve into containers. It’s helpful to have the containers ready as the salve will quickly cool and become hard. If that happens simply reheat and continue. I have found covered small, round aluminum tins which I like online. Another choice could be a repurposed Altoid tin or tiny jelly jar. It just needs to have a cover. Then add a label and voila! You’ve made healing salve! As mentioned, everyone at some time needs a little self-care to ease the bumps that happen in everyday life. These salves make small thoughtful gifts that show you care. Easy to make healing salves is a great step to becoming more self-reliant and ready for life’s little mishaps. To learn more follow Connie Glasheen on Facebook @The Seed Nerd
The articles was originally published in Be Ready! Magazine. You can find an original copy at OSGnewsstand.com. If you have any thoughts or comments on this article, we’d love to hear them. Email us at FirearmsNews@Outdoorsg.com.