salve1 sav/ noun 1. an ointment used to promote healing of the skin or as protection. synonyms: ointment, cream, balm, unguent, emollient; More something that is soothing or consoling for wounded feelings or an uneasy conscience. "the idea provided him with a salve for his guilt" verb verb: salve; 3rd person present: salves; past tense: salved; past participle: salved; gerund or present participle: salving 1. soothe (wounded pride or one's conscience). "charity salves our conscience" synonyms: soothe, assuage, ease, allay, lighten, alleviate, comfort, mollify "she did it to salve her conscience" 2. archaic apply salve to.
I had my first salve making session last weekend thanks to the herbal prowess of my lovely roommate Misha. It was a fun and interesting way to while away a lazy sunday in January. Herbalism has always had a draw for me, I envision myself growing herbs in the summer, drying them and then during the cold winter months prepare my various ointments and balms. There is also the comfort in knowing exactly what has gone into what I am consuming. This summer my hope will be to grow a variety of herbs for medicinal purposes. The brightly colored bottles are all courtesy of Misha, who provided essential oils as well as dried leafy bits. We used marshmallow root, burdock, sage, calendula, comfrey, lavender and rose for this adventure. These particular herbs all contain healing properties for the skin. I provided the organic almond and apricot oils. Lets begin, shall we?
IN the beginning... I started reading this book, "The Herbal Medicine Makers Handbook". James Green is smart and his book is written in a way that is easy to read and feels like you are sitting down and talking with the author. I especially love how he describes imbueing each concoction with the life essence of the plant. Harvesting becomes a ritual: "As we gather each bud and root, we honor each plant with a small intention."
We decided to create a salve as well as a herbal infused oil. You need a herb infused oil in order to create salve, so they go hand in hand. There are a TON of different ways to create an oil infusion, but we decided to use the one which required a light heating process. I plopped the oil in a glass bowl, while Misha buzzed our desiccated herbs in a coffee mill so that they became herb "powder" and than we dunked them in the oil bath. A chopstick is a great tool for mixing up your gooey herbal love. I placed the bowl uncovered in an oven/by the woodstove on 100 degrees fahrenheit for about 5 hours, stirring occasionally.
After this step, comes the filtering process. Using muslin and a fine mesh sieve, we strained the "mark" (the mud like herbal goop) from your liquid gold (oil mixture). This is good to go! You can keep it in a airtight container and use as is, add essential oil, (I added lavender) for after showering- on the skin, or you can create salve or lotion. The plain infused oil has an almost "toasty" cooked smell to it.
You can see by the picture that a few small herbally residues remained after straining-so far this hasn't posed a problem in our salve. According to James Green, these small amounts can actually mold later on in your salve or lotion because of the water content in the residue, so it is a good practice to try and get all herb stuffs out of your oil. At this point in the process we needed a few more ingredients: beeswax, a double boiler, small tins,and essential oils. Rinsing each bottle and tin in soapy hot water, and than letting them completely dry is very important!
We got a double boiler ready and started to heat a few ladlefuls of oil. Once it has been about 5 minutes, or the oil is thoroughly heated start to add some shavings of beeswax. Bubbling way, our happy cauldron.
Once the beeswax has melted thoroughly into the oil, its time to test the viscosity of the mixture. A great method that isn't necessarily the Best way to check for this is to ladle a small amount into a spoon and pop into the freezer, and wait 5 minutes. Pull your spoon out of the freezer and check to see if the consistency is what you would want in a salve. This can be tricky, because it may not reap the most accurate results. The most accurate way may be to just let it sit on the spoon and cool a bit on its own.The moral of the story is: add beeswax for a harder salve. Once you have a good texture, pour into your container. Let cool and enjoy!