With the new school year bringing kids in contact with lots of germs and brand new bumps, bites and scrapes, I thought I’d share a little about making your own herbal salve to deal with a few of these problems from herbs you can probably wildcraft in your own back yard.
Backyard Healing Salve
The basics of a salve are oils, beeswax and herbs. The ratio is what makes the difference between balms, salves and ointments. You can read more about that here. But when you need it to soothe a hurting child, no one is going to care if it’s thick or thin, only if it works! Today we’re going to talk about making a simple herbal salve.
First, some general notes about wildcrafting.
Do your research! Learn to identify the plants in your area. Get yourself a good field guide with lots of drawings or pictures and info. If you”re still unsure, find an experienced herbalist or naturalist to do a nature walk around your property to help you make positive identifications before you harvest. The plants listed below are fairly easy to identify but other herbs may be a little more tricky to distinguish or be similar to poisonous plants…like Queen Anne”s Lace and Water Hemlock.
If you don”t have a place to gather herbs on your land, be sure to get permission before harvesting from public or private property. If your not gathering in the wild, please be sure the plants have not been sprayed with toxins of any kind, like pesticides, herbicides or even chemical fertilizers often used on lawns. And last but not least, be sure that the plant you”re gathering isn’t endangered or protected. Never harvest an area bare…leave some plants to seed the area for the following year. Make a list of the plants you identify in your yard or field for future reference.
Here are several plants from my back yard that I like to use when preparing healing salve:
Plantain (Plantago spp.)
Called waybread by the Anglo-Saxons. The first lawn herb I turn to for healing and a staple in any Herbal Medicine Chest, plantain is well known for its healing properties both inside the body and out. As an external healer, plantain is soothing to sores, wounds, burns, and even hemorrhoids That’s why we’ll include it in our salve.
Tip: To ease the pain of an insect bite or bee sting, make an impromptu poultice on the spot by bruising or macerating (chewing) a plantain leaf and applying it to the area.
Chickweed (Stellaria spp)
One of my favorite herbs and an all around useful plant medicinally, chickweed is also delicious to eat! Besides healing, chickweed offers drawing properties that can encourage splinters and insect stingers to come to the surface. It’s helpful for skin irritations and eczema, too, making it a great additive to our Backyard Healing Salve.
Self-heal (Prunella vulgaris)
A quick acting healer that Culpepper recommended for “green” wounds to “close the lips of them” in the days before stitches, self-heal should be used on open wounds that have been cleaned to avoid sealing in bacteria and dirt. On the flip side, it also offers some antibacterial properties.
Yarrow (Achillea Bisognera)
The astringent properties of yarrow help with clotting to ease excessive bleeding and can reduce inflammation.
Making the Salve
Let’s get down to the preparation.
- 1 cup fresh herbs chopped or ½ cup dried herbs
- 1 cup oil (Olive, Sesame or Almond are good choices)
Gently warm the herbs and oil for 2-3 hours. You can do this in a number of ways such as in a double boiler, in a jar in the sun, in a warm oven (turn off the heat first), in a slow cooker or crock pot on low.
After steeping, strain the “marc” or plant material from the oil. You can compost this!
To the warm oil add ½ – 1 oz. Beeswax and stir until melted. You can use beeswax pastilles or grate your own.
Once the wax is melted, pour the salve into sterilized containers. Cool, cap and label your salve with all it”s ingredients and instructions for use. (Be sure to remember to clean the wound first to avoid sealing bacteria or dirt in the wound.) Depending on the amount of beeswax used, you may decide to use a small jar, tin or a twist up tube. When applying, be sure to use a clean finger, cotton swab or cosmetic paddle to remove the salve from its container so it doesn’t become contaminated. Store your salve in a cool place out of direct sun or high heat.
Now you’re ready to dry those tears and treat cuts, scrapes, bruises and bites with a natural healing balm you made yourself! That’s a sustainable alternative you can be proud of!