Traditional healing herbs, locally grown or sustainably gathered, then carefully infused into skin-loving olive and avocado oils. This is a healing skin balm that is helpful for minor wounds, sprains, strains, bruises, rashes, burns, blisters, cracked skin, redness, swelling, reducing the appearance of stretch marks and scars, preventing infection, anti-itch, and topical minor pain relief.
I find that a good all-around skin salve is a crucial component of our first-aid cabinet. When I was growing up it was always a popular kind of triple-antibiotic ointment. We used it for everything from cuts and scrapes to burns and more. Now that I am making our family’s medicine naturally this is the first-aid skin salve that I prefer. It can be used like that old triple-antibiotic ointment, but has even broader uses and is just as (if not more) effective.
What is an Herbal Salve / Balm?
Salves and balms are a great way to hold herbs and essential oils in contact with the skin so that their active constituents may be absorbed to serve their healing purposes. They are super easy to make yourself, although they do take a bit of time.
All-natural salves and balms are made using a variety of ingredients such as oils or lanolin plus a hardener like beeswax. The consistency of the balm depends on the ratio of ingredients and can be adjusted according to your preference. More or less beeswax makes a harder or softer balm.
oil or lanolin + beeswax = easy to apply ointment for skin
Each Ingredient Matters
In addition to any herbs and essential oils, the ingredients that make up the bulk of balm or salve recipes also have unique therapeutic properties. We chose olive and avocado oils for this skin balm for the healing properties they bring to the table, plus a little vitamin E.
Olive Oil (Olea europaea)
Organic olive oil is the herbalist’s base oil of choice, most often chosen for herbal infusions. Olive oil is one of the oldest cosmetics and medicines used for wound dressing, treating minor burns, and preventing and treating stretch marks (Therapeutic Research Center, 2016c).
Avocado (Persea Americana) Oil
Avocado oil is used topically to soothe and heal (Therapeutic Research Center, 2016b) which makes it a perfect choice for a skin healing balm. Loaded with vitamins A, D & E, proteins, minerals and amino acids, according to this study avocado oil helps promote the regeneration of cells and production of collagen, and hastens wound healing (de Oliveira et al., 2013). Research also shows that avocado oil’s penetration enhancing effects help carry the healing properties of the balm to tissues that need it (Viljoen, Cowley, du Preez, Gerber, & du Plessis, 2015). Not to mention, avocado oil is a great skin softening moisturizer.
Vitamin E oil
Vitamin E is exceptionally high in antioxidants and so it doubles as a natural preservative, slowing the oxidization of the other ingredients. Vitamin E is also helpful for healing wounds and minimizing scarring (Petersen, 2016).
The recipe can use only base oils, like avocado or olive oil, or can be accentuated with herbs and essential oils.
Accentuate your Skin Balm with Herbs
Depending on the intended purpose of your balm, you can choose various herbs for infusing into your base oils.
I wanted an effective yet gentle all around skin healing balm that would be good for wounds, burns, minor cuts and scrapes, insect bites, bumps, bruises, sprains, strains, and healing scars and stretch marks. So after doing my research and gathering what was available to us this summer, we chose comfrey, plantain, pearly everlasting, calendula, and saint john’s wort to use in this recipe. These are herbs that are exceptionally good for skin and are available for gathering in many areas or are very easy to grow.
Read more about these herbs and why we chose each one in this upcoming post: 5 Safe Skin Healing Herbs You Can Gather or Grow. Subscribe via email to be sure you don’t miss it!
First, Make Your Herb Infused Oil
If you want to accentuate your balm with herbs, first you must infuse your base oils.
You can use one or all of the herbs we have included in our recipe, or maybe you have other herbs in mind. Just make sure the herbs you choose are safe and appropriate for the people who will be using your balm. You will want one ounce of dried herb to one pint of oil (Petersen, 2016).
With the exception of comfrey, all of these herbs are considered gentle and safe to use for all ages. Due to the alkaloid content in comfrey, the American Herbal Products Association warns against its use for those who are pregnant or nursing, and suggests limiting topical application to 4-6 weeks for everyone else.
There are a million and one ways to make an herbal oil infusion, and it seems like every herbalist book, school, class, etc gives a slightly different method. This makes me think, maybe it isn’t really all that complicated. The two main things are 1) getting the active constituents from the herbs into the oils and 2) being able to reproduce your results somewhat consistently. To learn more about herbal medicine making, check out this amazingly informative book: The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook by James Green. I wish I would have bought this one years ago. Or for beginning herbalists, I found this book a good place to start: Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide: 33 Healing Herbs to Know, Grow, and Use.
Skin Healing Herbal Oil Infusion Recipe
This infused base oil will be an ingredient in the final Healing Salve, or it can be used ‘as is’ for moisturizing, to make lip balm, as a base for lotion, or other herbal skin care goodies.
- ¼ ounce dried comfrey leaf (omit for those who are pregnant or breastfeeding)
- ¼ ounce dried plantain leaf
- ¼ ounce dried pearly everlasting leaf and flower
- ⅛ ounce dried calendula flower
- ⅛ ounce dried st john’s wort flower
- 1 pint organic olive oil
TIP: The active constituents of the herbs will infuse into the base oils even better if the herbal material is chopped into small bits. I like to measure out my herbs by weight and then run them through the food processor to break them up a bit.
- Place your chopped herbs into a pint size jar and cover with the oil, filling the jar to the top before sealing with a lid.
- Allow the herbs to macerate. You can do this slowly by setting the jar on the counter for 4-6 weeks, shaking it daily which is the preferred method by most. Or you can speed up the process by gently heating the oil. This can be done by placing the jar in a crock pot, fill the crock pot with enough water to come up the sides of the jar but not cover it, and set the crock pot on low or warm. Do not allow your oils to overheat! Try to keep them at 140-160F for 4 hours, then turn off heat and leave for 12 hours.
- Strain the herbs from the oil. Reserve the oil for making your salve, toss the spent herbs to the compost pile.
Now that you have your herbal infused oil, you are ready to make your salve. But first, let’s talk a minute about the essential oils we are using.
Essential Oils Good for Skin Balm
There are a wide variety of essential oils that we can choose from for making a balm. Again, it depends on the effect you are after and who will be using the preparation. It is important when using essential oils to research each oil you use and ensure they are safe for your intended purpose.
For our Healing Salve recipe I chose lavender and tea tree, two safe and effective skin healing essential oils.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oil
Lavender essential oil is not included simply because of the amazing aroma, Lavandula angustifolia has multiple healing properties that make it an effective first aid ingredient. Bruises, burns, insect bites and stings, scalds, sores, sprains, and minor wounds and infection will all benefit from the use of lavender essential oil. Lavandula angustifolia has minor pain relieving properties in addition to it being antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic, and astringent. (Petersen, 2016)
Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) essential oil
Melaleuca alternifolia has been a long time favorite in our family. We use it for everything. It’s healing properties are potent and highly effective. Like lavender, tea tree oil is an analgesic which can help relieve pain topically. Antifungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-itch, antiseptic, and highly antimicrobial. Tea tree oil is helpful for blisters, burns, cuts, bacterial and fungal infections, cracked skin, sores, insect bites and stings, wounds, and more. (Petersen, 2016)
Now, let’s get to the main event… the actual ‘Herbal Salve’ healing skin balm recipe.
Herbal Salve – DIY Skin Balm Recipe
Again, this healing skin balm is helpful for minor wounds, sprains, strains, bruises, rashes, burns, blisters, cracked skin, redness, swelling, reducing the appearance of stretch marks and scars, preventing infection, anti-itch, and topical minor pain relief.
Tips and Precautions for Using this Herbal Salve
For topical use only. Apply a small amount of herbal salve to the affected area, massaging gently. Repeat as necessary, 2-3 times throughout the day. Because of the comfrey, limit application to 4-6 weeks and consult your healthcare provider before use if you are pregnant or nursing. Discontinue use if irritation occurs.
This recipe makes approximately 6 ounces. Just right to fill a few small containers for around the home, or for sharing with friends!
- 2 ounces avocado oil
- 0.375 ounce beeswax
- 3 ounces herbal infused organic olive oil
- 0.25 ounce (1-1/2 teaspoons) vitamin E oil
- 15 drops tea tree essential oil (Melaleuca alternifolia)
- 15 drops lavender essential oil (Lavandula angustifolia)
- Combine the avocado oil and beeswax, melting them together. Use the double boiler method or the microwave. Be careful not to overheat your oils! You just want the wax to melt.
- Once the beeswax is completely melted, add the herbal infused organic olive oil. By adding the herbal infused oil at this stage it will not be exposed to as much heat. It also brings down the temperature of the mixture before the next step so the heat doesn’t vaporize the essential oils.
- Allow the mixture to cool a little, but not so much that it is no longer fluid. Below 160F is good for most essential oils.
- Add the essential oils and stir to distribute.
- Pour the mixture into clean containers and leave undisturbed until balm is cool and set. Do not cover yet or condensation can form.
- Once completely cooled, cover your herbal balm and label your container carefully.
I would love to hear from you!
I’ve tried to make these directions pretty straightforward, but please do reach out if there is anything I can clarify. What questions do you have about using the safe use of herbs? Do you have a favorite herb you like for its skin benefits?
If you found this post interesting and helpful, please share it!
|These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.|
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de Oliveira, A. P., de Souza Franco, E., Barreto, R. R., Cordeiro, D. P., Melo, R. G., Medeiros, P. L., … Maia, M. B. de S. (2013). Effect of Semisolid formulation of Persea Americana mill (avocado) oil on wound healing. Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2013, . Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3614059/
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Green, J. (2000). The herbal medicine-makers’ handbook: A home manual. United States: Crossing Press,U.S.
Moore, M. (1993). Medicinal plants of the pacific west (1st ed. ed.). Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press.
Petersen, D. (2016). HERB 101 Basics of Herbalism. Portland, OR: American College of Healthcare Sciences.
Pojar, J., & MacKinnon, A. (2004). Plants of the pacific northwest coast: Washington, Oregon, British Columbia & Alaska. Vancouver: Lone Pine Publishing USA.
Therapeutic Research Center. (2016a). St. John’s Wort Professional Monograph. Retrieved October 18, 2016, from Natural Medicines Database, https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/databases/food,-herbs-supplements/professional.aspx?productid=329
Therapeutic Research Center. (2016b). Avocado Professional Monograph. Retrieved October 18, 2016, from Natural Medicines Database, https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/databases/food,-herbs-supplements/professional.aspx?productid=890
Therapeutic Research Center. (2016c). Olive Professional Monograph. Retrieved October 18, 2016, from Natural Medicines Database, https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/databases/food,-herbs-supplements/professional.aspx?productid=233
Therapeutic Research Center. (2016d). Tea Tree Oil. Retrieved November 2, 2016, from Natural Medicines Database, https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/databases/food,-herbs-supplements/professional.aspx?productid=113
Viljoen, J. M., Cowley, A., du Preez, J., Gerber, M., & du Plessis, J. (2015). Penetration enhancing effects of selected natural oils utilized in topical dosage forms. Drug Development and Industrial Pharmacy, 41(12), 2045–2054. doi:10.3109/03639045.2015.1047847