By Amy Jeanroy
Salve making is one of the first ways a home herbalist becomes familiar with herbal healing. Salves are easy to make and can be crafted to suit particular ailments, or made with an assortment of herbs for a more general healing.
When crafting salves, think about the sort of skin issues you want to treat. Do you want to simply provide protection from the elements on exposed skin? How about who the salve is going to be used on; some people do not like the feeling of heavy or waxy things on their skin. Others object to strongly scented herbs.
Most of all, consider when to apply a salve. Never apply to an unclean or fresh wound that may become infected. You do not want to trap unwanted extras in a wound, and the oily layer will do just that. In this case, wash the wound well, allow it to begin healing, and then apply a clean, fresh salve to continue the healing and provide a layer of protection from any more damage to the area.
The following is a list of 5 easy to find, easy to grow herbs that make up a lovely introduction to herbal salves.
Used for skin issues like eczema, acne and psoriasis, burdock is a wonderful herb to include in your salve making. Try it for these ailments, keeping in mind that many issues that appear on the skin as a result of something needing attention within the body.
Burdock root is used as an infused oil in this application.
Quite possibly the gentlest of skin herbs, calendula makes the list of salve herbs. Calendula is soothing, lightly scented, and anti inflamatory; perfect for salves that help protect a delicate baby's bottom. You often see it as an ingredient in herbal preparations for babies.
I like to also use it for salves on elderly skin. Medications and time both make elderly skin thin and delicate. Calendula is soothing and nourishing. If making a salve for elderly skin, infuse in a skin friendly oil that will be absorbed into the skin. A heavier oil like olive, can be too greasy feeling
Comfrey gets a bad rap occasionally. Although the idea that comfrey is dangerous, is akin to the glass half empty idea. Yes, it can keep infection in a wound, but that is only because it heals skin so quickly, that an unclean wound will heal over and trap the infection within. Comfrey does not cause infection.
Despite this, it should remain on the list of salve herbs, because if a wound is free of infection, applying comfrey salve is a wonderful idea. This type of salve is going to speed healing considerably.
Mullein is a must have for salve making. The flowers are used for salves, and are gentle enough for a baby's skin. Mullein is a wildly common herb, so you may find a patch on a roadside or back side of a farmer's land.
Making an infused oil out of mullein flowers is not difficult but can be time consuming. The flowers actually open in a spiral pattern around the plant. Every morning, one can harvest a few more and add to the original oil. I keep mine on a windowsill, covered with a coffee filter than has been held on by elastic. That way, the natural moisture of the fresh flowers does not create condensation inside the jar. This moisture promotes spoilage, and should be avoided. The finished oil is an electric yellow color, beautiful!
Plantain is one of those herbs that you probably walk on every time you get the mail. It grows in most lawns in the US, sticking to the height of the mower blade, making it sometimes difficult to notice. Renowned for its soothing ability on bees stings and bug bites, once you try plantain, you will keep a sharp lookout for this useful herb.
Infuse some oil with it when plantain is growing everywhere, then you can keep making this skin soothing salve all year round.