I spin, I knit, I bake, and I sew. I guess I do a lot of things “the old fashioned way.” Maybe it’s because I grew up with people who quietly insisted that handmade was always better- perhaps it is. Regardless, I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s something infinitely meaningful in making things from scratch.
A while back, I went through yet another round of “lets give the redhead with the weird symptoms to the residents and see what happens.” Seeing 6 doctors in 3 days did nothing positive for my opinion of modern health care (Don’t shoot me Uncle Bob- the imaging guys were super fab!). I made a promise to myself that I’d never again waist time and resources, mine or a doctor’s, by coming in for anything minor (please note that I said minor- I’m not suicidal).
I mean, common…I’d been reading herbal manuals for years. I’d adopted many home remedies that work very well. So why couldn’t I take this a bit further.
In walks the idea of making hand balms/salves (I use the terms interchangeably). They’re a simple introduction to herbal home remedies that you don’t have to taste. They aren’t likely to do permanent damage and they allow everyone to indulge in a little creature comfort now and again. As someone with chronically dry skin and ever-present hangnails, I can’t get enough of them.
So here’s how I do it.
I start by setting out the herbs I need. This time I’m making a simple healing salve for chapped/dry skin using calendula flowers, also known as pot marigold.
I then add oil to the bowl of herbs- just enough to get everything wet. The type of oil isn’t terribly important (arguably). Some people swear by cold pressed extra virgin olive oil. Personally, I prefer to use safflower oil simply because it doesn’t have a heavy smell.
I then prop the bowl of herb/oil mess in a pot of water to double boil for a couple of hours. (Feel free to make fun of my makeshift double boiler. In 4 years, we still haven’t gotten past the hand-me-down stage of setting up house.) Cooking the oil this way infuses it with the goodies from the herbs.
Once they’ve cooked, I then transfer the herb/oil mess to a strainer filled with cheese cloth and squish the heck out of it. Salves tend to be much nicer to use when you don’t have to pick the herby bits off yourself afterwards.
Note: Do NOT do this immediately after cooking-let it cool first! This stuff been sitting in boiling water for 2 hours. Burning yourself while making the salve kinda defeats the purpose. (Just ask me how I know.)
Once the oil has been separated from the herbs, it goes back into the bowl with some beeswax. (Until I can locate a decent local source, mine comes from this particularly nice gentleman.) The bowl is then put back onto the double boiler and heated until the wax has melted.
Once melted, I add a little vitamin E to keep the oil from spoiling (and you just thought it made you pretty). I then use a turkey injector, sans horrifically scary needle, to neatly fill individual little pots for use later.
As a special gift, sometimes I’ll reheat the salve on a hot plate and add an essential oil or fragrance. That said, the subtle smell of beeswax and herb is probably still my absolute favorite. That’s all there is to it, really.
Edit 11/30 2:10 pm:
To those that have commented and emailed me about the salves: thank you for the compliments! Unfortunately, I’m not selling them at this time.