What is an Herbal Salve and how is it made?

hands packaging herbal salves into boxes for shipping

What is an Herbal Salve?

Herbal salve texture person holding jar

Pronunciation: First of all, itʼs like tomato/tomahto or potato/potahto. Some people pronounce the “L” and some donʼt. OK? Now we have that out of the way.

Definition: A salve is simply a natural healing ointment. There are all different types of salve, basically depending on what types of ingredients are in it.

herbal salve texture in bowl with spoon

Purpose: Some salves are made to draw out toxins. Some are made to promote healing. Some are made to prevent infection. A salve can provide moisture and protection for skin as well. Well made salves made with a planned blend of herbs can work well for diaper rashes, as a first aid ointment, post exfoliation treatment, general body lotion, tattoo aftercare, eczema treatment, cleaning out babies folds, cleaning ears, healing scars, burns, sunburns, bug bites, as a bug repellant, as a foot treatment, as a lip balm, a hair treatment, you name it. An herbal salve could be made just with an oil and a hardener, such as olive oil and beeswax, but it is more useful if it is also made with some type of medicinal ingredients. We obviously love to use organic herbs to make our herbal salves.

How to make an Herbal Salve:

organic herbs infusing into oil in glass jar to make OrasHerbal base oil

1. Infuse the herbs: There are two methods that herbalists generally use to infuse the herbs into the oil. One is the low heat method, over a low flame or in a slow cooker. The second is the slower, cold infusion method. The method that uses heat is great in a pinch because it is faster and you can then custom make a salve as you need it. It does have its drawbacks though. Heating any whole ingredient risks oxidation, denaturing of any proteins, and challenging is molecular integrity. In other words, it is no longer raw and looses some of its properties. It’s like making soup, it’s almost always better after itʼs had more time. An oil can withstand more time when it is not being heated. For these reasons, the slow cold infusion method is preferable to use whenever possible, and it is the method we use when we make in our salves even though it’s a pain in the neck.

Our first consideration when choosing an herb to use in a salve is that it is safe – meaning it has a very low rate of adverse reaction and does no harm – and then, that it is effective in promoting healing.

At Oraʼs Amazing Herbal we blend the following herbs for our salves:

calendula salve Ora's Amazing Herbal outdoor on wood

Calendula: Calendula salves have been used to encourage wound healing, ease bruising and also treat infections associated with wounds. It also is known as a precursor for ceramide production in the skin, supporting collagen production, and being generally nutritive for the skin.

Comfrey: Comfrey is used in salves for cuts, burns, skin ulcers, varicose veins, bronchitis, bone healing and rheumatism. It is not to be overused but is a fabulous herb when used in small dosages, in a blended oil, like our base oil for example.

St. John’s Wort: Is considered to be anti-inflammatory and antiviral and is often used in salve for burns and for nerve pain.

Ora's Amazing Herbal Touchy Skin Salve outdoor on wood

Burdock: Burdock root has been used throughout herbal history for treatment of eczema, psoriasis, candida, burns, and rashes. It is known by herbalists to be antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and regenerative.

Thyme: Thyme is known to be a powerful antiseptic, antibacterial, and a strong antioxidant. Is also contributes a lovely gentle aroma to the oil it is infused in.

Plantain: Plantain is great topically for bites, and stings as well as all kinds of skin irritations including yeast and non-yeast diaper rashes.

Licorice (Touchy Skin Salve, Calendula SalveBaby Salve, Newborn Salve): Licorice root is known as an anti-inflammatory as well as antiviral. It is known by herbalists to be particularly useful in soothing eczema, herpes and chicken pox. Part of the reason it is so effective is that it leverages the natural cortisol made by our own bodies and helps it to stay active loner for us. We just love collaborative teamwork, don't we?
Ora's Amazing Herbal coconut free calendula salve for babies Newborn Salve outdoor on wood

We blend these herbs, and measure it into scoop it into glass jars. We use glass instead of plastic, to avoid the leaching of pthalates and other toxins from plastic into the oil.

We then fill the jar with Italian non-GMO grapeseed oil. Grapeseed oil is our carrier oil of choice because it is hypoallergenic and highly absorbable into the skin and thus delivers the healing our herbs have to offer very nicely. We also love that it has a neutral scent and a good shelf life compared to olive oil for example. This means we can avoid using any preservatives in our salve aside from vitamin E, which is important to us because preservatives tend to be toxic.

baby salve with calendula with texture of salve

2: Strain out the oil: We keep the glass jars infusing in a cold dark environment for a minimum of 6 weeks. The change is visible, the oil becomes a gorgeous dark green, full of nutrients. Some salvemakers like to keep the herbs after they are strained and use them for compost. We use a cheesecloth bag to strain the oil. We recommend not wearing any clothing you care about for this part, oil stains.

3. Gently heat, blend and pour: Now comes the salve making part. We gently and carefully heat the oil in a double boiler, just enough to melt the beeswax. We add beautiful, domestic beeswax, and organic extra virgin coconut oil and allow it all to liquify. We add a little vitamin E, and our essential oils when appropriate. Once the essential oils go in, they start to evaporate quickly so its a little tricky. You donʼt want to pour so fast that it spills and makes a big mess, cleaning salve jars is a seriously annoying task. You donʼt want to give the essential oils time to evaporate either though, so this step is a bit of an acquired skill.

Ora's Tattoo Salve aftercare healing ointment for tattoos outdoor

4. Let it cool down: Allow to fully cool before moving, touching or capping. If you have young children, they may love to watch it cool, as the color change moves up the jar.

The essential oils we use in our All Purpose Salve and Tattoo Salve are:

All Purpose Salve herbal salve with texture

Tea Tree: known for its antiseptic and its antifungal properties.

Rosemary: known for its stimulating and natural preservative activity.

Thuja (cedar leaf): known for its astringent, antiviral, and bug repellant properties.

Now you have it, all our secrets. You can go make some salve of your own. Have fun!

Or, you could, of course just buy ours.