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How-Tuesday: Herbal Salves

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Well, the mad dash of the holidays has subsided, and eyes are turned towards a glittering new year. To help you recuperate from the notoriously busy holiday season, in this week’s How-Tuesday post we’ll learn how to make herbal hand salves with the help of Kelly Wilkinson, author of the book, Weekend Handmade, and the blog Make Grow Gather. Give your hands a spa-worthy treatment designed to wind down and relax after a seasonal tinsel-tinged whirlwind.

Making these salves is an easy process that involves infusing oil with your chosen herbs, then combining the oil with beeswax. Although oils can be infused in a couple hours on the stove, I prefer to infuse them using the slower solar method, which takes a couple of weeks. Watching the sun glint through the jars of golden oil as they steep is beautiful — and makes the wait worthwhile.

My ideal is to make these salves with herbs I’ve grown in my garden and then dried myself, but high-quality dried herbs purchased from a bulk supplier work well also. Use these emollient salves on hands, feet, elbows, or any other part of your body that needs moisturizing.

Supplies you’ll need:
Dried herbs or fragrant flowers
About 2 cups (473 mL) olive oil or other carrier oil, such as calendula oil or almond oil
About 1 cup (236.5 mL) beeswax (you can use a small votive beeswax candle if you can’t find pure beeswax)
Essential oil (optional)
Clean glass jars with tight-fitting lids, for infusing oil
Cheesecloth or a jelly bag
Liquid ingredient measuring cup
Saucepan
Grater
Plate
Tablespoon
Spoon
Saucer
Small clean tins or jars with lids
Kraft paper adhesive labels and printed Japanese washi tape

Yields about 2 cups (473 mL) of salve

Directions:

Infuse Oil
Note: When you’re infusing the oils, there is no strict measurement or ratio of herbs to oil — just make sure to use enough oil to generously cover the herbs, since the herbs will absorb some of the oil.

1. Place the dried herbs or flowers in a clean jar and cover with olive or other carrier oil, filling to within 1″ (2.5 cm) of the top of the jar.

2. Seal the jar tightly and place in a sunny window. Shake every day or so for two weeks to disperse the herbs throughout the oil.

3. Place a double layer of cheesecloth or a jelly bag over the measuring cup. Pour the contents of the jar over the cheesecloth or jelly bag to strain out the herbs. Let drain.

4. When the oil stops dripping, wring the herbs out with your hands to extract all of the infused oil. Discard spent herbs. Note how much infused oil you have in the measuring cup.

Create Salve
1. Pour the infused oil into a small saucepan. Grate the beeswax onto a plate. For every 1/4 cup (59 mL) of infused oil in the pan, add 2 tablespoons of grated beeswax to the pan and stir until dissolved. If you’re using essential oil, add a couple drops for every 2 tablespoons (29.5 mL) of infused oil, or more if you prefer a stronger scent.

2. Warm the ingredients gently over low heat. Meanwhile, place a saucer in the freezer.

3. When the wax is dissolved, remove the pan from the heat and place a spoonful of the salve mixture onto the cold saucer. Place the saucer back in the freezer.

4. After about a minute, check the consistency of the salve by removing the saucer from the freezer and testing it with your finger. If it’s very hard, add more infused oil. If it’s too soft, add more grated beeswax. Aim for a consistency that will work well as a salve (I prefer mine on the creamy side so I can use it as a heavy-duty gardening balm).

5. When the salve reaches the desired consistency, pour it into clean tins or jars.

6. Place the tins or jars on a level surface to cool and set. When the salve has cooled completely, place lids on the tins or jars.

Add Labels
1. Add decorative labels to the tins or jars to identify the blends. I printed the blend names on adhesive kraft labels and cut the labels to fit the tops of the tins. I also added a piece of washi tape along one side.

2. Store the salve in a cool, dark place.

For more weekend projects like this one, check out Kelly Wilkinson’s book, Weekend Handmade, from STC Craft. Find it on Amazon, or from an independent bookseller near you.

If you make your own herbal salve, share a photo with us in the Etsy Labs Flickr group.

More Things to Make | Holidays on Etsy

  • layracreations

    layracreations says:

    Great!!!!

    2 years ago

  • littlebugjewelry

    littlebugjewelry says:

    Oh, I could use this!

    2 years ago

  • myvintagecrush

    myvintagecrush says:

    Nice, love these how-tues!!

    2 years ago

  • littlepancakes

    littlepancakes says:

    I will definitely be trying this!

    2 years ago

  • mazedasastoat

    mazedasastoat says:

    I've been making hand salve for years for my hardworking gardening & woodworking hands, almost to this exact recipe! It really is super easy & fabulously soothing to chapped or dry skin... everyone should give it a try!

    2 years ago

  • MegansMenagerie

    MegansMenagerie says:

    Love this!!!

    2 years ago

  • ClotheslineNosh

    ClotheslineNosh says:

    I wonder how much money we save in doing this as opposed to buying something? It seems like it would be a bit of a cost upfront, but we would likely be able to make more with the ingredients! Thanks for the tip! Haha! I just looked down at my nasty cracked and dry hands typing away at this comment. If we all made many of our gifts like I did, I bet we can all use this just for that reason alone!!!

    2 years ago

  • aostudio9

    aostudio9 says:

    I love making infused oils and often use them in my Body Butters, really great when your skin needs extra TLC during winter months and also for sensitive skin!

    2 years ago

  • adessojewelry

    adessojewelry says:

    Your directions are excellent, Kelly....really nice post. Will definitely try this. Thank you!

    2 years ago

  • AlisaDesign

    AlisaDesign says:

    Cool!

    2 years ago

  • OnlyOriginalsByAJ

    OnlyOriginalsByAJ says:

    I can't wait to try this! Thanks for sharing!! :)

    2 years ago

  • longwinterfarm

    longwinterfarm says:

    Well said! Some people make jam...we bath dorks make salves. I just want to reiterate the DRIED herb part, if you don't dry your herbs and use the solar infusion method, the water inside the herbs will totally mold things up. Fuzzy, stinky mold.

    2 years ago

  • RivalryTime

    RivalryTime says:

    Thanks for sharing.

    2 years ago

  • cottonbirddesigns

    cottonbirddesigns says:

    Great article!

    2 years ago

  • minta77

    minta77 says:

    awesome article - love the recipe and am going to try it out ;)

    2 years ago

  • TheDanishRaven

    TheDanishRaven says:

    Wonderful and timely!

    2 years ago

  • Iammie

    Iammie says:

    Cool! I wanna try someday...

    2 years ago

  • AkimaBotanicals

    AkimaBotanicals says:

    I gave hand salves out for the holidays, they're awesome and soooo easy to make! There are many sellers here on Etsy with top quality supplies like beeswax, containers, etc.

    2 years ago

  • peshka

    peshka says:

    fantastic!

    2 years ago

  • FireHorseTextiles

    FireHorseTextiles says:

    This recipe sounds great and very timely for wintery hands!

    2 years ago

  • opendoorstudio

    opendoorstudio says:

    thank you for sharing. I would LOVE to take the time to make some of these myself... on the new years resolution list..." do something for YOU" ( check)

    2 years ago

  • VintageScriptPress

    VintageScriptPress says:

    very cool looks fun to make thanks for sharing!

    2 years ago

  • TheWeirdGirlWorkshop

    TheWeirdGirlWorkshop says:

    This sounds like a very relaxing project- thank you!

    2 years ago

  • MadisonStreetBeauty

    MadisonStreetBeauty says:

    I can't wait to try this! Love it!!

    2 years ago

  • good4you

    good4you says:

    i love making salves , add different herbs and essential oils gives each one character . there are endless possibilities . it is so great to see herbal goodies featured . it is my life and passion <3

    2 years ago

  • TwistedWhimsyDesigns

    TwistedWhimsyDesigns says:

    Fun! Can't wait to try this!

    2 years ago

  • CalicoJunoJewelry

    CalicoJunoJewelry says:

    Thanks for sharing. Can't wait to make it & share it with my friends!

    2 years ago

  • AllyCat123

    AllyCat123 says:

    Thanks for uploading this. I will defiantly be trying this one out!

    2 years ago

  • gilstrapdesigns

    gilstrapdesigns says:

    I'll have to try this my hands could defintley use a spa treatment and so could the rest of my body. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    2 years ago

  • AlpineGypsy

    AlpineGypsy says:

    I'm definitely a fan of herb and flower-infused oils ~ they are deelovely on the skin. :o) Thank you for such an easy recipe, I can't wait to make some! Heidi

    2 years ago

  • BlackStar

    BlackStar says:

    Also, check your infusion and add oil as needed. The herbs will soak up the oil at first.

    2 years ago

  • SASSYspaces

    SASSYspaces says:

    i love stuff like this! i will have to try!!

    2 years ago

  • elisemahan

    elisemahan says:

    thank you for this delightful idea!

    2 years ago

  • StudioBotanica

    StudioBotanica says:

    These look amazing, thank you!

    2 years ago

  • lauratrevey

    lauratrevey says:

    Thank you Kelly! So needed :)

    2 years ago

  • CreativeCardsForYou

    CreativeCardsForYou says:

    Wow - this is really cool!

    2 years ago

  • seahrse

    seahrse says:

    Kelly your directions are so easy. I can't wait to try them! Thanks!

    2 years ago

  • DuryeaPlaceDesigns

    DuryeaPlaceDesigns says:

    This seems pretty easy... definitely going to give it a try! Thanks!

    2 years ago

  • kakes005

    kakes005 says:

    awesome, thanks!

    2 years ago

  • Laughingdogstudio

    Laughingdogstudio says:

    Thank you for this timely info!

    2 years ago

  • fraskedesigns

    fraskedesigns says:

    this is a great idea, i would love to try it. is there a certain shelf life of the final product?

    2 years ago

  • HiddenMeadows

    HiddenMeadows says:

    Thank you for sharing! I've been wanting to make some forever, but had no idea where to start. :)

    2 years ago

  • misschrissa

    misschrissa says:

    I LOVE this!

    2 years ago

  • MsFoodie

    MsFoodie says:

    Love the Rose and Chamomile sent oxxo Thanks

    2 years ago

  • zakonek

    zakonek says:

    Sounds like a super fun project! :) Thanks for sharing...

    2 years ago

  • DesignsbyALY

    DesignsbyALY says:

    I'm definitely trying this! I'd love to make something completely natural to counteract my dry winter skin - think my mom would love this too! Thank you!

    2 years ago

  • Thelittleblackbooks

    Thelittleblackbooks says:

    Wonderful. I love making my own beauty products!

    2 years ago

  • needleandfelt

    needleandfelt says:

    Can't wait to try..thank you!

    2 years ago

  • TwistedRiverSoap

    TwistedRiverSoap says:

    I love infusing my herbs, for soap, balms and salves - very rewarding in so many ways.

    2 years ago

  • nicilaskin

    nicilaskin says:

    sounds super easy, thanks for the article my cuticle will thank you :)

    2 years ago

  • BanglewoodSupplies

    BanglewoodSupplies says:

    This is awesome. Thanks!

    2 years ago

  • Melissababycreations

    Melissababycreations says:

    I am definitely going to try this! Thanks so much!

    2 years ago

  • GoddessOfJewelry

    GoddessOfJewelry says:

    Love this! These can be extremely healing if one researches the benefits of various essential oils.

    2 years ago

  • ayc9607

    ayc9607 says:

    Ok question.... Can u use fragrant tea for the oil? :)) since they are dried herbs :)) Would infusing it beyond 2 weeks be better/stronger scent?

    2 years ago

  • LivingVintage

    LivingVintage says:

    Great info!

    2 years ago

  • cookiechica

    cookiechica says:

    this is one for my bookmark file! I love making beauty products for hair and skin, and as a avid veggie/herb gardener, this is another great recipe for my bounty! Thank you!!

    2 years ago

  • TheMillineryShop

    TheMillineryShop says:

    This looks great. If I can';t get to a spa, this is the best way to get it to me. Thanks.

    2 years ago

  • ChezaIndigo13

    ChezaIndigo13 says:

    Thank you ever so much, I've been trying to learn how to make salves for my family for months!!! Rocky Mountain Soaps - in no way, shape, or form does this mean I intend to stop haunting your shop!!!

    2 years ago

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage says:

    Wonderful recipe! Thanks for the post!

    2 years ago

  • BelowBlink

    BelowBlink says:

    awesome ;-)

    2 years ago

  • BelowBlink

    BelowBlink says:

    awesome! ;-)

    2 years ago

  • lapuzelo

    lapuzelo says:

    i really should try this~! my hands are sooooooo dry~~~!

    2 years ago

  • sjhamrick

    sjhamrick says:

    I'm vegan. What can I use in the place of beeswax that will give the same texture?

    2 years ago

  • Powerofflower

    Powerofflower says:

    Very cool! :)

    2 years ago

  • thedaydreamer

    thedaydreamer says:

    Sounds fabulous! Thanks for sharing the recipe.

    2 years ago

  • StitchnSpoon

    StitchnSpoon says:

    Awesome Article! Careful when using essential oils and herbal infusions, there are many allergies and skin sensitive compounds in herbs. If in doubt, check with your local Cosmetic Board or Herbal Institution for the safe percentages or known concerns. For those interested in retailing Cosmetics in Canada, here is your required form to fill out for Health Canada (there are a few other regulations, you can find most of them listed on this site); http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/cps-spc/cosmet-person/indust/require-exige/cnf-dcf-eng.php Happy Crafting :) Rachel Jane

    2 years ago

  • WildRoseHerbs

    WildRoseHerbs says:

    Awesome post! Here's a few things I do too: 1. You can also infuse the oil in an oven on low heat, or a double boiler. I use my oven at 170 degrees. Don't overheat or you'll have deep-fried herbs! I have to do this, living in the cloudy PNW. 2. Add essential oils to the jars before pouring the salves. Heat vaporizes the oils, so the less heat the better. 3. Almond oil makes a much better salve than olive oil, imo. Less greasy and goes into the skin like magic. It's the secret to my "dry" salves! Equal proportions to olive oil is plenty. 4. Add a drop of Vitamin E (pop open a liquid capsule if you have one) to greatly increase the shelf life of your salve. And it's great for the skin! sjhamrick- You can use candelilla wax instead of beeswax for a vegan salve

    2 years ago

  • driftforever
  • FatCatDesignStudio

    FatCatDesignStudio says:

    This is an awesome idea for this time of year. I'm starting to shrivel up! Have you ever used lanolin in products? I used it when breastfeeding then on dry fingers for a couple years after while my supply held out. I just remember it working so well.

    2 years ago

  • sonyarasi

    sonyarasi says:

    Thank you! I can't wait to try it!

    2 years ago

  • LavenderField

    LavenderField says:

    I love making things from scratch! Thanks for sharing. Just one question, does the olive oil have to be virgin or does that really make any difference in the quality of the final product?

    2 years ago

  • TheHickoryTree

    TheHickoryTree says:

    My hands are so rough, I need this badly. Thanks for sharing this remedy for dry hands.

    2 years ago

  • giorgiejewelry

    giorgiejewelry says:

    Thanks for great idea!

    2 years ago

  • ShoeClipsOnly

    ShoeClipsOnly says:

    Very informative post! Thank-you for sharing, sounds wonderful to try.

    2 years ago

  • sianykitty

    sianykitty says:

    so cool! I always want to 'put on' my dried lavender.. now I find the way how to do it :) Thank you!

    2 years ago

  • KettleConfections

    KettleConfections says:

    Love this post - one of my favorite past times is making gifts for people in my life, I'll be putting this one on the list :)

    2 years ago

  • foxpots

    foxpots says:

    I always wondered how this stuff was made!

    2 years ago

  • wmalexalvarez

    wmalexalvarez says:

    yeah that was awesome

    2 years ago

  • tam3103

    tam3103 says:

    Does anyone know whether I can use tea leaves instead of dried herbs/flowers?

    2 years ago

  • closelyknit

    closelyknit says:

    I made a batch of this salve a few weeks ago and I love it. I added peppermint and lavender oil and it resulted in a really nice scent, refreshing and not too overpowering. I slather it on my hands and feet before I go to bed and it works great!

    2 years ago

  • EcoPinUp

    EcoPinUp says:

    Can't wait to try these between two projects ! :)

    2 years ago

  • elleestpetite

    elleestpetite says:

    This is really neat. I really want to try this. Thank you for sharing the process.

    2 years ago

  • LostAtticTreasures

    LostAtticTreasures says:

    Thank you for sharing. I am going to try this since my hands get really dry in the cold winter months.

    2 years ago

  • DogwoodWinter

    DogwoodWinter says:

    This is exactly what I was looking for! I have some lovely dried lavender that would be wonderful as a bath product -- I've used it as an additive in tea, so I know it's good stuff! Thanks for the extra info, WildRoseHerbs -- I'm in the PNW as well, and it's all rain/snow/fog/other kinds of clouds right now. I'm going to test tea leaves to see if they work (since I'm a tea nerd and a science student), as well as a whole set of leafy dried spices in my pantry! Who wouldn't want to smell like thyme or rosemary?

    2 years ago

  • Traderray

    Traderray says:

    The scent of herbs is now around me just reading your process. We grow rosemary,cregano,thyme,basil, but lavender has been a problem. Lovely scents all.

    2 years ago

  • littleyellowyarrow

    littleyellowyarrow says:

    I was Thrilled to see a salve recipe here! I've been making salves for years and years. When making infusions, I use the pilot light in the oven which reaches about 100 degrees - perfect temperature for infusing. I also add a little vitamin E for preserving. Nature smells so much better than a bunch of chemicals. I hope has fun with their salve making adventures!

    2 years ago

  • biophiliadesigns

    biophiliadesigns says:

    natural home made beauty products are always so much better then anything i can get in a store. there are so many fabulous herbalists here on etsy, such a great resource! i'm studying medicinal botany, and believe it or not most if not all of our traditional kitchen herbs have medicinal qualities. the author choose comfrey and tea tree (oil or leaves?) which are both healing, antiseptic/antibacterial/antiviral herbs, nature's healers. rose and chamomile both soothe and relax our skin, doing the same to our outside that they do to our insides. and utilizing natures energies.. the suns rays to infuse oils with phytomedicine is just so much fun. during the solstice i made rose MOON water and i drink a bit each day, use it as a facial toner... something special happens when you listen to our earth. thank you for the post. <3 love

    2 years ago

  • petaljewellery

    petaljewellery says:

    Fantastic article - thank you! I love natural remedies and use the Badger balms a lot... have always fancied having a go at making my own someday!

    2 years ago

  • meadowmuffin2010

    meadowmuffin2010 says:

    If winter weather results in those painful finger cracks or red, chapped hands herbal salves outweigh water based lotions by far. Use at night with cotton gloves for optimal results.

    2 years ago

  • muffintopdesigns

    muffintopdesigns says:

    seriously, after a day of ruining my hands - using the torch, rough sandpaper, pickling solution, wire stabbing my skin - i NEED something like this! and now i have a weekend project too! thank you! xoxox

    2 years ago

  • enchantragirl

    enchantragirl says:

    I can't wait to try this now that I have some downtime, thanks for the inspiration!

    2 years ago

  • BusyChickadees

    BusyChickadees says:

    So much fun! Thanks for the how-to.

    2 years ago

  • samsstuff

    samsstuff says:

    Just what we need, at this time of year :) Thank you for the tutorial!

    2 years ago

  • naturenurtures

    naturenurtures says:

    Very inspiring post. Salves are such great ways to care for winter skin and I love your infusion process.

    2 years ago

  • BlingNThingsbyPenny

    BlingNThingsbyPenny says:

    I can't wait to try this!! ASAP, my hands are spent! Thank you for sharing!

    2 years ago

  • magpot1668

    magpot1668 says:

    Sounds very interesting! I am sure great for my potter's hands.

    2 years ago

  • immortalfashions

    immortalfashions says:

    Luv!This very helpful!!!Will put this recipe to use.Thank You. Happy New Year Everyone!!!

    2 years ago

  • gracielynn

    gracielynn says:

    off topic a bit. ( Love the tute by the way ) I have marjoram dried I keep in a jar in my kitchen. when I am feeling a bit sick to my stomach I open & take a breath of it. seems to sooth my stomach right away ..:-) lisalynn

    2 years ago

  • CopperheadCreations

    CopperheadCreations says:

    I feel better just from looking at that top photo. I can smell it through the screen! Thank you for sharing the recipe. I was so proud of myself when I made a lip balm out of shea butter, jojoba oil and lavender oil (by the way - great for winter lips). I'll try this next!

    2 years ago

  • hyfunda

    hyfunda says:

    beautiful post. I love the recipe, and the labels on the salve tins !

    2 years ago

  • PlumedeNikola

    PlumedeNikola says:

    Thank you so much! I am anxious to try making this salve, as my hands get so dry during the winter months!

    2 years ago

  • kellywilk

    kellywilk says:

    Hi everyone, it's so heartening to hear from everyone who plans to make this -- so exciting! Thanks to Wild Rose Herbs for answering the questions (this posted the one week I was off email, recharging for the year ahead). I have never tried the infusion with tea leaves but don't see why that shouldn't work just as well. As for the shelf life, ditto to what everyone said about making sure the herbs are dry to begin with, and get completely strained out. I have never used the vitamin E trick but have one going on for a year that is still totally fine. Thanks for having me, Etsy! xoKelly

    2 years ago

  • ayc9607

    ayc9607 says:

    Hi Kelly! I hope you have time for 1 more question ;) I live in Vancouver when it's COOOOOLLLLLDDDD! I'd like to try infusing the "natural" way... :D How long do you think I should steep the herbs? :D I know 2 weeks if it's nice and sunny. But what if the weather's cooler?

    2 years ago

  • lindaalfred2000

    lindaalfred2000 says:

    I will try these.

    2 years ago

  • amyjean

    amyjean says:

    Great recipe. I will definitely try this one. I made lotions, lip balm, bath salts and bath bombs over the holidays and gave them away as gifts. Thanks for sharing your recipe! And congrats on your book!

    2 years ago

  • tableclothpad

    tableclothpad says:

    Is nice i try this.

    2 years ago

  • RootsSoapCo

    RootsSoapCo says:

    What a fun DIY project! I am infusing oil right now with organic calendula, comfrey, plantain and lavender flowers. I am keeping it in the oven on warm for a few days to get all the good stuff into the oil. Then raw beeswax and some essential oils and it should be pretty awesome! I will be selling it in my shop within another week or so.

    2 years ago

  • Rivil

    Rivil says:

    This is fantastic! And I believe I have a beeswax candle making kit I've never used... hmmm Does anyone know anything about that fabulous measuring spoon in the first photo?

    2 years ago

  • KetiNKD

    KetiNKD says:

    Will try them too and of course bought the book:)! Thank you!

    2 years ago

  • PruAtelier

    PruAtelier says:

    Wonderful idea....could definitely use some....and will definitely try it!

    2 years ago

  • OldIronSidesKatie

    OldIronSidesKatie says:

    Simply wonderful, a delightful treat !!!! Monday night is looking good !!

    2 years ago

  • mowomantx

    mowomantx says:

    Thanks for sharing. This sounds devine. Cannot wait to try.

    2 years ago

  • annagrace2010

    Lois Chang from annagrace2010 says:

    I love herbal anything especially herbal lotion, herbal soap and herbal tea. Thanks for sharing the tips.

    2 years ago

  • 4thAveHerbal

    Stacy M. from ThePlantainPouch says:

    Salves are superior to any commercial ointment you can buy in the stores. Once you have the right herb, you are on the road to natural healing! Medicinal herbal teas can also be used in place of salves as a compresses or poultices. Try a slippery elm compress for hard to heal sores. For other herbal remedies visit http://www.etsy.com/shop/ThePlantainPouch

    1 year ago

  • shalomdan

    shalom dan says:

    Where can I buy Anointing Oil?

    1 year ago