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How-Tuesday: Herbal Salves

Dec 27, 2011

by kellywilk handmade and vintage goods

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
Small clean tins or jars with lids
Kraft paper adhesive labels and printed Japanese washi tape

Yields about 2 cups (473 mL) of salve


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 said 6 years ago


  • littlebugjewelry

    littlebugjewelry said 6 years ago

    Oh, I could use this!

  • myvintagecrush

    myvintagecrush said 6 years ago

    Nice, love these how-tues!!

  • littlepancakes

    littlepancakes said 6 years ago

    I will definitely be trying this!

  • mazedasastoat

    mazedasastoat said 6 years ago

    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!

  • MegansMenagerie

    MegansMenagerie said 6 years ago

    Love this!!!

  • ClotheslineNosh

    ClotheslineNosh said 6 years ago

    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!!!

  • aostudio9

    aostudio9 said 6 years ago

    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!

  • adessojewelry

    adessojewelry said 6 years ago

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

  • AlisaDesign

    AlisaDesign said 6 years ago


  • OnlyOriginalsByAJ

    OnlyOriginalsByAJ said 6 years ago

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

  • longwinterfarm

    longwinterfarm said 6 years ago

    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.

  • RivalryTime

    RivalryTime said 6 years ago

    Thanks for sharing.

  • cottonbirddesigns

    cottonbirddesigns said 6 years ago

    Great article!

  • minta77

    minta77 said 6 years ago

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

  • TheDanishRaven

    TheDanishRaven said 6 years ago

    Wonderful and timely!

  • Iammie

    Iammie said 6 years ago

    Cool! I wanna try someday...

  • AkimaBotanicals

    AkimaBotanicals said 6 years ago

    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.

  • peshka

    peshka said 6 years ago


  • FireHorseTextiles

    FireHorseTextiles said 6 years ago

    This recipe sounds great and very timely for wintery hands!

  • opendoorstudio

    opendoorstudio said 6 years ago

    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)

  • VintageScriptPress

    VintageScriptPress said 6 years ago

    very cool looks fun to make thanks for sharing!

  • TheWeirdGirlWorkshop

    TheWeirdGirlWorkshop said 6 years ago

    This sounds like a very relaxing project- thank you!

  • MadisonStreetBeauty

    MadisonStreetBeauty said 6 years ago

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

  • good4you

    good4you said 6 years ago

    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

  • TwistedWhimsyDesigns

    TwistedWhimsyDesigns said 6 years ago

    Fun! Can't wait to try this!

  • CalicoJunoJewelry

    CalicoJunoJewelry said 6 years ago

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

  • AllyCat123

    AllyCat123 said 6 years ago

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

  • gilstrapdesigns

    gilstrapdesigns said 6 years ago

    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.

  • AlpineGypsy

    AlpineGypsy said 6 years ago

    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

  • BlackStar

    BlackStar said 6 years ago

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

  • SASSYspaces

    SASSYspaces said 6 years ago

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

  • elisemahan

    elisemahan said 6 years ago

    thank you for this delightful idea!

  • StudioBotanica

    StudioBotanica said 6 years ago

    These look amazing, thank you!

  • lauratrevey

    lauratrevey said 6 years ago

    Thank you Kelly! So needed :)

  • CreativeCardsForYou

    CreativeCardsForYou said 6 years ago

    Wow - this is really cool!

  • seahrse

    seahrse said 6 years ago

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

  • DuryeaPlaceDesigns

    DuryeaPlaceDesigns said 6 years ago

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

  • kakes005

    kakes005 said 6 years ago

    awesome, thanks!

  • Laughingdogstudio

    Laughingdogstudio said 6 years ago

    Thank you for this timely info!

  • fraskedesigns

    fraskedesigns said 6 years ago

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

  • HiddenMeadows

    HiddenMeadows said 6 years ago

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

  • misschrissa

    misschrissa said 6 years ago

    I LOVE this!

  • MsFoodie

    MsFoodie said 6 years ago

    Love the Rose and Chamomile sent oxxo Thanks

  • zakonek

    zakonek said 6 years ago

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

  • DesignsbyALY

    DesignsbyALY said 6 years ago

    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!

  • Thelittleblackbooks

    Thelittleblackbooks said 6 years ago

    Wonderful. I love making my own beauty products!

  • needleandfelt

    needleandfelt said 6 years ago

    Can't wait to try..thank you!

  • TwistedRiverSoap

    TwistedRiverSoap said 6 years ago

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

  • nicilaskin

    nicilaskin said 6 years ago

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

  • BanglewoodSupplies

    BanglewoodSupplies said 6 years ago

    This is awesome. Thanks!

  • Melissababycreations

    Melissababycreations said 6 years ago

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

  • GoddessOfJewelry

    GoddessOfJewelry said 6 years ago

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

  • ayc9607

    ayc9607 said 6 years ago

    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?

  • LivingVintage

    LivingVintage said 6 years ago

    Great info!

  • cookiechica

    cookiechica said 6 years ago

    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!!

  • TheMillineryShop

    TheMillineryShop said 6 years ago

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

  • ChezaIndigo13

    ChezaIndigo13 said 6 years ago

    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!!!

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage said 6 years ago

    Wonderful recipe! Thanks for the post!

  • BelowBlink

    BelowBlink said 6 years ago

    awesome ;-)

  • BelowBlink

    BelowBlink said 6 years ago

    awesome! ;-)

  • lapuzelo

    lapuzelo said 6 years ago

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

  • sjhamrick

    sjhamrick said 6 years ago

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

  • Powerofflower

    Powerofflower said 6 years ago

    Very cool! :)

  • thedaydreamer

    thedaydreamer said 6 years ago

    Sounds fabulous! Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  • StitchnSpoon

    StitchnSpoon said 6 years ago

    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); Happy Crafting :) Rachel Jane

  • WildRoseHerbs

    WildRoseHerbs said 6 years ago

    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

  • driftforever

    driftforever said 6 years ago


  • FatCatDesignStudio

    FatCatDesignStudio said 6 years ago

    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.

  • sonyarasi

    sonyarasi said 6 years ago

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

  • LavenderField

    LavenderField said 6 years ago

    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?

  • TheHickoryTree

    TheHickoryTree said 6 years ago

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

  • giorgiejewelry

    giorgiejewelry said 6 years ago

    Thanks for great idea!

  • ShoeClipsOnly

    ShoeClipsOnly said 6 years ago

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

  • sianykitty

    sianykitty said 6 years ago

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

  • KettleConfections

    KettleConfections said 6 years ago

    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 :)

  • foxpots

    foxpots said 6 years ago

    I always wondered how this stuff was made!

  • wmalexalvarez

    wmalexalvarez said 6 years ago

    yeah that was awesome

  • tam3103

    tam3103 said 6 years ago

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

  • closelyknit

    closelyknit said 6 years ago

    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!

  • EcoPinUp

    EcoPinUp said 6 years ago

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

  • elleestpetite

    elleestpetite said 6 years ago

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

  • LostAtticTreasures

    LostAtticTreasures said 6 years ago

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

  • DogwoodWinter

    DogwoodWinter said 6 years ago

    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?

  • Traderray

    Traderray said 6 years ago

    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.

  • littleyellowyarrow

    littleyellowyarrow said 6 years ago

    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!

  • biophiliadesigns

    biophiliadesigns said 6 years ago

    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

  • petaljewellery

    petaljewellery said 6 years ago

    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!

  • meadowmuffin2010

    meadowmuffin2010 said 6 years ago

    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.

  • muffintopdesigns

    muffintopdesigns said 6 years ago

    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

  • enchantragirl

    enchantragirl said 6 years ago

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

  • BusyChickadees

    BusyChickadees said 6 years ago

    So much fun! Thanks for the how-to.

  • samsstuff

    samsstuff said 6 years ago

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

  • naturenurtures

    naturenurtures said 6 years ago

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

  • BlingNThingsbyPenny

    BlingNThingsbyPenny said 6 years ago

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

  • magpot1668

    magpot1668 said 6 years ago

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

  • immortalfashions

    immortalfashions said 6 years ago

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

  • gracielynn

    gracielynn said 6 years ago

    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

  • CopperheadCreations

    CopperheadCreations said 6 years ago

    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!

  • hyfunda

    hyfunda said 6 years ago

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

  • PlumedeNikola

    PlumedeNikola said 6 years ago

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

  • kellywilk

    kellywilk said 6 years ago

    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

  • ayc9607

    ayc9607 said 6 years ago

    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?

  • lindaalfred2000

    lindaalfred2000 said 6 years ago

    I will try these.

  • amyjean

    amyjean said 6 years ago

    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!

  • tableclothpad

    tableclothpad said 6 years ago

    Is nice i try this.

  • RootsSoapCo

    RootsSoapCo said 6 years ago

    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.

  • Rivil

    Rivil said 6 years ago

    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?

  • KetiNKD

    KetiNKD said 6 years ago

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

  • PruAtelier

    PruAtelier said 6 years ago

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

  • OldIronSidesKatie

    OldIronSidesKatie said 6 years ago

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

  • mowomantx

    mowomantx said 6 years ago

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

  • annagrace2010

    Lois Chang from annagrace2010 said 6 years ago

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

  • 4thAveHerbal

    Stacy M. from ThePlantainPouch said 6 years ago

    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

  • shalomdan

    shalom dan said 5 years ago

    Where can I buy Anointing Oil?

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