Friday, December 16, 2016

DIY Healing Salve

With the arrival of winter, my skin always becomes dry and itchy, and being outdoors with the big, black one doesn't help.  Alas, I have sensitive skin, so I can't really use any over-the-counter products, even the ones that insist they are for people with sensitive skin.  I also generally try to keep my personal care products as natural as possible to reduce the chemical load on my body, which experiences enough difficulty without having to combat lots chemicals too.  Which is why it was so great when I found this recipe over at the Camp Wander blog.  I thought I'd share the process with you, in case you are interested in learning how to make your very own salve too.  If not, you can actually purchase it (along with many other similar products) at the Camp Wander store.

I've shared this salve with friends and family and it has successfully treated dry skin, toe fungus, and infected dog bites.  I'm not saying that you don't need a doctor or prescription medication for your problems, but I will usually try this stuff before moving on to something harsher.

Here are the ingredients you need:

1.  1 cup real olive oil (not the fake stuff that is mostly sold in grocery stores - buy directly from the farm or a reputable source, if you can, otherwise, you might as well just slather rancid corn oil on your skin)
2.  1 cup coconut oil (again, be careful of your source and make sure it is cold pressed without chemicals)
3.  5 Tbsp beeswax pastilles (the original recipe calls for only 4 Tbsp, but I found that with our warm summers, the whole mixture would go liquid, so I upped the beeswax to keep it semi-solid even if the house is 80 degrees)
4.  1/2 tsp vitamin E oil (for preservation - if you're going to use the salve within a few months, you probably don't need it)
5.  Lavender essential oil
6.  Tea tree oil (melaleuca) essential oil
7.  Lemon essential oil

All the ingredients except the olive oil because I forgot:)
Here are the supplies you need:

1.  3-4 cup glass measuring container (like a Pyrex - it has to be able to handle heat)
2.  2 quart sauce pan
3.  Some kind of stirring device (like a big spoon or spatuala)
4.  Five 4 oz jars (you can use the 4 oz canning jars that Ball makes or you can get specialty jars made specifically for cosmetics)  Note: The original recipe calls for 4 jars, but I find that I need 5, so you may play around with this a bit.

The process:

1.  Put the olive oil, coconut oil, and beeswax in the Pyrex container and stir them.
2.  Fill your saucepan about half-full with water and then put the Pyrex container in the pan.  You'll want the water level to be at least equal to the oil level in the Pyrex container, but you don't want to risk spilling water over the edge of the saucepan or splashing in the oil mixture (getting water in the oil may contribute to mold development over time, so that's no good).

My lovely spatula/spoon before my husband burned a hole in the handle...not that I'm bitter...
3.  Put the heat on low-ish.  You're essentially creating a double broiler (but the Pyrex container is so much easier to use for measuring and pouring) and the goal is to slowly heat the oil mixture until the beeswax is melted.  It takes an agonizingly long time and you'll be tempted to increase the heat to speed things up, but I encourage you to suck it up because you don't want the olive oil to boil.  It will lose some of its good qualities if it does (even though so many cook books advocate cooking with olive oil, don't do it - olive oil is not meant to handle heat; use lard or ghee or coconut oil instead).  Beeswax melts at about 150 degrees, so you're walking a fine line with the temperature.  You've got to keep stirring and checking on the beeswax pastilles.  Once they start to melt, things will go fairly quickly, though.

4.  While you're waiting for the beeswax to melt, you can add excitement to your life by putting the essential oils in the jars.  Add 10 drops of lavender, 8 drops of tea tree, and 6 drops of lemon to each jar.

Your jars should look like this after you put the essential oils in them
5.  Once the beeswax is melted, take the Pyrex container out of the saucepan (and turn off the stove - no need to burn your house down just to be natural!) and stir in the vitamin E oil.

6.  Now you get to fill the jars with the oil mixture.  I usually fill all of them about 3/4 full and then start topping them off so that I can get a sort of equal distribution of the oil mixture. You don't need to stir them to mix the essential oils in - the simple act of pouring in the oil allows the essential oils to blend in on their own.

Jars are filled!
7.  Put a paper towel over the jars and let them cool for about 6 hours (or a little less if your house is cold).  The purpose is just to avoid any condensation that might accumulate from steam if you put the lid on the jar while the mixture is still hot.  The moisture may cause mold or shorten the life of your salve, and you do not want that to happen after you worked so hard to get this far!

Possibly the most exciting picture ever taken...
8.  Admire your hard work.

Yes, I stuck my fingers in it to test the consistency
9.  Put the lids on the jars and label them.  I cannot emphasize labeling enough, particularly if you make other stuff.  You don't want to think this is apple butter by mistake...

10.  Keep one or two for yourself and give the rest away - your friends and family will think you are amazing!

The great thing about this recipe is that you can use the base ingredients (olive oil, coconut oil, and beeswax) by themselves or add different combinations of essential oils to address specific issues.  For example, I have some LLP essential oil from Spark Naturals.  It's a proprietary blend of lavender, lemon, and peppermint essential oils meant specifically to heal allergic-type reactions on skin.  I added 30 drops to one of my jars instead of the mixture from the recipe to create a salve for itchy skin issues.  As it happened, I managed to develop a stye on my lower eyelid a few weeks ago (that was not a happy day in our household - I think I may have had a meltdown - How does a person get a pimple on her eyelid?  Gaaaaaa!).  It was so itchy and painful!  Before I went to the eye doctor, I put a little of the LLP salve on my lower lid where the stye was (but not IN my eye, because I don't think the salve is meant for on-eye use) and immediately got some relief.  Within 48 hours, the stye was completely gone and I saved myself a trip to the doctor.  The important thing to remember is not to go overboard with adding a lot of essential oils to each jar.  I would probably stick to no more than 30-40 drops total per 4 oz jar.  Essential oils are meant to be diluted at least a little in a carrier oil.  Some, like lavender, can be used directly on the skin by most people, but diluting them is typically the best way to go.

In terms of where to buy the ingredients and supplies, my go to store is Mountain Rose Herbs.  They have the best selection of essential oils (and the vitamin E oil and other herbs and supplies like the 4 oz jars) and a lot of them are organic, which I prefer.  Spark Naturals and Young Living are other sources I've used and I haven't had any quality issues.  I get my olive oil from Radiant Life and my coconut oil from Tropical Traditions.

Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed this little tutorial on how to make salve yourself.  I found the process a bit intimidating at first, but after making several batches, I feel pretty comfortable with the process, and I love being able to make it myself!

Note:  The links in this post are for your information only.  I do not have any affiliate links or get any financial benefit if you click on the links.


  1. Fun post! I've made lotion bars with similar ingredients, I will try this recipe.

    1. I'd love to hear how it works out for you!:)

  2. I bet it's great for hair. I can't find any of those fancy oils you mentioned but the olive oil here is supposed to be good.

    1. I'm sure you have access to wonderful olive oil! I used a mixture of rosemary and frankincense essential oils (1 drop each) with some coconut oil and rubbed it into my scalp and hair before washing. My hair grew so fast I had to stop because my roots were showing so much between colorings!:)