Isn’t it always said that necessity is the mother of invention? While I have made many a salve in my day, and regularly keep a stock of my Boo Boo Balm on the shelf for minor scrapes, cuts, burns and bites, we ran dangerously low of it recently and I have been meaning to make a new batch. Lo and behold, last night, my chef son came home with second degree burns on his forearms and we need something STAT that will help alleviate his pain and optimize the healing process. (While I never advocate replacing herbal therapies with going to see a trained emergency physician in the case of acute injury, in this case his burns did not quite require a trip to the ER, and even if they had, this salve would augment whatever treatment his physician recommended.)
Fortunately, I have all the wonderful herbs I need on hand to whip something up. I cut some fresh lavender flowers and had dried calendula, St. John’s Wort, and Comfrey in the pantry. I’ll add some aloe for soothing and some beeswax to tighten it up and finally, finish with lavender essential oil and a few drops of vitamin E oil.
- Lavender: Lavender is known as the Swiss Army Knife of essential oils because it can be used for so many different purposes. It is the mainstay of an aromatherapy first aid kit. It is analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antibacterial, antidepressant. It is a nervine which means it can balance the nervous system and treat hyperactivity and insomnia.
- Comfrey: Contains allantoin, an anti-inflammatory phytochemical that speeds wound healing and stimulates growth of new skin cells.
- Calendula: antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and astringent properties which make it ideal for burns, and increases oxygen flow to wounds in order to speed up healing.
- St. John’s wort: Contains antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic properties, and is thought to help wounds heal more rapidly with less chance of scarring.
- Aloe: has been used for thousands of years to heal a variety of skin conditions, most notably burns, wounds, and irritations. Although aloe is 99 percent water, aloe gel also contains substances known as glycoproteins and polysaccharides. Glycoproteins speed the healing process by stopping pain and inflammation while polysaccharides stimulate skin growth and repair.
As an aside, another folk remedy for burns that is not widely read about is apple cider vinegar. According to this study, diluted apple cider vinegar can rapidly accelerate the healing process while reducing scar tissue. Used on burns, apple cider vinegar is thought to accelerate wound healing because it contains pectin, succared, vitamins (B1, B2, B6) (A, E, C), salt, minerals (sodium, calcium, magnesium, aluminum, phosphor, copper, silicon.) So I will also be making my son a spritzer bottle with ACV and water.
It always seems to happen when we aren’t quite ready for it, so this is definitely the last time I will be without remedies on the shelf! You never know when something is going to happen around the house or even outside of it, but with a little prep and planning, your medicine cabinet will be stocked with the inventory you need to treat these kinds of boo boos.
- 1 1/4 c olive oil
- 1 oz each of lavender, calendula, comfrey and St. John’s wort
- 1 oz beeswax
- 2 oz aloe
- 40-50 drops of lavender essential oil
- 1/2 tsp vitamin E oil
Making a salve requires that you first make an infused herbal oil. There are two methods to do this:
- The first is the folk method. To make an herbal infused olive oil using the folk medicine method, fill a large mason jar 1/2 way with dried or fresh herbs (if using fresh, set them out for about 12 hours first to release most of their moisture as too much moisture will cause your oil to go rancid, then use a mortar and pestle or your hands to gently bruise the herbs) and fill the jar with olive oil, leaving a 1/2 inch gap at the top for expansion. Set jar in the sun or a sunny window and allow to steep for several weeks.
- The second is the double boiler/slow cooker infusion method. To use this method, use a double boiler or a slow cooker and add your herbs and oil. Gently heat the herbs over very low heat (preferably between 100 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit) for 1-5 hours until the oil takes on the color and scent of the herb. Strain.
Once your herbs are infused into your oil and you have strained them, slowly melt the beeswax and combine the herbal oil, aloe and essential oil into that. Pour immediately into tins or jars and allow to cool completely before covering. Salves should be stored in a cool location where they will remain semi-solid and will not continue to re-melt and re-solidify. If stored correctly, salves will last for 1- 3 years.