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Homemade Herbal Ointments and Salves To Relieve the Pain of Arthritis, Sore Muscles, and Athletic Injuries

Updated on March 19, 2016
A finished salve
A finished salve

Making an Oil for Your Joints That Does More Than Just Make You Feel Better

Like many of my experiments in herbal and natural healing, my research into formulating a good muscle and joint remedy started with a daughter's hurt foot. My fit and active 5K-running daughter had to give up both running and her work-out routine because of foot pain that her doctor could find no cause for and that steroid shots did little to alleviate.

Of course it took me a couple of years before I got around to investigating possible remedies for pain and injuries to muscles, joints, tendons, nerves, and connective tissue. I didn't know--had never even imagined--that there might be external applications that could do more than temporarily relieve pain.

Anyway, it turns out there is such a thing!

You can make wonderfully effective ointments and salves to ease muscle and joint pain from just about any cause, whether it’s the arthritis that’s keeping you out of the garden, athletic injuries, or just plain sore muscles from overexertion.

You can make an ointment or salve that will not only ease pain, swelling and inflammation, but will also restore and regenerate connective and nerve tissues, and stimulate circulation to warm and heal.

Ointments (infused oils) and salves are amazingly easy to make at home.

There are two basic ways to make these preparations. You can make (1. an infused oil incorporating herbs, or (2. you can use beeswax to thicken an infused oil to make a salve.

Most health food stores and herb dealers carry beeswax granules, as well as amber-glass bottles and jars for storing your homemade medicines.

Finished infused oil
Finished infused oil

Arnica is one of the most commonly used herbs to soothe and heal bruises, sprains and strains, athletic injuries, pain resulting form surgery, sciatica. It reduces bruising and swelling and relieves pain.

Solomon’s Seal Root relieves pain of arthritis and injuries, and helps repair connective tissues to bones, cartilage, and joints. Solomon’s seal has a long history of use for healing bruising.

Balm of Gilead Buds is anti-inflammatory and stimulates circulation. It reduces pain, swelling, and inflammation from hyper-extensions, arthritis, and sore muscles. It is also used to relieve the pain of tendinitis and fibromyalgia.

Comfrey Root helps heal sore joints, pulled muscles, and broken bones.

Prickly Ash regenerates nerve tissue and is also used for numbness and tingling related to nerve injury.

Ginger Root is good for muscular aches/pains, rheumatism, sprains.


Infused oils are usually made by heating herbs in olive oil, coconut oil, or almond oil until the herbs are crispy. Put the herbal materials in a heat-proof dish, add enough oil to cover, and heat in a 115°-200° oven until the herbs become crisp. This takes from two to four hours, depending on the materials used. When the herbs are crisp, this means that their oils have been extracted.

Infused oils can be made by placing the oil-covered herbal materials in a glass jar and setting the jar in a crock pot filled with water and leaving the crock pot turned on high for several hours--overnight or up to 24 hours.

When you have finished infusing the oil, it should be strained through a sieve to remove the plant materials and then strained again through coffee filters to remove finer particles of plant materials, so as to yield a clear medicinal oil.

There are almost endless possibilities and possible combinations of herbs to use in infused oils and salves. When making infused oils, you can choose to use a single herbal ingredient, or combine several ingredients for more broad-spectrum usefulness.

In this recipe, I’ve suggested several of the herbs most commonly used for pain and/or injuries of muscles and joints.

If you wish the infused oil can be used as-is. There is no real need to thicken it with beeswax to make a salve, other than convenience.


Essential oils are often among the most important ingredients in preparations for pain relief. Certain essential oils work their magic because they are penetrating, warming, muscle relaxing, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, and healing. Certain essential oils also stimulate circulation and relieve pain and soreness. Some of the most valuable essential oils for relieving muscle and joint pain are listed in the sidebar, along with their specific healing and pain-relieving properties.


Here is a general recipe for an infused oil I made to relieve joint and muscle pain--made from ingredients I happened to have on hand. (I am an herbal-medicine nerd, and I keep many essential oils on hand for soap and lotion making, so I'm pretty well supplied.)

Notice that some astounding claims are made for the healing power of some ingredients!


2 handsful Solomon’s Seal Root

1 handful Prickly Ash

1/8 cup powdered Comfrey Root

8 freshly cut sprigs of Rosemary

2-inch piece of fresh Ginger Root, sliced

1/4 teaspoon powdered Cayenne

Sufficient oil to cover (I used about 1 1/2 cups olive oil and about 1/4 cup castor oil)

These herbs were infused by putting them in a quart canning jar, adding oil to cover and heating them in a crock pot filled with water overnight. The oil was then strained through a steel mesh strainer and again through a coffee filter--actually several coffee filters, since some finer herbal materials can quickly clog coffee filters.

If you plan to add beeswax granules to the infused oil to make a salve, as described below, do not add essential oils now, but wait to add them after the beeswax is dissolved in the infused oil.

If the oil will be used as-is, without thickening, you simply mix in the essential oils and bottle. Here are the essential oils and amounts that I chose. I included cedarwood essential oil because I had some on hand and it is said to relieve anxiety, and promote relaxation and deep sleep.

Essential Oils

3/4 tsp. Lemon Grass
1/2 tsp. Peppermint
1/2 tsp. Geranium
1/2 tsp. Cedarwood


There are many essential oils that make useful additions to oils and salves for the pain of arthritis and injuries. Here is an excellent list from

Basil warms the skin and acts as a muscle relaxant.

Peppermint cools the skin and acts as a catalyst to other herbs.

Wintergreen warms the skin and has a cortisone-effect on muscle and joint inflammation.

Marjoram is anti-inflammatory and a natural muscle relaxer.

Rosemary helps with circulation and relaxes muscles.

Vetiver has antispasmodic properties and warms the skin.

Lemongrass is wonderful for ligaments and tendons and can repair connective tissue.

Eucalyptus is anti-inflammatory and can help relieve soreness.

Geranium is good for circulatory problems (improves blood flow), neuralgia (severe pain along the nerve), regenerating tissue and nerves.

You can add one or more of these essential oil—or several of them, if you wish—to enhance the effectiveness of your salve.


Herbal infused oils are thickened with beeswax to make a salve. Beeswax granules that are easy to dissolve in oil are available at most health food stores.

The suggested amount of beeswax is about 3/4 oz. of beeswax per cup of oil.

Re-warm the infused oil in a saucepan to dissolve the beeswax granules.

Remove from heat and stir in essential oils. Most directions say that you should use about ½ teaspoon of your preferred blend of essential oils per cup of salve. I used a bit more. If you decide to get heavy-handed with the essential oils, be aware that some people may have sensitivities to some of them.

The finished salve may now be poured into containers.


Speaking as and oldster who increasingly suffers from aching joints and muscles,
I'd say this salve--which I use simply as an infused oil, not thickened with beeswax--works pretty well. When joint and/or muscle pain is keeping me awake at night, rubbing this salve on the painful areas relieves pain almost instantly and allows me to sleep.

How about the daughter who inspired me to make this ointment to begin with? She tried it when her foot pain flared up after a spinning routine--and decided to rub some of this ointment on her shoulder, which was aching from too much time at the computer, as well. She reported that she was surprised by how well and quickly her aches and pains were relieved.

Now I am waiting for some of my other testers to report back.

I can't vouch for the claims that are sometimes made for some ingredients to restore nerve function or heal injuries to connective tissue. Maybe we'll find out! Meanwhile, it seems to be the real deal for pain relief.


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