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How To Make Ointments and Salves for the Home First Aid Kit for Cuts, Scrapes, Burns, and Bruises

Updated on April 26, 2014
Finished infused oil
Finished infused oil
Finished salve in a pretty thrift-store jar
Finished salve in a pretty thrift-store jar

A SELECTION OF WOUND-HEALING HERBS FOR INFUSED OILS AND SALVES

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.

The herbs I’ve suggested here are some of the most commonly used, but there are many, many choices

Comfrey is emollient and soothing and promotes healing. It also helps heal sore joints, pulled muscles, and broken bones.

Comfrey flowers
Comfrey flowers | Source

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)stops bleeding, helps heal, and is a good antiseptic. It is astringent and anti-inflammatory. One of the older names for yarrow was Soldier’s Woundwort and was used for staunching the flow of blood from wounds when applied externally.

It’s nice to have a homemade organic herbal salve on hand for your minor hurts—and especially for you children’s. Grandmothers will especially enjoy being able to whip out a soothing herbal ointment or salve to soothe and heal the grandchildren’s boo-boos.

It’s easy to make an all-natural herbal ointment or salve for your home first-aid kit, for cuts and scrapes, bites, bruises, and stings. All you need is oil, such as olive oil, coconut oil, or almond oil, and a selection of healing herbs, to make an infused oil. The infused oil can then be thickened with beeswax, if desired, to make a salve.

Many traditional wound herbs have been used for thousands of years: to stop bleeding, act as antiseptics and anti-fungals, and promote healing. I’ve listed some of the most commonly used wound herbs in the sidebar, along with some suggestions for combining them.

Most health food stores and herb dealers carry beeswax granules, as well as amber-glass bottles and jars for storing your homemade medicines. It’s also fun to search in thrift stores for beautiful and unusual bottles and jars for storing your finished ointments and salves!

Be sure to label your bottle of infused oil (ointment) or your jar of salve. To be honest, my method for labeling amber or blue glass bottles is to apply duct tape (in a nice color) and write the contents on the duct tape with a Sharpie. If your containers are pretty junk-store finds, you may want to apply the label to the bottom—or print out labels from your computer printer.

Calendula is soothing and antiseptic, anti-fungal, and wound-healing. Calendula flowers are good to include in preparations to promote wound healing in diabetics who have problems with slow-healing wounds. Calendula flowers are one of the most used remedies, to heal and prevent infection of wounds, in the Earth’s Children series of books.

Calendula flower
Calendula flower | Source

HOW TO PREPARE INFUSED OILS

Infused oils are simple to make. They 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.

The infused oil can then be strained and bottled for use as an ointment, or thickened with beeswax to make a salve. To help preserve the oil, mix in the contents of one 400 IU Vitamin E capsule per cup of oil.

Plantain is a common weed that is probably growing in your yard. It has been used for centuries for cuts and scrapes, bites and stings. It is soothing, anti-microbial, anti-viral, astringent, and anti-inflammatory. The infused oil has been recommended to treat babies’ diaper rash.

St. Johnswort is an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever.

St. Johnswort flowers
St. Johnswort flowers | Source

HOW TO THICKEN YOUR INFUSED OIL TO MAKE A 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 one cup of oil.

Mix in the contents of one 400 IU Vitamin E capsule per cup of the strained infused oil before adding the beeswax. Since some kinds of beeswax may weigh more than others, the conversion from ounces to tablespoons can be a little uncertain. If you are willing to wing it on this one, I would suggest adding about 1 tablespoon of beeswax per ¼ cup oil, if you are using coconut oil, and a little more if you are using olive oil or almond oil—four or five tablespoons of beeswax per cup of oil. The thickness of the salve isn’t extremely critical anyway, and it will vary depending on the temperature it is stored at.

After straining the infused oil, re-heat it in a saucepan over medium-low heat to dissolve the beeswax.

Slippery elm bark is soothing and healing and was used by the Cherokee to prepare a salve. It is one of the best herbal medicines to apply to wounds, burns, and inflammation.

Arnica, Solomon’s Seal Root, and/or Balm of Gilead Buds are good additions to any salve, especially for bruises, swelling, athletic injuries, pulled or sore muscles, and to ease pain.

ESSENTIAL OILS FOR WOUND-HEALING INFUSED OILS AND SALVES

Several essential oils make good additions to infused oils and salves, because of their healing, antiseptic, and anti-fungal properties.

A few drops of oil of thyme would provide powerful antiseptic properties and also add fragrance. Rosemary essential oil is a good choice for its wound-healing properties and pleasant fragrance. Tea tree oil is often added to proprietary preparations for cuts and scrapes and other minor injuries for its antiseptic and anti-fugal properties..

RECIPES FOR HERBAL INFUSED OILS AND SALVES

How to decide which herbs to use? I’ve suggested three possible combinations of herbs to make healing ointments and salves, using the herbs listed in the sidebar.

Several of the herbs listed make a fine ointment or salve when used alone: Calendula is a soothing and healing antiseptic, plantain and yarrow both work alone as all-around wound herbs. Don't feel you must use a long list of ingredients.

Even though the herbs in these recipes have been chosen for specific purposes, or combined with the idea of broad-based effectiveness, you don’t need to use them all.

You can select herbs for your own custom blend using combinations of healing herbs that meet your specific needs.

RECIPE 1—A SIMPLE SALVE FOR BASIC FIRST-AID

This is a great all-purpose salve all manner of minor hurts. Plantain leaves collected from your yard can be used alone for a soothing, anti-microbial, anti-viral, astringent, and anti-inflammatory salve for cuts and scrapes, bites and stings, and even diaper rash. Plantain is a common yard weed. You should be able to find plenty without looking far beyond your back door!

Plantain leaves

Coconut oil, olive oil, or almond oil sufficient to cover

Vitamin E oil

Beeswax for salve (if desired)

Put the plantain leaves 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 the temperature and on the materials used. Strain through a coffee filter, add one 400 IU capsule of Vitamin E oil per cup of oil.

Now you can either bottle the infused oil for later use, or prepare a salve by adding 3/4 oz. of beeswax per cup of oil to thicken. Warm the oil of the stovetop, if necessary, to dissolve the beeswax in the infused oil.

A Second Method

Another method for making and infused oil of plantain leaves is to fill a jar with the crushed leaves, add olive oil or other oil to cover, put a lid on the jar and let it sit in a sunny window for about two weeks. Strain and bottle, or add beeswax to make a salve, adding Vitamin E to preserve.

A few drops of rosemary oil, thyme oil, or tea tree oil may be added, if desired, for use in treating wounds. It would be best to add no more than seven drops of essential oil per cup of ointment or salve. If you are planning to use plantain oil or salve on a baby’s diaper rash, essential oils should be omitted, since they might irritate sensitive skin

RECIPE 2—A SALVE FOR FIRST AID FOR CUTS AND SCRAPES

This recipe has all the virtues of the salve made from plantain alone, but includes additional ingredients to stop bleeding and promote healing. Solomon’s Seal root is included because it works to heal bruising.

Plantain leaf

Yarrow leaf

Comfrey root or leaf

Calendula flower

Solomon’s Seal root

Coconut oil, olive oil, or almond oil sufficient to cover

Vitamin E oil

Beeswax for salve (if desired)

Put about equal parts of each herb 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 temperature and the materials used. Strain through a coffee filter, add one 400 IU capsule of Vitamin E oil per cup of oil.

Now you can either bottle the infused oil or prepare a salve by adding 3/4 oz. of beeswax per cup of oil to thicken. Warm the oil of the stovetop, if necessary, to dissolve the beeswax in the infused oil.

A few drops of rosemary oil, thyme oil, or tea tree oil may be added, if desired, for use in treating wounds. It would be best to add no more than seven drops of essential oil per cup of ointment or salve, to avoid stinging.

RECIPE 3—A SALVE ESPECIALLY FOR BURNS

This recipe is especially soothing for burns. It is antiseptic, anti-microbial, and anti-inflammatory. Slippery elm seems to be especially healing for burns, and comfrey root especially soothing. St. Johnswort helps relieve pain.

Calendula flower

Plantain leaves

Slippery elm bark

Comfrey root

St. Johnswort

Coconut oil, olive oil, or almond oil sufficient to cover

Vitamin E oil

Beeswax for salve (if desired)

Put about equal parts of each herb 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 temperature and the materials used. Strain through a coffee filter, add one 400 IU capsule of Vitamin E oil per cup of oil.

Now you can either bottle the infused oil or prepare a salve by adding 3/4 oz. of beeswax per cup of oil to thicken. Warm the oil of the stovetop, if necessary, to dissolve the beeswax in the infused oil.

It is probably best to omit essential oils from a salve intended for burns, since they might sting or irritate the skin.

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    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 3 years ago from United States

      What a great hub! This summer, I'm going to make herb-infused oils following your advice. Thanks so much! Shared & voted up. --Jill

    • blueheron profile image
      Author

      Sharon Vile 3 years ago from Odessa, MO

      Thanks so much! I enjoyed writing this one.

    • cloverleaffarm profile image

      Healing Herbalist 3 years ago from The Hamlet of Effingham

      I've enjoyed reading a few of your hubs. May I say that the issue I see is that you don't mention any cautions to the herbs. As a medical herbalist, it scares me to think someone would just read this, use the herb, and actually have an allergic reaction or worse yet, a drug interaction. I never heat my oils to those high temps as can destroy the oil as well as the property of the herb. Cold infusion works best, and if heat must be used, never above 90, by using the bain marie method.

    • blueheron profile image
      Author

      Sharon Vile 3 years ago from Odessa, MO

      I agree that people who have serious or chronic illnesses or who suffer from allergies should have a look at possible allergic reactions or drug interactions to specific herbs. People who suffer from sun allergy should probably stay away from calendula, since it can cause photosensitivity. There are, of course, caveats to using herbs--just as there are caveats to using pharmaceuticals.

      The cold infusion method is probably preferable, though more time-consuming. OTOH, warm infusion has been around forever, long in traditional use. Some materials, such as mullein flowers, have tradionally been prepared using cold infusion.

    • blueheron profile image
      Author

      Sharon Vile 3 years ago from Odessa, MO

      St. Johnswort is another one that can cause photosensitivity. It is a good application for burns, but not for sunburn.

      Sun allergy seems to be an emerging problem these days--a condition I never heard of until recent years. I have done a little looking around for help for this, since I know people who suffer from it. I'm coming up empty--except for dietary changes. Do you have thoughts on this?

    • cloverleaffarm profile image

      Healing Herbalist 3 years ago from The Hamlet of Effingham

      I get a rash at the beginning of the sun season, but it goes away. Not sure it's a sun allergy. I honestly think that people don't get enough sun, and when they do, their skin has a reaction. I live where we have 6-8 months of cold/winter, so I think that is why I get it. I use to sunbathe years ago, and never had an issue. I suppose it could be dietary, but I eat very well, and wouldn't know what it was. For me, I figured the change had something to do with it.

      PS...St. John's Wort has many interactions. I did a hub on it. You can like to it if you wish.

    • blueheron profile image
      Author

      Sharon Vile 3 years ago from Odessa, MO

      Here we have a 6-month growing season, from last frost to first frost, withblazing hot summers and very cold winters. The only person I've ever personally met with sun allergy is a very outdoorsy type, but very fair-skinned. Her sun rash develops into actual welts. I made her some elderflower vinegar, which didn't do the job, but she said was soothing.

      Here's a link that seems to be the best I can find on this: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/8-natural-ways-to-p...

      To me, this seems like it might be the answer--and explain this "new" disease. I will probably never find out if she is trying this approach. Some of these items are a bit expensive--even here in tomato country, unless you grow them yourself. I suspect we modern peole are not giving our bodies the "makings" for sun protection.

    • cloverleaffarm profile image

      Healing Herbalist 3 years ago from The Hamlet of Effingham

      I use a combo of calendula, comfrey and plantain on mine. Heals it up, and helps with the itch. :) Thanks for the link.

    • blueheron profile image
      Author

      Sharon Vile 3 years ago from Odessa, MO

      I can make some of that up for her!

      I enjoy your hubs very much, but I am a little limited with what I can do on my home computer. It takes about a year to load anything.

    • blueheron profile image
      Author

      Sharon Vile 3 years ago from Odessa, MO

      I envy you your formal training in herbalism. We are just granny women in my neck of the woods!

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