Easy Salve to Make at Home

Jars of salveSeveral years ago my kids were in a phase of making how-to movies…or making me watch pretend movies “on TV” while I sat across from them at the table while they re-enacted videos about all sorts of things. “How to Toast an English Muffin” from my then-4yo was a particularly thrilling episode.

Two summers ago I decided to teach them to use iMovie on our iPad, and this coincided with me experimenting with essential oils to ward off my youngest’s newly developed seasonal allergies (it worked for her!). We decided to try making a salve, and the kids — then 8 and 5 — decided to turn the salve experiment into a movie.

I rediscovered that movie recently, and found myself having difficulty adjusting to the dry air in our current community, so making new salve for my cracked hands came to mind.

Salve:

  • an ointment used to promote healing of the skin or as protection
  • Something that is soothing or consoling for wounded feelings

Salves are typically a combination of oil and beeswax, and are solid at room temperature but can be quite soft still. They are oily in texture, and form a protective layer for the skin. You can vary the absorbency, scent, and skin-moisturizing benefits based on which oils you use and in what proportions, and you can scent them with dried herbs, essential oils, or nothing at all. Whatever you choose, ensure it is food grade and high quality because you are rubbing it into your skin. You might not want to eat it – but you should be able to.

I’m not afraid to try new things and so after searching for a salve recipe that would work for us I settled on what I remembered was most similar to the one we tried a few years ago. Like most things I cook or create I’m about maximum effect for minimum effort, and this salve is no exception. I also really like recipes that are easily adaptable and flexible, making it easy to experiment further or to give it a go anyway even if you don’t have ready access to all of the ingredients.

I actively avoid artificially scented products and don’t like anything strongly smelling – no fabric softener in this house. I move too frequently to have a garden that produces herbs in quantity sufficient for drying but they’re certainly available online or locally at farmer’s markets or natural food stores. You can add a pleasing combination of essential oils (EOs) to your salves, and if you have somehow been living under a rock and have missed the EO movement my good friend Laura would be happy to help you out. She’s been a wonderful resource for me as I tentatively dip my toe into the EO world.

Essential oils can be chosen for their scent, their health benefits, or ideally both and meshes with the secondary meaning of the word: “something that is soothing or consoling for wounded feelings.” A lavender-scented salve and gentle massage can be just the thing to bring a toddler off the ledge.

General salve-making tips:

  • Use clean tools and hands (good advice for life actually)
  • Use high quality ingredients
  • Store salves away from light and heat to prolong their life; 6-12 months seems to be the going advice for shelf life
  • Don’t let water get into the salve
  • Experiment with the ratio of oil:beeswax. Less beeswax makes a softer salve, and more makes it harder. I like a ratio in the 4:1 or 6:1 range. If you aren’t happy with the end result you can gently re-melt the salve and adjust the ratio by adding more beeswax, or more oil as needed.

Tools & Equipment

  • Glass measuring cup (good old 2-cup Pyrex works for me)
  • Deep frying pan or wide pot
  • Trivet, or metal mason jar lid rings to concoct a trivet
  • 125 ml glass jars + lids (optional – but I like these because they don’t rust)
  • Paper towels for cleanup
  • Tablespoon and measuring cup
  • Metal spoon

This recipe is scaled so you can make 5 x 125ml jars at once (with different scents if using essential oils), or just one jar if you’d like to test it before committing.

Ingredients to make one jar (recipe for 5 jars follows):

  • 3 Tbsp + 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 3 Tbsp + 1 tsp sunflower oil
  • 1 Tbsp + 2 tsp beeswax pellets (or 8-9 g grated beeswax), or less for a softer salve
  • A few drops vitamin E oil
  • 10 drops essential oil(s) of your choice

Coconut oil Bottle of sunflower oil

Ingredients to make 5 x 125ml jars:

  • 1 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup sunflower oil
  • ½ cup beeswax pellets (or 40-45 g grated beeswax)
  • 1 tsp vitamin E oil
  • PER JAR: 10 drops essential oil(s) of your choice

Method:

Find a combination of wide, deep frying pan + trivet that works for you. You want to be able to add enough water to the pan/pot to come at least half way up the measuring cup (or jar). Avoid putting the glass directly on the bottom of the pot or pan. You truly do not want the mess that may result if you crack the glass by putting it in direct contact with the heat. Add water to the pot/pan, and avoid splashing water into the glass.

Making salve at homeMeasure coconut oil, sunflower oil, and beeswax into the measuring cup (or jar). Do not add the essential oil(s) and vitamin E oil yet.

Gently heat the water but don’t boil it – it’s not necessary and will increase the odds of splashing water into the oil, or causing everything to spill.

Gently stir the oil and beeswax mixture with a metal spoon or stir stick. Watch as the mixture becomes clear and the beeswax melts.

Melted oil and beeswax for salve

If you are making one jar only:

Once the mixture is completely transparent carefully remove it from the water bath and place it on a heat-proof surface. If you have made only one jar now is when you add your 10 drops of essential oils and vitamin E oil directly to the mixture. I use vitamin E supplements and poke a hole into the capsule and squirt the oil into the jars. Stir gently.

Melted oil and beeswax for salve

Let cool completely, and if necessary cover with a paper towel to keep dust out. Replace with a metal or plastic lid, and label as needed. Store in a cool, dry place, and use clean hands when scooping out salve to use.

If you are making 5 jars at once:

Prep your jars with essential oils. Add 10 drops of your desired combination of oils directly into five clean and dry jars. Add vitamin E oil too. 

Essential oils for salve

Distribute the hot oil/beeswax mixture between the five jars, stirring gently with a spoon to distribute the essential oils into the mixture.

Let cool completely, and if necessary cover with a paper towel to keep dust out. Replace with a metal or plastic lid, and label as needed. Store in a cool, dry place, and use clean hands when scooping out salve to use.

Printable Salve Recipe
Click on image of recipe to open and print!

Cleanup:

Cooled salve that remains on spoons or in your measuring cup can be used as is. Rub onto hands and enjoy! Make sure you wipe everything down with a paper towel as much as possible before it hardens, and then wipe it again. And again. Do not pour any remnants down the drain – it will harden and clog.

So many oil combinations – some that I enjoy are:

  • Lavender, tea tree (melaleuca), and frankincense for antiseptic and skin-healing properties
  • Lavender, peppermint, and lemon for seasonal allergy symptoms (note that citrus oils makes skin very sun-sensitive, use carefully)
  • Lavender for calming and headache relief
  • Peppermint for a cooling sensation
  • Citrus Bliss (orange-vanilla) is a favourite of my kids
  • Cinnamon Spice is an immune-booster concoction and one I am currently slathered in due to a cold; I don’t remember what exactly I put in there, but it smells fabulous. Or probably does, I’m currently too stuffed up to know.
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Jen Shapka

A mom of two, military spouse, domestic engineer, and former teacher (B.Sc., B.Ed.), she has always found herself in the education field but rarely in the classroom.

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