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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Herbal Salves

How-Tuesday: Herbal Salves

Well, the mad dash of the holidays has subsided, and eyes are turned towards a glittering new year. To help you recuperate from the notoriously busy holiday season, in this week’sHow-Tuesday post we’ll learn how to make herbal hand salves with the help of Kelly Wilkinson, author of the book, Weekend Handmade, and the blog Make Grow Gather. Give your hands a spa-worthy treatment designed to wind down and relax after a seasonal tinsel-tinged whirlwind.

Making these salves is an easy process that involves infusing oil with your chosen herbs, then combining the oil with beeswax. Although oils can be infused in a couple hours on the stove, I prefer to infuse them using the slower solar method, which takes a couple of weeks. Watching the sun glint through the jars of golden oil as they steep is beautiful — and makes the wait worthwhile.
My ideal is to make these salves with herbs I’ve grown in my garden and then dried myself, but high-quality dried herbs purchased from a bulk supplier work well also. Use these emollient salves on hands, feet, elbows, or any other part of your body that needs moisturizing.
Supplies you’ll need:
Dried herbs or fragrant flowers
About 2 cups (473 mL) olive oil or other carrier oil, such as calendula oil or almond oil
About 1 cup (236.5 mL) beeswax (you can use a small votive beeswax candle if you can’t find pure beeswax)
Essential oil (optional)
Clean glass jars with tight-fitting lids, for infusing oil
Cheesecloth or a jelly bag
Liquid ingredient measuring cup
Small clean tins or jars with lids
Kraft paper adhesive labels and printed Japanese washi tape
Yields about 2 cups (473 mL) of salve


Infuse Oil
Note: When you’re infusing the oils, there is no strict measurement or ratio of herbs to oil — just make sure to use enough oil to generously cover the herbs, since the herbs will absorb some of the oil.
1. Place the dried herbs or flowers in a clean jar and cover with olive or other carrier oil, filling to within 1″ (2.5 cm) of the top of the jar.
2. Seal the jar tightly and place in a sunny window. Shake every day or so for two weeks to disperse the herbs throughout the oil.
3. Place a double layer of cheesecloth or a jelly bag over the measuring cup. Pour the contents of the jar over the cheesecloth or jelly bag to strain out the herbs. Let drain.
4. When the oil stops dripping, wring the herbs out with your hands to extract all of the infused oil. Discard spent herbs. Note how much infused oil you have in the measuring cup.
Create Salve
1. Pour the infused oil into a small saucepan. Grate the beeswax onto a plate. For every 1/4 cup (59 mL) of infused oil in the pan, add 2 tablespoons of grated beeswax to the pan and stir until dissolved. If you’re using essential oil, add a couple drops for every 2 tablespoons (29.5 mL) of infused oil, or more if you prefer a stronger scent.
2. Warm the ingredients gently over low heat. Meanwhile, place a saucer in the freezer.
3. When the wax is dissolved, remove the pan from the heat and place a spoonful of the salve mixture onto the cold saucer. Place the saucer back in the freezer.
4. After about a minute, check the consistency of the salve by removing the saucer from the freezer and testing it with your finger. If it’s very hard, add more infused oil. If it’s too soft, add more grated beeswax. Aim for a consistency that will work well as a salve (I prefer mine on the creamy side so I can use it as a heavy-duty gardening balm).
5. When the salve reaches the desired consistency, pour it into clean tins or jars.
6. Place the tins or jars on a level surface to cool and set. When the salve has cooled completely, place lids on the tins or jars.

Add Labels
1. Add decorative labels to the tins or jars to identify the blends. I printed the blend names on adhesive kraft labels and cut the labels to fit the tops of the tins. I also added a piece of washi tape along one side.
2. Store the salve in a cool, dark place.

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