Body & Soul: How To Make a Salve

| April/May 2003

Once you become confident making infused oils and have a few in your repertoire, you’re ready to make salves, lip balms, creams and many other oil-based products. You’ll find making salves is as easy as making the infused oil and at least as much fun. I know several women’s groups that get together three or four times a year to make salves and creams for themselves and for gifts.

Before you start making your salve, place two or three soup spoons in your freezer. We’ll get back to them later.

Have your containers ready to fill. Baby food jars work well, as do pimento, caper and artichoke heart jars. I save the small decorative jars that contained jam and honey samples. You also can find attractive jars through herb suppliers or specialty shops. These suppliers feature several sizes, including thin, small lip balm containers. Thoroughly clean and dry them.

I’ve been experimenting with salve making for years and I’ve come up with a basic recipe that works for me. After you’ve tried my recipe, I encourage you to experiment and create your own blend of wax and infused oil. The standard ratio I use is 21/4 cups infused oil to 2 ounces beeswax. I’ve found in measuring the wax that the volume is roughly equal to the weight.

Melt the wax in a glass measuring cup or dish in a warm oven. Place the infused oil in a saucepan and warm just enough to keep the wax from solidifying when it’s poured in. Since the volume for wax is similar to its weight, some people prefer to weigh the wax and grate it unmelted into the oil. When the wax is totally melted and blended, pour the mixture into your containers. If you are adding essential oils to your salve, add them when you take the oil/wax blend off the heat, just before you pour it into containers. Cover the containers lightly with a sheet of wax paper to prevent anything from falling into your salve before it’s solidified. Don’t cap your jars until the salve has cooled down or you will get unwanted condensation.

The consistency of a salve is an individual choice. If you are making a salve for camping, you may want it to be hard, as it will soften a little with heat. You may prefer a softer salve to apply easily. Before you pour your salve into your containers, you can check the consistency with the spoon test. Remember our spoons in the freezer? Take one out, dip it into the warm wax and oil mixture, and then place the spoon into the freezer for a couple of minutes. Once the mixture has solidified on the spoon, you can feel for the consistency. If you want a firmer salve, use more wax; if you want your salve to be softer, add more oil. In adjusting your recipe, add extra oil or beeswax in small increments. A little adjusting can make a big difference.

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