Herbal Salve Salvation

Herbal balms soothe aches and pains

| November/December 1998

  • Herbal salves can be very useful when applied to the skin.

Herbal Salve Recipes:

Marsha Akers’s feet hurt so much they felt like they were being pierced with shards of glass. Barely into middle age, Marsha worried that her career was over; as a massage therapist, she stood on her feet all day. Finally, she was diagnosed as having spurs, or bony projections in her feet.

An acquaintance suggested that she soak her feet in warm castor oil. Desperate to try anything, Marsha soaked her feet in the oil for thirty minutes and found immediate relief, so she continued the regimen each night. After two weeks, the pain was gone.

Today—nine years later—Marsha has become a regular user of castor oil and her feet remain pain-free. Best of all, she continues her busy Gresham, Oregon, massage practice, where she’s known for her liberal use of—you guessed it—castor oil, which she uses in the form of a salve.

As Americans discover that herbs are powerful medicine and use them in ever-increasing numbers, they’re moving beyond capsules and tinctures to become acquainted with other prep­arations, including salves. Essentially, salves are thickened herbal oils meant to be rubbed on with the fingers. They often are referred to as ointments, though ointments are generally made of softer material and come in a tube; salves usually come in wide-mouthed jars for finger dipping. Creams are thick mixtures of oil and water with added ingredients—basically, thickened lotions. Balm is a general term that refers to any soothing preparation.

Salves can be applied to the skin to treat joint and muscle stiffness, soothe inflammation, or heal bites, cuts, sores, stings, scrapes, rashes, boils and acne. Professional herbalists apply salves to benign growths, such as cysts.

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