How to make an herbal salve

This is a giveaway post, as well as a salve making tutorial. The giveaway is now closed.

Years ago I bought a large pre-mixed package of arnica flowers, St. John's wort and cayenne pepper (aka: Miracle Herbal Rub Mix) from The Bulk Herb Store. I used it to make a muscle rub Christmas gift for my parent's who are runners and very active people.

This mix of dried plants is good for aches and pains. The company doesn't sell this mix anymore but no fear because you can get some from me.

I have a lot of the Miracle Herbal Rub mix and I am offering it as a giveaway: a 4 oz package of mixed dried herbs along with beeswax so you can make a herbal salve.

What I'm giving away will be enough to make a a few jars of salve, one for you and some to give as handmade holiday presents. A double whammy!

How to Make a Salve

Step 1: Prepare an Oil Infusion

Because I'm in no rush I'm using the cold infusion method, aka: jar on a sunny windowsill. If you're short for time you could use heat extraction instead.

Cold Infusion:

In a large jar cover 1 oz dried herbs with 6-8 oz of oil.

I used a mix of canola, soybean and sunflower because that's what I had. However, many sources recommend using either extra virgin olive oil for heat extractions or grapeseed oil for cold oil infusions. Both are naturally resistant to oxidation (which makes oils rancid) and have a longer shelf life.

If you are starting with a different amount of herbs a good rule of thumb is to cover the herbs with at least an inch of oil. At first the dried plant matter will rise and float but after a day it will settle and you can see if you need to add more oil.

Please note: the photos in this post show an infusion of 4 oz of herbs with 32 oz. of oil.

Hot Oil Extract:

According to Practical Herbalism: Ordinary Plants with Extraordinary Powers fresh herbs are best extracted with heat and dried herbs with cold infusion. If you choose to use heat extraction Practical Herbalism says to do it this way: put herbs in pot (not aluminum), cover with oil, simmer & stir at a very low temp till herb matter is completely crisp. Can take 4 hrs or up to a full day.

On the other hand Rosemary Gladstar's Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health says to do it this way: "Place the herbs and the oil in a double boiler and bring to a low simmer. Slowly heat for 30 to 60 minutes, checking frequently to be sure the oil is not overheating."

Step 2: Strain Oil

Whichever method you choose when the oil is done infusing you need to strain the oil out through cheesecloth or muslin. Wring it out really well to get every last good drop of oil. Compost the used herbs.

infused oil: after the process described above

Step 3: Add Beeswax & preservative (optional)

When making a salve (or ointment, it's the same thing) the general guideline is to add 1/2 -1 part beeswax for 4 parts oil.

In a saucepan, add lesser amount of beeswax to oil and melt over low heat till all mixed. To check if the mixture is the right consistency (remember, it will harden when it cools) Rosemary Gladstar's book suggests placing a "tablespoon of the mixture in the freezer for just a minute or two. If it's soft, add more beeswax; if too hard, add more oil."

I suggest starting with the lesser amount beeswax and add more if needed. When the consistency is right pour into sterilized containers. Which reminds me you should sterilize all your equipment to start with.

You also might want to add a few drops of natural preservative to your salve. Vitamin E (easy to find) is good for that or Grapefruit Seed Extract (less easy to find) or Rosemary, Sage or Tea Tree essential oil. Essential oils are in themselves anti-microbial and will impart a nice scent and other skin friendly properties to your salve.

How to make a salve summary

  1. Make an oil extract.
  2. Strain the oil.
  3. Add beeswax and preservative (optional).
  4. Pour into jars.


The giveaway for the 4oz bag of mixed herbs and beeswax will end Sunday, November 22nd at midnight. To enter please leave a comment as simple as "hey I'd like that" or something more in depth like "I've always wanted to make salve, now I can" or something really informed like "you crazy lady, you don't make salve that way, now here is the way I make it..." 

Congrats Candelion!

Related FIMBY Posts:

Post Script: This post is part of the Home Remedies Carnival at Keeper of the Home.

Looking to buy dried herbs to prepare a salve or any other herbal remedy?

I recommend either Mountain Rose Herbs or the Bulk Herb Store.

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  • Denise

    Denise on Nov. 19, 2009, 7:38 p.m.

    Hey Renee, I've never made any type of home health care products before, but this sounds really cool, and easy enough for even me. Do you use any old saucepan to mix this in? Just curious as to whether it would leave any scent or anything in the pan if it was one you normally used for cooking. Thanks so much for this giveaway. :)


  • Candelion

    Candelion on Nov. 19, 2009, 10:14 p.m.

    I've wanting to dabble with some homemade deodorant and lotion too, however, I haven't exhausted my current supply yet. I am also extremely interested in herbal remedies, but my knowledge is lacking. Thanks for the great post and I would love some good dried herbs.


  • 5orangepotatoes

    5orangepotatoes on Nov. 20, 2009, 2:23 a.m.

    "Hey, you crazy lady," you're wonderful! I would love this! Thanks for sharing the salve recipe. I was grating beeswax today in hopes of making my first salve this weekend. Now my life will be easier with your advice and tute! Thanks!

    5orangepotatoes's last blog post... make leaf rubbing plates


  • Spring

    Spring on Nov. 20, 2009, 3:20 a.m.


    What would you recommend as a "first" for someone wanting to start learning how to use herbs, coming into the winter season? It all sounds so fantastic, yet overwhelming to know where to begin! I'd like one tangible step I could take in that direction this winter. But I don't know where to step!

    Thanks! Spring


  • Jody

    Jody on Nov. 20, 2009, 1:45 p.m.

    I will vouche for the simplicity of making a salve. I have made a couple in the past. Can I get my name into the drawing for the herbal mix kit? am I too late? Sounds like an awesome salve to have around the house. I bookmark ALL the recipe pages for the herbal soaps & salves, etc. Have an awesome day & weekend! ~ Jody


  • ~~Anne

    ~~Anne on Nov. 20, 2009, 2:46 p.m.

    What a great giveaway!! I used to make a lot of my own salves and remedies, but sadly haven't done so in the past few years. Even if I don't win, thanks for the encouragement to start doing it again.


  • Sarah

    Sarah on Nov. 22, 2009, 2:12 p.m.

    My two young boys and I are always seeking out herbal remedies. So much so that their friends call my oldest ( he's 9) Doctor! This recipe is a great one to add to our arsenal- thank you so much for posting this!


  • Small Means

    Small Means on Nov. 23, 2009, 5:16 a.m.

    You probably meant midnight Eastern time, but just in case, I thought I'd try from Central time I have a sister who's a runner who would just LOVE this stuff. And I've used a similar salve on a bone graft site with nerve damage for the last three years. I swear it helps.


  • Jennifer

    Jennifer on Nov. 6, 2010, 1:41 a.m.

    Just found this post, and it looks so great! I would love to make some of this... any suggestions about locating the herb mix?


    • renee

      renee on Nov. 6, 2010, 9:49 p.m.


      I recommend buying the herbs in bulk from either Bulk Herb Store or Mountain Rose Herbs. You won't find the mix but you can make it yourself with the 3 herbs listed. 


  • Jerss Arce

    Jerss Arce on Nov. 26, 2010, 4:58 a.m.

    My mom has bought mw salves at the Flea Market she sold at in Santa Fe, but witht he recession, it has dwindled and she no longer goes, so I look forward to posibably winning one :0)


  • ann-marie mackay

    ann-marie mackay on Nov. 21, 2011, 1:24 a.m.

    I've just found your blog (from pinterest i think) and i could get lost in here forever! i've been making soap for a couple of years and have branched into lip balms, hand balms, lotions and creams etc. I love your pictures and reading through your recipes makes me want to try new things :)


  • Colleen

    Colleen on Nov. 20, 2012, 5:35 p.m.

    Thank you for the salve - would it be possible to tell me how much of each herb is used so that I can gather the ingredients and make it? My email address is cmhgodschild@com. thanks again


  • RebeccaBusato

    RebeccaBusato on Jan. 30, 2013, 7:14 a.m.

    You never mentioned how long the cold oil extraction will need to infuse...


    • renee

      renee on Jan. 30, 2013, 2:32 p.m.

      I've done 4-6 weeks. I'm not very exact in my herbal preparations. This is what Rosemary Gladstar says, " Place the jar in a warm, sunny spot and let steep for 2 weeks. Strain the oil through cheesecloth or muslin. When the oil has been poured off, put the herbs in the cheesecloth or muslin and wring thoroughly, squeezing every last drop of the precious oil from the plant material. Then add a fresh batch of herbs to the oil and infuse for 2 more weeks. Strain again. This will give you a very potent medicinal oil".


  • Lisa

    Lisa on July 2, 2013, 10:49 p.m.

    I have been switching to more natural remedies, as MOST drugstore items are pure chemicals :(. I have tried many store bought rubs etc and havent found anything that really helps. Always open to try something new. :D


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