Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Homemade Herbal Healing Salve

Homemade Herbal Healing Salve

Our garden has provided us with an abundance of healing flowers this summer. I saw this as the perfect opportunity to use these flowers to make a healing salve, which will preserve the amazing healing properties of these plants in an emollient blend of oil and beeswax that can be used on minor cuts and bruises. The process is incredibly easy, and is a great introduction to salve making. First, let's look at the ingredients we will be using.


An incredibly versatile and aesthetic plant, calendula is a great addition to your garden. Not only is calendula edible, it has also been medically proven to have topical anti-inflammatory properties [1]. The healing properties are so effective, in fact, that it was found to be superior in reducing the occurrence of acute dermatitis in patients receiving adjuvant radiotherapy for breast cancer [2]. 


A beautiful and exotic addition to any garden, borage is another one of my favorite "medicine cabinet" plants. Also an edible plant, borage has been scientifically proved to aid in wound healing time [3]. It has also shown anti- parasitic properties in mice infected with a parasitic protozoa [4]. 


I don't think I can really give justice to the multi-faceted benefits of lavender. Aside from being a hardy, gorgeous plant in any landscape, lavender has been known to be used for centuries as an emotional and physical healer. Lavender, too, is edible (notice a theme, here?) and I've had so much fun exploring new ways to cook and bake with these delicate flower buds. Lavender also, as you may well know, has the amazing aromatic ability to calm. Scientific studies have also indicated lavender as an effective healing agent in postpartum women healing from episiotomies [5]. There is even a study that has shown various lavender oils as having antimicrobial effects against the antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) [6]. 


I'm surprised that I didn't find out about the benefits of honey sooner in life. Among the many useful medical applications of honey are wound healing properties [7], aiding in burn wound recovery [8,9], and antibacterial properties against MRSA [10]. 

Olive Oil

Up until creating this post, I thought that olive oil was merely a substrate in which to derive the beneficial properties of the herbs. I was pleasantly surprised to find in my research that the olive plant has free radical scavengers (anti-oxidant) properties [11]. Olive oil also contains anti-inflammatory compounds that have been compared to those of ibuprofen [12]. 


I was surprised yet again during my research to find that beeswax not only serves as a thickening and solidifying agent in this salve, but it also has been shown to successfully manage cases of dermatitis and psoriasis [13].

Step 1: Making An Herbal Oil Infusion:

This is by far the easiest part of the whole process. You will need olive oil, a clean jar, and either a whole bunch of dried herbs or a pair of scissors and some fresh garden herbs. In this salve I want to use the three herbs I used above, but feel free to do your own research and include other healing herbs. Some other plants that would serve as excellent components of this healing salve include rose hips, plantain, arnica, cayenne, oregano, or oregano.

If you are using dried herbs for this step, simply fill the clean jar 2/3 full with herbs. You can use equal
parts of each herb, or more of one and less of another, whatever you chose. Leaving space at the top allows the dried herbs to expand during the infusion process. If you are using fresh herbs, cut them preferably the morning you are ready to make your oil infusion. Next you want to break up the flowers very thoroughly, because the more surface area of the plant that is exposed to oil the better an infusion you will get. Some people even prefer to lightly mash the herbs in a mortar and pestle before hand, but it's not entirely necessary. Again, you can use any amount of each of the three herbs as you would like, When using fresh plants, fill your jar all the way full with herbs.

Once you have your herbs in the jar, fill the jar with olive oil. Using a wood spoon, gently push down the herbs to get out all the air bubbles. This assures that no mold will grow in the oil, and that all of those excellent healing properties are extracted from your plants. VoilĂ , you are done! Allow the oil to infuse for 3-4 weeks. Some people suggest putting your oil in a window sill, under the assumption that the heat of the sun will aid in the extraction process. Other folks suggest keeping it out of the sun, because the healing properties of these plants are very delicate, and will degrade when exposed to light. I took a middle-of-the-road approach and kept it on my counter, out of direct sunlight. 

Step 2: Making An Herbal Healing Salve: 

Once your oil has had time to infuse, it's time to make your salve. You will need the following items: a double boiler, a measuring/pouring cup, a wood spoon, a spatula, a whisk, cheese cloth, a clean jar, 1/2 oz beeswax, 1/2 cup infused herbal oil, 1 Tbsp raw honey (optional) and any essential oil you may want to add if you'd like (I used lavender in this one.) An adorable little helper is also recommended, but not required. 

Just as a side note, you can make a number of homemade salve recipes really easily and with a number of different oils, as long as you stick with the beeswax: oil ratio of:

1 cup oil(s) : 1 ounce beeswax. 

This ratio will allow you to use any combination of oils in your salve, in any amount you chose. So, let's get started!

Before you begin melting and mixing anything together, get your jars clean and dry and ready for filling. Once the salve is ready to pour, you have to act quickly, as it hardens fairly fast once removed from the stove. 

To make the salve, first strain out your infused oil through cheesecloth or a sheet of muslin cloth. I prefer to strain it out right over the measuring cup I want to use. 

Make sure you really squeeze out all those oils from the herbs. This will ensure that you're getting all the really beneficial healing properties out of those flowers. 

Next, combine the infused oil, beeswax , and about a table spoon of raw honey (if you're using it) in a double boiler. Heat over medium until the three ingredients are melted together. 

At this point, I switched to a whisk. The raw honey tends to sink to the bottom, so if you are using honey a whisk may be the best way to incorporate all your ingredients.

Once your ingredients are all melted together, transfer the mixture into a pouring cup. This is the point at which you would stir in any essential oil you chose. The amount is up to your preference. I used about 10 drops of lavender oil in this salve recipe. Keep in mind that you must work quickly here, because as soon as you take the mixture off of the heat it will start to set up. If your mixture does start to harden, no worries. Just scrape it back into the double boiler and reheat it. 

Once your essential oil is all mixed in, pour your salve into the clean jars. Let cool with the lid off. Secure the lid tightly once cooled. Ta-da, you're done!

Check it out, your very own homemade herbal healing salve!!!!

This size jar will last our family for well over a year. Pour into smaller containers for the perfect holiday/birthday gift. Great for sensitive skin. It worked wonders on my son's diaper rash. 

Store in a cool dry place, away from direct sunlight. This recipe is shelf stable, and should last over a year if stored properly. 



[1] R. Della Loggia, A. Tubaro, S. Sosa, H. Becker, St. Saar, O. Isaac. "The role of triterpenoids in the topical anti-Inflammatory activity of Calendula officials flowers." Planta Med 1994; 60(6): 516-520. Copyright Georg ThiemeVerlag Stuttgart. New York. July 31, 2013.

  1. X. Montbarbon. "
  2. Phase III Randomized Trial of Calendula Officinalis Compared With Trolamine for the Prevention of Acute Dermatitis During Irradiation for Breast Cancer." Journal of Clinical Oncology; 2004; 22(8); 1447-1453. Copyright American Society of Clinical Oncology. July 31, 2013.

[3] Mohammad Reza Farahpour and Amir Hossein Mavaddati. "Effects of borage extract in rat skin wound healing model, histopathological study."Journal of Medicinal Plants Research Vol. 6(5), pp. 651-656. Copyright Academic Journals 2012. July 31, 2013.

Immunomodulatory Properties of Borage (Echium amoenum) on BALB/c Mice Infected with Leishmania major." Journal of Clinical Immunology Volume 31Issue 3pp 465-471. July 31, 2013.

  • Katayon Vakilian,
  • Mahtab Atarha
  • ,
  • Reza Bekhradi
  • ,
  • Reza Chaman. "
  • Healing advantages of lavender essential oil during episiotomy recovery: A clinical trial." Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. Volume 17(1); Pages 50-53: February 2011. July 31, 2013.

    [6] Sibel Roller, Nina Ernest, and Jane Buckle. " The Antimicrobial Activity of High-Necrodane and Other Lavender Oils on Methicillin-Sensitive and -Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA and MRSA)" The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. March 2009, 15(3): 275-279. doi:10.1089/acm.2008.0268. July 31, 2013.

    [7] S. E. E. Efem. "Clinical observations on the wound healing properties of honey". British Journal of Surgery, 75: 679–681. doi: 10.1002/bjs.1800750718. July 31, 2013.

    [8] M. Subrahmanyam. "Honey impregnated gauze versus polyurethane film (OpSiteR) in the treatment of burns — a prospective randomised study." British Journal of Plastic Surgery, Volume 46(4) 322-323. doi:10.1016/0007-1226(93)90012-Z. July 31, 2013.

    [9] M. Subrahmanyam. "Topical application of honey in treatment of burns." British Journal of Surgery 1991, 78: 497–498. doi: 10.1002/bjs.1800780435, July 31, 2013.

    [10] S. Natarajan, D. Williamson, J. Grey, K.G. Harding, R.A. Cooper. "Healing of an MRSA-colonized, hydroxyurea- induced leg ulcer with honey." Journal of Dermataological Treatment. 2001, Vol. 12 (1); 33-36. doi: 10.1080/095466301750163563. July 31, 2013.

    [11]  Francesco Visioli, Giorgio Bellomo, Claudio Galli. "Free Radical-Scavenging Properties of Olive Oil Polyphenols. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications. 1998. Vol. 247 (1); 60-64. July 31, 2013.

    [12] Elizabeth A. Miles, Pinelope Zoubouli, Philip C. Calder. "Differential anti-inflammatory effects of phenolic compounds from extra virgin olive oil identified in human whole blood cultures" Nutrition, 2005. Vol. 21 (3); 389-394. July 31, 2013.

    [13] Al-Waili, Noori S. "Topical application of natural honey, beeswax and olive oil mixture for atopic dermatitis or psoriasis: partially controlled, single-blinded study." Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 2003. Vol. 11(4); 226-234. July 31, 2013. 

    Monday, April 1, 2013

    How to Double Dig a Garden Bed

    Here is the process we did to double dig our garden bed.
    Here is the first row dug of our garden bed. Notice the cover crop. Allow 2-4 weeks for your cover crop to breakdown before planting.
    1. Dig out the first row one shovel blade deep and place the soil in a wheel barrow. Use a garden fork to break up the subsoil in the trench.
    Here is the first row of soil from the garden bed.
    2. Place amendments at the bottom of the trench you forked.
    I amended this bed with sulphur and gypsum to bring down the pH and some Rabbit manure for fertilizer
    3. Turn the soil from the second row on top of the first row you amended. Repeat breaking up the subsoil with the garden fork and amending and turning the next row on top of your amended trench and so on down the line.
    This is the second row that has been forked and amended, ready for row three to be turned on top.
     4. When you have forked and amended the last trench, use the soil from the first row you placed in the wheel barrow to fill the last trench.
    Here is the whole bed turned.
    We added a fence around the bed to keep the wee ones from unripe picking sprees and trampling rampages.
    We reclaimed the wood for these fence posts, along with many more, from the dump for two bucks! We weaved some of the green branches I recently pruned from the apple trees in and out of the posts to make a nearly free fence.

    Double digging is especially important where you are planting root crops to aerate the soil so the root veggies don't have a hard time going straight down into the soil. We planted one row of beets, three of orange carrots, three of scarlet carrots, and three of Harris Model parsnips.

    Happy gardening from the Intentional Living community! Feel free to comment, post pictures and descriptions of what Intentional Living projects you are doing on our Facebook page

    Sunday, March 24, 2013

    Taking the Buffs under our wing.

    We just got our chicks today! Take a look at the little cuties. We decided to get the Buff Orphington breed of chickens because they have the reputation of being the "Labrador Retrievers" of chickens. Meaning they are just about the sweetest, most good nature chicken you can get. This is important to us since we have a youngin' that we want to interact and learn from the chickens. They are also great layers of yummy brown eggs.

    We bought eight chicks since that is the maximum our city will allow. That should also be plenty of eggs for breakfast and any baking we need to do. We have a pretty simple set up. A large box is the shelter, we have a simple feeder with organic starter crumbles, water dish (change everyday), heat lamp, and approximately three inches of pine shavings for bedding.

    Simple elements: box, heat lamp, feeder, organic starter crumbles, water dish, pine shavings, chicks.
    Taking a sip of water.
    Buff Orphingtons have a pretty classic chicken look.
    These Buffs are about 3-4 days old.

    Be sure to check back to see the follow up posts to watch these pretty little ladies grow up and the process we undertake of raising these beauties!

    Now isn't that cute? Be sure to check up on the chickies. :)

    Wednesday, March 13, 2013

    Cold Frame from Reclaimed Materials

    I had some old windows from a buddy that I wanted to make into a cold frame to grow some of our veggies and starts in. I have been seeing the earthen-sided green houses on facebook and I got the idea of making the back wall of the cold frame out of hay bales. I figured it would be cheaper than buying a bunch of wood and framing the back. Plus when the hay gets wet it will give off some heat, much like compost does. So I started out with three hay bales long and and two high. I also put in some scrap pieces of wood to make little shelves in between the bales. You can see the board across the top, that is what the windows will rest on.
    All the wood you see on this project has either been reclaimed from the local dump or dismantled from pallets. Next, I made the angled side frame.

    Here is the side frame I made. This view would be the inside of the cold frame. I made a notch in the angled board so the long window support piece can rest right in there.

     Take a look at the notch in the wood for the window support piece to rest on.

    Next I took pieces of wood from pallets and lined them up against the frame, penciled the angle on the back, and then I cut each board for the perfect fit.

    This is the mock up side view. Not too shabby, eh? Colter man is always willing to help the cause. His little face says "You see your precious windows over there? They are dying to meet my hammer!"

    Instead of digging out and leveling the whole area I just dug it out where the frame would rest.

    Checking the level to see if my digging efforts are actually making it level.

    Here is what it looks like with all the windows on. Notice the support board on the bottom that the windows are resting on.

    From this angle you can see that I toggled the opening of the windows so that the furthest left and right windows are open from the top and the two middle windows open from the bottom. This is for access. We figured we wouldn't be able to reach into the high pane of the middle windows anyway.

    You can see here that the windows slide up and down and this is really important for temperature control. I put a thermometer in there after I finished and the temperature quickly soared to over 100 degrees. I was briefly able to mess around with it and was able to get it to hold around 80 degrees which is perfect for seed germination. There will definitely be some experimenting going on with how much to open the windows to control the temperature. I fried some of our starts already in the frame not watching the temperature. Ooops! Solar gain is quite the powerful force!

    Monday, February 25, 2013

    Organic Crock Pot Apple Butter

    Here's a killer crock pot apple butter recipe that we've adapted from various other recipes. This apple butter is a definite crowd-pleaser. It's also a great introduction to preserving fruits if you've never jarred before, for a couple reasons. For one, this recipe does not require the addition of pectin, as apples contain a high amount of pectin (for those of you unfamiliar with pectin, it is used as a thickening agent in jams and jellies). Second, it's one of those wonderful stick-in-the-crock-and-forget-it recipes that make cooking oh so simple. I cannot tell you how delicious this apple butter is on top of fresh warm pancakes, or smothered over vanilla ice cream. Yum!

    First off, you want to chose your apple variety. The main goal in choosing your apples is to have a balance of sour and sweet. We've got a couple different varieties of apples in our backyard, and one of them is probably a Granny Smith (based on the green freckled skin and glass-pane like flesh). This is a great apple variety to use in apple butter, because it adds a nice tart note to balance out the sweetness of the butter, and also adds some stability to the mix. We paired the Granny Smith with a sweeter apple variety (we're not exactly sure what it is, but it tastes to me like a Pink Lady) to balance out the tart flavor of the Granny Smiths. You could certainly use one or the other, just make sure to adjust the amount of sugar you add depending on what variety you chose. If you plan to use all Fuji apples, for example, you would want to cut back on the amount of sugar, as Fuji apples are very sweet. If you were to use all Granny Smiths, you would want to add more sugar to balance out all that tart flavor. In this recipe we've mixed Granny Smiths with Fujis.

    • Crock pot
    • Corer/peeler/slicer, or just a peeler and a knife
    • Immersion blender
    • One large stock pot
    • Jar lifter
    • 7-8 half pint jars with lids
    • Ladle

    • 5 1/2 lbs apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
    • 4 cups white sugar
    • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • Optional:
    • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
    • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
    • Squeeze of lemon

    Let's get started! First off you want to wash your apples. Run them through a corer/peeler/slicer- like this one. If you don't have one of these contraptions, you can also just peel your apples and cut off the flesh.

    Then chop your apples.

    Throw your apples into the crop pot, and add the sugar and spice blend.

    Cover and cook on high for one hour.Reduce heat to low and cook several hours, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thickened and dark brown.

    Uncover and continue cooking on low for 1 hour. Puree with an immersion blender until the mixture is a smooth consistency.

    Jar your ingredients. For those of you that have never done this before or need a refresher, here are the basic steps...

    Wash your jars, and sterilize them in boiling water. I put them in a boiling water bath for a few minutes.
    Once your apple butter is ready to pour, get your jars all in a row. Ladle the apple butter into the jars and leave 1 inch of air space. This allows the air inside the jar to expand and prevents the jars from breaking.

    Place the lids on the jars and tighten them "fingertip tight," meaning just as tight as you can get them with just your fingertips. Don't really cram them on there. This allows air to escape from the jars while they process in the boiling water bath.

    Process the jars in a boiling water bath.

    Allow them to boil for the amount of time indicated here on this chart:

    Processing Time in a Boiling Water Jarring Pot

    Jar Size

    Process Time at Altitudes of



    Above 6,000ft

    Half-Pints or Pints








    Pull the jars out of the boiling water and immediately tighten the lids. This creates the airtight seal between the rubber lip of the lid and the glass jar.

    Cover your apple butter jars with a towel and let them come down to room temperature overnight. At this point you may hear your jars popping, which is the sound of the air inside the jar compressing due to the rapid decrease in ambient temperature. If you don't hear the popping sound, don't worry. Sometimes we don't hear it at all. The most important thing is that all the jars are sealed and the lids are flat (not popped up) in the morning. 

    Congratulations, you have just made some delicious apple butter! What's your favorite application for this delicious treat?