Creams, Lotions, and Salves.

Dry, itchy skin? Cuts, scrapes, infected wounds, or rashes? They can all be soothed and renewed with the healing nourishment of herbs applied in a moisturizing base – the realm of creams, lotions, and salves. Of course, your skin is your largest eliminative organ. It’s often exposed to the elements, and it’s somewhat delicate {no fur or scales to protect it!}. This means that it can take a beating from the weather and can be prone to wrinkling and drying. Because your skin breathes and eliminates toxins and other substances from your body, you may experience conditions such as rashes, acne, or boils as your skin releases these substances.

Creams, lotions, and salves are all marvelous ways to apply healing herbs to the thirsty, damaged or troubled skin, but they’re each formulated slightly differently.

Cream. A cream is a mixture of oil and water, with a little wax added for body and texture. It’s a bit like mayonnaise because it’s an oil combined with a watery or non-oily substance whipped together so they don’t separate {a process called emulsification}. With mayonnaise, oil and eggs are mixed, while with a cream, oil and tea concentrates are combined. Many commercial creams include an emulsifier such as borax, which prevents the oil and water from separating, or they include substances that add texture, such as lanolin, cocoa butter, or acetyl alcohol. My recipes also contain vitamin C powder, which acts as a mild preservative, but you can substitute an equal amount of ascorbic acid, which is available over the counter at pharmacies or in the canning area of the grocery store. Or you can add 2 or 3 drops of vitamin E or rosemary oil to the oil phase as a preservative. A cream moisturizes and soothes your skin.

Lotion. A lotion is similar to a cream, but it is lighter and contains more liquid. You can pour a lotion and spread it easily, which can really make a difference when you have inflamed, needy skin. By varying the ingredients, you can create lotions that are astringent, moisturizing, antifungal, antibacterial, or regenerative. My lotions also contain vitamin C powder, as a preservative, and you can substitute vitamin E or rosemary oil just as you might in a cream.

Salves. A salve is a wonderful way to use your infused oils. Salves are made of oils and wax and are typically somewhat solid, so they’re more convenient to use than oils. Although not as moisturizing as creams and lotions, salves last longer and provide a protective barrier that keeps bacteria out and moisture in. { Studies show that moist wounds heal faster than dry ones.} Salves keep the healing power of the herbs close to skin injuries, reducing inflammation and soreness and reducing cracked skin on feet and lips. Lip balms are a form of a salve. Salves can be made with a single infused oil or with a combination of several; customizing a salve for individual use is part of the challenge and fun of making it.

You’ll find a basic recipe for a cream, a lotion, and a salve, and then some sample recipes for you to try, using herbs from your garden. Be extra careful to wash all utensils, surfaces, containers, and your hands before beginning to make any of these recipes because this combination of ingredients is susceptible to spoilage. Keep everything as hygienic as possible will yield long-lasting remedies.

If you make creams, please be aware that they spoil easily, so store them in your refrigerator if you’re going to keep them for more than a few days. Don’t introduce bacteria by dipping your fingers into the cream; instead, use a little craft stick or a small spoon to scoop it out of the jar.

Basic Cream:

Creams are composed mainly of oil and water, and each oil and water mixture is referred to as a “phase.” The two phases are prepared and heated separately and then mixed together in a blender. You’ll heat the two phases so they are close as possible to the same temperature {160 degrees to 175 degrees F} before you combine them.

An emulsifier is required to hold the phases together in a creamy state. I use ordinary household borax as an emulsifier because it’s a natural, gentle substance that does the job.

Oil Phase;

1/2 ounce {2-3 teaspoons} beeswax

1 tablespoon coconut oil

4 tablespoons infused herbal oil

10-20 drops essential oil or combination of essential oils of your choice {optional, for fragrance or additional healing properties}

Water Phase:

4 tablespoons tea concentrate {as you’d make for a dried tea} or strong tea infusion*

2 tablespoons aloe gel

1/2 – 1 teaspoon borax

1 teaspoon vitamin C powder

Heat the beeswax, coconut oil, and infused herbal oil in a saucepan over medium heat until warm to the touch, but not hot. Add the optional essential oil. In another pan, heat the tea, aloe gel, borax, and vitamin C powder over medium heat until warm to the touch, but not hot. {Both phases should be heated to 160 to 175 degrees F.}

Place the water phase ingredients in a blender and set it on high. Through the opening in the blender jar cap, dribble in the oil phase ingredients. When the cream is thoroughly mixed, pour it into jars. Let it cool, cap the jars, label, and refrigerate.

  • To make a strong tea infusion, combine 1 cup ground dried herbs and 1 cup freshly boiled water, and steep for 30 minutes, covered.

Skin Protection Cream:

This cream prevents drying and chapping. It’s formulated with glycerin, which is moisturizing and texturizing, making it lighter and extra creamy.

Oil Phase:

1 ounce {about 1 1/2 tablespoons} beeswax

2 tablespoons coconut oil

4 ounces almond oil

10-20 drops essential oil of your choice {for fragrance}*

Water Phase:

2 ounces lemon balm, rosemary, or lavender strong tea infusion

2 ounces glycerin

1 teaspoon borax

1 teaspoon vitamin C powder

Heat the beeswax, coconut oil, and almond oil in a saucepan over medium heat until warm to the touch, but not hot. Add the essential oil. In another pan, heat the tea, glycerin, borax, and vitamin C powder over medium heat until warm to the touch, but not hot. {Both phases should be heated to 160 to 175 degrees F.}

Place the water phase ingredients in a blender and set it on high. Through the opening in the blender jar cap, dribble in the oil phase ingredients. When the cream is thoroughly mixed, pour into jars. Let it cool, cap the jars, label, and refrigerate.

  • For a sweet-smelling cream, try adding equal amounts of orange, grapefruit, lemon, and lavender essential oils to the basic cream. For an antiseptic cream to heal cuts and infections, stir in thyme, oregano, or tea tree essential oils. For a skin-protecting and age-defying cream, add rosemary essential oil and/or vitamin E oil {and use Gotu kola tea for the water phase}.

Anti-fungal Cream:

Use this handy cream for athlete’s foot, ringworm, and other common fungal infections. Prevention is the best medicine here. Don’t let an athlete’s foot fungus migrate into your nails, where it can be very difficult or impossible to treat.

Oil Phase:

1/2 ounce {about 2-3 teaspoons} beeswax

1/2 ounce {1 tablespoon} coconut oil

4 tablespoons calendula infused oil

10-20 drops oregano or thyme essential oil

Water Phase:

4 tablespoons strong thyme tea infusion*

2 tablespoons aloe gel

1/2 – 1 teaspoon borax

1 teaspoon vitamin C powder

Heat the beeswax, coconut oil, and calendula infused oil in a saucepan over medium heat until warm to the touch, but not hot. Add the essential oil. In another pan, heat the tea, aloe gel, borax, and vitamin C powder over medium heat until warm to the touch, but not hot. {Both phases should be heated to 160 to 175 degrees F.}

Place the water phase ingredients in a blender and set it on high. Through the opening in the blender jar cap, dribble in the oil phase ingredients. When the cream is thoroughly mixed, pour into jars. Let it cool, cap the jars, label, and refrigerate.

  • To make a strong tea infusion, combine 1 cup ground dried herb and 1 cup freshly boiled water, and steep for 30 minutes, covered.

Ginger-Cayenne Heat-Treatment Cream:

Here’s help for muscle aches and pains. You can make the infused oil yourself, using the recipe below,* with 1/2 cup ground or powdered dried ginger and 1/2 cup ground or powdered dried cayenne.

Oil Phase:

1/2 ounce {2-3 teaspoons} beeswax

1 tablespoon coconut oil

4 tablespoons cayenne and ginger-infused oil

10-15 drops wintergreen essential oil {optional, for fragrance and pain-relieving compounds}

Water Phase:

4 tablespoons ginger tea concentrate {as you’d make for a dried tea}

2 tablespoons aloe gel

1/2 -1 teaspoon borax

1 teaspoon vitamin C powder

Heat the beeswax, coconut oil, and cayenne and ginger-infused oil in a saucepan over medium heat until warm to the touch, but not hot. Add the optional wintergreen essential oil. In another pan, heat the tea concentrate, aloe gel, borax, and vitamin C over medium heat until warm to the touch, but not hot. {Both phases should be 160 to 175 degrees F.}

Place the water phase ingredients in a blender and set it on high. Through the opening in the blender jar cap, dribble in the oil phase ingredients. When the cream is thoroughly mixed, pour it into jars. Let it cool, cap the jars, label, and refrigerate.

* Basic Herbal Oil:

1 cup finely ground dried herbs {flowers, leaves, roots, barks, and/or seeds}

1 1/4 cups almond, jojoba, or olive oil

In a blender or food processor, combine the herbs and oil. Blend or process until pureed for greater extractability. Pour the mixture into a clean glass jar with a lid, making sure the plant material is completely submerged in the oil. If it’s not, add more oil until the herbs are covered by about 1 inch of liquid. Cover the jar and store it in a dark place, shaking it daily, for 2 to 3 weeks. Filter it carefully through cheesecloth, a muslin bag, or a square of linen, gathering up the edges and squeezing out the oil. Compost the herbs. Pour the oil into amber bottles, and label the bottles with the contents and date. Store it in a dark place.

Oils

Herbal oils are simply oils infused with herbs, much as you’d steep rosemary in olive oil for culinary purposes. Healing herbal oils can be taken internally for a variety of ailments, can be used externally for therapeutic or daily beauty routines, and can be incorporated into herbal salve recipes. Dried herbs are preferred since fresh herbs will sometimes ferment.

Basic Lotion:

Good choices for the strong tea infusions are calendula, chamomile, comfrey, ginger, lavender, Oregon grape, peppermint, plantain, and rosemary.

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup strong tea infusion*

Cosmetic clay

1/2 teaspoon vitamin C powder

25 drops essential oil or combination of oils of your choice {for fragrance}

In a small bowl, dissolve the salt in the tea. Stir in the cosmetic clay and vitamin C powder until the mixture is creamy. Add the essential oil and blend thoroughly. Bottle, label and refrigerate.

  • To make the infusion, combine 1 cup ground dried herbs and 1 cup freshly boiled water, and steep for 30 minutes, covered.

Poison Ivy or Poison Oak Lotion:

This lotion works quickly and thoroughly for anyone suffering the misery of poison ivy or oak, any rash or burn, and even for acne.

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup combination of plantain and/or calendula strong tea infusion* and/or aloe vera gel

Cosmetic clay

25 drops peppermint essential oil

1/2 teaspoon vitamin C powder

In a small bowl, dissolve the salt in the tea or aloe gel. Stir in the cosmetic clay and vitamin C powder until the mixture is creamy. Add the essential oil and blend thoroughly. Pour into bottles and cap, label, and refrigerate. Apply as needed to the affected area, avoiding your eyes and mucous membranes.

  • To make the infusion, combine 1/2 cup dried herb and 1/2 cup freshly boiled water, and steep for 30 minutes, covered.

Basic Salve:

Good choices for the infused oil in this recipe include calendula, cayenne, ginger, peppermint, rosemary, St. John’s wort and turmeric {turmeric can stain}.

1-ounce beeswax

1 cup infused oil

5-10 drops essential oil or combination of oils of your choice {for fragrance or additional healing properties}

Grate the beeswax into a small bowl. In a saucepan or double boiler, heat the infused oil gently to about 100 degrees F. Add the grated beeswax slowly, stirring as it melts. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool for a few minutes before you add the essential oils. Stir to thoroughly combine. Pour your salve into jars and let it cool. Cap and label jars. Apply the salve as needed to the affected area. You can store a salve indefinitely.

Tips for Salves.

If you prefer a salve that’s harder or softer than this recipe, just add more or less beeswax or oil. You can test the consistency of the salve before it hardens by scooping out a spoonful and dipping the back of the spoon into a little bowl of ice water to harden the salve. If it’s too soft for your taste, heat the ingredients again and add more beeswax. If it’s too hard, heat the ingredients again and add a bit more oil. Test after each addition to get the consistency you prefer. Sometimes, after the salve is poured into a jar and when it’s nearly set, a small crater will appear in the middle of the surface. You can add a small amount of hot salve to the crater to create an even surface.

Healing Salve:

Use to reduce inflammation and lessen the possibility of infection from a skin injury.

1-ounce beeswax

1 cup infused oil, using equal parts calendula, yarrow, and St. John’s wort – infused oils

5-10 drops essential oils of your choice, such as lavender, orange, mint, or thyme {for fragrance}

Grate the beeswax into a small bowl. In a saucepan or double boiler, heat the infused oil gently to about 100 degrees F. Add the grated beeswax slowly, stirring as it melts. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool for a few minutes before you add the essential oils. Stir thoroughly to combine. Pour your salve into jars and let it cool. Cap and label the jars. Apply the salve as needed to the affected area. You can store a salve indefinitely.

One of my favorite recipes is Healing Lip Balm:

A lip balm is no different than a salve in its formulation, except that you may wish to make it a little firmer. This one works wonders for chapped, dry lips.

1-ounce beeswax

1 cup infused oil {calendula, ginger, peppermint or spearmint, rosemary, and St. John’s wort are good choices}

5-10 drops essential oils of your choice {for fragrance}

Grate the beeswax into a small bowl. In a saucepan or double boiler, heat the infused oil gently to about 100 degrees F. Add the grated beeswax slowly, stirring as it melts. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool for a few minutes before you add the essential oils. Stir to thoroughly combine. Pour your mixture into lip balm tubes and let it cool. Cap and label the tubes.

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