How to Make a Skin-Nourishing Herbal Salve

If you have a yard, chances are you are growing the ingredients for a skin soothing herbal infusion without even trying! Plantain (Plantago major) is considered a weed, but it also contains natural constituents that are wonderful for your skin. Violet (Viola odorata) leaves are in the same category (not to mention that the flowers are delicious in salads or syrups!).

Violet is moisturizing, toning, healing, and great for sore nipples. Plantain is good for eczema, acne, minor cuts, stings, insect bites, poison ivy itch, and diaper rash.

The basis of a skin-nourishing herbal salve is an herbal oil infusion. Gather about 4 cups of plantain and violet leaves, making sure to choose ones that are fresh and green looking, with no major brown spots, rotten areas, or major insect damage. And make sure that they have not been sprayed with chemicals of any kind.

Rinse the leaves in cold water to remove any dirt, bugs, etc. Drain thoroughly, then gently pat the leaves to remove excess water.

Place in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at the lowest temperature for a couple of hours, until the leaves are dry and crispy.

Put the dried leaves into a glass quart-sized jar, then fill to the top with olive oil (preferably organic). Use a chopstick or blunt knife to poke the leaves down into the oil and release any air bubbles. Place a piece of waxed paper over the top of the jar and screw the top on tightly. Label it with the date.

Keep the jar in a cool, dark place for 4-6 weeks. It’s a good idea to place a dish under the jar in case of leakage. Turn the jar over from time to time to move the oil through the herbs.

Strain the oil through a sieve, lined with cheesecloth, into a glass measuring cup or top of a double boiler, squeezing out any last bits of oil from the herbs. You can throw the cheesecloth and drained herbs into your compost pile.

Add 1-½ tablespoons of natural beeswax for each ounce of oil (I used unbleached beeswax pastilles). Set the glass measuring cup in water (or the double boiler top over a water-filled bottom) and heat over medium heat until the beeswax is just melted.

Remove from heat. Add 1 teaspoon of Vitamin E oil. Stir unti well-mixed.

Pour into clean containers (I used tin, but you can also use glass jars), and allow to cool.

This salve can be used for all types of itches, irritations, insect bites, and minor cuts, as mentioned above. There are no known contraindications for using plaintain or violet leaves internally or externally, so this salve is safe for use as a nipple cream.

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79 thoughts on “How to Make a Skin-Nourishing Herbal Salve

  1. I have done this before but in a much simpler and shorter way – do the same method but skip the leaf process and just combine grapeseed oil with the beeswax and vitamin E oil – makes the best lip balm.

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  2. Pingback: Make A Healing Herbal Salve: {DIY Recipe} : TipNut.com

  3. Aren’t plantain leaves like banana leaves (large and broad)? I have a yard but cannot find the ones that you have shown in the picture. Are these leaves available in stores? Or should I buy the whole plants from Home Depot or Lowes?
    Thanks for sharing the salve recipe – sounds very nice and I can’t wait to make some at home.

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  4. I really like the idea of using the Pyrex measuring cup. I’ve melted the wax into the oil in the top of a double boiler before, but then pouring the mixture into the containers is tricky. This method is much more streamlined and involves less cleanup. Thanks so much for posting it.

    Susan Lynn Peterson
    author: Western Herbs for Martial Artists and Contact Athletes

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  5. Thanks so much, Tammy. It’s fairly easy. And you have all summer to collect the plant materials. And orders are always welcome :) Thank you for your continuing support!

    By the way, your last post was a huge hit! You really sparked a great conversation. Your son should take a permanent role as your content advisor :)

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  6. This sounds wonderful, I thought about using plantain in a salve, maybe along with calendula or comfrey but violet leaves sound great. Plus it’s really convenient that they like to hang out next to each other in my aunt’s yard!

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  7. I just found your site through a google search. Thanks for the wonderful instructions on making a salve. Got lots of plantain here in Florida.
    Could you tell me where to buy those tins you are using? Do you sell them?

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    • Thank you very much, Marla! I am a big fan of your work. I found out about your classes after I moved here (from CT). I hope to make a trip up there at some point so that I can participate in one of them!

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    • Hi Tobi, Thanks for your comment. Not being familiar with the specifics of your grandson’s condition, I can’t really recommend anything. But if the condition continues and his pediatrician can’t help, I recommend that you take him to a naturopathic doctor who may be better able to get to the root of the problem. Best of luck

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  8. I have fresh herbs growing in my yard: oregano, mint, marjoram, lavender, rosemary, basil, etc. Would any of these have specific properties that would be helpful in a salve? I think you mentioned lavender having antibacterial properties earlier. Would you use leaves or flowers or both? Added to the oil infusion or afterward? Also, what’s the benefit of drying the herbs before adding them to the oil? Just wondering. I loved your post. Thanks for sharing!

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    • You’re welcome, Tiffany! I’m glad you liked the post. You can use the leaves and flowers from your lavender plants (they do have antibacterial properties, plus make the salve smell wonderful). Rosemary also has antibacterial properties, a nice scent and it also has antioxidant properties, so it will help keep your salve fresh longer than if you don’t add it. Marjoram also has antioxidant properties, plus has been used in traditional healing for bruises. Mint is antibacterial, has mild pain relieving properties, and I worked with a pediatric anesthesiologist who gave her patients cottonballs dipped in mint essential oil to relieve their post-operative nausea. Basil is also antibacterial, and oregano is antiseptic.

      So, you can use any combination of your herbs and have a nice all-purpose skin salve that will smell wonderful.

      I dry the leaves before infusing them, both to reduce the possibility of mold forming in the oil, and because most herbs become more potent after they dry. The drying helps to break open the plant’s cell walls, allowing the medicinal constituents to be more easily extracted.

      Have fun experimenting!

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  9. Hi I have never made a salve before but and i am thinking of giving it a go! Is there any thing i should be aware of before i start?
    Also can i add sage, Lavender, and rosemarry leaves to the mix. if so do i put it in the oil with the oil?
    Regard
    Mercyasher

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    • Yes, you can definitely add those herbs to the mix. Just crush up the leaves and add the to the oil. Let this sit for 6 weeks, then strain through a cheesecloth before you make your salve. Have fun making your first salve!

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  10. Reblogged this on Milk Street and commented:
    Herban Lifestyle is one of my favorite blogs. It is chock full of tips and recipes. Mary also has a line of the most delicious smelling organic soaps and ointments and salves and more!

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  11. I love your site, I wish there was a way I could print a recipe of choice rather then getting 15 pages. And the print was so tiny I had a hard time reading it. Other then that wonderful site. Gammy

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    • Thank you very much, Gammy. You should be able to print just the pages with the recipe (1-9 in my browser), rather than all 15. You should be able to print it larger, too, by choosing the “scale” option and making it large enough for you to comfortably read.

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    • Yes, violets have a very short season. You can use dried violets, which are available through herbal supply companies like Mountain Rose Herbs. Sour trefoil, also known as wood sorrel, can definitely be used in a skin salve.

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  12. I love the idea of making my own things up like this, rather then buying creams, lotions and stuff with all those chemicals that the large companies put in them…I was wondering is there a shop like Michaels or a beauty supply type place that might carry the little tins like what you use?….I have all the plantain and violets growing in my yard….I also have many, many lavender plants (one of my favorites) I was wondering if by collecting, washing, drying these plants…is it possible to store them in airtight containers for use in the winter months when it’s cooler out?…Any Ideas as to what I can use my chammomile and feverfew in for things like this…have always been interested in medicinial plants and their many uses….would be nice to be able to do ‘something’ with them.

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    • I love the idea of having complete control over what goes into my products, too!

      As for the tins, you can buy as few as 12 1/2oz metal tins from SKS Bottle.

      And, yes, you can collect and dry those herbs to use in the winter. Just make sure that they are completely dry before you store them in airtight containers, otherwise you will be in for a moldy surprise.

      Chamomile makes a wonderful relaxing herbal tea. But as for its medicinal uses, as well as those for feverfew, I highly recommend you buy a book like Dr. James Dukes’ “The Green Pharmacy.” He worked for the USDA for over 30 years cataloguing medicinal herbs and their uses, and you can find just about anything in his book.

      I also recommend James Green’s “The Herbal Medicine Makers Handbook” and “Making Plant Medicine” by Richo Ceche.

      Have fun!

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  13. Can yo tell me where you get the tin’s at. My husband & I have 6 children & 9 grandchildren. We enjoy making Christmas for all of our family, i would really like to use the small tins you show in the picture. Thank you cant wait to make some! Emily

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  14. Hi, thank you for an informative article~I will definitely try this! I was wondering if this would help my psoriasis~or do you have something that would help with it? It’s quite bad & no medical creams seem to work on it, they only give very temporary relief. I will not take the steroidal meds they could prescribe for it.
    Again, thank you <3

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    • Thank you, Thelma! And, yes, that’s a wonderful idea. Coconut is great for your skin and feels great in salves/balms. You can probably replace 1/2 of the olive oil per batch with coconut oil (I recommend using organic Fair Trade to insure that you have the purest product with no chemical residues, which can irritate the skin).

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    • You’re welcome, Debbie! While I suggested olive oil, you can definitely substitute other vegetable oils. For the herbal infusion, you can definitely substitute the almond oil. If you want to use coconut oil in your infusion, you will need to use a warm method to adequately remove the active ingredients from the herbs. To do this, set your oven on the lowest setting it has (200°F or below). Put the coconut oil and herbs in an oven safe dish, cover the dish and place it in the oven. Allow the herbs to steep in the over for three hours, being careful not to crisp them. Allow to cool to the touch (but not so much that it solidifies!). Strain the warm mixture through cheese cloth and squeeze the oil from the herbs to get every last drop.

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  15. Love this idea! I was wondering about using jewelweed in this way. I do have plantain in my yard, and usually make a jewelweed infusion for my son because he has such an over the top reaction to poison ivy. Thanks so much for a very informative post.

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    • Thanks! Jewelweed is one of my favorite skin-soothing herbs – I have seen instant results after having a run-in with stinging nettle! To use jewelweed in this recipe, substitute half the herbal oil with jewelweed-infused oil. To make this, simmer about a tablespoon of freshly chopped jewelweed in sunflower, safflower or sweet almond oil for 10 to 15 minutes. I also have a recipe for soap made from a jewelweed infusion on this blog. Here is the link.

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  16. Would this work using rose petals that have dried on my rose bush or even fresh petals? I get broken capillaries on my skin and have read that rose is good for this? Besides that, the white roses I have are extremely heavenly scented and hate to see them go to waste!

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  17. This is so amazing! thanks for sharing!!! I have been thinking of making my own salve to use as nappy rash cream, but someone told me the other day that using beeswax on babies can lead to a predisposition to bee allergy. Is this true at all?! Thanks again!! mia

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    • You are quite welcome! I have not heard that using beeswax on babies can lead to bee allergies. As a matter of fact, it is often used in natural baby care products because it is so safe and gentle. I have heard that one should not feed honey to babies under 1 year of age.

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  18. Love this idea and I am going to give it a try. Was wondering about the wax paper and canning lid seal…I use a lot of recycles glass jars. Can I just put the lid on or is there a reason it needs to be covered in wax paper? To breathe? Thanks! Glad I found you:)

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  19. Pingback: Make a skin nourishing salve.

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