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.

Love That Lavender

Image from Taste of Home

Image copyright Taste of Home

In a previous post, I sang the praises of lavender. It is my favorite herb because of its wonderful scent and versatility. Here are some enjoyable uses for lavender flowers:

  • Wrap a handful of the dried lavender flowers in a square of light cloth, such as cheese cloth. This versatile sachet can be tucked into your pillowcase for a soothing night’s sleep, or tossed in your dryer to scent your clothing!
  • For a fun treat, add 1 tablespoon of dried culinary-grade lavender flowers to sugar cookie dough, then bake as usual.
  • For a delicious, soothing tea, place one heaping tablespoon of lavender flowers in a tea pot, then fill with boiling water. Let steep for about ten minutes.
  • Make lavender sugar by blending 1 cup of sugar with 2 tablespoons of culinary-grade lavender in a food processor 2 tablespoons dried lavender flowers. Store in an airtight container and enjoy in baking or beverages.
  • You can make lavender lemonade by pouring 1 cup of boiling water over 2 tablespoons of dried lavender flowers, then steeping it for 10 minutes. Strain the flowers, and stir in 1 cup of sugar until it dissolves. Let the lavender/sugar mixture cool, then add the juice of 6 lemons (about 1 cup), and 4 cups of cold water. Serve over ice with a sprig of lavender!

If you want to make them from scratch, Taste of Home has a wonderful lavender cookie recipe, and Purple Haze Lavender Farm has some other great lavender recipes.

I Love Lavender

photo from Purple Haze Lavender Farm blog

photo from Purple Haze Lavender Farm blog

The first time I visited a farmers market was when a friend took me to a huge one in San Francisco several years ago. I was in awe of the variety of products being offered. My favorite was a lavender stand featuring dried culinary-grade lavender, along with a variety of other lavender products. I was mesmerized by the deep, clean, delicious scent of the dark purple buds.

Lavender is an incredibly versatile flower with many health, cosmetic and culinary uses. In aromatherapy, lavender is a popular remedy for stress, as it has wonderful calming properties. It also has antiseptic and insect-repelling properties — try it instead of moth balls (does anyone use those anymore?)! Lavender is a wonderful addition to salads, soups and sweets. A couple of days ago, when the heat index hit 109 degrees farenheit, I headed over to my local chocolatier for their lavender-infused lemonade (see my easy recipe below), an incredibly refreshing drink.

Two years ago today, I had the opportunity to visit Sequim, Washington, the Lavender Capital of North America. It was just past season, so the pick-your-own farms were not open, but you could still drive around and see the many lavender-devoted farms. One farm, Purple Haze Lavender Farm, had a store in downtown Sequim that featured a variety of lavender products, including culinary-grade lavender. They have an excellent website with lots of lavender information, and a store featuring their many dried lavender products. I recommend their cookbook, a sampling of which is available on their website.