Herbal balms have been around for centuries, and they can be great remedies to address a variety of skin conditions, wounds, rashes, and dry skin.
You can find many herbal salves and balms online or at your local health store, but it can be fun and inexpensive to make them at home once you know how.
These homemade topical treatments can be used for a variety of purposes. They can nourish and moisturize your skin, help to heal cuts and wounds, and they can also protect your skin and help it absorb nutrients.
What Is an Herbal Balm?
A balm is defined as “a fragrant ointment or preparation used to heal or soothe the skin.” Salves and infused oils are the most common topical herbal balm treatments.
In order to make them at home, you first need to start out with making an infused oil. Infused oils are made by steeping herbs of your choice in a carrier oil to extract the medicinal plant compounds into the oil. Once you have an herbal infused oil, you can use this as is, or you can use it as a base to make into a salve. We'll explain how below.
How to Make Homemade Herbal Balms
To make an herbal infused oil, you need to first get a carrier oil of your choice. There are many body-safe oils to choose from, but commonly people use almond oil or olive oil as their carrier oil. You can also use jojoba, avocado, or coconut oil, but we recommend avoiding vegetable oils like canola oil or corn oil, as these oxidize quickly and are often made with poor quality ingredients.
Once you have your oil of choice, you'll then need to decide what herbs you want to use. Again, this is up to your preference and depends largely on your intended use for the oil. Perhaps you want to make a calming massage oil—then you may want to use an herb like lavender. Maybe you want to make an anti-fungal and anti-bacterial oil to use for bug bites or rashes—then you may want to use something like tea tree or oregano.
You can use more than one herb if you'd like as well, but it may be good to stick with one if its your first time making an infused oil, just to simplify the process.
The amount that you use is also up to personal preference, but regardless, the instructions are to use 1 part dried herb to 2 parts oil. So, for example, if you had 8 oz. of dried herbs, you would use 16 oz. of oil.
You'll also need a mason jar to make the oil in and to store it in, as well as a crock pot to cook it in.
So your ingredients/supplies checklist may look like:
- 8 oz. dried herb of your choice
- 16 oz. carrier oil of your choice
- quart-sized mason jar
- crock pot
- Chop 8 oz. of your dried herb of choice into a fine powder, then add to the mason jar.
- Cover the chopped up herb powder with your carrier oil of choice, then stir to mix the oil and herb together.
- Seal the lid on the mason jar and place it in a water bath in your crockpot.
- Heat the crockpot on warm and cook the oil and water for 3–5 days. The temperature should stay around 110 degrees.
- Once done cooking, remove the jar and let the oil cool
- Strain your oil through a cloth fabric to separate it from the dried herbs (muslin, cheesecloth, or an old t-shirt will work).
- Store your infused herbal oil in a jar in a dark, cool place for up to one year.
Pretty simple! Now you have a fresh, homemade, herbal infused oil. You can use this as is as a topical remedy or massage oil, or you can go a step further and make it into an herbal salve.
Herbal salves are also easy to make, they just require you to follow a few additional steps.
To make an herbal salve, you need:
- 8 oz. of your infused herbal oil
- 1 oz. of beeswax
- a double boiler
- clean glass jars or metal tins
- To start, heat up your herbal infused oil in double boiler.
- Once its warm, add in the beeswax and stir until it has melted.
- Then simply pour the warm mixture into your metal tin or glass jar. If you'd like, you can also add a few drops of an essential oil of your choice at this step, and stir it in gently. As the salve cools it will change its consistency.
- Store it in a dark, cool place to keep the consistency thick. The temperature will make a difference in the consistency of your salve, so avoid leaving it out in the sun or near a source of heat. Similarly, avoid freezing it or putting it in a refrigerator if the temperature is too cold. Like herbal oils, salves will good for up to a year in storage.
Don’t forget: It is always recommended to do a patch test before applying anything new to your skin, to prevent an allergic reaction. A patch test or skin allergy test is helpful in determining whether a new skin care product works well with your skin or not. To do a patch test:
- Take a small amount of the product you are testing. Apply it on the inner area of your upper arm near the crook of your elbow. Use a sterile cotton swab. This part of the body is a sensitive area and a good place to perform a patch test. If any allergic reaction occurs, it will not be very noticeable here.
- After applying some amount of product to the skin, cover it with a bandage.
- Leave the patch test on your skin for 24 hours at a minimum.
- Make sure the patch does not get wet. Avoid activities like swimming, showering, exercising and extremely hot environments.
- Note the result after 24 hours. If there is no reaction then you can safely use the product.