Every time I got sick as a kid, my dad would bring out the echinacea. If we got stung by an insect, he slapped activated charcoal on it. If we had a sore throat, he wrapped our necks in wool. My memory is peppered with crazy-sounding stuff like royal jelly and chaga.
As a surly teenager, I was convinced my dad, an osteopathic doctor, was totally weird. Now looking back, I realize he was practicing natural medicine way before it was cool.
I have a greater appreciation for herbal medicine when I treat my own kids’ coughs and colds. When they’re sick or hurting, I am desperate to help them find relief. But, when it comes to conventional medicine, the options are often pretty limited for a 2-year-old!
Because of this, an herb-infused balm that can soothe a headache or a scraped knee is something I’m definitely willing to try, even if my kids start thinking mommy is a little nutty like Grandpa. :)
How to Infuse Oil with Herbs
For the past few weeks, I have been infusing several herbs on my windowsill using the solar method. There doesn’t seem to be any sort of precise measurement for how much oil and how many herbs are needed, but here are the rough instructions:
1. Place a handful or two of dried herbs in a clean, dry jar (make sure it’s completely dry—you don’t want mold to start growing)
2. Cover the herbs with oil. I used olive oil and almond oil, but any carrier oil will work.
3. Seal the jar and keep it in a sunny place for a couple of weeks, giving it a shake every so often.
4. After its time in the sun, strain the mixture with cheesecloth, squeezing every bit of oil out of the herbs.
I’ve made several infusions:
- Calendula for a general healing salve—great for diaper cream too [source]
- Rose + chamomile for calming and soothing—perfect for just before bedtime [source]
- Peppermint + lavender for headaches [source]
- But there are a myriad of other herbs you can use depending on your needs, like comfrey, rosemary, dandelion, lemon balm and astragalus.
After the oil is ready, it’s time to turn it into a balm, which is simple because you’re basically just combining the oil with beeswax.
How to Make an Herb-Infused Balm
The basic ratio of oil to beeswax that I used was 2 tablespoons of beeswax for each 1/4 cup of oil. More oil will make a creamier balm, while more beeswax will make it more solid. So, if you find the consistency isn’t right for you, you can melt it down again and add more oil or beeswax.
Combine the oil and beeswax either in a saucepan or use a metal bowl as a makeshift double boiler. Either way, I would highly recommend picking one pan or bowl and designating it to be used only for this purpose. You don’t want to be eating beeswax remnants the next time you make soup.
Melt the oil and beeswax together over low heat to make the salve. When the beeswax is completely melted, stir and pour the mixture into a clean jar or container. Add a few drops of essential oil if you want a stronger scent. Let your herb-infused balm cool and harden.
I’m generally too impatient to wait weeks for something to be ready, but seeing the pretty herbs on the windowsill was such a treat each day.
Two infusion options:
Lavender + Peppermint
Combine 1/4 cup of dried lavender with 1/4 cup of dried peppermint. Rub a tiny amount directly on your temples and the center of your forehead.
Rose + Chamomile Calming Balm
My other favorite infusion is 1/4 cup of dried rosebuds and 1/4 cup of dried chamomile. The soothing scent makes a wonderfully calming balm.
Infused Balm FAQs
Can I use fresh herbs?
Yes, with a couple caveats. You’ll need to use more fresh herbs and blossoms than you would if using dried. You’ll also need to keep a close eye on the oil as it infuses because fresh herbs can start to mold, especially when exposed to air. Keep them submerged in the oil and toss the whole batch if you notice any mold.
Is there a way to infuse the oil more quickly?
While it’s a little more painstaking, you can use this quick-infusion method to make your oil in a hurry:
1. Place a small saucepan on the stove. Fill it approximately ¼ full of water and bring the water to a boil.
2. Place your herbs and oils in a 16-ounce sterilized glass jar. Use a dry, sterilized spoon to stir the mixture so the herbs are coated in oil and no air bubbles remain.
3. Put the jar in the water-filled saucepan and simmer on medium-low for 45–60 minutes. Using a clean kitchen thermometer, make sure the temperature of your oil stays between 120–140 degrees Fahrenheit. If the water level in the saucepan starts to run low, add enough water to bring it back up to ¼ full.
4. When done, strain out the herbs and use the oil to make your balm.
Will heating the oil ruin the medicinal properties of the herbs?
Too much heat can breakdown herbs, making them less potent. However, not letting the temperature of your oil go above 140 degrees will help keep this from happening. If you’re worried about it, you can always use more herbs to make up for the degradation from the heat.
What’s a good vegan wax to use in place of the beeswax?
I recommend all-natural carnauba wax.
Can I use coconut oil and leave out the wax entirely?
You can but it might affect the consistency. I recommend storing it in the refrigerator, especially during the warmer months, to keep it from melting.
How long will my balm stay good?
Store your balm in a lidded container away from moisture and direct sunlight and it should last a long time. If something starts to smell funky or the texture changes, you’ll know it’s time to toss it!
Where can I find good airtight containers?
Since sunlight can breakdown herb-infused balms, I recommend storing it in amber apothecary bottles, like these.
- 16-ounce glass jar
- 8-ounce amber jar with lid
- Combine your choice of herbs with carrier oil in a tightly sealed container and let sit for 2–3 weeks. Strain out the herbs. (Note: If you see mold growing, you need to toss it and start again.)
- Combine the remaining oil with beeswax in a saucepan or double boiler over low heat until just melted.
- Pour into a clean container, add essential oil(s) if desired and let cool completely.
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Gina Jansheski, a licensed, board-certified physician who has more than 20 years experience. Learn more about Hello Glow’s medical review board here. As always, this is not personal medical advice, and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.
Photos by Ana-Maria Stanciu372
Is your ratio 1:2? Mine looks more like a salve :( I'm curious how you got the consistency and texture? I love how it looks!
Richard Cunningham says
I love the instructions and photography. If you get the chance, Hawk Tools just released a balm with ingredients that stop Viruses!! I would enjoy reading a review if you get the chance!
I want to make a “butt butter” for my little one, she’s a month old. I want to use garlic in it as a natural antibiotic instead of thieves EO or oregano EO but I’m not sure how I’d add it from my cloves of garlic.
Nancy Carol Beer says
We just made a mixture that required the oil from the garlic. It is painstaking, to press many cloves just to get a tablespoon of garlic oil. I think maybe next time we might go ahead a buy it off of Amazon. They carry it.
Medicine cat says
Does this work in the winter when there is not much sunlight also where do you apply the rose one
Penny Eadie says
it just takes longer, I prefer to use a much slower method in the dark with no heat so nothing is destroyed by heat or UV
Savannah Williams says
Where do you source your jars/containers from?
you can buy them of Amazon
Hi, just wondering, l was infusing some dried Comfrey in pure olive oil. Lucky l had it in a big double boiler with plent of water as l went to bed thinking l had turned my stove off. In the morning l discovered it was still on. It’s a very dark green. It does not appear nor smell burnt. Would it still work? Or would l have killed the property’s of the Comfrey? Approx 10 hours. And no my pot was not burnt. Thankyou
Stephanie Gerber says
Hi Jenny – I would definitely still use it!
Can I infuse calendula in sweet almond oil? and how long does the oil last say for 500ml? New to homemade natural skincare, appreciate your feedback. Thx
Hi! I have calendula flowers growing in my garden. Can I use fresh petals, or only dried?
Stephanie Gerber says
You can use fresh petals but will need more volume of them versus dried.
Adenike Odunuga says
Can you use this method to produce commercial quantities? Thanks
Love this! Coming from a society that consistently is told to take a pill… this is really refreshing to see that natural ingredients work as well and are a viable option! Great Post. Want to try both, just need the beeswax! ?
Courtenay geddes says
Does a crockpot really work if you are just starting out again and not wanting to waste time
my daughter is vegan. Anything you could use to replace the beeswax in the balms? Thank you
Stephanie Gerber says
You can try carnauba wax – http://amzn.to/1HNlqJv
I use coconut oil quiet often. It is solid below a certain temp. You may have to keep the creams/ointments in the fridge if its hot though (but even then not necessarily). I love coconut oil for my skin anyways! I was surprised when I first used it! My mind said: oil has to = “oily”, but its such a light oil that it works very well for skin afterall!
Md Yasar says
Hi, This Yasar… i want to start a small business in Balm for headache n heeling liquid items… can help me in this…
Ligita Zekaite says
i use soya wax!
candelila wax is what I use in lieu of beeswax since my son is vegan. It is available on amazon for about 15 bucks a pound.
You can quickly infuse oils over low heat on the stove for 2 hours, or a few hours in the crock pot if you need them in a hurry.
You could use coconut oil but you would still want to use COSMETIC grade beeswax (from health food store) NOT candle making beeswax. If you don’t use beeswax it would be a greasy cream/gel and I’m sure it would still work. If for some reason you can’t use beeswax due to allergies you could try a shea butter or similar product in addition to the coconut oil.
I was wondering if I could use coconut oil instead of beeswax? I already use coconut oil to help control my psoriasis .
Stephanie Gerber says
I think you could – the consistency might be off though, it would probably end up more of a cream than a balm.
Jennifer Couch says
Yes you need beeswax with the coconut oil. Not quite as much maybe as with some other oils.
interesting! on what principle does the headache balm work? and how/where is it applied? I am still new to herbalism and natural remedies. I’ll be making some a testing it out when it’s ready of course, but in the meantime I’m very curious. I am trying to replace all drugs and over-the-counter non-emergency stuff with herbs, but I’m still taking Tylenol for my Sunday morning hangovers ;) haha
For the headache balm do you rub it on your temples or where? Also do you have any remedy for joint pain, such as in the knee?
Head-on apply directly to the forehead
Where do you rub the headache balm?
Where is the best most cost effective place to get containers to store the finished product in?
Lindsey Johnson says
Hey, Leetah. I would check at a hobby store like Hobby Lobby or Michael’s, or see if you can reuse some small spice jars and tins. That’s what I usually do.
I like Specialty Bottle Company. I store all of my herbs in their 500mL packers that are only $1.
Junette Kelly says
Does anyone have a suggestion on a book to purchase that has many recipes for old time healing remedies? We need a homeopathic specialist near us in Kitsap County, Washington, so we may as well be reading up on it ourselves and make healing medicines ourselves. I’m so tired of a doctor just prescribing a pill to be taken internally when something natural (God’s healing) will do the same…..and not damage your kidneys.
Rosemary Gladstar has several good books. I like “Medicinal Herbs a beginners guide” & “Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health: 175 Teas, Tonics, Oils, Salves, Tinctures, and Other Natural Remedies for the Entire Family”. They are both under $10 each on amazon and are an invaluable resource. Read her bio. She comes from generations of herbalists and has her own school.
Varina Suellen says
Another book that I HIGHLY recommend is The Natural Remedy Book for Women by Diane Stein. You should be able to get it through Amazon. ISBN is0-89594-525-8. The first part of the book explains 10 natural healing methods: vitamins and minerals, herbs, naturopathy, homeopathy and cell salts, amino acids, acupressure, aromatherapy, flower essences, gemstones, and emotional healing. Then the second part of the book describes 50 common health issues, and then gives remedies from each of the 10 healing methods. Diane Stein lives not too far from me here in Florida, and I used to know the naturopath who was her resource before he died. These are reputable people, and I have used several of the remedies in this book. It is my first resource before I go to anything else for natural healing.
Can you make this with essential oils instead of infusing the herbs ?
Yes. Try this recipe for Vaseline, then add drops of essential oils to it:
1 oz or 1/8 cup beeswax plus 1/2 c olive oil (or other oil – I like sweet almond)
This recipe and others at littlehouseliving.com
Do you know how many drops of the oils to use for each batch this size? I am still learning!!
How long do these natural remedies keep and what is the best way to store them?
Keep them in a lidded container away from moisture and they will last a long time – if something does start to smell funky, you’ll know it’s time to toss it! :)
Cybele @ BlahBlah says
They’re beautiful. I’m sure they smell good too. The best smelling cure for a headache or itchy skin ever! I love calendula, it works so well x
I’m new to calendula but now I love it! I made a baby butter with it that I’ve ended up using more for myself :)