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, a 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 make herb-infused balms
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:
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) and cover the herbs with oil. I used olive oil and almond oil, but any carrier oil will work. Seal the jar and keep it in a sunny place for a couple of weeks. Give it a shake every so often. 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)
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 infuse oil
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 the salve 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 dried lavender with 1/4 cup dried peppermint, and use for headaches or minor scratches.
Rose + Chamomile Calming Balm
My other favorite infusion is 1/4 cup dried rosebuds and 1/4 cup dried chamomile. The soothing scent makes a wonderfully calming balm.
Have you ever made an herb-infused balm?
- Combine your choice of herbs with carrier oil.
- Infuse the herb-oil mixture for 2–3 weeks in a tightly sealed container. If you see mold growing, you need to toss it and start again. Strain out the herbs.
- Combine the remaining oil with beeswax in a saucepan or double boiler over low heat.
- When melted, stir and pour into a clean container. You may then add essential oil(s) if desired.
- Let the salve cool and harden.
- Store in a lidded container in a cool, dry place.
Photos by Ana Stanciu269