Ultra Warming DIY Herbal Pain Relief Salve
This homemade herbal pain relief salve is an easy to make topical remedy for stiff joints, sore muscles, back pain and nerve pain. Salve (pronounced /sav/) is a medicinal ointment used topically to promote healing and typically made with herb-infused oils and beeswax. This recipe makes enough to stock your medicine chest or gym bag and share with friends and family who are looking to reduce their reliance on over-the-counter pain killers.
Medicinal herbs can be used both topically and internally to reduce pain. And, unlike most over-the-counter and prescription pain drugs that possess a single action, herbs can be combined to relieve pain in multiple ways. This herbal pain relief salve is applied topically and contains herbs that relax tense muscles (antispasmodics), reduce inflammation, ease nerve pain (anodynes) and promote healthy circulation to stiff joints and injuries. In this recipe you’ll find cayenne pepper and ginger, two warming circulatory stimulants that help reduce pain by depleting a neurotransmitter called Substance P, which transmits the pain signal from peripheral nerves to the brain. Without Substance P, the pain signal cannot be sent. Ginger is also anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic. White willow bark also helps reduce inflammation and its active compound, salicin, converts to salicylic acid in the body, which is what we more commonly refer to as aspirin. California poppy is a powerful antispasmodic and nerve anodyne. The optional essential oils in this salve offer the same wide range of pain-relieving properties. For more about herbal pain-relieving properties and herbs for pain relief, check out this article, Natural Relief: Herbs for Pain Management.
If you choose to use herbs for pain relief, keep in mind that pain is the body’s signal that something is wrong. Understanding the cause of pain and taking a holistic approach to bring your body back to optimal health is key. Within this holistic context, herbs can help relieve pain and aid in recovery.
DIY Herbal Pain Relief Salve Recipe
This salve is made in two steps. First, make the infused herbal oil, then use the infused oil to create the finished salve. The infused oil can also be used on its own or in combination with essential oils, rather than in a salve.
2 tbsp (~1/2 ounce) cayenne pepper, ground
2 tbsp (~1/2 ounce) dried ginger, ground
1 ounce white willow bark, ground
1 ounce dried California poppy, ground
1.5 cups (12 ounces) olive oil
1.5 ounces beeswax [Adjust to amount of finished oil]
Optional Essential Oils:
Up to 3 tsp total of German Chamomile or Roman Chamomile, Helichrysum, Lemongrass, Marjoram, or Rosemary ct. cineole for the entire batch. If essential oils are added to individual salve containers rather than the entire batch, use 10-20 drops of essential oil per fluid ounce of salve.
Step 1 – Infused Herbal Oil
If they are not already powders, grind the cayenne, ginger, willow and California poppy to a powder using a coffee grinder, mortar & pestle or Vitamix.
Place the powdered herbs in a jar with a tight-fitting lid, add the olive oil and mix well.
Allow the mixture to settle. If necessary, add more oil to cover the herb with at least ¼ inch of oil. Cap the jar tightly. The mixture may absorb more oil in the first day. After 24 hours, add more oil if necessary so there is still ¼ inch of oil on top of the mixture.
Warm and allow the herbs to steep in the oil for 7 – 10 days, shaking or stirring the mixture frequently—several times per day if possible. There are two options for warming:
Solar Method: Place the closed jar in a thick bag or box and place in a sunny place for 7 – 10 days. Shake or stir the mixture frequently, always returning the jar to the bag or box to keep out direct sunlight.
Alternative Method: Instead of using the sun to warm the mixture, you can use a hot water bath, a yogurt maker, dehydrator, or other apparatus that allows you to maintain a consistent temperature around 100°F. Keep covered. Shake or stir the mixture several times per day for 7 -10 days..
After 7 - 10 days, strain the oil. Place a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and drape a square of unbleached cotton muslin over the strainer. (You can purchase unbleached cotton muslin at any fabric store. Be sure to wash it before using.) Pour in all the herb-oil mixture. Take up the corners of the muslin and twist into a small bundle to express the as much of the infused oil as possible.
Allow the oil to sit covered and undisturbed for several days which will allow any unwanted sediment to settle to the bottom. Pour off the refined oil for use in Step 2 or bottle and use as a pain-relieving body oil.
Step 2 – DIY Herbal Pain Relief Salve
Set aside a small amount of your infused oil and a small amount of beeswax to adjust the consistency of your finished product if necessary.
Place the oil and beeswax in a steel, enamel or glass container and slowly warm over low heat until the beeswax is fully melted.
To test the consistency of your finished product, remove the mixture from the heat source, dip a clean spoon into the mixture. Place the spoon in the freezer for a few minutes where the sample will cool quickly. If the sample is harder than you would like, add some of the reserved oil into your salve mixture. If it is softer than you would like, add some of the reserved beeswax and allow it to melt. Continue to test and adjust the consistency until you are satisfied with the result.
If you are using essential oils, there are two options at this stage:
If you are making a large batch, quickly and gently stir up to 3 tsp of essential oils into the still warm oil/beeswax mixture and quickly pour the mixture into appropriate containers to cool.
If you want salves with different essential oils, add 10-20 drops of essential oils to small individual containers and pour the warm oil/bees wax mixture into each container to cool.
Allow salves to cool and harden for 24 hours. If you notice cracks or blemishes while the mixture is setting you can use a blow dryer to melt the top down and perfect their appearance. Label your salve containers.
After applying your salve, be sure to wash your hands and avoid touching your eyes. Any cayenne pepper remaining on your hands can cause a temporary burning sensation in the eyes or on sensitive mucus membranes.
While of course my wish is that you are mostly pain-free, I hope you and your loved ones find relief with this salve when needed. I’d love to know how this works for you and always enjoying seeing your finished products. To share, snap a picture of your DIY herbal pain relief salve, tag it #nectarDIY and post it to Instagram.
Wishing your good health and happiness,