There are many uses for salves, from healing skin ailments to treating muscles aches and pains the options for creativity are endless! I love finding ways to incorporate different types of salves into my seasonal herbal wellness routine. Our lives shift from being more active, in the sun and warmth to a more quiet and subdued constitution as we approach winter. In the fall we want to prepare the winter apothecary. One of my favorite remedies that is effectively safe for all is a warming salve. Warming salves are easy to make. They require a few notable oil infusions, essential oils, beeswax, shea butter, and vitamin E oil.
Pictured above is my Warm & Spicy Salve, originally made with Calendula infused sunflower oil, beeswax, and essential oils of cassia, ginger, and sage. What constitutes this salve as "warming" is the blend of circulating and heat inducing essential oils. Check it out in my online shop!
More recently, I've been experimenting with oil infusions and salves made with warming and circulating herbs. I've paired these alongside plants that support the musculoskeletal system which tends to tense up and become sensitive during the winter. A few of my favorites are Cayenne pepper, St. John's Wort, Yarrow, and Calendula.
This herb is warming and circulating due to the constituent Capsaicin . Capsaicin increases blood flow specifically toward the gastrointestinal region of the body and outward toward the musculoskeletal system. It supports the immune, digestive, lymphatic, and musculoskeletal system. Cayenne is a wonderful herb for infusing in any carrier oil. Make sure to use the the dried herb, not the ground spice. I grow and dry the cayenne peppers on a rack for one to two weeks. I then chop up the herb into small rings and add to a carrier oil (I usually use sunflower oil). I make sure to add the seeds as they contain spicy constituents as well as the fruit. Let the oil infuse for up to a month. Strain as you would any oil infusion. For circulatory and musculoskeletal support, apply infused oil to joint meridians of the body, hands, and feet for a warming effect. WARNING * do not apply to any openings of the body as cayenne will cause a burning sensation.
St. John's Wort
St. John's Wort has many benefits that surpass its notable ability to boost the mood. St. John's Wort is anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and a nervine. When used topically this herb supports the musculoskeletal system by reducing nerve pain related to sciatica, pinched nerves, and damaged nerves. It may also help reduce muscle aches and joint strain due to overuse. When flowers are partially dried, add to a carrier oil of choice. Let infused for up to a month. Make sure to periodically check for mold growth, as this herb should not be infused fully dried. It is beneficial to occasionally burp your mason jar to release air that gets trapped. In effective infusions, you will notice the color change to a deep red. This is due to the constituent hypericum.
Calendula is an anti-inflammatory, nourishing, and demulcent herb that protects the overall health of the skin. I use Calendula topically no matter the time of year. Calendula's energetics are cooling and moistening. The moistening effects help mend dry and cracked skin. Calendula is a lymphatic herb, making it beneficial for stagnant or clogged lymph which tends to occur more regularly over the winter months. Using calendula salve as a daily moisturizer is a wonderful way to preserve the skin's natural glow year round. Calendula salve used on the face as a moisturizer acts as an emollient and sustains healthy oil production. Adding a touch of Calendula oil to a warming salve protects the skin and will support the circulatory effects of cayenne and additional essential oils.
Yarrow is another warming and circulating herb with wound healing capability. For those cracked and bleeding body parts, yarrow does the trick. In a winter salve, Yarrow is a supportive herb that allows for the healing of wounds associated with dry and cracked skin. Yarrow when ingested has a bitter quality alongside being anti-viral, vulnerary (heals wounds), and rubefacient (increases localized blood flow).
I love yarrow pelvic floor balm (check it out in the shop!). It has an affinity for balancing the flow of blood during the menstrual cycle. Yarrow also has potent volatile oils that act as an astringent which helps to tonify tissue. Prepare a Yarrow oil infusion as you would any aerial or floral oil infusion (references above).
Creating Your Own Warming Winter Salve
When considering your own winter warming salve, think about all the herbs mentioned above as well as considering your favorite essential oils, particularly those that are more warming and circulating in nature such as frankincense, lavender (a touch more cooling, but very relaxing to muscle and joint pain), ginger, cinnamon, and sage.
Also consider the imbalances your body encounters during the winter.
Does your skin suffer more than your musculoskeletal system? Are your periods more clotty and stagnant (considering a pelvic floor balm)? All of these questions and more should come into consideration before you design the perfect winter salve.
My traditional salve recipe calls for the following - makes 4 2oz jars
Infused carrier oil(s) of choice (A ratio of each oil adding up to a cup)
Beeswax (1/4 cup)
Shea butter (2 tbsps)
Vitamin E oil (1/2 tsp)
Essential oils of choice (8 drops of each)
For warming winter salve, you could use up to 4 oil infusions so you would divide by the number of each oil used for an equal ratio of 1:1:1:1. For a salve made during a recent course, we used 1 part Cayenne oil to 1 part St. John's Wort oil. This combination creates a warming, circulating and musculoskeletal supporting remedy.
After combining the oils, the next step is to add in beeswax, shea butter, and vitamin e oil. Let the ingredients melt together on low heat over a stove. Pour the heated mixture into your salve jars or tins. Next add in your essential oils of choice. In the example to the left we used peppermint essential oil to add a cooling effect for inflammation. Peppermint, though cooling, also offers up a stimulating effect bringing circulation to the area of the body it is applied to.
As the salve cools, red and orange tones from both the Cayenne and St. John's Wort reveal themselves. The spicy scent of peppermint awakens the mind while the rest of the herbal benefits await their use!
Use half a teaspoon amount of this salve on hands, feet, sore and strained areas of the body for a warming and circulating effect. This is perfect for balancing out the cold sluggish conditions of winter. Apply as needed throughout the day.
* DISCLAIMER: This blog post does not contain medical/health advice. This information is provided for general informational and educational purposes only.
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