Salves are basically made up of two medicinal parts. Whole plant material is infused in oil for six weeks (there are other methods) which extracts the fat soluble vitamins and preserves them in suspense. The oil is then added to beeswax to make it easier to apply and beeswax is naturally antibacterial, antiallergenic, germicidal and antioxidant. Salves lock in moisture, seal wounds and moisturize.
Sometimes people put plant alcohol extracts in their salves, but if you don’t evaporate out enough of the water that is in the alcohol, the alcohol tends to sink to the bottom of the tin leaving a liquid deposit. So I usually put my extracts in the double boiler first with a few shreds of wax to keep an eye on the temperature and wait till much of the water has reduced. This will also evaporate out the alcohol which helps when making a salve specifically for people with a skin condition where you don’t want the drying effects of alcohol.
My husband and I both keep a tin of plantain salve in our areas for the daily bite, cut or scratch. In the summer, I also have an open tin right next to the bed for those bites that wake me up at 3am. Plantain numbs out the bites and the wax helps the wound heal faster.
I initially started making this salve for my dog Lucille who had her spine broken in 5 places when she was born. Because of surgery she is able to walk, but unable to clean herself. Even the mildest soaps I used dried out her skin. Using no soap and just water dried out her skin. So I apply the salve to her underside to keep her from being itchy and because you can clean with oil, I also now use this to clean her with. No more dry skin for her.
When I pull a tick off of one of the animals, I put a little bit of plantain salve on the spot and also use it on them when they get cut or injured, which is pretty frequent. My neighbor uses the plantain salve on one of her goat’s udders that became hard and this softened it right up. I was too nervous about her using the poke/ root castor oil salve, which is for softening tissue and for painful lumps, but the plantain salve worked just fine. I thought it might be too dangerous to use the milk for a baby goat or human if the poke and castor oil salve had been applied.
I recently discovered how much I love salve in my nose. I started using plantain salve in my nose during ragweed season when I would have crazy, out of my mind, sneezing fits and I was waiting on the goldenrod and elderberry extracts to kick in. I apply a little salve to each pinky finger and swab the inside of both nostrils. It doesn’t completely stop the sneezing, but it will calm down the insanity a bit. Plus it feels good. I think people that have to use saline spray for dry nostrils would love this much more.
With winter my dry skin arrives and my nostrils are no different. I love plantain salve in my nose especially when the wood stove is going. I do deep breathing exercises all day using my nose and maybe that’s why my nostrils get so dried out. Sometimes though I use juniper salve in my nose right before a deep breathing meditation exercise and if you aren’t already in the forest, it can transport your mind there.
Fortunately I haven’t caught a full blown cold in 13 years, but I can always tell when my nose and/ or throat have a cold/ flu invader and are fighting it off. I do a shot of elderberry and swab some juniper salve in my nose and that’s the end of it. Normally I use the juniper salve for routine breast care or for someone fighting a chest cold, but I think it’s really been helping my body when it is fighting off an invader.
When Lucille and one of our cats kept getting what I thought were ear mites, I tried garlic and mullein flower oil in their ears, but it didn’t help. I tried for weeks and finally broke down and took them to the vet who gave me ear mite medicine. Over the last few years we’ve done this several times, tried the garlic mullein oil for 2 weeks before getting the bad stuff from the vet. The prescription would always clear it up temporarily, but the crazy ear scratching always came back. Both animals get dark, raised, itchy patches in their ears and the vet says it’s mites.
A customer of mine asked me about a year ago to make something for his wife’s eczema. He said nothing over the counter or prescription was helping much. So I made a dry itchy skin salve for her and gave suggestions on diet and ideas about things to eliminate from their home and life. It worked for her so I started selling it at the market. The salve has helped some people tremendously, other people not so much. For some it helped in the beginning but then stopped working. I have no way of knowing if these people apply the salve regularly or have taken any of my diet advice to heart, but it seems to work for more people than it doesn't.
Lucille got the dark itchy patches in her ear again so I decided to try the dry itchy skin salve and it worked. This is the first time in her 13 years I’ve found something that helped permanently. When I tried plantain salve for a while she would always fight me putting my fingers in her ear and she HATED the garlic mullein oil being dropped in. I like to use my fingers so I can get the salve into each little ear fold and to make sure I’m using the lightest touch. Of course I use a clean finger for each ear, never put a “contaminated” finger back in the salve tin and wash very thoroughly before and after. Now that I’m using the dry itchy skin salve on her, she has stopped fighting me, makes soft happy grunts and leans into it. It has totally cleared up the spots in her ears including little crumbly junk that would form where the hair is on the outside of the ear. It also cleared up the areas in the cat's ear. I applied the salve to every inch I could get inside her ear and right around the opening where there is hair. I lightly clean the ear out with a cotton swab before applying.
In my work area, I don’t just have plantain salve. I have Solomon’s seal extract along with the salve I made to help with symptoms of arthritis and sore muscles. I used to put rose hip extract on my hips before bed or I wouldn’t be able to sleep from the pain. But using an extract as a liniment is a little messy, so I put the rose hip extract into this salve along with many other ingredients like Juniper berry for gout and goldenrod for sore muscles.
In addition to hip pain, I have two bad and old injuries in my ankle and thumb that I like to work on every night using this salve. For the ankle and thumb damage, I drizzle a few lines of Solomon’s seal extract on and spread it around the area. I wait for it to soak in and do it a couple of more times. Then I apply the arth/ sore muscle salve and gently massage both areas, then wait for the salve to soak in and do it again. If I’m working on the computer in the evening or watching a movie I’ll do this every 5 – 10 minutes a good bit of the night.
My hips feel immediate relief but these other two injuries have been a bear to tackle. When I first started treating them, I’d only remember a few times a week and would only slap stuff on once. My husband cured his thumb injury with repeat and frequent treatments and encouraged me to do the same with mine. So I’ve been working on them both seriously for 2 months, but after a week or so I could start feeling a difference. After about 4 weeks my thumb starting doing something I’ve never heard of, but maybe someone reading this can shed light on it for me. I felt an overwhelming desire to move my thumb around in a circle, clockwise and counter-clockwise. It gave a little pop and the relief was tremendous, like a shard of glass was removed! Now it does this a couple of times a week. It feels like the pain bubbles up from within and is released from this little pop. After every pop (I’m not “popping” my knuckles, this is just from the circular motion) the overall pain in the area is permanently reduced and my thumb is now so much better. When I started this my pain was severe and many days I couldn’t use the thumb. Now the pain is mild on the worst days and on the best days there is no pain.
Salve, especially one like plantain, is wonderful to slather on a patted dry body right after the shower to combat dry skin and for oh so many things. Kids love the texture of salves. Two parents that bought the salves specifically for their kids, said their kids carry it around everywhere like you would a toy and one was even hugging his salve saying “mine” when someone tried to take it from him. My wish is for everyone to know that level of joy from salves.