Making: Ointments, salves & balms

– a simple natural, traditional way to use herbs topically for a kitchen first-aid kit. Ideal for cuts, bruises, aching joints and many more...

Homemade ointments and creams fit well in a home remedy medicine chest.  Plus, if you make them yourself, you know exactly what went into them.  They last a long time and are so simple, that once you know how, you will be making them for everyone. It’s addictive!

There are many many recipes available online, most of which advice weights for measurements.  I have always found these difficult as kitchen scales don't weigh small amounts.  I love simple things, and these following recipes have been a trial of love and error, and are easy to knock together!

The Basic recipes are as follows, where oil is used, any type of infused oil can be utilised. To learn how to make infused oil, click here


Method 1: basic balm

you will need:

  • Clean sterilised jars, even recycled jam pots will do, the tiny single serving ones are ideal for travel and for splitting up batches for presents.
  • 4-5 parts oil (e.g  100ml)
  • 1 part beeswax (eg 20g/1Tbsp)

Gently heat the beeswax and oil together over a bain-marie (a glass bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water) until the beeswax has melted and combined.  To test consistency, place a drop on a cold saucer from the fridge to see how it sets.  If it is still too runny, add more beeswax. If it is too hard, add more oil.

After removing from heat and cooling a little, essential oils can be added for scent or therapeutic use.  The rule is generally 2% of oil to the base mix (remember 20 drops of essential oil make 1ml). For more gentler oils like lavender and tea tree, up to 5% can be added, but the best way to tell is use your nose! When it smells of the herb, then it should be sufficient.

These can now be decanted and left to set in a cool place or the fridge.

1% vitamin E oil will help preserve in very hot weather.

Extra hints:  For more moisture It is best to add other oils for this purpose, for example cocoa butter or shea butter, which set at room temperature anyway so less beeswax will be needed in these cases. It’s all about experimentation and finding mixes that work for you.  For lip balm, again use more beeswax for a firmer salve place in small jars.


Method 2: a vegan option

Cocoa butter melted down gently and mixed with 10% oil or shea butter and 5% oil. For this method you need to infuse the entire mixture with the herb at this point, then strain and jar.


Herbal ointments and their actions

Choosing an infused oil for your ointment:

  • Calendula flowers (Calendula officinalis)- Great for skin healing, an anti-microbial. 
  • St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) - This herb is used for nerve pain and aching joints. It is also an excellent remedy for the pain and scar reduction of burns. It is also anti-viral and can be used for shingles lesions. 
  • Elder Leaf (Sambucus nigra) - Inflammation and pain of strains, sprains and bruises.
  • Daisies (Bellis perennis) - A British arnica, great for bruises.