Make a herbal healing salve using homegrown calendula, plantain, and comfrey. These herbs along with beeswax help to cleanse, nourish, heal, and protect.
The thing I love about this recipe is that it’s a simple herbal salve that any gardener can make. Not only that, but there’s a satisfaction in using herbs from the garden to heal skin ailments caused by gardening! No matter how careful we are, there’s no escaping the occasional nettle rash, insect bite, bruise, sprain, or scrape. This handmade herbal healing salve will help cleanse and heal those mishaps and do it just as effectively as anything from the pharmacy.
Making Herbal Healing Salve
Making this salve takes no time at all, once you have all of your ingredients prepared. The last time I made it took about thirty minutes from start to finish. That’s including cleaning up afterward.
The salve includes sweet almond oil for its lightness and skin conditioning properties. It also contains beeswax to firm it up but also to leave a protective layer on your skin. Together with the herbal extracts the finished salve soothes, heals, relieves pain and itching, and is basically an all-purpose skin ointment. It’s something for everyone but judging by my own bruises and bumps, gardeners can really benefit from it.
Before we get to the recipe let’s first have a look at the skincare herbs. Extracting their natural healing compounds is relatively easy but it’s something that needs to be done before moving on to the salve instructions.
Using herbs from the garden
Just as in some food recipes, herbs need infusing into another liquid before they can be used in salves. In the case of this recipe, you begin by cold-infusing dried calendula, plantain, and comfrey in sweet almond oil. It’s a step that takes a few weeks but is one of the most wonderful parts of making this salve.
You begin by picking the flowers and leaves fresh from the garden, drying them, and then immersing them in sweet almond oil. Fill a jar 2/3 full of dried plant material and then cover it with oil. Leave in a warm place, but out of direct sunlight. Giving it a shake every now and again helps the infusion process too. At the end of 3-6 weeks, you strain it and have golden oils loaded with skin healing properties.
Calendula for skin
Many of us will already have calendula (Calendula officinalis) growing in the garden. It’s an edible flower with generally yellow to orange flowers. The more orange the flower is, the more skin-therapeutic the petals are for your skin though. If you’re growing from seed, choose a variety like Indian Prince or better yet, a medicinal cultivar like Resina or Erfurter Orangefarbige.
The natural plant chemicals in calendula cleanse the skin, reduce pain and inflammation, and speed up healing. In one study calendula was shown to speed healing by nearly 50% within the first eight days of treatment. The way it works is that calendula contains natural plant chemicals including triterpenoids, which are anti-inflammatory, and saponins, micronutrients, flavonoids, and polysaccharides that aid in skin healing. On top of that, calendula also kills pathogens in skin wounds and stimulates the immune system. Learn more about calendula and skincare.
Plantain for skin
Plantain is likely already growing in your garden or nearby. I have some that self-seeded into a wilder part of my allotment and I’ve spotted it all over our site. Both ribwort (Plantago lanceolata) and common plantain (Plantago major) are considered weeds, but they’re weeds with superpowers.
As in the case with calendula, plantain has anti-inflammatory properties that reduce swelling and redness. It also soothes rashes, reduces itching, and eases the reaction of bites and stings. It’s a healing plant that has been used in folk medicine since time immemorial. References to its use as a skin healer include Costard the clown calling out for plantain after injuring his skin in William Shakespeare’s Love Labour Lost. It’s also listed in the original herbal handbook, Culpeper’s Complete Herbal, published in the 17th century
Plantain…The same also with the juice of Houseleek is profitable against all inflammations and breakings out of the skin, and against burnings and scaldings by fire and water.
Comfrey for skin
Comfrey is a controversial herb. Many gardeners have it growing somewhere and it’s used to make nitrogen and potassium-rich plant food. However, it also has a long history of being used in herbal medicine, both internally and externally. Recent studies have shown that when taken internally, especially in high doses and/or long periods, it can cause liver damage. This has made some feel uncomfortable about using it.
Although you should avoid using comfrey root, rich in the pyrrolizidine alkaloids that are so troublesome, the leaf is safe to use on the skin. Not only that but it’s a powerful wound healer thanks to its allantoin, saponins, polysaccharides, and other natural plant chemicals. It’s on par with calendula on that front but also has the ability to treat bruises, sprains, pulled muscles, and other musculature and tissue damage. Here’s how to make comfrey oil for use in this recipe.
Herbal Healing Salve
- Two stainless steel pans, one being smaller than the other (or a double boiler)
- Clean, dry, and sterilized containers. Can be tins or glass jars
Make the Infused oils
- Begin making the three infused oils needed for this recipe at least four weeks before making the salve. If you're using homegrown, ensure that it was harvested in its peak, and is now fully dried out. If there's any moisture in the herbs, it can impact the shelf-life of your salve. You will need enough dried calendula flowers, plantain leaves, and comfrey leaves, to fill a pint jar two-thirds full.
- Once your herbs are in the jars, pour sweet almond oil over them and to within a quarter-inch of the top. Seal the jars, shake them, and place them in a warm place out of direct sunlight. If you'd like to put them in a window sill, make sure they're in a paper bag to protect the oil from UV light.
- Give the jars a shake daily, and after three to six weeks, strain the oil from the plant material using a cheesecloth. Discard the plant material and pour the oils into their own new, sterilized jars. The infused oil has a shelf-life of one year or the best-by date of the oil you used. Whichever is soonest. Store in a dim place at room temperature.
Make the Herbal Healing Salve
- Fill the larger of your pans with water and bring to a boil.
- Measure the beeswax in the smaller pan and float it inside the pan of boiling water. This evenly distributes the heat and is important since beeswax should never be melted over direct heat.
- When the beeswax is melted, pour in the herb-infused oils. Stir with the spatula until the oils are just melted. Take the pan off the hot water and set it on a cloth or potholder.
- Stir in the essential oil (optional) and pour into tins or containers and allow to cool*. It will take around four hours to come to room temperature. During this time, don't cover the containers as it can cause condensation on the inner part of the lid. Put lids on after the balms are completely cooled.
- You can use the salve immediately. As for shelf-life, it can be up to one year or the closest best-by date of the ingredients you used. Check for these on the back of all your bottles and remember that fresh oil is always best when cooking or making beauty products.
Using Gardeners Healing Salve
The herbs in this salve not only come from the garden but are good for healing gardener’s hands. Dry skin and nails, tiny cuts and scrapes, and softening rough patches and calluses. It’s completely oil-based so needs so preservatives and rubs in rather nicely. After a few minutes, your fingers won’t feel greasy but soft and conditioned. The rose geranium essential oil gives it a beautiful scent too.
Although all the herbs in this recipe are considered safe, you should speak with a physician if you have any concerns. Avoid applying the salve on deep cuts or wounds, instead smoothing it around the injured areas. It’s very light
Use gardeners healing salve as and when required. You can also gift your extra pots to friends if you can part with them. They’ll love how it works but also that it came handmade from you and your garden.
 Wound healing activity of flower extract of Calendula officinalis. National Center for Biotechnology Information, Preethi KC, Kuttan R.
 Calendula officinalis and Wound Healing: A Systematic Review. Wound Research Journal, Matthew J Leach, August 2008
 Plantain’s full herbal properties described and cited on Wikipedia
The Project Gutenberg e-book of The Complete Herbal, by Nicholas Culpeper, Release Date: July 24, 2015 [EBook #49513]
 Comfrey: A Clinical Overview, National Center for Biotechnology Information, Christiane Staiger
 COMFREY (Symphytum officinale): A healer of wounds, bruises and bones, Steph Zabel, August 2016, Cambridge Naturals