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 Gardeners Hand 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.
* It's better to use a few smaller containers than one large jar. Why? Ease of use, reduction in dirt and potential contaminants over a period of time, and weird oil hardening. If you pour this entire batch in a large jar you'll probably find that it doesn't solidify with a smooth surface. There will likely be a big pit in the middle. It doesn't affect the product, but it doesn't look great either.