Healing salve

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Healing Comfrey Balm.

In the peak of summer, the garden becomes lush with growth. In the case of my garden, much of that growth is weeds. But that’s no terrible thing. Under our noses disguised as weeds, gardens are filled with plants that have medicinal and healing properties. Here are some of my favourites.

Comfrey healing balm

Comfrey or Symphytum uplandica x is also known as boneset or knitbone. It can be an invasive weed as it roots deeply and grows large and bushy. However gardners often encourage this plan as the leaves are a nourishing mulch and the flowers attract bees to the garden. Comfrey is most often used medicinally in salves for sores, stings, strains and sprains.

 

Calendula healing balm

Calendula officinalis, also known as pot marigold is a cheerful flower plant that thrives in poor and dry soils. Historically used for healing cuts, grazes and scratches it is a brilliant herb for cleaning and healing skin wounds.

Chickweed balm

Stellaria media or chickweed is a scrambling ground cover that grows thick and fast in semi shaded areas of the gardens. The small white flowers are like stars and so it is named. This weed is a cooling soothing plant that is good for soothing rashes and stings.

 

Plantago major,or greater plantain is much maligned with many gardeners taking great effort to remove it from lawns. Like comfrey, plantain is an excellent healing herb applied topically. Often the entire plant, roots and all is used for poultices on slow to heal wounds or stings and burns.

 

Solanum aviculare or Poroporo is a traditional Māori remedy used in the past as a tea for contraceptive reasons. It is a known anti inflammatory and often used for skin rashes, stings and other irritations.

 

Summer is the perfect time to turn this wealth of healing plants into a catchall healing salve. That way, if you get an injury in winter when you can’t pop out to the garden to collect some leaves for a poultice, you can still capture all the healing goodness in a salve. The salve I make is aan oil and beeswax based balm. This has a great cupboard life and is excellent at preserving the medicinal properties of the plants.  There are other options available if you prefer, like making a tincture, infused oil, cream or lotion. I prefer balms and salves for simplicity.

The ingredients use in this recipe can be used on broken skin. If you wanted to make a muscle soothing salve for aches and pains, you could use cayenne, arnica tincture and other herbs that warm and soothe.

Ingredients:

1 litre of carrier oil
½ a litre of coconut oil
250 grams of beeswax
A large bunch of plant material.

Plants to use:

Calendula: The petals and flower heads
Comfrey: Flowering heads and leaves, you can use the whole plant if you like but this takes some preparation as the roots need to be pounded.
Poro poro: Leaves and stems
Chickweed: All aerial parts of the plant
Thyme: All aerial parts of the plant
Rosemary: The soft green growth tips of the stems
Greater plantain: All of the plant including roots – well washed and dried
St Johns Wort: A weed in many places, I don’t have ready access to this, but the fresh tops and  flowers are used. This will turn your balm an earthy red.

You can use all of these plants in varying amounts, but it is the comfrey that is the heavy lifter in this blend, known for it’s healing properties.

Essential oils: You can use essential oils in this mixture too. My favourites are pacific blue lavender and true german chamomile. You can use manuka oil but I find it is often too strong for most minor wounds and only add it to a few pottles for more aggressive infections.

Using a basket allows any debris or moisture to be shaken off.

Equipment:

A large glass jar or old crockpot
A large saucepan not intended for culinary use
Small sterile glass jars
Sharp knife or shears
Basket for harvest

Method

Collect all of the plant material on a dry day, preferably when in the full flush of growth. I collect the plants material in the afternoon and let it wilt overnight. This is to reduce the amount of moisture in the fleshy parts. Moisture can cause the salve to spoil.

Glass jar technique: Ensuring the glass jar is clean, sterile and bone dry, pack all of the plant material into the jar and cover with oil. You want to ensure all plant matter is covered to prevent mould growth. Place the jar somewhere warm and dark. A hot water cupboard, high shelf or cupboard are ideal. Some people like to bury their jar in warm sand at the beach. Leave the oil in the jar for at least a week, turning or shaking once or twice per day. At the end of a week or more, strain the oil from the jar into a saucepan or crock pot.

Crockpot technique: This method is quicker, but it can discolour the oil if done at too high a temperature. I love the rich green that the comfrey gives the mixture and as such if I have the time I prefer the glass jar method. Place all the plant material and oil into the crock pot (including the coconut oil) and place on the lowest temperature. Leave overnight to infuse the oil. In the morning the plant matter should be all dried out and floating at the surface.

A the plant material chopped up and in the oil. The finer it is chopped the more goodness is steeped out.

I used the crockpot technique this time for haste. The plant material here will sit overnight at a warm temperature.

You can see here the rich green of the infused oil. The smell is intense also.

With the leftover plant material I don’t like to waste this and will often pack it into individual freezer bags to make ready to go poultices and icepacks.

Once the oil has infused it is time to melt in the wax, if I using the crockpot I just add the wax and wait about 40 minutes for the wax to melt and stir gently to incorporate. If using a saucepan, add the wax and coconut oil and then heat through gently, making sure not to overheat – as this can cause the oil to denature and go prematurely rancid.

Transferring the strained oil back into the crock pot.

This beeswax is from my own hive. It has been melted into 75gm blocks.

Once the wax has been melted in you can add any essential oil you prefer and then pour careful into small pots. Et voila, herbal healing salve.

Keeping the pots still while setting keeps mess to a minimum.

 

Small pots are excellent to carry around, they also help prevent cross contamination.

Store in a cool dark place and it should keep all year.

I keep a big jar in the basement for my hands while gardening.

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