Demystifying Salve Making

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Are you looking for an easy-to-follow salve recipe that incorporates essential oils?

Keep reading for the full details or jump directly to figuring out how much wax and oil you need, the materials you need or a step-by-step recipe.

These Classes Give Detailed Information on Salve Making and Other DIY Applications:

  • DIY Series: The Perfect Salve
    DIY Series: The Perfect Salve
    Pay what you wish! $10.00 is suggested.
  • Aromatherapy Mood Mist.
    DIY Series: Aromatherapy Spritzers
    Pay what you wish! $10.00 is suggested.
  • Handmade Cream
    DIY Series: The Perfect Cream
    Pay what you wish! $15.00 is suggested.

Why are Salves amazing?

  • Longevity & Stability: They are shelf-stable as they don’t contain water, which encourages bacterial growth/mold. They also last long on the skin, holding essential oils (EOs) and other beneficial chemicals to penetrate the skin to deep tissues.
  • Efficacy: They deliver therapeutic qualities of EOs, fixed oils and herbal infused oils to the body: they are thick and hold the volatile oils.
    • Depending on the EOs and herbal oils used they are great for muscle aches, scar reducing, chest salves for respiratory/allergy issues, anti-inflammatory (e.g., bug bites, scrapes and bruises)…the list goes on!
  • Efficient: They are incredibly easy to make!

It is generally accepted that a Salve is a mixture of beeswax and herbal oils & a Balm contains beeswax and butters like mango butter as well as herbal oils. Regardless, both include beeswax (or a vegan wax).

How Much Wax and oil do You need?

  • Ratios: Ratios are great as they allow you to adapt to any measurement you are using!
    • As a best practice a 1:4 or 1:5 ratio works best for a salve.
    • The more wax, the harder it will be, the more fixed oil, the “looser” it will be.
    • I do not recommend going lower than 1:4 or higher than 1:6 (this is my preference).
      • Explained: 1 part wax to 4 parts fixed oil for a “firmer” salve or 1 part wax to 5 parts oil for a “looser” salve.
      • Here your “part” could be weight (grams, ounces, etc.) or volume (tablespoons, cups, etc.). As a best practice: always stick with one measurement unit—don’t cross over (Grams and teaspoons…).
  • Jar capacity: Let’s say I find a nice jar (or jars) and want to use it to hold salve. I can find out its capacity by adding water to the jar using volume (tbsp. by tbsp. or tsp. by tsp.) or weight (gram by gram our ounce by ounce).
    • Simply measure the amount of water that fits into the container and take note!
  • Work in weight (e.g., grams): It is more precise to use a scale than it is to use liquid measure—especially as you are working with dry matter (e.g., wax) and wet (e.g., fixed oils) [Translation: high variability, air pockets with dry matter, etc.]
    • Many recipes mix up tbsp., cups and ounces…this is fine for something on the fly but it makes sense to be precise and measure by weight as it is standard and repeatable.
    • Invest in a decent scale for both culinary use and the creation of salves, creams and anything else (like aromatic fizzing bath balls!).

Mathematics, let’s talk ratios!

Ratios allow you to modify your amounts accordingly and they are based off the total amount of desired end product.

  • Given: I prefer to work in weight (mass) versus volume
  • Given: I prefer a looser salve so I will use a 1:5 ratio
  • Given: The desired end amount helps determine my numbers: I want to fill 12, 1 ounce jars (I am working in ounces by weight).
  • The mathematics:
    • Get the summation of the ratio (a.k.a. “parts”):  1 + 5 (ratio) = 6
    • Turn your ingredient amounts into percentages then multiply the percentages with the total number of ounces (i.e., 12)
      • Beeswax: 1/6 = 0.167 | (17% * 12 ounces) = 2 ounces of wax
      • Fixed/Herbal oils: 5/6 = 0.83 | (83% * 12) = 9.96 ounces of fixed oil (round to 10)
    • Done! Weight it out and get to work.

Now you have just the right amount of salve at the desired consistency for your container!

Materials Needed for Salve Making:

  • Scale
  • Double boiler
  • Glass measuring cup (e.g., Pyrex) to melt the ingredients
  • Bowls to weigh out your ingredients
  • Stirring spoon or rod
  • EOs of choice (the accepted dilution rate for salves is 5%–30 drops per ounce)
  • Beeswax
  • Fixed and/or herbal infused oils of your choice
  • Glass containers with lids for your salve (plastic may melt/deform as you decant the hot mixture and it is a best practice to use EOs in glass as some act as solvents)

Steps for making a salve:

  • Place water in the bottom pot of the double boiler and put it over a low to medium-low heat—about an inch of water should be enough—you don’t want it to start boiling out the sides and steam or water droplets getting into your salve!
    1. Place the second pot on top of the pot containing the water to create your double-boiler (you may choose to put a small amount of water (½”) in this pot as well).
    2. Now, place the heat proof (e.g., Pyrex brand) measuring cup into the second pot
  • Put the desired EOs into your salve container (s) and set aside, putting the lid on to ensure the volatile oils do not evaporate! You can do this several days prior to making the salve to allow your special blend of EOs to harmonize.
  • Weigh out the desired amount of beeswax and fixed oils, then…
    1. Place the beeswax into the heat proof measuring cup and patiently allow it to melt.
    2. After the wax has melted, slowly add your fixed and/or herbal infused oils to the wax and stir to incorporate.
    3. Stir, stir and stir again! Ensure the beeswax and fixed oil(s) are fully incorporated.
  • Get ready to dispense the salve!
    • Take the glass measuring cup out of the double boiler and wipe the bottom of the measuring cup to ensure NO WATER gets into the salve or the salve container.
    • Dispense the mixture into the containers & cap the container to ensure the EOs don’t escape.
    • Gently shake the jar to disperse the EOs
    • Allow the salve to harden
    • Create a label for the container so you know what is in the salve (you may find yourself making several blends for different purposes)

6 responses to “Demystifying Salve Making”

  1. […] needs “Vicks” when you can make your own respiratory salve? Combine the following essential oils into a salve base (see a recipe here). Apply liberally to the […]

  2. Hi, thanks so much for this, super helpful! I have a silly question, I’m making some CBD salve and need to make sure the ingredients are blended perfectly evenly into the oil so that each jar as the same amount of CBD. Can I use an electric whisk or will this turn to lotion at some point? Thank you!

    1. Hi Andrea, Thank you for asking and pardon my late response (!). There are a few ways to approach your question. You may choose to put your custom essential oil/CO2 blend into each jar (e.g., each jar gets what ever dilution you see fit) or incorporate the whole EO/CO2 mixture into the base salve and stir very well. Should you use the first option you know exactly how much is going in each jar/tube. The second option has less control but whisking very well should do the trick. A lotion by definition has a water component so no need to worry about that. However, if you over mix the salve base may be quite hard once it sets. Hope this helps.

  3. I am excited to try this on my own! yay!

    1. Yay!!! 😊

  4. I love salves. After taking your class I tried to do it on my own. It was a somewhat successful first try😌.

    This post will be very valuable for my next try.

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