Herbal ointments are simple to make. Doing it yourself gives you the ability to make large batches, making the cost per jar much less than if you were to buy it from a specialty store. It also allows you to get creative and make your own salves with the exact properties you need.


Photo credit: La Grande Farmers’ Market

Not only are herbal ointments good to have on hand in your medicine cabinet, but they make great gifts as well. Give one or an assortment of your healing ointments to family and friends. There are several great herbs out there whose healing properties can be concentrated in a salve.

The must have herbs

These herbs are great to have on hand at all times:

Calendula

Calendula is well-known for having many healing properties. Also know as the pot marigold, you can easily grow this yourself. Inflammation is usually the primary target of calendula because of its soothing abilities. It also works well for rashes and eczema, speeding their healing time.

Finally, calendula is also known to speed the healing of wounds and prevent infection. World War I doctor, Petrie Hoyle, used calendula exclusively for treating the wounded brought into his hospital. That’s a myriad of talents for one little flower.


*Use the petals of this plant to make your herbal salve. Find dried calendula flower petals here.

Comfrey

Comfrey is regarded as “one of nature’s greatest medicinal herbs.” And I cannot agree more. This herb is renowned for its healing properties. I add it to every ointment I make because it shortens the time it takes for wounds to heal. The same is also true of broken bones.

Comfrey can be used alone for a healing ointment, but if you have calendula on hand, try combining the two herbs to make a wonderful ointment for irritated skin. The combination works wonders on diaper rash.

*Either the root or the leaf can be used, though the root will be even more potent. Do not use comfrey on broken skin. Find comfrey root or leaf here.

Arnica

Arnica is best known for its ability to soothe sprains and sore muscles. Rub arnica salve onto sore feet for relief at the end of the day. Or better yet, get someone else to do it for you. Arnica is also used to speed the healing of bruises. This herb works well in either a ointment or infused oil. The instructions below will give you the option of making an arnica-infused rubbing oil.

*Use the arnica flowers to prepare your salve. Do not use arnica on broken skin. Find arnica dried arnica flowers here.

How to make the healing salve:

Ingredients and Supplies

Method

Heat your oven to 200º and then turn it off. Put the oil and herbs into the double boiler on medium heat. You want to heat the oil so that the herbs begin to steep, but not bring it to a boil. (You do not want the herbs to get much darker than they started). After the oil has had a chance to heat through for a few minutes, stick the top part of the double boiler into the oven for a few hours.

Strain the oil into a bowl using cheese cloth or a fine mesh strainer. Stop here if you just want an herb-infused oil. To continue making the salve, put the oil back into the double burner on the stove on medium heat. Add the wax and stir until melted. Pour the oil into your container and let it cool. If you are using a plastic container, let the oil cool for a while before pouring it in.

Now you just need to add a label and put it in your medicine cabinet. Or you can track someone down for that foot rub…

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Nina Nelson is a student midwife, mama to four and wife to one. She writes regularly at Shalom Mama, providing health and herbal resources and inspiring others to live intentionally. She loves reading, snuggling and giggling at miniature horses.

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Comments

  1. Amelia says

    Could you clarify on the herb measurement — dry or fresh? And calendula really the same as the marigold, as you say, our common marigold that most all of use as a bedding annual? So I could harvest and dry, our simply use fresh – the flowers and leaves from the marigolds growing around my tomatoes?

  2. says

    I’ve always used dried herbs because that’s what comes from the company I order from…I have a black thumb. If you’re using fresh herbs, it is suggested that you use twice the amount of dried – just like in cooking. As for the flower, the Latin name is calendula officinalis or Pot Marigold. It may be the same ones that you plant, however, you’d have to double check since there are different varieties.

  3. Katherine says

    We have an archery instructor, that grew up living off the land. He suggest raw honey on any cut, cover it up and it will heal. It tried it and it works great.

  4. Sarah Darrow says

    I have a question when you add the bees wax when melting it is it better to cut it in chunks or to grate it??

  5. Sarah Darrow says

    Ok i am trying to make something that will help clear up my daughters skin she has Ecezema and its gotten worse with the season change so if i use comfrey and calendula do you think that will be an ok mixture?

    • says

      Calendula and comfrey are a very good pair. If you have plaintain I would include that as well, but it’s not necessary.

      Have you ever noticed if any foods make her eczema worse? I just ask because I struggled with eczema for a very long time and after eliminating certain foods it finally went away (and comes back if I eat them).

      Hope the ointment helps!

    • says

      If the salve doesn’t clear it, try worm tea. It is the “solution” that naturally comes out of a worm composter. FOR EXTERNAL USE ONLY.
      I don’t know what the “active” ingredient is that clears skin problems, but I do know it has been effective on eczema, psoriasis, & the like. Good luck!

  6. Sarah Darrow says

    Hmmm honestly I am not to sure… she has spent a lot of time the past week with my family members bc I just got married and it just really flared up badly she does have a very bad milk allergy though she drinks a lot of soy milk and such…. what kind of foods do you typically stay away from? We switched her to homemade soap with olive oil which seems to be softening it up a little bit … im corssing my fingers that the ointment works :D

  7. Lisa says

    I am having a hard time finding Calendula, Comfrey and Arnica in the natural food stores around here…any online sites you ould recommend to purchase them from? Thanks!

  8. Miranda says

    Hi,
    Is it possible to substitute essential oils for herbs? And how would you recommend doing such?
    Thank you!

    • says

      Miranda,
      Yes, it’s possible to do that! It depends on the oil. Synthetic essential oils are less concentrated, so you would need to use more than if you were using a pure essential oil. Usually, 4-9 drops is all you would need for a batch of ointment. I use more with citrus oils, like lemon and orange. And less with more potent oils, like lavender, tea tree and peppermint.

      So, a good headache ointment/salve would include:
      3 drops peppermint oil
      4 drops lavender oil
      2 drops frankincense oil

  9. Sara says

    Hi did a search how to make natural ointments and your site first showed up I was@ meijers and a natural jar of ointment was 16.99 crazy probably would spend less making your ointment thanks

  10. amyantlers says

    I’m confused as to how comfrey and arnica are good for wounds but not to apply to broken skin. Is there something I’m missing?

    • says

      The different references I checked make a special point to state that these herbs can be applied to wounds when they are infused (and therefore diluted) in an ointment, cream, infusion, etc. but that the full-strength herb itself should not be applied to broken skin. It made me question that, too, when I read about them.