Salve is a very old word that exist in several Germanic languages. It derives from the old English sealfe (healing ointment), Old Saxon and High Germanic salba (ointment), and West Germanic salbo (oily substance). An excavation of the etymology of the Indo-European root of the word, selp (fat) and it’s connotations with Greek elpos (fat, butter) and Sanskrit sarpis (melted butter) unearths the story both of the purpose and the ingredients of a salve.
This year’s healing theme has inspired me to dive back into the world of homemade skincare. Using natural ingredients and essential oils to create butters, oils and salves is one of my favorite self-care crafts because its very simple and it makes such a difference for the skin’s wellbeing. Making skincare products can be a truly holistic practice because the ingredients offer a variety of properties both medicinal, magical and aroma therapeutic in nature. Homemade salves salves sooth your skin, lift your mood and let you connect to spirit during your everyday skincare routine.
For this salve we will use shea butter, almond oil, beeswax and the essential oils of lemon and Siberian fir. The consistency is smooth and less greasy than a body butter, and the essential oil blend create a powerful clean forest scent that is a bit on the masculine side. I have written more about the benefits of shea butter here, but in essence its a good moisturizer consisting of healthy fatty acids as well as the antioxidant vitamins A and E. Almond oil is an ancient beauty oil and the nut (technically a stone fruit) was first cultivated in the middle-east. Almonds are a powerhouse of nutrition and the oil benefits the skin in a multitude of ways. It is antibacterial and antifungal (good for a foot cream), and it’s high concentration of vitamin E and A can help with treating acne, combat the signs of aging and fade scars. Almond oil is a strong moisturizer that helps balancing the skin’s absorption of moisture and water loss, and it can even improve complexion. I’ve used cold-pressed almond oil as my primary choice of body lotion for the past 10 years. I have very dry skin and it is always soft and smooth. More about the properties and uses of almond oil can be found here.
Beeswax is the newest addition in my skincare routine and it is honestly the best ingredient I have found for nourishing really dry winter skin (hands, feet, lips). Beeswax is a natural exfoliator which gently rid dry feet and lips of dead skin cells. The wax creates a protective layer on the skin and attracts water which helps the skin stay hydrated. Here is an article on the many uses of this beautiful natural product. Make sure to use a cosmetic grade (and preferably local) beeswax.
How to make it
I used 1 part wax to 4 parts shea butter and 4 parts almond oil. If you suffer from very dry skin, I would recommend using more beeswax, but this will harden the texture of the salve a lot so it becomes more difficult to apply.
Let smaller pieces of shea butter and beeswax melt together in a double boiler (or in a metal bowl placed in a pot with water) by bringing water to a boil and then putting the temperature down to a low simmer (you don’t want to burn your ingredients). When the mixture is almost completely liquid, pour in almond oil, stir, and make sure everything is nicely melted before you take it of the heat. Let the salve cool for a few minutes before adding essential oils. Pour in a dark, airtight container and let cool in the fridge for about 1 hour (or however long it takes for the salve to solidify without getting firm). Take the salve out of the fridge and let it set in room temperature before using.
Adding essential oils
You can go wild with essential oils and experiment with different scents and benefits. Just make sure that your oils are intended for topical use. It’s also very important not to use to much of these extremely concentrated oils. The highest recommended ratio for incorporating essential oils in your skincare preparations is 1-2 %. That is 6-12 drops essential oil for 1 oz salve. I used 8 drops of lemon and 8 drops of Siberian fir for a total of 16 drops in 3.5 oz (100 grams) of salve. Below I will list the medicinal, aroma therapeutic, and magical properties of the oils I used to illustrate the holistic benefits of this blend.
Lemon essential oil (Citrus Limon)
Medicine: Lemon oil is known as the essential cleaning aid and is often recommended for use in natural cleaning products because of its antifungal, antibacterial, and exfoliant properties. It is also antioxidant, and together, these benefits make lemon oil a good choice for healing dry feet with calluses.
Aromatherapy: Clean, citrusy scent that is both calming and uplifting
Magic: longevity, purification, love, friendship
Warning: Don’t use lemon oil on parts of your body that will be exposed to sunlight because it will cause pigmentation. Ideal for a foot salve to be used before you go to bed.
Siberian Fir Essential oil (Abies Sibirica)
Aromatherapy: intense pine scent that immediately transports you to a thick, dark green forest. Calming and relaxing properties that can enhance sleep.
Magic: strength, health prosperity, protection, vitality
Julia Lawless, Home Aromatherapy. (1993)
Scott Cunningham, Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs (1984)