With the growing rate of health related issues its clear we need to change the way we live. When we buy store bought products we support that brand, we add money into their revenue and we say to the Universe "I like this brand". Living consciously is easy, it's just bringing awareness into what you focus your energy on and choosing to support that which aligns with your values. I am not saying to throw out all your bathroom and household products but do some research. All the air freshers, detergents, cleaning supplies, creams, deodorants and beauty products are main sources of carconigenics that we are putting on and around our body daily. Plus there are so many natural alternatives that are both cost and health efficent. I would like to show you an easy natural alternative to store bought creams and salves/balms but first you must learn the basics to making them. These aternatives are cost and time efficient and in the end, if your like me you can have some peace of mind knowing whats going on your and your families skin.
So lets get started with the basics of herbal salves and balms which are infused oils.
You will need...
1) Dry, clean mason jars with their lids
2) An oil of your choosing
3) Herbs of your choosing
4)A brown Bag
5) Window Space
6) 3 weeks time or a crock pot/pot with many other mason jar rings
Fist of all your going to want to pick what your balm/salve will be for as this determines what herbs you may choose. I would suggest if your making a salve for your skin to use something like calendula or camomile. Calendula is anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and is an excellent antiseptic. Camomile is calming, soothing and also a wonderful anti-inflammatory. I use them both in my nipple salves for breastfeeding moms to help sooth, protect and clean the nipples. You can purchase your herbs at a health food store or herbal dispensary. I would also suggest using high quality organic or wild harvested herbs because without good herbs you can't make good medicine.
After you have picked your herb(s) your going to want to choose your oil. Once again choosing an organic, high quality oil is the way to go. I also suggest choosing cold pressed as it's shelf life is longer and has antioxidants in it. You can start with olive oil or if your not allergic to nuts something like sweet almond oil. If your using the balm for someone under 5 years old I would suggest olive oil or coconut.
Now there are two methods to infusing an oil for dried herbs. One is a cold infusion and the other is a hot infusion. In essence they are the same but one you just add heat to it to speed up the time the fat soluble constituents will be pulled from the plant. A cold infusion or also known as a folk method infusion is really simple. You just add the dried herb into a mason jar, and cover the dried herb with your oil of choice making sure all the herb is saturated in the oil. You may want to take a clean spoon to push down all the herb. I like to add a little bit of extra oil on the top just about 1/2 to a full inch depending on the size of the mason jar. Then you simply leave the oil in the brown bag on your window sill so it can get some heat from the sun but is not in direct contact with the sun's rays. Every couple of days make sure to shake up your oil ensuring all the herb is saturated in oil. This method takes around 3-6 weeks to fully infuse your oil. Near the end of your infusion the oil should have changed to a darker colour taking the pigments of the plant of choice and it's aroma. The plant materials should become more translucent over time. It's really fun to check in on your herb throughout the process to see the change in oil overtime.
If your short on time you could do a hot infusion adding the mason jar to a double boiler or a crock pot. If you don't have a crock/instant pot and have another pot you can make your own double boiler by simply putting the rings of other mason jars on the bottom and resting your mason jars on top of those. I find this to be a bit of a balancing act and by adjusting the water height of the pot you can find the sweet spot where they all balance perfectly. Be sure the lid remains out the water and on so that no water has a way to enter the brew as this will turn the oil rancid over time. If water does enter the mixture you will have to remove it with a sringe or pipette and will have to lose some of your oil in order to ensure no water remains.
After your infusion is done its brew then you will have to filter out the herb from the oil. You can use cheese cloth and your hands or if you have a herbal press machine then thats handy as well. It's also normal to lose some oil during the process. In the end you should have a beautiful oil that contains the smell, colour and medicinal properties of your choose herb and voila, you have learned the basics to an infused oil. Stay tuned for how to turn these oils into salves and balms.
Asia Mann, E-RYT-200hr, Clinical Herbalist, Holistic Birth Doula & Intuitive Healer