Ointments, salves and lip balms are extremely easy to make from cold or heat infused herbal oils. You simply add a small quantity of beeswax, solidifying the oil the extent you need. The more beeswax you add, the more solid the result; salves are very soft, ointments are a little firmer and lip balms are firm enough to retain their shape when moulded into a stick.
Before I learnt how to make ointments with plant oils and beeswax I made them using Vaseline. Although I find Vaseline is drying when used repeatedly for a long period of time, using it as a base is straightforward. The Vaseline method saves making an infused oil to start with and provides a more waterproof barrier on the skin as it is not easily absorbed. Vaseline will only produce a salve or ointment consistency but can also work very well as a lip balm, especially in the winter.
I sometimes buy purpose made small amber glass pots but mostly I sterilise and reuse tiny jam and mustard pots, pesto jars or the tiny preserving jars shown in the photos which hold about 100ml. Smaller pots are better unless you know you will use the contents quickly. Whichever containers you use, ensure you can easily reach inside.
Here are the two methods, both of which work well for small or large quantities. Use the contents within about three months but be aware that the contents can become contaminated easily. If you notice that the colour, smell or texture changes or anything else makes you suspect contamination, stop using and make a fresh batch.
How to make salves, ointments or lip balm from infused herb oils
Cold or heat Infused herb oil
Beeswax (pellets or “cake”)
Low heat source (candle or stove)
Glass storage containers and well fitting lids – very clean and dry
(also a Cheese grater, if you are using a cake of beeswax)
- Measure volume of the infused oil you are using and pour it into a clean saucepan.
- Grate beeswax – For every 30ml of oil you will need about 1 tablespoon of grated beexwax (or pellets).
- Add the grated beeswax to oil, in the saucepan.
- Heat the oil and wax very gently over a low heat source, stirring constantly, until all of the beeswax has dissolved.
- Check the consistency of your salve/ointment/lipbalm by putting a few drops onto a cool surface such as a saucer or metal spoon. It will solidify very quickly. How does it feel? If it is softer than you need, add a little more beeswax to your oil, if it is too hard add a little more infused oil or plain vegetable oil.
- If you have added more oil or beeswax, continue heating until dissolved.
- Remove from heat and pour into clean, dry glass storage containers.
- Label and allow to cool.
How to make salves, ointments or lip balm with Vaseline
Dried or fresh herb (finely cut)
Jelly bag or muslin
Glass containers and well fitting lids – very clean and dry
- Melt the Vaseline over a low heat, in the saucepan.
- Add 60g dried herb or 150g fresh herb for every 500g of Vaseline.
- Simmer the Vaseline herb mixture for about 15 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Pour into the jelly bag and wear rubber gloves to squeeze the hot herb infused Vaseline into the jug.
- Pour clean, dry glass storage containers.
- Label and allow to cool.