Saturday, October 31, 2015

Healing Salve Time


Knowing how to create a natural healing salve made with foraged medicinal plants can be deeply gratifying. This is a centuries old tradition that combines multiple activities that I love: nature, foraging and cooking. The first step is getting outside your door and hunting down the nearly always present Plantago Major.....also known as common plantain. It is a weed that is sure to be within a few hundred feet of wherever you are in Wisconsin. This weed has a history of medical use that goes as far back as Greek and Roman times. It is used to heal wounds, protect wounds from infection, ease pain, draw out toxins and is an all around anti-inflammatory. It is the first plant I seek out when making my healing salve and the easiest to find. It is notable for its protruding parallel veins on the back of the leaf that run into the ground. The plant itself grows from one central point in a tap root and leaves flop out when conditions are right and surround the tap root. When harvesting leaves, I look for deep green with no signs of bugs having been there. I brush off the dirt and they are ready to go. I don't wash them as that would wash away some of the medicine that I'm after. My yard is completely chemical free so I know its a great location to harvest.

I lay my plants out to dry in a warm indoor location out of the sun usually on a window screen or bundle them and hang them in a closet. After a few days, the water in the plant has completely evaporated and the remaining plant is crispy. I will then put all of the plants into a blender with olive oil and pulse until it is a more soup like mixture. This mixture gets put into a double boiler to speed the process of the medicine going from the plant to the olive oil much like plant material does when you put it in hot water for tea. The double boiler prevents it from getting too hot which would destroy the medicine. You never want the oil to boil.

After a couple hours, I will turn off the heat and let the plant material continue to infuse into the oil. When it cools, I will be ready to use to a sieve to remove the plant material so that only the infused oil remains. This I again put into the double boiler and combine with bees wax. Beeswax is what holds the whole thing together and also has great medicinal properties in itself. It is also antibacterial and aids in healing wounds. The correct ratio of olive oil to beeswax is 1 to 1. One cup of olive oil to one ounce of beeswax.

Once the beeswax has melted in the oil, turn off the heat and get your tins ready to pour the mixture. When the mixture starts to cool, it will have the salve like consistency. You can use your salve for any insect bite, cuts, abrasions, chapped lips, inflamed/irritated skin....etc. Your tin should last at least a year!