Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Components of a Salve

What makes a salve a salve and a lotion a lotion?  Well I am glad you asked.  This is purely my definition and not a scientific definition.  A salve is an oil based ointment used on the skin.  It has some sort of thickener in it.  A lotion has oil mixed with a water mixture that creates a creamy lotion that you would use on the skin.  So when I label a product that I will sell if it has a oil and water mixture formed into a creamy lotion I call it lotion.  If it is solely an oil mixture I will call it a salve or creme based on the contents. 

So what does a salve have in it.  It has 3 components.  They are a carrier oil, a thickener, and essential oils.  A carrier oil is the main oil of the salve.  You will use the most of this in a recipe.  I usually use a light weight oil or a combination of oils such as apricot kernel oil, grape seed oil, or jojoba oil.  Sweet almond oil is a great oil for the skin.  Just make sure you are not allergic to nuts.  As with any oil you use make sure you use something that you are not allergic to. 

The next main component of the salve is a thickener.  This is normally a wax.  I only use 100% pure unbleached bees wax.  I get it from a local bee store and filter it myself.  Sometimes my friends who have bees will give me some wax after they collect their honey.  I know some people prefer the bleached because it will not alter the color of their lotions, but I like the pure bees wax.  It has a wonderful smell and you keep all the great properties of the beeswax that God created.  Bees wax has antiseptic properties in it.  When you bleach it out you are taking all the healing properties out of the wax.  A little bit of wax goes a long way.

The last thing I put into my salves is a mixture of essential oils and vitamin E oil.  Some people use essential oils to scent a lotion.  When I use them in my salves it is to treat a specific condition.  My eczema formula salve has a specific combination of essential oils.  Each essential oil is used for a specific purpose.  Chamomile to relieve itching, tea tree oil to heal the skin, peppermint oil is an antibiotic, etc.....  I also use vitamin E oil.  It adds nourishment to the skin and also acts as a natural preservative to the oils.  Some people use a preservative that is chemical based.  It keeps the lotions fresh for a lot longer but since I try to avoid any sort of chemical I just stick to my vitamin E oil.

When making a salve you need to melt your wax with you carrier oils.  Once melted you remove from the heat and add you essential oils and vitamin E oil.  Pour into you containers and let set until cool.  The salve thickens up after it cools.  Bees wax has a high melting point.  I suggest not to use a microwave.  Using high heat will destroy all the good properties of your beeswax.  I use a double boiler on low heat.  It will take a while to melt, but you keep all those yummy things that naturally occur in the bees wax.  Heat also destroys your essential oils.  So add these after you have removed your salve from the heat. 

Even though I do not use a chemical preservative I have found that my salves stays fresh for a long time.  At least as long as it takes to use it up.  My son uses his eczema lotion over his entire body so it does not last long.  Depending on the weather and his eczema a 12 oz container will last 3 or 4 months. 

The next time I make up batches of salve I will take pictures and post so you can see the process.  

The bees wax in the salve acts as a double agent. It helps protect the skin with its antiseptic properties but it also lays down a layer on the skin to help keep moisture in.  I normally  use the salve after my son has showered.  The skin is soft and has water on it.  Lightly towel dry and lather in the salve.  It adds more moisture from the oils and then the bees wax seals it in!!

One way to help combat eczema is by taking preventative measures against allergies.  By knowing your local pollen count you can stay in when it is too high.  I have provided a link to find out your local pollen count. 

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