This post covers a part of herbalism that we thought our readers would enjoy. The salve recipe shared in this post is something we would suggest proceeding with caution before selling. We don’t want you to find that you are selling a product with a medical claim. As such, we must say that this product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.*
Spring is such an exciting time of year! As the earth awakens from winter slumber, all manner of plant life begins to emerge. It’s time to gather herbs for infusing, especially here in the far north. The balsam poplar tree is treasured for its sticky, resinous buds that begin to pop out in April. Before moving to Alaska, I’d never heard of this tree or using the buds in skin care applications. Boy, was I missing out!
A few years ago, a generous friend gave me a lotion bar that she had made using an oil infused with balsam poplar buds. That was the most incredible skin-loving lotion bar I’ve ever used! I was so sad to see the end of it, but there was nothing I could do until the following spring. Once the buds open and become leaves, the window of opportunity is closed.
This year, another kind friend asked if I wanted to help her gather buds from a few trees she intended to cut down for a building project. I agreed with alacrity to be able to harvest an entire tree of buds! There are not loads of buds on the branches; they are not like fruit. And the most buds are found on the topmost branches. Cutting down a tree means the end of that tree’s future production and is not done lightly. So I was very excited as the appointed day rolled around.
Down came two trees from the edge of a hay field, and we went to work. We were so busy picking buds and swatting mosquitoes that I forgot to take photos. In about two hours, we had stripped all the useable buds from the trees. I brought home just enough buds to fill two pint jars. I added olive oil to the jars, put on lids, and placed the jars in an inch or so of water in a slow cooker turned on low. After about 2 hours, I turned off the slow cooker, but I left the jars in place until it had completely cooled.
When the oil had cooled, I poured the contents of the jars into a mesh strainer over a large bowl to begin the process of removing the plant matter. Though it won’t hurt to leave it there, at some point the oil must be strained to be used, and I plan to make some products right away. When the oil had stopped running from the strainer full of buds, I used a spatula to press out as much oil as possible. Then I set the used buds aside to give my goats as treats – they love stuff like this! The next step was to line a funnel with butter muslin for a second straining to remove the fine plant particulate. I ended up with about a pint and a half of wonderful infused oil! The smell is so good – fresh and herbaceous and a little sap-like.
As I worked on straining the oil, I noticed that my fingertips, which have been feeling rough and uncomfortable, suddenly felt smooth. The infused oil was already at work before I’d even made anything!
Using the Balsam Poplar Bud Infusion
The first thing I intend to make is a salve. The skin on my hands is taking a beating lately, between washing dishes by hand and doing chores bare-handed as the weather warms up. I’m allergic to hay; it causes an itchy rash wherever it touches my skin. So I try to make myself wear gloves and long sleeves. But sometimes I just can’t bear to be all covered! I’ve been using a lot of calendula salve, but I was eagerly waiting for the balsam poplar buds! Here is my salve recipe.
I’m adding a little Lavender Essential Oil because it is so good for skin and a small amount Vitamin E Natural as an antioxidant. My infused Olive Oil will make up the bulk of the salve. Candelilla Wax is a vegetable wax that is stiffer than beeswax, so it allows me to use less wax and more infused oil! I also wanted to add Comfrey and Calendula Extracts. Comfrey promotes tissue repair and healing. Calendula is excellent for rough, scaly skin.
This recipe is easy to make, but instead of the microwave, I’ll make this in a double boiler. I don’t want to microwave my infused olive oil. Let’s gather what we need.
Infused Olive Oil
Lavender Essential Oil
Vitamin E Natural
Jars and Lids or Tins
Now that you have everything together, here’s the recipe.
|100-gram Test Batch
1 gram Lavender Essential Oil
1 gram Vitamin E Natural
3 grams Comfrey Extract
3 grams Calendula Extract
15 grams Candelilla Wax
77 grams infused Olive Oil
0.16 ounces Lavender Essential Oil
0.16 ounces Vitamin E Natural
0.48 ounces Comfrey Extract
0.48 ounces Calendula Extract
2.4 ounces Candelilla Wax
12.32 ounces infused Olive Oil
|Recipe in Percentages
1% Lavender Essential Oil
1% Vitamin E Natural
3% Comfrey Extract
3% Calendula Extract
15% Candelilla Wax
77% infused Olive Oil
The wax goes in the top of the double boiler, and when it has melted, add the infused olive oil and stir with a stainless steel spoon. Lift the top pan off of the double boiler, making sure to wipe any condensation from the bottom of the pan. Carefully pour the mixture into a bowl or measuring cup that has a spout. Then add the Calendula Extract, Comfrey Extract, Lavender Essential Oil, and Vitamin E Natural. Stir well, and immediately pour into jars. Do not cap jars until the salve is completely cooled.
NOTE: The 100-gram test batch filled 12 of our 33mm Clear 1/4 oz Jars. I like the small size because it’s easy to carry in my purse or pocket, especially when I’m doing chores around the farm. I dab a bit of salve on cuts, on my hands when they are irritated by the hay, on any sores I see on the goats or dogs – it’s a very multi-purpose salve!
What other plants could be used to make a healing salve? Several come to mind, like plantain, comfrey, arnica flowers, wild chamomile (commonly called pineapple weed), dandelion, and yarrow. Every locale has its own plant life. Get to know what’s growing where you live, and make your own special products.
*This recipe has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This recipe tutorial is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please consult a doctor for medical advice and assistance.