Thursday, July 9, 2015

Miracle Green Salve

About 30 years ago when my daughter was in elementary school, I began to make my own salves. Some of the recipes I used had been given to me by other herbalists and some were of my own making. I got to the point that I was only making one or two recipes each year, and usually my own recipes. One, a kind of do everything salve, and one to help with itching from insect bites and poison ivy (which I get terribly even to this day).

I was making my "kind of do everything" salve one day when Suann had a friend visiting. Her friend suffered from psoriasis and was having a terrible outbreak. I was bottling up my salve and put a little in a container for her. She immediately put it on and felt relief from the itching. She took the container home and continued to use the salve. Up to this point, my salve never had a name; around the house and family it was simply known as mom's everything salve. Suann's friend returned for a visit about a week later with an empty container wanting more of this "Miracle Green Salve" as it has cleared up her outbreak of psoriasis and she and her mom wanted to have a container on hand. Hence the name of my "do everything salve" became Miracle Green Salve and it has stuck for the past 30 years.

I have just completed a batch of this Miracle Green Salve, probably the first of two I will make this season. I wanted to share my techniques for making salve in general as well as this specific recipe (if you can call it a specific recipe).

I start with a couple bottles of good olive oil, which I put into my crock pot. I use olive oil for several reasons, it is easily available, but it also doesn't turn rancid as quickly as some of the other oils I have tried, i.e. Sesame or Avocado oils.
You can see a picture of the oil in the crock pot here. I turn the crock pot on low and let the olive oil begin to heat up a little while I prepare the herbs.

Usually I just go to the garden and cut what I want to add, bringing them inside and immediately adding them to the crock pot. This year with all the rain, I needed to rinse them off a little to get the dirt off that has splattered from the rain. Here you can see my harvest of herbs, washed and laying on a towel to draw out some of the excess moisture.

Included in this harvest are comfrey, mullein plant, calendula blossoms, plantain plants, and chickweed plants). I will sometimes add some bread and butter plant (at least that's what I know it as) as well as a little rosemary or thyme.

Once the oil begins to get warm (not hot - just warm), I will add as many of the herbs as the crock pot will hold.
This year the pot would not hold all the herbs at one time, so I kept a small pile of comfrey and calendula to be added as the herbs began to wilt.

I let the herbs simmer in the oil for most of the day, this time, adding those left overs after a couple of hours when the pot would hold them. I do stir the pot occasionally, just to make sure all the herbs get down into the oil so the oil can pull out the healing properties.

Here you can see how the herbs have wilted down and are totally covered by the oil. I will let them simmer for several more hours at this point.

I then begin the process of straining the herbs from the oil. I have a large kitchen strainer that I use for this purpose.
Using a pair of my kitchen tongs, I put a pile of the herbs into the strainer and let it sit over the crock pot so all the oil drains back into the pot off the herbs. If I am in a hurry, I will use a wooden spoon or such to push the oil out, but have found that if you have the time to just let it drain, you will get more of the oil off the herbs. You can also see that I have not cooked the herbs to the point of them being burned. I have done that a few times by putting the salve on to cook and forgetting about it - and while it has never impacted the end product, I try not to forget it these days!!!

Once I have the bulk of the herbs removed from the oil, I will then actually pour the herb infused olive oil thru a sieve to get any last little pieces of plant or dirt material out of it. I usually like to rinse the crock pot at this point as well, again to remove any last dregs of plant or dirt material.

Then the oil goes back into the crock pot with a piece of bees wax. While I can often only find bees wax in large chunks, my preferred size is about the size of a small cupcake. So I will often melt down the large chunk and using parchment paper and my cupcake pans, make my own small chunks. For 32 oz of olive oil, one small cupcake sized piece of bees was is just perfect.

I will drop the bees was into the hot herb infused olive oil and let it simmer until the wax has totally melted. I then turn off the crock pot and walk away for 10-12 hours. This allows the salve to firm up and I am then able to determine if it needs more wax, or if I have added too much wax and must add a little more oil to get it the consistency that I want it. This year, I got it absolutely right the first time.
I usually will stick a spoon into the hardened salve to see what the consistency is. Here you can see the salve finished and sitting in the crock pot waiting for me to put it into containers. For some reason, I can't seem to find the tops to the little containers that I usually use. So until I get out and purchase a few small jars, it will just have to sit in the crock pot.

Some years I will reheat the salve to a liquid and pour into the containers and other years I just spoon it out into the containers. Which I do with this batch will depend on how much time I have when I get around to putting it into containers.

A word to the wise though, if I'm not able to get the herb bulk to my compost pile and it just goes into the trash, be careful when you empty your trash. Several years ago, I had put the oily bulk herbs into my trash, I was emptying the trash and put the trash bag at the top of the stairs for my next trip downstairs. While it sat there, some of the remaining oil dripped through the bag. I picked up the trash bag and carried it downstairs not noticing the puddle of olive oil laying on the floor. When I stepped past it again, I went slipping and sliding across the floor, breaking my knee in the attempt to maintain my balance. So beware of the oil in your trash bags!!!

Happy salve making everyone!!!!