Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Curio (Potions For Skeptics): The Salves

The word salve, related in origin to the words salvage and save, is technically "an oily substance applied to the skin for the purpose of healing". It ain't sexy, but when needs must, a well-made salve is invaluable.

Sure, there are lots of ways to get to the end result. Mine is to infuse organic, food-grade olive oil with dried flowers (generally for 2-3 hours), to strain the infusion and then to add targeted essential oils (which together with the infusion create a soothing, highly moisturizing balm).

I'm always surprised by the whim of popularity. I mean, of my three salves (all of which have been very well-received, I'm so grateful to say), the Immortelle Salve is the one that's impossible to keep in stock:

Ingredients: Immortelle flowers, Organic Olea Europaea (Olive) Oil, Beeswax, Cananga Odorata (Ylang Ylang) Essential Oil, Helichrysum Angustifolium Essential Oil

Admittedly, immortelle flowers are a veritable metaphor for joy. Have you ever seen them in a field? They're these small, perfectly round, intricate balls of bright yellow. They retain their colour and shape forever (i.e. even when dried) which is one of the reasons why their component properties are touted, in the cosmetics industry, as "youth-restoring". It's also why the flower is sometimes called Everlasting... These flowers are also known, in the herbal scene, for being anti-inflammatory and analgesic - specifically as pertains to rheumatic pain. Happily, the essential oil of this flower (helichrysum) smells gorgeous, cuz I'd be using it either way. It is added to the mixture in the cool-down phase to complement the benefits of the flower.

I devised this salve specifically for my own needs, given my recent experience of myofascial pain, and I am very satisfied with the result. I apply a generous amount (1/2 - 1 tsp) on a relevant area and I gently massage it, for up to 5 minutes, in with a focus on counteracting fascial adhesion. BTW, I drink a glass of water after doing this, the rationale being that adhered connective tissue is almost always dehydrated. Water is believed to assist in the process of tissue restoration and the diminishment of pain.

I'd like to take a moment here to remind you that I'm not selling medicine. I'm sharing my experience - one which is professed by various natural / non-allopathic therapists (and which you may or may not choose to validate). This product is based on a herbal remedy that has been used for numerous generations, presumably successfully or it wouldn't still be around. But that's just my opinion. Use it as you will.

FYI, you can use this product around the eyes. (Fun related fact: There's a post on my newest potion - a hard-won, deliciously rich eye cream - coming soon). I'm not into putting olive oil near my eyes because I wear glasses and it tends to transfer to them. But some have told me that this salve great for that purpose.

Arnica Salve was my first foray into salve-making and I've "tested" this one more than any other - specifically as a massage medium to ameliorate that stupid knee injury I developed last autumn. (Note: Happily, it's dramatically improved, one might say almost gone, for many reasons - one of which, I believe, is the targeted massage of the tendon with this salve...) Unremarkable-looking, dried flowers produce a balm that is not quite as bright as immortelle's, but is nonetheless in the same colour-family.

Arnica has a wide reputation for diminishing muscle pain and is most often found in homeopathic format and in creams or gels. The Europeans love this stuff and, as a person who's been using arnica cream from the homeopath and the health food store, ever since I was a child, I can tell you I find it remarkably useful for all kinds of sprains and exercise-induced muscle tension. It's particularly effective, in my opinion, after gardening or for toddlers who like to bash into things. Side note: I carry arnica pellets (homeopathic remedy) and a travel-sized tin of arnica salve with me everywhere. You never know when you're going to need it - or to share it!

Ingredients: Arnica Montana Flowers, Organic Olea Europaea (Olive) Oil, Organic Beeswax, Origanum Majorana (Marjoram) Essential Oil, Citrus Aurantium Amara (Neroli) Essential Oil

Marjoram essential oil, added when the salve is cooling, is used by herbalists as an antispasmodic and analgesic. From a mood vantage point, the slightly sweet but verdant scent is known for chilling out even the most anxious nutcase. Ask me how I know. I've also added neroli essential oil, mainly because I love it and yeah, it smells terrific.

Please note that arnica should not be applied to broken skin. For broken skin, we have calendula salve...

Ingredients: Calendula Flowers, Organic Olea Europaea (Olive) Oil, Organic Beeswax, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Essential Oil, Citrus Aurantium Amara (Neroli) Essential Oil

Calendula Salve is the one for open booboos and skin conditions like eczema or ultra-dryness (I'm looking at you outdoorsy-types...). This is also the one that you can put on the skin after gardening, for example, but do be sure that you disinfect carefully - with soap and water - before doing so. Why? Well, in addition to this being sound first-aid advice, apparently the impact of this little flower is such that, if you put it on skin that isn't first cleaned, you can end up quickly closing a wound that might thereafter get infected. Note: I've only read this claim. As I'm an uber-disinfecter, I am happy to say that I have no first-hand experience. Point is, don't put it on cat scratches till after you wash your hands. (But aren't we all washing our hands all the time??)

Calendula flowers, you might be intrigued to know, are also used to dye fabric! How multi-purpose is that? While the balm produced from this floral infusion is on the golden end of the spectrum, I find it more honey-coloured than bright...

My calendula salve is completed with the addition of small-batch, Bulgarian lavender essential oil - an excellent anti-bacterial and anti-fungal (in truth, many EOs are, but this one has a particular reputation). It smells like an afternoon in the south of France. And then I throw in a bit of Neroli, cuz well, you know...

As always, if you would like to learn more about these salves, please visit my Etsy store.

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