Gardening and health are intrinsically linked. You grow your own fruits and vegetables, so you begin to eat more whole, fresh food. You have to harvest, plant, and tend your garden, so you get more physical activity and daily doses of fresh air and sunshine. However, unless you wear gloves all the time, you probably also experience the dry, cracking hands that come from spending hours digging in the dirt. Thankfully, all the herbs needed to create this soothing hand salve, and make dried out hands a thing of the past, can be grown right in your garden.
What is hand salve?
Hand salve is an ointment (thicker than cream or lotion) that works to surround the hands in a layer of protective ingredients to help heal chapped and chafed skin. Usually, salves are infused with herbs and oils that speed healing and provide a pleasant medicinal scent.
Homemade hand salve
This effective salve can be made for the gardener, from the garden with just a few simple steps. Keep in mind; it is important to thoroughly dry the herbs before making this concoction to avoid any spoilage from excess water stored in the leaves.
Cut herbs when ready to harvest and tie them together in a bundle. Wrap in thin brown paper (recycled grocery bags work great) to prevent dust collection and catch falling leaves. Store in a dry place away from direct sunlight for about 10 days or until leaves crumble when touched. Drying time will vary depending on the humidity in your home.
Herbs you’ll need:
(Hint: It is most rewarding to make this salve with herbs you have grown in your kitchen herb garden. Plan ahead and make sure to plant these useful herbs for next season if you don’t already grow them)
- 1 tsp dried comfrey leaf
- 2 Tbsp dried herb plantain leaf
- 1 Tbsp dried calendula flowers
- 1 tsp dried yarrow flowers
- 1 tsp dried rosemary leaf
Step 1: Infuse Herbs
Easy method: Combine herbs in a pint-sized mason jar with 1 cup olive oil and set on the counter to infuse for at least 3 weeks. Though it takes time, this is the easiest method and will provide you will fragrant, naturally infused olive oil to use in your hand salve. Simply strain the mixture through cheesecloth (making sure to squeeze to remove as much liquid as you can) and store oil in an airtight container until ready to use.
Quick method: If you’re not quite patient enough to wait weeks for your oil to infuse, this method will help speed up the process. Fill the bottom of a small saucepot with about 1 inch of water, and find a bowl that will fit into the pot and still leave about two inches of space between the bottom of the bowl and the water. This double boiler method will keep the oil from burning and allow you to infuse your herbs.
Add 1 cup olive oil and herbs to the bowl and turn the heat to medium. Bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to low, allowing the oil to simmer for 3-4 hours. Strain with a cheesecloth and store oil in an airtight container until ready to use.
Step 2: Combine ingredients
Now that you’ve infused your oil with fragrant, skin-healing herbs, it is time to put it together with other moisturizing ingredients to create your home-grown hand salve.
What you’ll need:
- 1/2 cup herb-infused oil
- 1 Tbsp beeswax pastilles
- 2 Tbsp shea butter
- 20 drops essential oil of choice, optional (lavender or eucalyptus work well)
- Small glass jar or tin with a lid.
- Melt shea butter, beeswax, and herb-infused oil together in a double boiler until melted. Stir well to combine.
- Remove from heat and mix in your favorite essential oil.
- Pour directly into prepared container and seal.
- Let harden in a cool, dry place before using.
- Be sure to keep it in a cool place to avoid melting.
- Use daily on dry cracked hands to help soothe and heal, or any time you come in from the garden.
This rescue salve is incredibly easy to make and is a great gift for friends and family who love to garden or just always seem to have dry hands. Plus, you can tell them it was made with herbs from your very own yard. What better way to spread the joy of gardening!