Pain Salve for Wood Chopping Hands & Some Notes on Salve Bases

3 Parts Larrea leaf/flower infused oil
2 Parts Cottonwood bud infused oil
1 Part Cypress (or Thuja) leaf/berry infused oil
1 Part Ginger root infused oil
Sprinkle of Chile powder (you can use Cayenne, but I prefer Chile Piquin myself)

Blend oils and Chile powder, then add melted beeswax until you reach your desired consistency. I’m assuming you know how to make a basic salve. If not, wait until I do my post on basic medicine making and then makes this salve ;)

Another method is to either add lanolin to the infused oils, or to actually infuse the herbs directly into lanolin or lard or ghee or whatever happy, wholesome kind of animal fat you’ve got on hand. This latter method needs to be done over a low heat for a long time. Some people do this in a double boiler, but me, I just pop it all into a skillet on a cool corner of the woodstove and stir frequently. When the herbs are somewhat crispy and the fat has taken on the color/scent of the plant matter, it’s done. This is the time honored way of making salve by a great many peoples, and variations on this are still used in Chinese Medicine, and other traditional systems of medicine. Animal fats absorb better into human skin than vegetable oils and are far preferable for burns or other hot skin conditions.

Yes, lanolin does smell pretty funky, but aren’t medicines supposed to have, um, character? Besides, you’ll most likely grow fond of it after a while. Some people have lanolin sensitivities so you’ll want to be sure have your salve jar clearly labeled that it contains it. I’ve never met anyone with a lard sensitivity, except vegans, but that’s different.

Anyhow, this makes a pain relieving and very healing salve for chapped, sore, ax handle battered hands. It works quite quickly and is amazingly effective. The Larrea can be removed if you’re not a Southwesterner and the salve will still work well. It’s most beneficial if used soon after the battering or chapping, but will be helpful at any point.

Other optional ingredients are Alder bark or leaf, black Pepper, Rosemary, Juniper, Comfrey or even some strong Peppermint or Wild Mint. The point is to have penetrating, tissue healing, circulatory stimulant and anti-inflammatory actions involved here. Often, aromatic and resinous herbs fall into these categories and you will find world-wide use of certain common plants like Cottonwood, Cypress and Juniper for muscular pain.

Note: If you make salve in a skillet and you use aromatic herbs like Larrea or Cottonwood that aren’t exactly culinary, you should probably not use cast iron because it absorbs flavor unless you’re going to dedicate the skillet to that purpose. Otherwise, your bacon and eggs could taste like Creosote Bush ~forever~

8 Comments

  1. kristine
    Dec 3, 2007

    i’m hoping we acquire a deer this year so i can make some salves with the tallow. i’ve heard it’s some of the yummiest animal fat available to make salve with. lanolin is nice but reminds me of breastfeeding woes since i used it heavily any time i had soreness.

    this salve sounds wonderful. i just may need to whip some up since we’ve just converted our heating from gas (ugh) to wood. i see lots of chopping in our future.

  2. Kiva Rose
    Dec 3, 2007

    deer don’t have much fat, but what they do have is very nice. there’s a reason many traditional recipes calling for wild fat refer to bear or beaver, since they have so much more fat on their body.

    good, pasture raised lard is also an amazing substance for making salves.

    congrats on the wood stove, a good stove makes life so much nicer. I love our antique beauties, but the new airtight models are awfully efficient.

  3. jim mcdonald
    Dec 3, 2007

    lanolin in salves kicks ass. I haven’t made a salve without lanolin since I first started using it. Not only does it help with absorption, but it helps to blend the oil & beeswax into something approaching creamy…

  4. MaDonaVerde
    Dec 3, 2007

    So where does one source lanolin????

    (says she who lives in the big ole’ city ;-)

  5. Melissa
    Dec 5, 2007

    I’m wondering the same thing as MDV…is there a source to get organic lanolin? The only lanolin I’ve ever seen in Lansinoh in the baby section at Wal-Mart and Target. :(

  6. Kiva Rose
    Dec 6, 2007

    I believe you can get it at natural food store and through amazon…. you might also find small time sheep farmers that sell meat online, they might sell lanolin too… If I find a really good source I’ll post it, I’m just using NOW brand at the moment but am looking for a smaller source. jim might know though… jim?

  7. Dodie
    Jan 8, 2010

    You mentioned your Canyon salve in another article made with cottonwood, alder, moonwort and pine. What part of the alder tree and pine tree do you use for this salve?For the pain salve, is there anything more regional to use in place of the ginger root? Thanks for your help.

  8. Ceniza
    Jul 14, 2012

    I’ve read about distilling cypress to possess the oil but I’m wondering if it is possible to make a simpler oil by infusing the branches in oil like for other leafy plants? and also, if that is possible, is there a oil that best compliments cypress?

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