Growing my own herbs gives me a great opportunity to find ways to utilize them for medicinal purposes. One of the easiest ways to do so is to make ointments or salves.
The basic recipe is to take 2 cups of herb-infused oil and melt 1/4 cup of beeswax into it, then pour into labelled storage containers. Infused oil can either be made in advance and stored, or made at the same time as your ointment. Here are the specifics of how I make two of my favorites.
Nettle ointment - for treating itchy skin, dry rashes and bites (shown finished, front, in picture above)
2 c dried nettle leaf
3 c olive oil
1/4 c beeswax pastilles
Set up two pots as a double boiler (or use a double boiler, if you have one, which I don't) and bring water to boil. Add nettle to top pot and cover with oil, ensuring leaves are completely covered and soaked. Simmer leaves in oil for 30 minutes. Line a strainer with cheesecloth and pour the hot oil and leaves into it. Wrap herb in cheesecloth and press to remove every bit of oil you can. This should make 2 cups.
Wipe out any remaining leaves from the pot, return the oil to it and replace in double boiler. Add beeswax, stirring constantly until melted. When wax is melted, drip a bit off a spoon onto a plate and put it in the freezer for 2 minutes. If it comes out the consistency you want, your're done. If it is still too runny, add a bit more beeswax and repeat until you are satisfied.
Pour into glass or metal containers with lids (I use sterilized baby food jars). Be sure containers are labelled with product and date.
Supposedly this is helpful for arthritis in the fingers as well. I don't have arthritis, so I haven't tried it.
Calendula ointment - for treating scrapes, minor cuts, diaper rash, and dry skin
I make my oil in advance, and keep it on hand for other uses. Because calendula is antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral, you can use the oil straight for many types of skin infections and issues.
To make the oil: Ensure calendula flowers are completely dried. Place in a clean and dry glass jar and pour in enough olive oil to completely cover. The jar needs to be covered, but release of gasses in a tightly sealed glass container filled with oil can result in a God-awful mess. I cover the jar with an unbleached coffee filter and secure it with a large rubber band (I save the ones that come holding asparagus together.). Swirl the mixture a couple of times during the three weeks you will leave it in a sunny window. If so much olive oil is absorbed that the flowers stick out of the top, add more. Strain and press through cheesecloth and return the oil to the jar you used to infuse it in, this time putting a lid on it.
When I harvest my calendula next year and go to make another batch of oil, I will use any that is left from this year's batch.
To make the ointment: Warm the infused oil in a pot on the stove. Add 1/4 cup beeswax pastilles per 2 cups oil, stirring constantly. When wax is melted, drip a bit off a spoon onto a plate and put it in the freezer for 2 minutes. If it comes out the consistency you want, your're done. If it is still too runny, add a bit more beeswax and repeat until you are satisfied. Pour warm mixture into glass or metal containers with lids (I use sterilized baby food jars). Be sure containers are labelled with product and date. They will keep for a year away from heat and direct sunlight.
Variation: For treating nail fungus
Immediately after pouring the warm mixture into the storage jars, stir in a scant 3/4 tsp tea tree oil.