Tag Archives: frugal healing

Making first aid salve

In the beginning of the summer, I shared how we made a salve for poison ivy.  That worked well, but we discovered one problem with it – since we used coconut oil as the base for it, it became liquid at the summer temps.  Then when we put it in the fridge, it would be hard as a rock when we took it out.  We managed with this, and the salve was great.  But one day when it was in its liquified state, someone knocked the open container over and it all spilled out.  And that was the end of that salve. :(

So I wanted to make another salve, but decided to improve upon what we did last time – namely to improve the consistency and make it less greasy.  I decided to base this recipe on the ingredient list of the all purpose salve that I bought last year.   Going along with the premise that the first ingredients listed are used more heavily, I weighted the herbs I included accordingly. The basic formula for a salve that I used is 3 T. herbs, 2 c. of oil, and 1 1/2 oz beeswax. (Note – in my opinion this isn’t enough beeswax.)

I chose the following herbs: comfrey – 1 part, plantain – 1 part, echinacea leaves -.5 part, yarrow  – .5 part, and a few olive leaves thrown in for kicks.  :)  I made four times the recipe above.  I simmered the herbs in oil for a couple of hours, then strained them out.  That gives you herbal infused oil.  Then you mix the beeswax into the infused oil.  I used pastilles (tiny little beeswax balls) that I bought for this purpose.

(A little off topic, but I ended up buying a huge amount of beeswax – I was going to buy a pound but saw that after shipping, it was $15.  And for $35 I was able to buy eight pounds including shipping from a different site – I had a frugal struggle with myself, trying to decide if it was better to spend less money or to get substantially more for my money – and now I  have enough beeswax for the rest of my life.  I think I’ll have to find a new hobby to use it up or my greatgrandchildren will be making herbal salves to take home with them when they visit me!)

The beeswax didn’t mix in well the first time I melted it – it melted but solidified in a layer on top of the oil.  When the pot with all its ingredients were remelted, it mixed in nicely – I don’t know why it needed a second melting.  After the mixture cools, you can decide if it’s the consistency you like.  If it’s too loose, add some more wax; if it’s too thick, add some more oil.  I wanted it a little firmer so I added about another 3/4 cup of pastilles (it was late and I didn’t feel like measuring it exactly), and remelted the whole batch another two times so it could be mixed in.  At the end I also added the last little bit of an aromatherapy oil mix that I’ve had around for about ten years from my doula days.

This morning my ds16 put all of the salve into jars – we now have about eight cups of salve.  (After he put it into the jars, he told me he thinks we should add a little more beeswax to make it firmer.  I told him that suggestion would have been more useful before he put everything in jars!  But it can be remelted and the wax added if I want to do that.)  I ordered different sized tins to package this in, but they haven’t yet arrived, which is why it’s all been transferred to glass jars.   I made a very large amount because I want to give this as gifts for Chanuka, but the basic recipe above will give you a nice amount.  It’s the kind of salve that most people would find valuable to have around, and to buy a 4 oz can of a similar salve would be about $17.  Using that as a baseline price, ds16 calculated the retail value for what we made to be $271!  It was a fraction of that to make it ourselves.

We tried it out first thing today – our cat got a bad cut on his foot sometime during the early morning, deep enough to see the bone.  So dd8 doctored him up (yes, my eight year old daughter does what I’m too squeamish to do :)).  He licked off the first salve she applied, and kicked off the strip of cotton that she tried to tie it on with, but she applied another thick layer and he left it on.  Even though he was clearly in pain, he seemed to appreciate her putting it on.  This should significantly accelerate the healing.

This salve is good for all kinds of cuts, abrasions, bug bites, itching, and diaper rash.  Good for kids, adults, or even pets.  Very useful stuff!


How to make elderberry syrup

Last night I made my first batch of elderberry syrup.  It is filled with antioxidants and is good for preventing colds or treating them, depending when you take it.  I bought dried elderberries online, but if you are able to pick them fresh locally, all the better!  Here’s how simple it is to make:

Elderberry syrup

  • 1/2 c. dried elderberries (or 1 c. fresh)
  • 1 cinnamon stick (optional)
  • 3 c. water
  • 1 c. honey

Put the berries in a pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover.  Let simmer for 30 – 45 minutes.  Mash the berries with a potato masher, and strain through a fine strainer.  Add honey while liquid is hot, stir, and bottle.  Keep in the fridge – should last 2 – 3 months when refrigerated.

I made four times this recipe and I ended up with three full quarts plus one 16 oz honey jar. I forgot to mash the berries, but since they were dried to start with, I think this was probably less important than when using fresh berries.  I added the cinnamon sticks because they taste good, but also because cinnamon kills bacteria and is great for fighting infections.   I used crystallized honey that was sitting around not being used because the kids said it doesn’t taste as good when it’s crystallized.

Here’s a breakdown of the cost to make it: I bought the dried elderberries for 7.95 lb, and used 2/3 of that (wanted to save some to tincture), so the berries were $5.30.  I used three cups of honey, and if I figured the cost correctly, each cup was $3.33 cup.  That seems high to me (I thought I paid about 2.50 per cup, less when I recently bought small 16 oz containers for 1.99 each), but I based it on googling how many cups of honey are in a gallon (supposedly nine); I buy a gallon/twelve pound container for $30.  So the honey was $10.  I’ll add in .14 for the cinnamon sticks, since I got a container that had thirteen sticks in it for .88 so each stick rounds up to .07.  The total for 12.5 cups of elderberry syrup came out to 15.44.

When you consider 4 fl. oz of Sambucol costs around $12.99, or to use their cheaper price for a larger bottle, 7.8 oz is $21.99, that’s a real bargain! Elderberry syrup from Mountain Rose Herbs is similarly priced with a 4 oz bottle being $13.25.  To put it further into perspective, 4 oz is about a quarter of a cup and 8 oz is half a cup – so I’m getting about thirty five times as much for the same price (my price for 1/4 c. is .31; 1/2 c. is .62).

Because this has a limited shelf life and I don’t want to use up my fridge space hosting three quart sized jars for months, for immediate use I kept one quart plus the little honey jar, and canned the other two quarts so I can keep them on a shelf out of the fridge.

This can be given when a child is showing signs of the cold or a flu, a tablespoon every hour or two, or you can give them a teaspoon each morning as a general immune strengthener.  This could easily be added to tea or (if you let the water boil down more so the final result is thicker) poured on top of pancakes or waffles.  Getting kids to have some of this isn’t hard at all.  This morning we gave the younger kids a teaspoon each, and a minute after ds3 got his spoonful, he came back holding out a cup and asked for a cupful!