<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> RowanTree -- Preparation of Herbal Oils and Salves
  PREPARATION - Herbal Oils / Ointments   

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Oils are used to maintain contact of the affected body part with the useful components of the appropriate herb. Some components dissolve quite well in oil while others are simply carried by the oil but the final affect is the same -- delivery of the herb. An oil will also protect the skin while it retards loss of moisture.

There are many kinds of oils that can be used - some more expensive or available than others. I like to use olive oil. It's fairly inexpensive, it's available everywhere and it doesn't go rancid quickly - a major consideration when you're making something to be used later.


The general method is to heat the oil in a double-boiler, add the herb, allow to steep for various amounts of time and in various ways, remove the herb, add Vitamin E to the oil (it helps to preserve the freshness longer while adding its own anti-oxidant properties to the mix), store in brown glass jar(s) in a cool dark place.

This simple oil can then be used as is or as the base for an ointment. For some uses, oils can be combined and then made into an ointment. Generally, herbal oils last longer (about 6 months if stored correctly) than ointments (about 2 months) so it is my practice to make up the oils and then use small quantities of the oil to make small batches of ointment for immediate or near-term use.


  1. Warm 1 pint of olive oil in a double-boiler.
  2. Add 1 ounce of chopped herb to the warmed oil. Stir and cover.
  3. Continue to warm (not boil) for 1/2 hour.
  4. * Remove from heat and place contents of pan in container with lid.
  5. Shake the container to continue to mix 3-4 times in 24 hours.*
  6. Strain out herb and discard.
  7. Add the contents of 1 capsule of Vitamin E. Stir and seal tightly in a dark glass bottle.
  8. Store in a cool dark place.

* Alternative Method: Place, covered, in a warm (160-175 degree) oven for 3 hours. Mix once every 45 minutes.

NOTE: After mixing with an herb, olive oil is generally good for about 6 months if you store it right. Be sure to label everything thoroughly, including what is in the mixture and the bottled date. Let your nose keep check. When oil begins to go rancid, you'll be able to smell it.


Oils are easier to apply, especially if the skin is damaged. If necessary, you could put it in a spray bottle and apply it without touching the skin surface with your hands. In the same sense, it also is easy to rub off or be absorbed by the surrounding environment or the clothing of the user. When it is necessary to hold the herbal component in a certain area of the skin for an extended period of time, it is probably better to make and use an ointment.


It is a very simple process. An ointment is created when you add enough wax to the oil to stiffen it up into a cream-like consistency. The key is to add only just enough wax so the end product will maintain the state in which it is best applied. Confused? An example: For burns, you would want an ointment that will liquefy as it is applied in order to put as much of the herbal component down as possible while minimizing any trauma during the application. To use for chapped lips, however, you would want it to be soft enough to apply easily but still stiff enough to remain on the lips, resisting moisture and wear, in order to protect the lips while helping them to mend. The only difference here is the amount of wax added to the oil.


There are many kinds and varieties of wax but for home use, you generally have easy access to two kinds - beeswax and paraffin. As the name states, beeswax is made by honeybees while paraffin is a peroleum derivative. I much prefer beeswax. In fact, I use beeswax that has only been filtered twice - once before I get it and then I filter it once. The end product is a honey-brown wax with a very low melting point and a distinctive honey smell. More refined commercial beeswax will be available through us. If you need an absolutely pristine wax with a higher melting point and no organics, then your choice will be paraffin. We do not sell it but you can buy it in any supermarket. This is the same wax that my Grandma used when she sealed up jars of jelly each year.


  1. Warm 100 ml. of herbal oil in a double-boiler.
  2. While the oil is warming, add 1 ounce of finely chopped beeswax.
  3. Stir until all wax is melted.
  4. Immediately remove from the double boiler.
  5. Continue to stir briskly, allowing a rapid cool-down.
  6. Pour into appropriate containers.
  7. Allow to cool completely.
  8. Cover tightly.
  9. Label carefully and completely.
  10. Store in a cool dark place.

The low melting point of beeswax will help in this process because the ointment can be made without subjecting the herbal oil to damaging high temperatures. If the herb material is too delicate, melt the wax separately and then add to the warmed oil.

Sometimes, no matter how carefully you watch and measure, the ointment will turn out too loose or too tight. This is not really a problem. In either case, remove the ointment from the containers, place in the top of a double-boiler and melt carefully over low heat.

If the ointment is too loose, add more wax in small increments. If the ointment is too tight, add more herbal oil, a little at a time.

Drop a bit on a cool surface and test it with your fingertips until it is the right consistency. Once you have this correct, pour out one container of ointment and allow it to set. Is it the correct consistency in the container? Make a note of any changes in proportions for your future reference. When the consistency is correct, gently rewarm and complete pouring the remaining ointment.

Allow the ointment to cool completely and then tighten the container lids. Label each container carefully, including the ingredients and the date it was poured. Store in a cool dark place. Any ointment remaining after 2 months should be discarded.


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