Yarrow is one of those wonderful plant allies, like plantain and self-heal, that just always seem to be underfoot when you need them. Scattered over much of the US, these medicines lie in wait for when you’re out and about in nature and need them. It is great for stopping bleeding and getting the itch out of bites. But maybe you live in an area where they’re not so readily available. Learn how to make a salve so this wonderful medicinal plant is always with you.
A great resource for learning more about yarrow is Magickal and Medicinal Herbs: Yarrow.
Lake Country Journal has excellent directions on what to do if you’re out in the back country and manage to hurt yourself anywhere near growing yarrow. “Make a poultice with the fresh or dried yarrow flower tops. Chew up or grind up then pack into and on a gash, laceration or any severe wound. Wrap it up and leave on until bleeding has stopped. Yarrow actually works best the more intense the bleeding. It can also be compressed on the skin where there is lingering discolored bruises inflamed cuts.”
Of course, I like to be a bit more prepared when I head out into the backcountry — or even just off the sidewalk for that matter. What can I say? I have four kids. One of them always manages to hurt themselves somehow. So besides always having a mini first aid kit in my purse, I also find myself constantly asking, “Do you have your cast color picked out?” I don’t know if it’s sheer luck or the question that perhaps instills a sense of caution in their actions, but we’ve only ever had one cast between the four of them.
One of the ways I stay prepared for disaster is keeping salves on hand. Fairy Magic, with lavender and calendula, is one of our favorites, but yarrow makes a really good salve too. In fact, as you learn more about it, you might start to think that yarrow is good for everything, and it does seem that way. But yarrow, like echinacea, is definitely a first aid herb rather than an every day one.
- Bee Stings
- Stop bleeding in minor cuts
- Bug Bites
- Diaper Rash
- Marshmallow Root
Making a salve is a fairly easy endeavor. It’s basically just a combination of an infused oil and beeswax. You can get fancy and add things like vitamin E and essential oils, but they’re not really necessary. The plants know what they’re doing.
A few tips from The Herbal Academy for making herb-infused oils:
- For best results, we recommend using high-quality dried herbs, as they will not contribute to spoilage, and you will have a longer-lasting product.
- While fresh herbs can be used in herb-infused oils for topical use and are preferred for some herbs, such as St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) aerial parts and mullein (Verbascum thapsus) flowers, care must be taken to minimize moisture in the finished product to decrease the chance of growth of mold or bacteria.
- Culinary oils meant for internal use should be made with dried herbs to minimize the risk of botulism.
- You can use one herb to make your herb-infused oil or you can blend herbs to create a formula for your herb-infused oil. The choices are endless and completely up to you!
- Always use dry, sterilized jars with tight-fitting lids when making herb-infused oils to reduce the chance of bacteria or mold growth or your oils going rancid due to oxidation.
- Be sure to label jars and bottles with dates and ingredients during the infusion process and after bottling for storage.
So let’s get started shall we?
Enough dried herb to fill your jar half full
OR enough wilted fresh herb to almost fill your jar
Enough oil to top off the jar
Beeswax pellets OR shaved beeswax (1oz for every 4oz of infused oil)
- Choose your herbs. You can use fresh or dried. If using fresh, just make sure that they are clean, dry, and have been allowed to wilt for a day or two. You don’t want any stray water content getting into the oil and causing it to mold. If you choose to include more than one herb, just make sure that the total amount of plant matter stays the same as the recipe description or it will throw off your ratios.
- Choose your oil. You’re going to be putting this on your skin so choose an oil that absorbs well or you’ll end up a greasy mess every time you pull out your salve. Olive oil works well, as does almond, apricot, avocado, coconut, grapeseed, and jojoba. This list isn’t exhaustive. There are lots of oils to choose from and you should take some time to get to know them in your herbal studies. The easiest thing to grab is normally olive oil so that’s what we’re going to use today.
- Add oil to herbs. There are different ways to infuse herbs to oil, but I think the slow methods are easiest to master, so we’re going to use the Solar Method for this one. We’re also going to use the Folk Method rather than the Ratio Method. As you progress through your herbal studies, you’ll get the chance to try other methods. Simply fill a dry, sterilized container ½ full with dried herbs (or almost full of fresh herbs) and pour room-temperature oil over the herb(s), making sure to completely cover the herb(s) by 1 inch. Label your jar before filling or immediately after, but please don’t rely on memory alone.
- Wait. This is the hard part. It’s going to take a week or two for the herbs and the oil to do their magic. During that time, you want your jar sitting on a windowsill in the direct sunlight. Every few days, pick it up and roll it around in your hands to redistribute the herbs and oil and make sure everything stays covered. And I know all those jars of herb and oil are pretty but leaving them to the mercy of the sun is a little like going out without sunscreen. So before you place the jar in your windowsill, you’re going to want to place it in a brown paper bag (like we all used to use for lunch) or wrap it up in an opaque cloth. It’s the heat from the sun we want for than the light. Sunlight is actually a great decay-er, and we don’t want to break down our medicine before we ever get to use it.
- Strain. After the agonizing wait is over, strain through cheesecloth into a clean jar for storage or straight into your pan for immediate use. Bundle up the cloth and squeeze out as much oil as possible. Compost your herbs.
- Combine. Pour your infused oil into a small pan over low to medium heat and add your beeswax. More beeswax will result in a firmer final product. Less beeswax will result in a squishier one. Remove from heat once the beeswax pellets have completely dissolved.
- Add and Pour. If you’re adding any essential oils, now is the time. Stir them in and then pour the oil into your final containers.
- Label. As always, label your containers. Once the herbs are strained, one salve pretty much looks the same as any other so you’ll want a good label to remind you of what you’re grabbing.
And that’s it! As soon as your salve cools and hardens, it’s ready to use. I like to make two different sizes of salves, a smaller one for my purse for those on the go emergencies, and another larger one for the shelf at home since disaster is just as likely to hit in the kitchen or the backyard as it is in the backcountry.
You can purchase the herbs necessary for this project in the Apothecary.
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Disclaimer: Please note that I am a not medical professional and everything written here is a product of my own research. Don’t take any advice given here over that of a trained doctor. If you ingest any herbs, always make sure that you’re 100% sure that they’re safe. If you’re pregnant or giving to a child, always consult a doctor before ingesting herbs and plant you aren’t familiar with.
– Graham, A. (2018) She is of the Woods. Meeting Yarrow in the Wild! YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FN9IVUczVeA
– Lake Country Journal (2018) Yarrow Recipes You Should Try. http://www.lakecountryjournal.com/yarrow-recipes-you-should-try/
– Adelmann, M. (2013) How to Make Herb-Infused Oils. http://www.theherbalacademy.com/herb-infused-oils/
– Notes from my studies at Vintage Remedies: School of Natural Health.
– Additional information collected from various sources including personal experience and synthesized in my personal materia medica.