For anyone who's ever wanted the most simple, nourishing, therapeutic and basic herbal skin salve (or lip balm), this one's for you. 

Last week, I posted my recipe for Calendula Infused Apricot Oil, a pure and basic combo of calendula flowers and apricot kernel seed oil. This post will utilize that decadent blend as the base for this essential salve. This has been my go-to herbal salve for everything from simple cuts and scrapes to deep wounds and itchy skin. I always keep this little tin with me when I'm out and about, and especially when I'm hiking and backpacking (which is essentially every weekend in the summer and fall). This blend incorporates the soothing, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties of calendula with the delicate, moisturizing base of apricot kernel oil with the additions of beeswax and essential oils. This is the perfect simple salve to make if you're just beginning to make herbal topical remedies - super easy, and still a thorough process to really get you involved in the herbal medicine making process. It's a relationship, after all. 

For this recipe, I keep on hand most ingredients and supplies from Mountain Rose Herbs such as beeswax pastilles, apricot oil and small tins, but you can find many of these ingredients from your local health food store. If you're lucky enough to have calendula flowers growing in your garden, use those! 

Classic Calendula Salve

Calendula Infused Apricot Kernel OIl
Lemongrass essential oil
Orange essential oil

Measure the amount of infused oil that you have in a measuring cup and place it in a small pot (ideally with a pour lip). Turn on very low heat. 

(FYI - Just 1 cup of oil will make PLENTY of little salves...)

Add in beeswax pastilles, approximately 1 ounce of wax per cup of oil that you have. (Keep a small amount aside if adjustments are needed later.)

Warm this mixture on low heat until the wax if fully melted, stirring constantly. 

When the wax is fully melted, dip a metal spoon in the mixture to contain a small amount. Turn off heat. Put the spoon in the refrigerator for about 8-10 minutes to make sure it is solidifying to your liking. If too liquidy or not solidifying into a salve like consistency, add about 1/4 tsp bees wax at a time to the oil mixture and repeat the spoon test until the right consistency is reached. If it cools too hard, add a bit more oil to the blend. 

Once you've got it just right consistency, pour the oil into small 1 or 2 ounce tins and fill just below the rim. Let cool for about 1 minute, then add essential oils. I used Lemongrass and Orange essential oils. 3 drops Lemongrass and 2 drops Orange essential oil per tin. 

Place the tins in the refrigerator to cool until solidified. Cover and store until needed. Carry with you for a simple lip balm, cuticle salve or first aide balm. 



Photography by Renee Byrd in our herbal + photography collaboration

No other herb screams "Sun bursting summer celebration!" like Calendula does for me. These beautiful, vibrantly orange marigold flowers are nothing short of breathtaking when they're growing in a hot summer field, basking in the heavy heat of mid summer. Calendula is always a treat for me, as it's really only available and in high quality during the summer and early fall months, so I can't bask in it's glory all year long. But when I can get my hands on some fresh or dried calendula flowers, I want to make 'em last as long as I can.

Enter infused oils (and get ready for a truly decadent full body treat). 

A few years ago, I discovered that calendula and apricot kernel oil are practically made for each other. They're like botanical soul mates. The first time I infused dried calendula flowers into apricot oil and put it on my skin I swear I could hear my whole body just giggling with appreciation. The delicate balance of apricot oil and soothing calendula is a straight up lifesaver for those with dry, sensitive skin (and all others too, let's be real). And in this way, I can keep calendula with me through the winter and early spring as a decadent bath oil, body oil, main ingredient in AMAZING salves (that one's coming up next) and even lip balms. And, it's amazingly simple to make to boot. 

(Side note - when I make infused oils, tinctures, topical medicines, tea blends etc...I totally feel like I'm at Hogwarts, blending up magical recipes to store away and keep in my botanical apothecary. Have fun with this! Let your inner magic child come out, and get imaginative and creative with your blends. It's hard to go wrong with infused oils!)

Calendula Benefits:

Calendula is excellent topically due to it's anti-inflammatory and mucilage (polysaccharide) content, making it soothing and cooling for dry or inflamed skin. It has been used topically as a vulnerary (wound healing) treatment for centuries, as well as a syptic (to stop bleeding) when applied to wounds on the skin. It also has some mild anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties as well (and a salve made of this is usually a staple in my backpacking first aid kit). 

Calendula Infused Apricot Oil

Dried Calendula Flowers
Apricot Kernal Seed Oil

Take a pint mason jar and pack it with dried calendula flowers, leaving about 1.5 inches at the neck. 

Cover completely with apricot kernel oil and give it a good shake. Let it solar infuse (sit in the summer sun) for 4 days, shaking once a day.  

(Another faster option is to put it in a pot, 3/4 filled with water on the stove on LOW heat for about 6 hours. Be careful this way, because if it gets too hot the oil will burn, or the glass may crack. A crock put on low heat also works). 

Take a thin bandana, old cloth shirt, or fine cheese cloth and strain all of the oil out into a clean jar and store away for later use. 



Photos by Renee Byrd, on the first of our many herbal+photography collaborations together <3

Starting in 2009, I began working part time in the supplement section of a local health food store in Maryland wherein I was completely submersed in the overwhelming (and often unnecessary) world of dietary and herbal supplements. When I started, I knew absolutely NOTHING. I was just starting my masters degree in herbal medicine and nutrition, and they hired me on the spot because I would "catch on quickly and learn my way around". True that - after about 6 months I felt like I could navigate the in's and out's of all of those CoQ10's and calcium combinations, and after 5 more years I could talk about supplements, brands, products and manufacturing practices all day. At the end of last year, December 2014, was when I finally parted ways with working in the supplement section of health food stores having been a member of three different awesome stores from Maryland to Virginia. 

I still keep close ties with Ellwood Thompsons (I'm their health coach and offer FREE appointments there, as well as consult with them on incoming products) and their supplement section is a big part of their offering. I'm constantly talking with people about how to choose supplements, which ones are necessary and which ones may not be, how to read labels, and how to research product companies to get high quality products. Making educated decisions about supplements, both dietary and herbal, is essential if you plan to continue taking supplements for any long period of time. The supplement world is not really regulated, it's self regulated, so making sure to buy supplements from reputable and clean sources is of utmost importance. Not all supplements are created equal, and as a general rule of thumb, you get what you pay for. 

As a nutritionist, my philosophy and practice is to almost always try to get the nutrients we need from actual whole foods and nutrient rich herbs not supplements. The only time I recommend supplements is if, 1) the person cannot eat or does not have access to certain foods for particular nutrients, or 2) they have a legit absorption issue where they cannot absorb the nutrients they need from food. There is a time and place for dietary supplements (and as a culture we're extremely lucky to have them), however I feel that they're often overused, and used as a replacement for good, solid nutrient rich foods. People feel like they can slack off on their diet if they're taking supplements, and it just doesn't work like that. 

There are some products that are designed to enhance nutrients or support digestion that, when still eating a wholesome organic diet, can be nice to have on hand as part of your daily nutrition practice. I keep only a few things around that I take on a daily basis that serve my individual nutrient needs, and this will vary from person to person. 

1. Fish Oil - I don't eat fish (or anything that came out of the water) EVER. I just can't handle it, smell it, touch it or look at it. I can't even go to an aquarium. I absolutely know that I need to supplement with this omega-3 rich oil due to the extreme lack of it in my diet. Omega-3 (and omega-9) are essential fatty acids because they body does not make them - they must be obtained through foods like salmon, cod and anchovies, or through nuts and seeds like chia, flax, walnuts and hemp seeds (which I eat on a daily basis). Make extra sure to find high quality fish oil - here's why

2. Probiotics - If there's one supplement I think almost everyone could benefit from, it's a good quality, comprehensive probiotic. These little bacterial critters play an enormous role in our digestive health, overall immunity, emotional stability, and even help to manufacture mood stabilizing hormones like dopamine, taurine and serotonin. The probiotics in our gut can be influenced by a variety of factors like environmental inputs, chronic stress, anti-biotic or pharmaceutical drug use and of course our daily diet. It's so easy to deplete the probiotic reserves in our body that it's almost always helpful to supplement with extra probiotics to help maintain the balance. Also eating fermented foods like kimchi, kraut, kombucha, kefir, yogurt and miso will help increase probiotics too!

3. Turmeric - I eat this as often as I can with foods, and I also either take a capsule with each meal, or mix about 1/2 teaspoon in some water daily for increased anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory support. Although many supplement companies tout the benefits of only taking curcumin alone, it's my stead fast belief that utilizing the entire root of turmeric works much more efficiently and comprehensively in the body that one single constituent alone. The same can be said for almost any herb that people tend to want standardize. 

4. Triphala - In Ayurveda, this three-fruit blend of amalaki, bibhitaki & hiritaki has been used for generations to support digestion - especially the lower bowel and colon. It is considered tri-dosha and supportive of any constitution to both gently cleanse the lower digestive tract while also being extremely building and nourishing. Ayurvedic philosophy considers the colon to absorb the "prana" or life force from foods, and keeping a healthy and strong digestive, cardiovascular and lymphatic flow is essential for the absorption of prana into our body. 

5. Greens Powder - I only take this during the days or seasons when I can't get "enough" greens on my plate. Although almost every meal I have usually has veggies and fruits of some kind, if a day to two goes by and I just crave some extra greens, I'll mix some organic greens powder in some water or juice for an extra dose of minerals instead of taking a multi-vitamin. I also drink these anytime I would like some freshly made juice in the winter time when I don't have access to my favorite juicing veggies. I usually alternate between Amazing Grass and Health Force

Every now and then, I'll throw in some extra supplements depending on the season or my fluctuating state of health. These are the essentials though and tend to find their way into my daily routine almost 100% of the time. I'll have further posts on how to navigate deciding on, purchasing and researching supplements in the future, too! What have been the essential nourishing items in your medicine chest over the years?

Herbal medicine and nutrition is my expertise. Understanding plants, their properties, and their powers is my passion.


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