DIY Miracle Healing Salve: Wild Plant Edition

A number of years back, I found Gaye’s recipe for an essential-oil based DIY Miracle Healing Salve that she found effective on everything from cuts and rashes to sore muscles and eczema. I made the recipe, and have been using it ever since as my go-to first aid salve, replacing Neosporin, Cortisone, aloe vera gel, and other relatively pricey products from the local pharmacy.

In a survival or bug-out situation, however, essential oils may not be available. Once your existing stock runs out, it could easily become difficult or impossible to replace them. That’s why knowing a few common wild medicinal plants can be a life-saver.

A whole array of plants with medicinal qualities grow commonly in yards and urban areas, giving you a surprising bounty of raw material to make your own DIY Miracle Healing Salve even without any essential oils.

Using Common Medicinal Backyard Weeds

To help you be able to make your own medicine regardless of essential oil availability, I’ve re-imagined Gaye’s original recipe with some of these common medicinal backyard weeds. I have listed a number of plants for the ingredients that all have similar healing qualities, so finding and using any combination of them will make a potent salve.

Making Medicinal Plant Salve

If you’re in a survival situation and don’t have coconut oil, you could make a liquid rub with olive oil or any other fat that is safe to spread onto skin. You could conceivably even process animal fat for this purpose.

The thing I use this stuff for most is mosquito bites, which I get all over my body in the form of itchy red welts. Mosquitos are a scourge during southern summers, and aside from a momentary cooling sensation, nothing I’ve ever bought at the store seems to help the itch.

After rubbing on a generous amount of this wild plant-based miracle salve, on the other hand, I completely forget about the bites after about five minutes. The itch is erased.

I use it in any of the ways I’d use Gaye’s original healing miracle salve: cuts, scrapes, wounds, boils, rashes, you name it! After giving some of it as a gift, I even got feedback that it helped relieve itching associated with menopause. It’s also pet-safe!

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 cups coconut oil
  • Half a teaspoon of olive oil infused with vitamin E (optional, but adds nutrients and acts as a preservative)
  • 5 tablespoons beeswax
  • 1-2 cups slightly crushed medicinal leaves and flowers

Medicinal Plants:

Below is a quick listing of the plants that you can use, with some identifying characteristics and images. Look for these in your yard and around your property, and you’re likely to find many of them just beyond your door. They even grow in parking lots!

For details on the medicinal properties of each of these, take a look at this great resource. I’d expect a salve that used any combination of 2-4 of these plants to be effective, but at the risk of overkill, my version uses them all:

1. Common Plantain Leaves (Plantago major)

Common Plantain has nothing to do with the banana plantains you see in stores. It has tough ovoid leaves with distinctive veins, and grows in a basal rosette. Tiny flowers form on a stalk.

Rasbak Plantain

Once a mainstay in native Indian medicine, homeowners from California to Maine now work all spring and summer trying to vanquish this powerful healing plant from their yards.

 

Sidewalk Plantain Leaf
Withered Plantain Leaves

It is very similar to the common broadleaf variety, except the leaves are lanceolate instead of ovoid.

2. Narrowleaf Plantain Leaves (Plantago lanceolata)

This cousin of the broadleaf plantain has tough, lance-shaped leaves that grow in a basal rosette near disturbed lots, roadsides, and lawns.

3. Ground Ivy Leaves (Glechoma hederacea)

Ground Ivy is a creeping plant with scalloped leaves and small blue flowers. All parts smell minty when crushed.

Ground Ivy Leaf Flowers

The stem is square, not round, and leaves are alternate, meaning the leaf pairs appear in a staggered pattern along the stem.

Ground Ivy Leaves

4. Wood Sorrel Leaves (Oxalis)

Usually mistaken as clovers, wood sorrel leaves have a shamrock-like appearance.

Wood Sorrel Leaves

The flowers are small and can be either white, yellow, pink, or purple.

Wood Sorrel Flowers

5. Red and White Clover Flowers (Trifolium pratense/Trifolium repens)

For most newbie foragers, this common weed is as easy to identify as a dandelion. The flowers have been prized for centuries for their medicinal qualities.

Red Clover
White Clover Flowers

Step 1: Gather and Crush the Plants

I used about two cups’ worth of total plant material for a liter or so of salve, using approximately equal amounts of each plant with the exception of wood sorrel, which I only used a very small amount of.

You can make a smaller recipe and the amount of plant matter doesn’t have to be precise, just err on the side of too much to ensure your formula is potent enough. Once they are gathered, use a colander to rinse them thoroughly.

Rinsing the Plants

Then use a mortar and pestle or other technique to crush them slightly, just enough so that those membranes are broken and the leaves release a bit of juice.

Plants before Crushing
Plants after Crushing

Then I put them into a pot with the coconut oil.

Step 2: Patiently Simmer

Melt the coconut oil at extremely low heat, and make sure you’ve used enough oil that the plant matter is submerged once it melts. Now all you do is simmer, simmer, simmer.

I left mine on for about three hours, but it might be better to leave it on even longer to ease out more of those active chemicals from the plants. The oil should turn a nice green color.

Plant Salve before Hardening

After a few hours or more of simmering, strain the liquid out. There may be some plant matter that finds its way through, which is fine. I didn’t have cheese cloth, but it would have helped to keep some of that extra plant material out of my final product. I like to really try to squeeze the plants to get out as much of the oil as I can.

Step 3: Cool Down

Now just let it cool for about 24 hours. It should keep fresh for a long time – I’d say up to a year or longer in the fridge.

Salve Lightens as it Cools

If you’re going to refrigerate yours, just rub your fingers on the salve until the warmth from the friction softens it enough to be applied.

Wild plant-based healing salve is cheaper, fun to make, and is even stronger and more effective (in my experience) than the myriad over-the-counter products it replaces. See what plants you find in your yard, and make a salve that renders store-bought first aid ointments obsolete!

Author Bio: Eric is a nature-loving writer, experience junkie, and former Boy Scout who never forgot that time-honored Scout Motto: Be prepared. Aside from camping and survival, he loves writing about travel, history, and anything he finds strange and unique!


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  1. Plantain (the weed) is amazing for anything skin related especially bug bites. If you do any research into this wonderful weed, you come across “spit poltice” to use for a bee sting.

    You can make the infused oil by putting the weeds into a glass canning jar with your oil(s), lining a crock pot with a small towel, placing the jar(s) into that, adding some water and simmering that way for a couple of days. Or drying the weeds, putting them in jars with oil and leaving them set for at least 6 weeks. I do not recommend using fresh plant material if you are not heating the oil. Trust me when I tell you it can be quite nasty (and very disappointing).

    One thing I love to add to my ointment for bug bites (itchy skin salve) is cortisone OINTMENT (not creme). This salve with plantain and cortisone ointment keeps my son from scratching his legs bloody from bug bite reactions.

    1. Hi Fran! Eric, the author here. Olive oil is optional — you can add some if your end result is too thick, or as an alternative base to the coconut oil if you’re in a survival situation where coconut oil is too hard to find but you have extra olive oil lying around.

      I recommend adding the beeswax at the very end and letting it melt very slowly, then give it a final stir and pour into your jars. You can adjust the amounts of beeswax if the final, cooled product is too thin or too thick. Just keep in mind, due to the melting point of coconut oil, that in hot temperatures it will get more melty if you have less beeswax incorporated.

      You can add in some shea or cocoa butter to thicken it as well, this will help it be less melty in hot temperatures. I tried to give some extra options to make the recipe adaptable in survival situations where one material might be more plentiful or easy to obtain than another. The most important part is identifying the right plant(s) to use, and making sure you simmer long enough to get those medicinal ingredients out of the leaves and flowers.

      Hope this helps! Thanks for reading 🙂

  2. Other plants you can use which also grow wild are Self Heal, Yarrow, Monarda (Bee Balm), and pine or spruce pitch infused oil which has to be heated to infuse the oil.
    The Self Heal and Yarrow are traditional wound herbs, Monarda is a powerful anti-microbeal as is pitch oil, which I’ve used topically for sinus infection and tracheal congestion as well as the usual cuts and scrapes

  3. The article mentioned getting are up by skeeters, mosquitoes for anyone north of the mason dixon. Yarrow is reputed as a good skeeter repellent, which I’ve had complements so can’t argue with success. Soak the leaves, wouldn’t hurt to include flowers in alkyhol (alcohol for those north of the mason dixon), then strain off. Put a couple drops of lavender earl (oil for those north of the mason dixon) & shake. Apply liberally. Which yarrow I experienced helps wounds heal too.
    If you get stung by bees, wasps, yellow jackets, ambesol or oragel will help kill the pain. I’ve used it for severe burns too. Waterjel is good for burns as it helps stop burning tissue where you get burned and the burn continues to burn more, my experience and its’ claim is, it prevents this and like oragel or ambesol, it has benzocaine in it too which helps with the pain.
    If you have kidney stones, noted by pain around kidneys like something moving, occassional severe pain when peeing, like something passed through ureter, other symptoms, marshmallow root, the whole root boiled and strained off, then mixed with drinks from my experience helps pass them. Kind of like dipping a flathead screwdriver in who oil treatment then trying to hold the flat end, you can’t do it, or used to not could, they may have changed, because it’s so slippery. Likewise marshmallow root, slippery elm taken continuously builds up a slick coating that makes solids slide easier, where it’s said to help with some bowel conditions. But consult your doctor as like with other foods, it c an affect absorbtion of medications. Think about sweat, it’s fluid, but run your hands hard enough, you vs make them grip. There’s something else, like some meds, but it’s a plant that is said to dilate the ureters to help pass a stone. I’m only stating my experience. What you do is your own business.

  4. Hi,
    I’m not an expert but after years of making medicinal products & edible foods from wild plants I’d recommend the following instructions. It is not the only method, I’m not trying to contradict anyone, it is just the method I prefer.

    It is always best to first dry the plant parts you are going to use if you are going to make an oil infusion. Water from fresh plants can cause your final product to go bad very quickly, even if it is kept refrigerated.
    If you are going to use beeswax to thicken your infusion try the following method.
    1. Infuse the dried plant matter in the heated oil for 30 – 60 minutes, longer is unnecessary.
    2. Strain thoroughly. (Any plant bits you leave can cause the oil to go rancid)
    3. Return the infused oil to the stove on low heat.
    4. Slowly add beeswax pellets or finely chopped beeswax to the heated oil and stir slowly until they are melted and totally incorporated into the oil. You now have a salve!
    5. Before pouring into tins or jars, test the thickness of the salve by placing a small amount on a plate and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes. Test thickness. If the salve is too thick add more infused oil; if too thin, add a bit more beeswax until the desired thickness is achieved.
    6. Pour into tins or small airtight jars and use as needed.
    Use Q-tips or small plastic “spoons” found online to remove the amount of salve you want to use each time. Using fingers can add bacteria to your salve which can make it almost worthless.

    Note: Try not to use plants found next to busy road roads. They’ve been subjected to engine exhaust and other pollutants and should only to be used as a last resort.

    The above information can be found in any book written by Rosemary Gladstar. The books are all easy to understand, provide easy to follow instruction and a ton of info on many other “wild” medicinal plants.

    Best of luck everyone!

    JM

    1. Thank you for the clear explanation and the book recommendation. It’s very important to not only learn the process, buy why the plants work and what medicinal properties they have.

  5. I have Herb Robert growing all around my small urban home. This last year I noticed that I had no problems with Fleas and Mosquito,s. My brother came to me complaining about why he had some but I didn’t. Too funny. At the 4th of July picnic in my brothers backyard, everybody went to my yard, picked some and just rubbed it on their arms and neck. Love it.

  6. This is Good teaching on plants. Keep it up. I guess I’m old school I like books. If you like a hard reference fallow my linkhttp://bit.ly/2G02Y1a

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