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Make an Awesome Cayenne Salve for Pain Relief

Avatar for Jodie Weston Jodie Weston  |  Updated: November 24, 2020
Make an Awesome Cayenne Salve for Pain Relief

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A few months back I made a batch of Cayenne Salve.  It was simple to do.  After infusing the ground cayenne pepper in olive oil, I added some beeswax and was good to go.  My feeling was this: if a catastrophic disruptive event occurred, after a year or two I would exhaust my supply of pain relieving essential oils and then what?

The answer, I hoped, was to infuse spices and herbs in a carrier oil and use the resulting concoction instead.  If I could turn the results into a salve, all the better.

Fortunately, infusing spices and dried herbs is very easy to do.  It does take a couple of weeks but other than that, all you need is a carrier oil, your spice and herb mixture, and a covered jar.  It really does not get much simpler than that.

Make an Awesome Cayenne Salve for Pain Relief - Backdoor Survival

Here in my own household, my first attempt at creating a pain relieving cayenne salve was met with mixed results. I personally do not have many aches and pains so self-testing was not an option.  On the other hand, the Survival Husband is a walking pain machine.  The problem was that he was achieving such good results, fantastic actually, with “The Birch” salve, that he was loath to change.

Recognizing the importance of having an alternative to essential oils for pain relief, I took my missive out to readers via the weekly Survival Buzz.  I was thrilled to find a volunteer to test the salve and now, two months later, the reports are glowing.  This stuff really works on chronic pain resulting from woes such as arthritis, sore and stiff muscles, and more.

Test Results from the Field

When I sent my DIY Cayenne Salve to Dee in Oregon, I was cautiously optimistic about the results.  I knew that Dee was already a proponent of natural medicine and cayenne in particular.  It is one of the ingredients in the tonic she uses and also in the tonic that prevented me from having to have a root canal.

Initially she wrote and said that she had been “having fun watching reactions to people trying your salve. Only had one who didn’t like it.  Tried it on 8 different people and each found it worked well enough they want to know where they can buy some.  So….are you making enough to sell? “

Note:  Nope.  I am not selling anything.  This is so simple to make that you can do it yourself!

I needed more information, naturally, and asked about the type of pain that the Cayenne Salve appeared to mitigate.  Here is what she had to say:

As to your cream, I had a couple of people with arthritis in their hands who applied it.  They felt significantly less pain almost immediately. Enough so in a couple of weeks, I’ll be hosting them so they can learn how to make your salve.

Another who has aches and pains but no dx, she too, was helped enough so she could function w/o pharma meds during the daily chores.  One young woman in her early 30s was having pain in her hips (no knowledge as to why). She applied it to them on several occasions and she has said it works almost as good as my pain tonic. She’s tried both now.

I did have one who wouldn’t try it since I had told him it had cayenne in it.  As to myself, when my pain level gets to 7, using your salve and my tonic, eliminates the pain for hours.

There may be something to the idea that for some it takes a few weeks but I didn’t find any of that in my limited number to subjects.

In further research, it seems even used topically, it helps the circulation. Enough so that one person who has tingling in her hands and tried it, it helped her to get feeling back into her hands.  I do not begin to understand all this. I am still amazed.

My Cayenne Salve Recipe for Pain Relief

This is another one of those DIY recipes that is so simple it is embarrassing.  I will first share the basic recipe that suggest some variations.

1/2 cup olive oil (or 1/4 cup each coconut oil and olive oil)
1 tablespoon ground or powdered cayenne peppers
1 1/2 tablespoon beeswax pellets

Optional:  1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper flakes

1.  The first thing you are going to do is infuse the oil.  This can be done in the top of a double boiler but I found it simpler to use a Pyrex measuring cup or mason jar sitting in a water bath on the stove.  Combine the oils and the cayenne in your vessel and set aside.

Make an Awesome Cayenne Salve for Pain Relief - Backdoor Survival

2.  Heat the water until is boils then turn down the flame to low and let the jar of oil and cayenne steep in the water bath for about an hour.  Turn off the burner.

Make an Awesome Cayenne Salve for Pain Relief - Backdoor Survival

3.  Stir up your infusion and let it sit for awhile.

4.  After an hour or two, or the next day it really does not matter, repeat the process in #2 and #3.

Optional:  At this point I got lazy and let my infusion sit around for a week.  I am not sure whether that made it stronger and more potent but it certainly did not hurt. Because I used half coconut oil, before proceeding to the next step, I gently heated the infusion so that it was liquid again.

5.  After the second session, get out your cheesecloth and strain the infused oil into a clean glass cup or mason jar.  Hopefully you will remove most of the spice which, while not a bother, can feel a bit gritty on the skin.

Make an Awesome Cayenne Salve for Pain Relief - Backdoor Survival

Make an Awesome Cayenne Salve for Pain Relief - Backdoor Survival

I actually set the cheesecloth on top of a small strainer to “double strain” but this is totally optional.

Make an Awesome Cayenne Salve for Pain Relief - Backdoor Survival

6.  Add the beeswax and return your infused oil and beeswax mixture to the water bath.  Set the burner on low and allow the beeswax to melt, stirring occasionally.  You want a nice slow melt.

7.  When done, pour your liquid salve into a jar or tin and allow it to cool.  I have no qualms using plastic jars but given a choice prefer glass jars.

Make an Awesome Cayenne Salve for Pain Relief - Backdoor Survival

The salve sets up quickly.  This is within minutes of pouring it into the jar.

This will make about 4 ounces but can easily be doubled or tripled.

Note: If you grow your own cayenne peppers, you can dry them out and use a mortar and pestle to grind them up. Cayenne peppers are very easy to grow. Just a few bushes will yield all the peppers the average family will need unless they eat hot peppers for every meal or something.

Here’s the thing: the smell is not too pretty.  That will not matter during SHFT but to sweeten things up plus add extra pain-relieving benefits, you can add 8 to 10 drops of clove bud or peppermint essential oil to the salve.  You will want to do this before you add the warm liquid to your jar or tin then stir it up a bit after the fact.

Resource:  The Miracle of Cloves and Clove Oil and The Miracle of Peppermint Oil: 20 Practical Uses for Survival

Although I have not tried it myself, you could substitute ginger or turmeric or even combine one or the other with the Cayenne.  Both spices have their own healing properties that would be useful in a salve.

The last variation I will propose is making your Cayenne Salve in a stick, or lotion bar form.  The only change in the formula would be to use 2.5 tablespoons of beeswax pellets.  For some, rolling on the salve may be more desirable then dipping your fingers into a jar.  I have purchased empty stick containers to use for this purpose but you can also re-use old deodorant containers.

Resource:  Learn about making lotion bars in the article Make Your Own Healing Lotion Bars

How to Use Cayenne Salve

This salve is great for aches and pains, including joint pain from arthritis, sore muscles, stiffness swelling an inflammation.  It is probably not a good idea to use on open wounds, though, because it may sting.  Also, it may stain so be mindful of your clothing.

That said, one thing you can do to prevent staining is to really rub it in well.  You want to massage it gently into your achy muscles and not simply let it sit on top of the skin.  It you skin becomes stained, use a bit of vinegar to clean it right up.

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, it may take a week or so to begin to feel relief:

“Pain may get slightly worse at first, but then may get better over the next few days. Capsaicin should be applied regularly several times a day. It usually takes 3 – 7 days before you notice substantial pain relief.”

On the other hand, from what Dee says above, she has not found that to be the case.  Bottom line?  Everyone’s body is unique and your mileage may vary.

Dee also offered up some additional information on cayenne (aka red pepper or Capsicum annuum or frutescens):

Now, 2 things which people should know: 1. Cayenne works to relieve pain but it’s also a blood thinner internally, so if you’re anemic, this isn’t something you should take w/o consulting with your doctor. If you’re on some form of blood thinner, again, consult with your doctor. 2. For those who produce too much iron in the blood (hemochromatosis), this will ease that condition because cayenne binds iron to it as it passes through the body.

For those interested, here’s an article to help you understand better, then consider what Gaye is offering to inform you about:  //

A Word About Cayenne

For my salves, I used the standard household spice that you can pick up at the grocery store.  For storage purposes, I recommend buying in bulk then packaging the excess in a Mylar or metalized bag with an oxygen absorber in the same manner as the rest of your food storage.  For salve making purposes, a pound of cayenne will go a long long way.

If you are lucky enough to have a cool, dark basement, storing in mason jars with an O2 absorber will also work.

More of a challenge for long term storage will be the oils but, then again, you could use 100% coconut oil which has a very long shelf life. There really is a reason I purchase coconut oil in 5 gallon tubs!  In a true, long term SHFT situation, oils of any type will become precious over time but if I had to, I would get over the negative connotation and use rendered animal fat.  There will always be options, just not those we are accustomed to.

The Final Word

Truth be told, I still believe that using essential oils for pain relief should take priority over an herbal remedy.  They are many times stronger and more powerful, they do not leave a residue, and smell nice.  That said, how much can you store?  A five year supply of essential oils is pricey plus, if you lack a cool dark storage area and your home gets hot and humid,  the shelf life might become limited to just a few years.

The nice thing about Cayenne is that it is inexpensive, plus, you can grow it yourself.  While I will not give up my essential oil salves unless forced to, it is good to know that I have some alternatives. Remember that arnica salves are also useful for pain relief. They are available over the counter. Boiron makes an excellent arnica gel for achy muscles.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

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Below you will find  the items related to today’s article.  I do hope you will make your own salves.  They are fun to make and really do work!

Starwest Botanicals Organic Cayenne Pepper Powder: As you can see, you can purchase a large quantity of cayenne pepper for very little cost.  Over time, as I run out of various spices, I am replacing them with organic products.  The cost differential is very little and to me it is worth it.

Beeswax Organic Pastilles, Yellow, 100% Pure 16 Oz:  I ordered the white pastilles but have since learned that the natural yellow pastilles are better.  That said, the difference may not be discernible – just be sure that what you purchase is cosmetic grade.

Spark Naturals Essential Oils:  This is my preferred source for essential oils.  Their oils are of therapeutic quality and reasonably priced.  Plus. you can use code BACKDOORSURVIVAL at checkout for an extra 10% off.  Now how cool is that?

White Plastic Jar with Dome Lid 2 Oz (12 Per Bag):  I chose to use these small ointment jars rather than Mason jars for my salve.  I also have similar jars in the 1 ounce size and 1/4 ounce size (my favorite for mixing up various salve and essential oil concoctions).

Ball Jar Crystal Jelly Jars: Used with the optional plastic lids, these are perfect for your DIY Simple Salve.

Mason Jar Storage Caps Set of 8: These are fantastic!  These plastic lids screw onto a mason jar and are perfect in the pantry or to cap you salves.  There is both a regular and a wide mouth version.  I can’t believe I have not mentioned these before!

Coconut Oil:  Coconut Oil from Tropical Traditions is my preferred coconut oil.  I love it so much I purchased a 5 gallon tub.  Really, I did!  I find it very silky to work with and love the taste when used in cooking.  Note that no refrigeration is required and although it solid at room temperature, it melts at 76 degrees.  The Nutiva brand from Costco works well too.

Kirkland Brand “Pure” Olive Oil:  This is the brand I use.  When I can, I purchase it at Costco.

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22 Responses to “Make an Awesome Cayenne Salve for Pain Relief”

  1. Are you suppose to feel heat when applied because I feel nothing. Thanks I just want to make sure I’m using enough cayenne.

  2. I have a couple of questions if you please. First, Dee mentions her pain tonic…do you have any insight as to the formula? Second, I currently am infusing an herbal oil, outside in the Florida sun (partly shaded depending on the sun’s position), can the infusion get too much sun. I don’t have a sunny window. Thanks in advance. Steve

    • Here’s the recipe:
      Lemon/Cayenne Tonic
      2 cups WATER
      1 tsp TURMERIC
      pinch BLACK PEPPER
      1 tsp CAYENNE
      1 Tablespoon LEMON JUICE

      Bring water to boil . Add turmeric and black pepper for 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Add cayenne and lemon.
      GULP, don’t sip or drink, 2 oz. when cooled down enough to taste. OR allow to cool, then 2 oz. and chill the rest until needed.
      Steve, if you’re infusing herbs while living in Florida, you don’t need the sun; just the heat which you don’t want getting warmer than 90-95 degrees. Anything more hot ….I don’t know but I suspect any herbs you’re infusing is losing potency. Test to find out. Would be interested to know what happens.

  3. I’ve made salve for several years now (plantain & jewel weed) and don’t “cook” my leaf product. Add the oil to the dried and crushed plant and let set for several weeks. When ready to make the salve just use an oven proof glass dish in a 150 degree oven (bees wax melts @ 140) and when the wax melts add the strained oil, stir and pour up(add the peppermint oil here). Don’t “cook” and weaken the salve.

  4. Wow, I just stumbled onto this excellent website, and I’m so glad! Question: I have dried cayenne and habanero peppers. How do I best infuse them into oil — do I chop them up in a food processor and put them in the oil? Also, I’d like to add fresh ginger (my arthritis is Severe) — do I grate it, then dry it, then add it to the oil? Any help you have would be wonderful. I’ve tried making a cayenne/turmeric/ginger salve with the powdered stuff from the supermarket, but it did nothing. Thank You!!

    • I’ve found it’s better to use the dry cayenne flakes work better because it gives a clearer oil before you make the salve. Not sure how habanero peppers work. I haven’t tried them. As long as they are dried; if you use fresh, you will have moisture in the oil and you just want to oil so the infusion works better. Gaye may know more. I haven’t found dried ginger, so I use the ginger powder.
      I too have severe pain of arthritis. You want to be careful with ginger. For some forms of Arthritis where bones deform, I used ginger with avocado oil made as above. I’ve never tried the combo of cayenne/turmeric/ginger. I think I have been reluctant to use turmeric in a salve due to the yellow stain it would do to the skin.
      How long did you allow for the infusion? My way is the slow way. Gaye had done it a different way for a shorter period.

  5. Gaye,
    I just finished an infused where I tried red pepper flakes in place of cayenne powder. I also tried the whole red pepper. O you wouldn’t believe how much more potent the oil is WHEN using the flakes as opposed to the powder. If using whole dried peppers, then chop them up a bit so the oil can penetrate the pepper. If the peppers are whole, the skin does a great job of protecting the oil penetration.
    I prefer to pop the flakes into a jar of oil, date the jar, then allow it to sit for a few weeks. O and if you like spicy as I do, don’t toss those flakes, since you’re using olive oil you can include these now oily flakes in your meal plan.
    O as to straining—go buy unbleached muslin (you don’t want any dyes or bleach contaminating your oil). I buy the 36 inch wide muslin for about $2 a yard. When I buy, I usually buy 3 yards at a time. It’s reusable, just wash, dry after rinsing with lemon juice water (for sanitizing), then you can use the muslin for straining teas, butters, and jellies. My grandmothers called this muslin “butter muslin”. When used, cheesecloth isn’t needed. I DO keep some coffee filters for my lazy days or times as may be needed.

  6. I made a cayenne tincture from habanero peppers, the hottest type of pepper. When taken internally as I do, the hotter the pepper, the better. It also relieved arthritis pain in my hand when I rubbed in 2 drops. I’d like to know if hotter peppers are more effective in a salve also. Purchased cayenne pepper powders do not specify what type of pepper was used.

    • Cayenne pepper/chilli is just one species of peppers/chilli. Cayenne is rated on the Scoville scale about 3 out of 10. Bird’s Eye chillis are about a 5 & Habanero is a 10. There are hotter ones again, like the Trinidad Scorpion is about 20 out of 10. The standard Capsicum being about a 0 & the Jalapeño is about a 1 to 2.
      Cayenne can be bought at the supermarket in either a powder form in the herbs & spices section or as fresh produce.

    • It is the capsaicin does the work of pain relief. I am currently infusing some ghost peppers and will compare this oil to one I’ve infused with the red pepper flakes. In a week it all will be going into salves. I am growing several different types of capasaicin annuum family of peppers. Yes I believe habaneros would work since they are part of the c/a family of peppers.
      I do know that when leaving the peppers in the oil for several weeks to months, the more of the capsaicin seems to go into the oil. I’ve tried this olive oil, coconut oil and avocado oil. I get several different oils infusing for cooking and salves, so doing several and leaving them in jars in a window for about 4 weeks works instead of heating. Then when ready, I can just heat a large amount of beeswax (I use the stuff from my friendly beekeeper)then I can add a measured amount to each container I’m using. O and btw: since I have a bolt of unbleached muslin, I remember my mother and grandmothers using it instead of cheesecloth. Guess what?! It strains finer and can be tossed in the laundry for reusing. :)This next batch will have some rosemary added because of the wonderful benefits it gives. I know Gaye has mentioned it.

    • Just to follow up. It really is the capsaicin not the name of the particular pepper. I agree with Duane about the ratings. When I need a little pain relief, I pull out the red pepper (commonly known as cayenne) salve; when I need stronger I pull out the habanero salve, and yes, I have a ghost salve too.
      Also to let you know, where you can get the dried peppers, it works better to use those. See, when using dried herbs and spice in infusing, it’s better to use the herb instead of the powder. Not only do the herbs and spices have a longer shelf life, I can strain through a metal screen instead of needing the cheesecloth. The plus is then I can also use the ‘leftovers’ or I think what Gaye calls the residuals in my cooking.
      Although I still will keep some essential oils in my ‘kit’. Now that I know how to infuse oils and vinegars (each has it’s own benefits) and since I can grow most of these myself or trade with others, I’m now leaning more to keeping my EOs in reserve as I learn what my homemade infused oils and vinegars can do.
      O I forgot, for anyone with the challenge of hemochromotosis, capsaiscin does bind iron to it so the body can’t metabolize it, it’s yet another method of ridding the body of excess iron. For those who are anemic, you must increase your iron if you choose to use capsaicin internally. The pain I am challenged with can be very intense so I sometimes use internally and externally. BTW: To increase iron, calcium and magnesium, you can begin using molasses and unsulphered blackstrap molasses to balance out that iron. At least that’s what I’m doing.

    • I’ve made this a couple of times before and it worked well, but this batch isn’t going as planned. I guess the cayenne i got isn’t nearly as strong as the last jar because after an hour using the water bath method, then 4 day’s sitting, i still can’t feel any benefit from the infused oil. I could with the last ones, before going on to use the oil and make the salve.

      So i have fresh Ghost Pepper flakes, how much of these should i use to try and rescue this infused oil?? I & others who use the salve i make like to feel the warmth from it, for my mother who has bad arthritis it needs to be that sort of strength for her to get any pain relief from it.

  7. Gaye, I, too, have had trouble with “freezes” on your page. Frustrating, as I really enjoy your messages. I’ve been an herbalist for over 35 years, also aromatherapist. I love making salves & grow many of my own herbs. Keep up the good work!

  8. Gaye, I’ve been needing to let you know that often my computer freezes up on your website. It only happens on BDS. So sometimes I can’t leave the comment I indicated farther back in the giveaway entry section, so it looks like I’m cheating. Any ideas why this is happening or what I can do about it? Yours is my favorite site.

    • My ad provider is going to turn off video ads (which I hate anyway). The problem is with Adobe:

      “Shockwave crashing has been a universal problem for anybody visiting a site that uses Flash (regardless of whether or not they have ads). Adobe has said that they are working on a fix, and that they should have it taken care of within a few weeks.”

      So, with luck, everything should be working correctly by tonight or tomorrow.

  9. I follow dour article with much interest as I’m sitting around with a need, supposedly, for a root canal procedure. Since I like to use capsicum products for discomfort relief, I was waiting for your ” avoiding a root canal adventure”! Sorry I didn’t find it or really overlooked it, but I would really like to know what you did for sore tooth pain!? Thanks so much, I will make your recipe never the less!

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