Beyond not knowing how exactly to pronounce it (the “l” can be silent or not – up to you!), lots of people aren’t sure what exactly salves are and what these natural remedies are really good for. Salves are some of the oldest solutions humans ever came up with and they have a long history of helping us handle itchiness, dryness, wound infection, and pain over the years.
Today, you can still find a variety of well-made all-natural salves that can serve multiple needs. Let’s dive deeper into these miraculous mixtures and look at some examples.
What’s a Salve, Really?
A salve, in essence, is any kind of soothing or medicinal mixture that combines herbs, beeswax, and infused oils. They're used for all kinds of things, but have a history rooted in natural medicine and have been cures for ailments or irritation for thousands of years. They’re so well-known and have been used so often throughout history because you can make salves with all kinds of natural ingredients.
However, the technical definition of salve depends slightly on where you’re from and your own personal preferences.
What Makes a Salve Different from a Lotion or Balm?
Some folks think that salves are essentially the same things as lotions or balms. But there are some key differences even though all three types of remedies use natural products.
Take lotions, for instance. They're not usually made with the same key active or carrier ingredients as salves. In most cases, lotions are made from a mixture of water, alcohol, and any other elements or ingredients desired for the product. You might create a DIY lotion that’s mostly used to make something smell attractive, so you'd add a few essential oils like tea tree or rosemary. Or you might use a lotion to clean a wound, in which case you might only have alcohol, water, and maybe a texturizing agent.
Balms are closer to salves than lotions, but they still aren’t the same thing. Balms are thinner than salves but thicker than lotions, and usually have less beeswax (or beeswax substitute) than the former. They also usually incorporate some kind of natural butter like cocoa butter, shea butter, and so on.
All this being said, salves are pretty similar to lotions and balms, so it’s no surprise people get them mixed up. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you call salves, lotions, or anything else. Each product's general purpose is the same: making you feel better.
What Are Salves Used For?
Salves, like their similar products, are used as medicinal or soothing agents for the skin, muscles, or wounds. The potential uses for salves are almost as varied as the types of ingredients you can use in these wonderful products.
For example, many salves are used as skincare or lip balms to penetrate and moisturize the skin topically. They’ll have moisturizing ingredients derived from natural sources like flowers, roots, or fruits. Aloe vera is a great example, and it's one of the best natural moisturizing elements you can find in nature today. This makes them great as agents to protect your skin during dry winter months or if you just have naturally dry skin.
Other salves might be used to protect your skin. Certain organic oils can make your skin a little stronger and healthier, making it less likely that it will split or break.. Others include coconut oil, olive oil, herbally infused oils, sweet almond oil, and more.
Still other salves might be used to nourish and strengthen your skin. They usually contain organic and natural ingredients that are rich in antioxidants and vitamins. Antioxidants are compounds that can protect your cells from free radical molecular damage, while vitamins are what virtually every living system in the body needs to operate correctly and regenerate itself. Calendula, an herb, is one of the best natural ingredients for use in these types of salves.
Even beyond these uses, salves can be enjoyed as soothing agents. Rub a good herbal salve on your skin to help relieve sunburn, diaper rash, and more. You’ll relieve an infected or inflamed area of skin irritation, bug bites or insect bites, sunburn, diaper rash, wound healing. redness, dryness, or soreness. That’s because many of the best salves are made with ingredients that can soothe and relax your skin, like herbal oils with blue chamomile: one of the most used herbs in the world.
What Ingredients Are Salves Made From?
Salves can be made from all kinds of ingredients, but the best stuff is usually mixed from natural or organic elements. That’s because natural ingredients are the stuff that salves have been made from historically and provide several benefits at once – why mess with something that works?
Here’s a short (but by no means totally comprehensive) list of common ingredients you’ll find in top-tier salves:
- Aloe vera: a succulent that has lots of vitamins and antioxidants, and which performs as a natural moisturizer
- Arnica: a type of flower that has essential oils and fatty acids that can help to relieve pain
- Beeswax: this natural wax produced by honeybees is complex and includes vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to provide multifaceted benefits
- Blue chamomile: this flowering plant can soothe and relax the skin while tightening and protecting skin cells
- Calendula: this easy to grow herb has tons of antioxidants that can be used in a variety of salves, but it also does a good job of moisturizing the skin and protecting it
- Chickweed: this flowering plant has tons of vitamins and minerals and is well known as a moisturizing and soothing agent in many top salves
- Cinnamon: this plant produces an aromatic bark that’s well known for its role as a spice. But it also contains several key vitamins and minerals, along with antioxidants
- Cocoa butter: this oil can be extracted from the cocoa bean and contains vitamins, antioxidants, and fatty acids. It provides several benefits like moisturization, protection, and nourishment
- Eucalyptus: these evergreen trees contain many antioxidants, terpenes, and tannins, which can clean, soothe, and cool the skin
- Ginger: this flowering plant has especially nourishing roots that contain minerals, fatty acids, essential oils, and antioxidants. It can supercharge your skin if used correctly
- Jojoba seed oil: is found in a variety of hair and skin products these days. It has very high antioxidant and fatty acid content, making it perfect for soothing, moisturizing, cleansing and balancing the skin
- Lemon balm: this flowering plant is closely related to mint and is made up of complex compounds including antioxidants, terpenes, and tannins. This makes it relaxing, cleansing, and soothing.
- Myrrh: this famous resin of the Commiphora tree can soothe, moisturize and tighten the skin
- Rosehip seed oil: this oil can be pressed from the seeds of wild rose bushes. If done correctly, it can provide many benefits like hydration, soothing, protection, and more
Anyone looking for a good salve should always prioritize ingredients above all other aspects.
Are Some Salves Better Than Others for Sensitive Skin?
Certainly. Many modern salves use synthetic chemicals or ingredients that aren’t derived from their natural sources. This is ostensibly done to cut down on production costs and to make salves cheaper.
For instance, take Green Goo’s First Aid Salve. This fantastic salve is entirely plant-based and can replace 20 traditional first-aid items. Featuring a complex blend of myrrh, calendula oil, chickweed extract, and much more, it does a great job of revitalizing your body and helping it to heal all kinds of maladies, while moisturizing and cleansing the skin at the same time.
Green Goo’s Pain Relief Salve is another perfect example. This formula is mostly powered by arnica, but also features other natural ingredients to help with a variety of painful ailments. Even better, it successfully emulates the "hot and cold" therapies that many synthetic products claim to have a monopoly on.
Natural salves like Green Goo’s Poison Ivy Salve are also best for treating irritation or itchiness. This salve isn’t just great for treating poison ivy, but works with practically any itchy skin condition thanks to its complex formula and ease-of-application.
Overall, the best salves for any ailment will be derived from natural ingredients and tried and true mixing processes. The natural world has provided the ingredients to treat most minor diseases and injuries for thousands of years; salves are the combination of these ingredients and human ingenuity. We’d recommend salves for a variety of common, day-to-day illnesses and injuries. In many cases, they’re better than the synthetic medicines you can always get at the pharmacy.
Try one of Green Goo’s salves today and you’ll see exactly what we mean.