Arnica (arnica montana) is a natural anti-inflammatory and has been used for hundreds of years as an ingredient in ointments for strains, sprains and bruises. Nowadays you can find arnica in pill, gel and lotion forms; I have found it at my local health food store but I’m sure other places, like Whole Foods, carry it too. Truth be told, the jury is out as to arnica’s effectiveness (click on the picture below), but I’ll take the placebo effect, if that’s all I get…
My girlfriend and I have been talking about how to make arnica salve for months now and we finally got to it last weekend. Making your own salve is very easy and then you know exactly what you are putting on your body. Also, although it might be a bit of an investment up front, ultimately it’s a money saver.
To prepare, we went shopping for: dried arnica flowers and beeswax granules at our local herb shop; coconut oil from Trader Joe’s; and lavender, peppermint and rosemary essential oils from our favorite chiropractor. We also bought 20 4 oz jars from this website because we originally planned on making two different batches.
We followed this recipe, which contains instructions for a Lavender/Peppermint salve and a Rosemary/Cayenne Pepper salve. We only made one batch of Lavender/Peppermint. The Cayenne salve is next on the list and we have big plans for that. In the meantime, here’s what we used:
- 1 (one) crockpot.
- 3 1/2 jars of coconut oil (16 oz each = 56 oz). We used this much oil because the arnica flowers soaked up a lot of the oil and it just looked like we needed that much to prevent burning and to end up with enough product.
- 1 1/2 cups of beeswax granules. This is more than the recipe called for and made our salve pretty firm. Use less to make a softer texture.
- 1 oz of dried arnica flowers. The recipe says to break up the flowers in a food processor or by hand. We used a food processor and it just about doubled the amount of arnica.
- Lavender and peppermint oils. We used as much as felt/smelt right–probably 1/4 teaspoon of each–and could have used more.
- First put your coconut oil in the crockpot and get it all nice and melty. Then add the arnica flowers. Keep the temp on low and let the arnica infuse the oil all night/day, for at least 12 hours.
- Once you think the oil is nice and infused, strain the flowers out of the oil using cheesecloth or a fine mesh metal colander.
- Put the now-infused oil back in the crockpot.
- Add your beeswax granules and whisk until the beeswax is melted.
- Turn crockpot off and let the mixture cool down.
- When it starts getting cooler and thicker (after 20-30 minutes, depending on how much you have), but is still liquidy (the scientific term), add the essential oils. Stir.
- Pour into vessel(s) of choice! We poured the mixture from the crockpot into a big measuring cup and then used that to pour into our jars. A funnel might also work although the spout could get clogged up.
We learned that how much coconut oil you use is essentially how much salve you will end up with, give or take. As a result, here’s what we ended up with: 15, mostly full, 4 oz jars of Lavender/Peppermint Arnica Salve!
So far we all love it. We’ve given away a few jars and people are raving (at least we like to think so). I’ve found that the salve is best applied after an epsom bath or shower, and I love applying it to my lower legs. I think it’s helped loosen up my ever-tight calves, but it’s hard to truly tell; it’s not like a Biofreeze product where you feel it working right away.
I did the budget breakdown and it ended up costing about $1 an ounce to make the salve. It could have been cheaper if we hadn’t made as much/used as much oil; but next time around it will be cheaper because we have beeswax left over. The arnica, funnily enough, was the cheapest ingredient, at about $6.50 for an ounce of dried flowers. Best of all, after splitting the jars, and even giving away a few of them (they make great gifts), my personal arnica salve stash is big enough to last for months.
We plan to use the remaining jars for the Cayenne/Rosemary Salve and we also want to get large chapstick or even deodorant type containers for it since you have to be careful putting the cayenne salve on with your hands. That should be fun. We will probably use the same amount of beeswax since we will want the salve harder for a roll-on application. I’ll keep you posted.
If you are an athlete or have any soreness or chronic pains, I highly recommend this project. It’s wicked fun, heartwarming easy, and effective: WHEE!