Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor and nothing in this article should be taken as medical advice. Please talk to your doctor before using any of the herbs and/or remedies mentioned in this article.
Most homesteaders wouldn’t dream of having a first aid kit that doesn’t include Neosporin. It used to be my go-to for cuts, scrapes, and burns – until I had a baby.
Like most parents, I started looking at every single product in the cabinet and wondering if it was safe. Turns out, dermatologists, tattoo artists, and even doctors aren’t crazy about Neosporin. Most medical professionals don’t recommend it at all. And there are some very good reasons why.
Everyone’s favorite over-the-counter wound dressing contains three active ingredients, all antibiotics: neomycin, polysporin, and bacitracin. While that may sound like a good thing, any of these three can cause allergic reactions ranging from mild skin irritation to full-blown anaphylaxis.
Worse yet, repeated exposure can contribute to sensitivity later in life. Most people who experience severe reactions are over the age of 70. Yikes. To top it all off, these active ingredients are suspended in a petroleum jelly base – a nasty byproduct of the oil industry. Who wants that on their skin? Not me.
As my last tube of Neosporin ran out, I started looking for natural alternatives that I could cook up at home. After reviewing dozens of recipes, I combined a few of the best ones and modified my recipe to work with what I had on hand. What I came up with is a combination cut and bruise balm using ingredients I had growing on my property and sitting in my pantry.
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In the end, this “natural Neosporin” has been the perfect salve for scrapes, cuts, and burns. It smells wonderful, and I feel good about putting it on my toddler’s sensitive skin.
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The Active Ingredients
- Comfrey is well-known for its healing properties, which is how it got its nickname, “knitbone.” It grows wild in many places, but leaves can also be purchased dried and ready to use.
- Calendula has powerful antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties that have made it a staple in skin creams and salves for generations. Again, you can easily purchase dried calendula flowers if you don’t have them growing.
- Elderberries are widely touted for their antiviral qualities, but the leaves have long been used in folk medicine as a bruise and wound balm.
- Honey has legendary antimicrobial and humectant (moisturizing) properties but isn’t absolutely necessary.
If you have arnica flowers growing nearby, you can add them for the same anti-bruising effect as elder leaves, but elder leaves may be more widely available, as they grow wild in great abundance. There are many other botanicals you can use, such as echinacea root, dried plantain leaves, or yarrow, but I chose those that were most readily available in my area.
As far as the carrier oils go, you can use almond oil instead of olive oil if you like, and shea butter or cocoa butter can take the place of coconut oil. However, coconut oil has antimicrobial properties that make it particularly effective as a Neosporin replacement.
You must use beeswax to give the salve a balm-like quality and to ensure it doesn’t liquefy in a warm environment. Lavender is a much-beloved essential oil for promoting healing, but some folks don’t like the fragrance, and others are allergic to it.
I prefer frankincense oil for its healing properties, so that is what I used in my recipe.
What You Will Need:
- ½ ounce dried comfrey
- ½ ounce dried elder (Sambucus nigra) leaf
- ½ ounce dried calendula flowers
- ½ cup coconut oil
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 ounces (1/4 cup) beeswax
- 2 tablespoons of honey
- 10 drops of lavender OR frankincense essential oil
- A double boiler, bain-marie, or suitable alternative
- Small glass jars or tins
Note: If you are harvesting fresh plant materials, you will want to dry them before you get started. A dehydrator is ideal, but you can also use a variety of methods for drying – from placing herbs in the oven at the lowest setting to hanging bundles of leaves in a paper bag for a few days. Using dry herbs helps prevent any moisture in the salve, which is important for keeping it fresh long-term.
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Infusing The Oil
- Measure out your dried botanicals and place them into a double boiler. If you have a kitchen scale, you can weigh them out, but there is no need to be super precise. I find that a small handful of each works just fine.
- Measure out the oils and pour them over the botanicals, then put them over low heat for 3-4 hours. Make sure the water level stays high enough in your double boiler. If you are willing to wait, you can pour warmed oils over your herbs in a jar and let them infuse for 2-6 weeks for a more powerful concentration.
Making The Salve
- Strain out the plant matter from the oil by pouring the infusion through cheesecloth or a coffee filter. Once it has all filtered out, give the spent leaves a little squeeze to get the last bit of oil out.
- Discard your herbs, and give your double boiler a wipe to remove all residues (if you used one).
- Combine the infused oil, which should be quite a nice, deep green at this point with the beeswax in a double boiler. Add the honey and essential oil, and once all is well-combined, remove it from the heat.
- Pour your still-warm concoction into glass jars or tins, and use as needed.
What makes this salve far superior to Neosporin is that it can be used liberally and on a regular basis without worry about allergic reactions or overexposure to antibiotics. Keep this salve on hand and apply it to cuts, scrapes, burns, and anywhere you’ve taken a hard impact.
But you don’t need to have had an injury to use this balm. You can also use it to soothe skin irritations, diaper rash, or cracked skin. It should be perfectly good for up to six months, but if you want it to last indefinitely, store it in the refrigerator.
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Cynthia Devore says
I want to try some of your remedy suggestions; however, I need not only the videos but for later when I want to make it, a plain recipe with ingredients then instructions…..No videos
Jennifer Davis Allen says
If I choose to put the botanicals in a jar to let them infuse with the oils, would an old mayo jar be big enough? (30 ounces) Does it need to be a glass jar? These days they’re putting the mayo in plastic jars.
Yesterday my grandson and I were watching a rerun of “The Waltons” and a character on there was making an herbal remedy for someone. My grandson said he thought they were poisoning the patient. I told him no, all the things they named were good and safe to use.
You are safer with a glass bottle. The oils might leach something out of the plastic.
I know your recipe says to discard the plant matter, but I am wondering if the recipe would still work if I pureed the plant matter with the oil, and just left it in.
From what I have read about infusion, oil or alcohol. Once the time has passed, the plant matter no longer have any helpful properties left. So, thats why it’s discarded. Hope this helps.
Maybe not the plant matter from the recipe because all their properties are spent, used up. But, placing some fresh material (just a pinch in each) with maybe a bit more calendula petals or lavender petals would make it even better, prettier. Just be careful not to make it scratchy or you might tear some sensitive skin.
Rita Sklarchuk says
I like the idea of making my own products. Which led me here. However you referring to dirty oil products was off putting. If you birthed your child in a hospital….thank your “dirty oil products”. All plastic products in hospital are made from it. Have you ever driven or gone on holidays by plane? Also “dirty oil”. Keep on the homestead track. Don’t trash other industries, please. Love the recipes.
All she did was call petroleum jelly a “nasty byproduct of the oil industry.” In what way is that trashing the oil industry? Even if she did call it “dirty oil,” the fact that we use oil for plastic products, fueling airplanes, etc. doesn’t mean it isn’t a dirty substance that you wouldn’t want on your skin.
I totally agree with you and thought the same thing. So many complain about ‘dirty oil products’ yet they wouldn’t want to live without them. I live in an Oil Patch and our world wouldn’t exist if oil was no longer processed, down to our basics. So her referring to ‘dirty oil products’ is insulting and very detrimental. Don’t complain unless you are willing to give it all up. Canadian oil is the one of the top cleanest oil in the world
You didn’t mention anything at all about comfrey NOT being supposed to go on anything unless there is no infection or risk of infection. Comfrey makes the skin knit up really fast, and if there should be any bad germs still in there you can get a festering infection. I wouldn’t think comfrey should have been included in this. Comfrey is really good for stuff with no infection risk, that you want to heal quickly. I am not an herbalist; you really need to confer with somebody who knows about all the risks with the different herbs. I can’t say all this for sure (since like I said, I’m not an herbalist), but this is what I remember from the years ago that I was studying these things. Comfrey is a wonderful herb; just not right for everything. If you ever get a chance, I had a wonderful book called Ten Essential Herbs by Lalitha. She had a chapter on comfrey. Was a great book and very readable, especially for beginners!
Doesn’t heating the herbs extract most of there benefit? I’m not trashing the method, it just what I’ve always thought. Would putting the herbs in the oil and letting them sit in a dark place work even better? It may take 3 months, but wouldn’t it be more beneficial? I’m just wondering. I’m new to making my own herbal remedies and just have these questions because I hear things in one post and another in another and I’m becoming more confused 🙃
I found my answer right in the post. Must’ve missed or dismissed when reading! Talk about confused! Lol 🙃
I’m struggling with the honey separating and sinking to the bottom at it all hardens. Have I done something wrong?
This happens to me anytime I use honey in other infusions I’ve done.
Pam Cunningham says
Honey is water soluble and cannot be dispersed in oils unless an emulsifier is used.
Have you considered or tried using Usnea w/ the herbs?
If it lasts indefinitely in the refrigerator, can it be frozen?
The recipe states to use 2 ounces of beeswax and then in parentheses it says half a cup. 2 ounces is 1/4 cup not 1/2 cup
Thanks for pointing that out! I fixed it.
If one is interested in emulsifying the honey into the mixture, try adding some powdered lecithin, and mx that in (I use a immersion blender) while the salve is still liquid. This is something beekeepers do when we want to add essential oils into the syrup we feed bees when the dearth (no flowering plants available) is on. Lecithin is a common emulsifier in food products so I don’t see how it would cause any issues. Just a thought.
Linda Smith says
Best place to get the herbs and in time to make for Christmas gifts.
love this idea ❣️
I got my herbs from a local natural food store, you can order them through Amazon, but probably won’t make it in time for Christmas now. Sorry I didn’t see your comment earlier! I am having trouble with the color, but I will probably still make it even if I don’t get an answer in time, that was my plan too was to make some Christmas presents! Merry Christmas to you and your family!
I used the heating method, very low heat, maybe just a simmer under it for about 12 hours now and there is no color coming out of my herbs. The smell is fantastic, how did you get the green color? Should I be worried?
Not a bad recipe at all, but so much misguided, misleading information. Most health professionals don’t recommend Neosporin? As a 20 year health care professional, we almost ALL recommend it.