The threads of midwifery and herbalism have been braided together since the beginning of time. Midwives have been healers as long as they have been attending births, caring for their communities in more ways than one. My pathway to midwifery began with an interest and study of herbalism. At the time, I did not even know what a midwife was or anything about midwifery. I was interested in healing and herbalism, I spent years studying and learning. In addition to herbalism, I learned about chinese medicine, massage, reflexology, and became a Reiki practitioner. I did not truly understand or know about midwifery until my first pregnancy. However, I believe that due to my studies in complementary healing modalities, I was open to learning about and working with a midwife. Then, once I was bitten by the midwifery bug, I dove in head first and committed 100% to learning everything about it I could. It took over, above all my other interests.
For various reasons, I embarked on the path of becoming a CNM and started nursing school. I was immersed in the western, medical, allopathic model and felt confined and constrained in those spaces. I put my prior experience and knowledge on the back burner. Once I was free of those systems, became a midwife, and started practicing in a birth center, I was able to reintegrate and bring back those parts of my previous self.
Recently, I have been jumping back in to crafting my own herbal remedies. You can check out my recipe for Fire Cider Tonic and read below for my two latest creations.
Salve is defined as a “an ointment used to promote healing of the skin or as protection”. Humans have been creating and using salves for centuries. You can read a little snapshot about salves here. Crafting salves is a skill that I first learned many years ago, well before the internet, through books and hands on training. For me, step one is infusing oils.
Infusing oils is a way to extract the medicinal components from a herb and into the oil. There are quick heat based methods to infuse oils but I prefer steeping them over time, usually 4-6 weeks. Start with your chosen dried herbs (it is important that the herbs are dried to avoid mold) in a glass jar, cover the herbs with your chosen oils(s) and place the lid. Let steep in a cool, dark place and shake them periodically. I do also like to expose mine to some sunlight periodically as well.
These are my most recent oil infusions. A Calendula (golden) and a Comfrey-Arnica-Ginger (green).
Each day the herb filled oils are taken outside and presented to the sun.
And unto them, words are sung, of love and magic.
The jars are swirled allowing the energy to grow and glow.
For me, it is also important to start the herbs infusing on specific days or nights of the lunar cycle and then to strain them on a corresponding phase. Once the infusion is done, the next step is to strain the herbs from the oil. I strain mine through a fine mesh colander and cheesecloth and into a handcrafted ceramic bowl that I made many moons ago. This part is messy and fun.
From here, the salve making process begins. Essentially to make the oil into a salve, the oil is gently heated in a double-boiler and a thickening agent is slowly added. I like to use Shea Butter and beeswax, but you can also use Cocoa Butter or other natural butters. And if you prefer to be vegan so don’t want to use beeswax you can use Carnauba Wax. The general ratio I like to use is approximately 1 cup oil:3 tbs shea butter: 2 tbs beeswax. For me, this part of the process is so wonderful, using my hands to create the new salve, feeling the oils on my skin, smelling the aroma of the oils and the Shea Butter. It feels good in my DNA, it is a harkening back to my ancestors and a deep connection to the Earth.
It is important to be patient when heating the oil and melting the wax and butter in, if you go to quickly the oil can burn and that is not what we want. After the wax and butter is completely dissolved, remove the mixture from the heat. If you are planning to use any essential oils, now is the time to add them. If you add them earlier, they will evaporate off in the heat. From here, moving relatively quickly, before the mixture cools it is poured into the containers you wish to store it in.
After this, let the salve cool and set. Then use them! As these salves are preservative free and all natural, they don’t last forever. As such I recommend using them as much as desired and needed. If kept out of extremes of temperature they will last 6-8 months. Calendula Salve is a fantastic all around skin star. It can be used for general skin softening and protection, to treat eczema, bruises, minor abrasions and after cuts have scabbed. Comfrey-Arnica-Ginger salves are great for soothing sore muscles and minor sprains/strains but should not be used on open wounds. Both of my recipes are safe during pregnancy and lactating and are safe for small children as well.
Soothe Away Sore Muscle Salve
- Comfrey, Arnica and Ginger infused in Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, Jojoba Oil and Sweet Almond Oil
- Roman Chamomile essential oil
- Shea Butter
- Calendula infused in Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, Jojoba Oil and Sweet Almond Oil
- Sandalwood essential oil
- St. Johns wort oil
- Shea Butter