1. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Yarrow is a renowned wound healer; not only is it a vulnerary (promotes healing), but it can stop bleeding as a hemostatic and styptic, making it helpful for cuts and abrasions. As it’s also naturally antiseptic, this salve is my go-to Neosporin alternative. Its analgesic properties mean it can relieve pain. Yarrow grows wild, but it isn’t necessarily prolific. Using dried herbs may prove easier. Yarrow is easy to intentionally grow. Learn how: mother
Part used: Stems, leaves and flowers
Actions: Anti-inflammatory, antirheumatic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, analgesic, carminative, diaphoretic, digestive, diuretic, expectorant, hemostatic, hypotensive, tonic, vulnerary
Salve: For cuts, scrapes and other abrasions; bug bites; bruising; and areas of pain,
including for rheumatoid arthritis
2. Plantain (Plantago major)
Plantain is a star healer and was considered one of the nine sacred herbs by the Saxons. It’s a well-known antidote to venoms and poisons, such as spider and snake bites (seek medical attention for serious poisonous bites). Its detoxifying, anti-inflammatory and astringent qualities make it helpful for alleviating symptoms of bug bites and stings, including itching, and it’s also been used to prevent the spread of poison ivy on skin. Plantain’s cooling nature makes it excellent for burns and sunburns, and used as a poultice, it can assist in the removal of splinters and glass embedded in skin. Plantain is easily found in the yard. It often grows near water, and can be found cozied up near gardens, hoses and flowers.
Part used: The entire leaf and some stem
Actions: Antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, astringent, cooling, demulcent, detoxifying, decongestant, diuretic, expectorant, hemostatic, laxative, poultice, vulnerary
Salve: For bites, itch relief (bug bites, poison ivy, etc.), hemorrhoids, splinter removal, rashes, scalds and stings
3. Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
Calendula, or “pot marigold” as it’s widely known (it’s unrelated to ornamental marigold, Tagetes spp.), is among the world’s best skin soothers. It’s a great aid for those who experience eczema, inflamed or irritated skin, and acne. As the plant is anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, astringent, bacteriostatic and fungicidal, this salve can be applied to feet, armpits and buttocks even when clothed. It’s gentle enough for babies and children, making it an excellent diaper rash cream, and as a vulnerary, calendula assists in the healing of wounds. Calendula will grow easily in the ground or in planters. Be sure to purchase the correct variety for oils and salve making.
Part used: Flowers
Actions: Anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, cholagogue, detoxifying, emmenagogue, emollient, estrogenic, fungicide, lymphatic, vulnerary
Salve: Skin irritations, eczema, fungus and gentle healing of wounds
4. Lavender (Lavandula officinalis)
Lavender is a calming herb with many medicinal properties; while it’s best known for its therapeutic scent, lavender does far more than relax the mind. A lavender salve is useful on cuts and other wounds as it’s vulnerary, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antifungal and disinfectant. As a nervine, analgesic and antispasmodic, it’s also useful for muscle pains or spasms. Some people find lavender salve beneficial as a face cream, as lavender may relieve areas of redness, reduce acne, and can also alleviate headaches and promote sleep. It can also be used on sunburns and burns. Lavender can be grown easily in the ground or in planters. Be sure to purchase the correct variety for oils and salve making.
Part used: Flowers
Actions: Analgesic, anticonvulsive, antifungal, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antirheumatic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, aromatic, deodorant, disinfectant, diuretic, emmenagogue, insecticide, nervine, parasiticide, sedative, stimulant, tonic, vulnerary
Salve: Minor cuts, bruises, burns, sunburns, promotes relaxation and sleep, reduces areas of redness and muscle discomfort, including rheumatoid arthritis
5. St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)
St. John’s wort is known by many names, including allheal. The science behind this folk name is that the herb is a restorer of the musculoskeletal system, able to assist in healing bruises, sprains, strains, fractures and even breaks. Renowned as an anti-inflammatory and an antispasmodic, it is also well-known as an analgesic and a nervine, enabling it to alleviate pain while also regenerating damaged nerves. It is excellent as a muscle rub and is beneficial to use on any external areas of discomfort, inflammation and pain. St. John’s wort should always be used fresh. The plant grows wild in the Midwest, though it can be temperamental.
Part used: Flowering tops and leaves
Actions: Analgesic, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, antiviral, astringent, cholagogue, nervine, sedative, tonic
Salve: Muscle and nerve damage, sprains, strains, fractures, breaks, sciatica, hemorrhoids, burns, sunburns and other areas of inflammation.