Make Beeswax Cubes

This is not a new tip for crafty folk, but I finally tried it out this week. Making beeswax cubes was fun and a little messy.

Melt beeswax in a double boiler

Why?

Purchasing beeswax in bulk is usually cheaper and if you’re planning on making homemade lotions, balms, and salves it will be worth it in the long run.

Buying beeswax as “bricks” may not be as convenient as beeswax pastilles or sheets, but if you don’t mind a little work in the kitchen you can get your beeswax into a smaller, more manageable size.

By melting and pouring beeswax into ice cube trays you’re saving yourself a lot of wasted time trying to saw through the brick. Or in my case a few wild swings with a meat cleaver.

Melting beeswax and molding with ice cube trays

How?

I used the double boiler method. In my case, it was a pan of hot water with a glass bowl above. The trick is to not let the bowl rest on the water below.

I bought two bricks from local beekeepers, Beverly Bees during HerbStalk. I melted them in batches and poured the liquid, not too carefully hence the mess, into ice cube trays.

Clean up?

Yikes! I didn’t really think about that and I could have done a much better clean up job. Instead of trying to wash the bowl out with hot soapy water like me, go for a more painless and efficient way.

One herbalist said she heated the bowl back up and wiped it out with a paper towel and another suggested using rubbing alcohol for those pesky flakes that inevitably happen.

What for?

Well, I’m getting ready to make another salve soon. Last time, I made a basic calendula salve but once my St. John’s Wort oil is ready I’ll be making a new recipe! What about you?

beeswax cubes via @cmckane

HerbStalk 2017: Plant Walk

Last month I attended one day of classes at HerbStalk. I picked the urban plant walk around Somerville as my first class. Though a terrible note taker, here are a couple plants we visited. Sorry about the quality of my mobile photos in advance.  Take a virtual plant walk with me!

Our guide began with sharing her “bug juice”, a yarrow, catnip and mugwort tincture. She got us started right in front of the building talking about plantain, dandelions, and maple. That was before I started taking pictures or proper notes. Did you know maple leaves were edible?

A few plants that may be growing unnoticed

Burdock: Arctium L.
Burdock growing in Massachusetts The picture is a first year plant.  In its second year, a tall stalk rises.

Roots are the most commonly used portion of burdock. You dig them up in the fall of first year or spring of its second. Our guide uses them in soups, stews, and chews them too!

Two facts about burdock
1.  You can find it growing in much of North America as a weed. Especially on river banks. I see it along Charles River.
2.  Can be used as a diuretic.

Here is a great overview from University of Maryland’s Medical Center.

Milkweed: Asclepias syriaca L.
Milkweed in Massachusetts Some avoid this butterfly haven because of its poisonous milky sap. But during the late stage in August, you can take the pods. Our guide steams them first and you don’t want to eat raw leaves.

Two facts about milkweed
1.  Native Americans taught colonists how to safely eat it.
2.  The floss has been used as tinder for fires. Now I’m tempted to harvest some later this year for car camping.

Here’s a general overview from Farmer’s Almanac.

White Cedar: Thuja occidentalis
White cedar in Massachusetts One of my favorite scratch and sniff portions of the walk. Can make tincture or tea out of this tree and is good for many things including the lungs. But use with caution and do your research about the quality of any products.

Two facts about white cedar
1.  Some use for managing pain in trigeminal neuralgia.
2.  Used to treat warts and canker sores. 

You love science? Then check out the 2005 article:  Thuja occidentalis (Arbor vitae): A Review of its Pharmaceutical, Pharmacological and Clinical Properties.

Linden: TiliaI love linden tea! I used to mix it with juice when babysitting my sick cousin.

Our guide suggested making a double infusion hot and then cold. A nervine that’s also good for the heart and delicious when added to footbaths. Another great idea she shared was to mix powdered linden with cocoa powder to make chocolate. Yum!

Two facts about linden
1.  It has safely been used for children for centuries.
2. Also called lime blossom in certain regions and drunk as a tea in Britan during World War II.

A great article from Herbal Academy about the sacred tree.

Altogether it was a wonderful way to start HerbStalk and now I keep looking at the weeds in the yard or on the side of the road and try to place them.

Pop Quiz: Which plant is this about a month later?
Wild weeds in Massachusetts

Simple Calendula Salve

I went to massage school in my early twenties and soon became fascinated with reflexology and herbalism. But time wears down enthusiasm and memory, so I finally signed up for a herbal course online as a refresher. I’m going through it extremely slowly, so slow I may need to ask for an extension, but I’ve been getting that giddy feeling of excitement which grows with each new herbal craft I make at home.

Calendula Salve for skin. cmckane

I made a base batch of calendula salve and passed a bunch out to family members. My little tin goes everywhere with me which I use on bug bites, chapped lips and any dry patch there is!

HOW IT WORKS

Calendula is often known for being anti-inflammatory. Combined with oil and beeswax, the only two other ingredients I used, it is safe and soothing to apply topically to any inflamed skin; whether it is diaper rash or mosquito bites.

Calendula has other actions as well, some of which are anti-fungal, anti-spasmodic, and astringent. As an emmenagogue, it is also used to assist with menstruation. A member of the Asteraceae family it is easy to grow and a lovely addition to the garden.

HOW TO MAKE

I used a very easy, straightforward recipe from Herbal Academy. I got the recipe initially in course work from the online class I’m taking but another version can be found on their website (click here).

It’s a two-step process, at least the method I used, because you need to first infuse oil with dried calendula flowers. I like to let it sit at least a month before I strain it. Once you have calendula oil you’re ready to make your calendula salve!

RECIPE

Calendula oil + Beeswax = Calendula Salve

It’s really that simple!

You put beeswax (I used 1 ounce) in a double boiler and then add calendula oil (I used 1 cup).

Blend them together and then pour into containers of choice. I used four small tins and two larger plastics containers. This ratio came out hard but it’s also been in the 60’s here so it will melt when the hot summer days show up.

I’m already curious about how to make it next time; if I should use a mixture of oils or add in extra herbs. In fact, I may try Traditional Medicinals Lavender Calendula Coconut Salve next!

calendula

Nata Shved

Calendula is helpful in many forms and this year I planted a bunch of seeds. Hopefully, a few will survive and I’ll be able to make recipes with homegrown flowers! For more herbal recipes featuring calendula I’d check out Rosemary Gladstar’s Family Herbal, it is still one of my favorites.

Do you have a favorite calendula recipe? Share below!

Next Friday’s post will be some photos and tips from my first solo trip to Acadia National Park from this past winter.

*Part of Homestead Blog Hop 145*