Elder Leaf Salve
This all-natural DIY elder leaf salve is easy to make and useful for treating bruises, strains, old injuries or wounds.
The idea for this elder leaf salve came from one of my all-time favorite books, Making Plant Medicine, by Richo Cech.
He states that oils and salves made from fresh elder leaves “make a useful application to traumatic injuries, old burns, ulcerations or hemorrhoids.”
Kiva Rose (another highly respected herbalist) says: “Infused oil of the flowers or leaves makes a wonderful salve or ointment for all kinds of wounds, as well as bruises, sprains and strains.”
Normally, I shy away from making infused oils with freshly picked leaves or flowers, because the added water content makes them tend to spoil more easily. Since the leaves are abundant and free for the picking though, I’ve tried it both ways, to see which one I liked best. I found that the fresh leaf method made a much greener (and theoretically more potent?) salve, but I still prefer using wilted leaves, for a less-cloudy and longer-lasting oil infusion. Feel free to use whichever method you prefer.
Elder leaf-infused oil would also work great in a balm for aches and pains, but since the leaves have compounds which can make you feel ill when ingested – avoid using it in lip balms, nursing balms or on a young child or other person who may inadvertently rub some in their mouth.
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First: Make an infused oil.
Prepare the Leaves
Wilted leaf method: Gather a handful of elder leaves and spread them out in a single layer overnight or up to 24 hours, until wilted and almost-dry. Place the leaves in a glass canning jar and cover with a light oil, such as olive, sunflower, coconut or sweet almond.
Fresh leaf method: Gather a handful of leaves and place them in a jar. Cover the leaves with an oil, such as: olive, sunflower, coconut or sweet almond.
Make the Oil Infusion
- Set the uncovered jar containing the oils and leaves down into a saucepan filled with a few inches of water, forming a makeshift double-boiler, of sorts.
- Place the pan over a low burner and heat the oil for around 2 hours. Keep a close eye on things to make sure that the water doesn’t evaporate out of the pan.
- After the infusing time is up, you can strain the oil and proceed with the recipe right away or you can cover the jar with a piece of cheesecloth or scrap of old t-shirt (so any remaining moisture has room to escape) and let the oil infuse for several days, or even weeks, longer. If using fresh leaves, it’s best to let the strained oil settle out overnight and then carefully pour the good oil out, leaving behind the sludgy layer that settles to the bottom.
- Once your oil has completely finished infusing to your satisfaction and has been strained, you’re ready to make your salve!
Elder Leaf Salve Recipe
- 3.5 oz (100 g) elder leaf infused oil
- 0.5 oz (14 g) beeswax pastilles
- Place the oil and beeswax in a canning jar or heat-proof container. Set the jar down into a saucepan containing a few inches of water, forming a makeshift double boiler.
- Set the pan over medium-low heat until the beeswax is melted. If you used a small canning jar for melting, you can use it for storing the salve as well.
- This recipe will fill three of the 2 fl oz tins shown in the photo. (Tins were purchased from SpecialtyBottle.com.)
I recommend using a digital scale, but if you don’t have one, it will be helpful to know that the beeswax converts to roughly 1.5 tablespoons (grated or pastilles, packed very tightly in the spoon) and the oil measures out to be approximately 1/2 cup. You might need to tinker with the amounts of oil and beeswax, remelting the salve as needed, to get a consistency that you like.
*Important Note* Check with your doctor or health care provider if you have chronic health conditions, or questions or concerns about this or any other herbal home remedy. While this site does its best to provide useful information for others, any reliance you place on such information is strictly at your own risk and not a substitute for medical, legal, or any other professional advice of any kind. Some links in this post are affiliate links.
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Oh, I love this idea! When I was researching elder, I discovered that the leaves and green inner bark were used for treating cradle cap in the olden days. Among other things. What a fun idea for a salve!
How interesting! Thanks for sharing Gwen! :)
This salve sounds so nourishing. So awesome to see that you used some oils from Bramble Berry! Thanks for sharing this tutorial with us. =)
Thanks Anne-Marie! I love my Bramble Berry oils! :)
Does it matter which elder you use? I discovered this spring that I have both red and black in my woods. I prefer to not disturb the black one though.
Hi Gina! In my Making Plant Medicine book, by Richo Cech, and the article linked above by Kiva Rose, they both specify black elder, so I believe that’s the one you’d want to use.
I am looking forward to something good other than shade from our tree. I hate the elder box bugs that come in the fall from it!!!
Hi Kristina, I’m glad you found a good use for your tree!
I TOTALLY want to make this one!
Hi Amy, I’m happy you like the recipe! :)
Hi, I love the sound of this salve. Probably a dumb question but, is it Elderberry plant leaves or from another plant? Thanks so much!
Hi Lisa! Yes, you’re exactly right – you would use the leaves from an elderberry plant to make this salve. I’m glad you like the recipe! :)
Thanks for posting this. I just came across your blog about a week ago and have been addicted to it. I am in the beginning phase of launching my own company and it’s awesome to find a blog that relates, so closely, to the way I started soaping and making bath products!
Happy your like the recipe! :)
Hi I would love to try this but i am confused! lol
Some are talking about the box elder Tree and others eldeberry bushes. Which is used here?
Hi Dianna! You want to use the leaves from black elder bushes:
Why do you use wilted leaves? Why not dried?
Hi Sade! Completely dry leaves work as well, as long as they still have some color to them. (Once an herb significantly fades in color, it’s a pretty good sign the beneficial properties have faded too.)
I accidentally cut a branch off the elderberry bush the other day and remembered reading your salve recipe. So, to save what I could I desided to make it. Right now I’m letting the leaves in the oil for a day or two. My question for you is, do you ever add essential oils to this to make it smell better or is that smell not that strong when it’s finished?
Hi Jody! I leave mine plain, but it doesn’t usually have a strongly noticeable smell. Did you use fresh leaves or dried? (If fresh, is it possible that the leaves have begun spoiling?) You could always add a bit of essential oil to this recipe though – maybe lavender and/or a few drops of tea tree would be nice, or to make it cooling – a few drops of peppermint essential oil.
Hi, I have a question. Some products like crams and lotions call for an antimicrobial like Leucidal Liquid SF, but salves and other products do not. How do you determine when to add the antimicrobial to what type of product? Thank you!
Hi Tamara! Water or water-based ingredients (like aloe or hydrosols) form cozy little spots for bacteria or mold to grow in lotions and creams. If you have a recipe that contains just oils, butters & wax (no water-based liquids) then you don’t have to worry about a preservative, since there’s no place for mold/bacteria to take up residence. :)
Ancient nerdy stuff here – from over 1000 years ago: The typical
format of remedies in the Anglo-Saxon medical corpus is to first establish the
disease or disorder being treated, e.g. wiþ fotece “for foot-ache” (BLB 1:37, 3),
immediately followed by a list of ingredients, “genim ellenes leaf 7 wegbrædan
7 mucgwyrt” [take elder leaf and plantain and mugwort] and minimal instructions
as to the preparation and use of the concoction “gecnuwa. lege on 7
gebind on” [pound, apply, and tie on].
Fascinating! Thanks for sharing!
Can you substitute soy wax? My family is allergic to beeswax. If so how much soy wax do I use?
Hi Felicia! I haven’t personally tried it, but have heard of people using soy wax instead of beeswax. You could try using an equal amount and if the salve is too firm, melt it again and add more oil. (Or if it’s too soft, melt again and add more wax.)
Two other options are candelilla wax (use half as much as you would beeswax) or sunflower wax (use about 1/4 as much as you would beeswax.) I’ve bought candelilla wax from BrambleBerry.com and sunflower wax from Nature’s Garden.
Jan: Can you use this for presser/bed sores for older people? If not do you have any recipes that would help with this issue? Thank you for all wonderful recipes you share for those of use that are trying to stay away from pharmaceuticals.
Hi Tracey! Have you tried raw honey? I have an article here where it helped save my dad’s foot, but I’ve heard of so many people having good results with bed sores too:
I tried Goldenrod tea and it works great. I’m making the tincture and oil infused/salve now. This is a whole new area of learning I had previously never thought about. Very interesting stuff. Thank you.
Hi Paul, So glad to hear that you’re enjoying the goldenrod projects!
I made this thanks to your site last summer, this summer got frozen shoulder and nothing was helping — tried the salve and it helped within minutes!! i also put st. johnswort oil I’d made into the salve, so maybe they work well together for inflammation? It’s the most relief I’ve gotten, thank you for suggesting making it!!! I had looked up elder leaves medicinal uses and luckily found your post.
Hi Sasha! I’m so sorry to hear about your shoulder, but that’s terrific that the elder leaf salve was so helpful! Thanks for the tip about combining it with St John’s Wort. I’ll have to give it a try! :)
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