If you’ve ever wished for a universal remedy that would make bug bites, scrapes, sunburns, diaper rash, and dry skin simply disappear, multipurpose ointments might be what you’re looking for. Often coming in a tube or jar, thick, gel-like topical salves are made from herbs infused in olive oil and then added to a beeswax or cocoa-butter base. The emollient oils soften skin, while the herbs offer antibacterial properties and work to heal irritation. When buying a salve, look for all-natural formulas without petroleum, mineral oil, or synthetic fragrances and colorings, which can irritate skin. Traditional herbal salves fall into these three basic categories.

Skin-conditioning

Formulated to moisturize dry, itchy, and cracked skin, these salves often contain extra-rich emollients such as macadamia nut oil and shea butter. Great for chapped cuticles and lips, salves with soothing herbs also cool sunburns and chlorine-irritated skin. Look for peppermint, hemp butter, and rose essential oil—they smell delicious and may be used anywhere on the body, including lips, heels, elbows, and hands. Other natural skin-healing ingredients include goldenseal and myrrh.

How to apply: Warm the container in your palm until the balm inside is soft, then massage a liberal amount into dry patches. Repeat as needed.

Outstanding salves
· Burt’s Bees Miracle Salve with pumpkinseed oil and wheat germ
· Kiss My Face My Body Olive with olive butter and oil
· Owens Acres Cocoa Butter Hemp Salve with myrrh and goldenseal

First-aid

To treat cuts and minor burns, as well as flare-ups from bug bites, poison ivy, and eczema, try a salve that contains inflammation-reducing herbs such as calendula, chickweed, and comfrey, which also help reduce pain and speed healing. Also search out antibacterial and antiseptic ingredients, such as goldenseal, echinacea, aloe vera, and tea tree oil. But before use, especially on sensitive children’s skin, test the product on the forearm for signs of allergic reactions.

How to apply: Gently clean and dry the affected area, then apply a thin layer of salve and cover with a gauze pad or lightweight bandage.

Outstanding salves
· Herb Pharm Herbal Ed’s Salve with comfrey root, chickweed, and St. John’s wort
· School Garden Co’s Superhealer with vitamin E, comfrey, sage, and calendula
· WishGarden First Aid Salve for Kids with goldenseal, hops, calendula, and coconut oil

Baby-safe

Extra gentle and free of potential allergens or skin irritants, these salves treat the pesky, nearly constant skin conditions that seem to affect all babies at one time or another. Because they are formulated for superdelicate skin, many baby salves are unscented or just lightly scented; they may also be thinner than therapeutic salves. Lightweight nut oils and calming herbs, such as lavender and chamomile, soothe diaper rash and cradle cap, but these options are also ideal for adults with sensitive skin.

How to apply: Clean and dry the affected area, then gently apply a thin layer of salve (a little bit goes a long way). Use regularly for prevention, or as needed to treat outbreaks.

Outstanding salves
· Dr. Bronner Baby Mild Organic Baby Balm with jojoba seed and avocado oil
· Nature’s Baby Organics Organic Soothing Stick with sunflower seed oil and chamomile
· Happy Baby Rash Salve with beeswax or vegan cocoa butter bases

Make your own all-purpose salve
Customize with the herbs of your choice. Like most herbal remedies, this recipe uses “parts” instead of specific measurements, but you can plan on using about a 1/4 cup of each herb.

1 part calendula
1 part comfrey leaf
1 part St. John’s wort
Olive oil
2-4 parts beeswax or cocoa butter
1-2 drops essential oil (for fragrance, optional)

1. Place herbs in a large pot or slow cooker. Add enough oil to cover completely by an inch. Heat on medium-high until oil shimmers. Reduce heat and warm for three hours over low heat. Remove from heat; let cool until lukewarm. Pour mixture through cheesecloth, pressing solids; discard solids.

2. Add beeswax to infused oil and heat to melt. Spoon a small amount of mixture into a small dish; let cool to determine if salve is the right consistency. (It should be thick enough for a small spoon to stand up in it.) If it’s too runny, add more beeswax. Mix in essential oil, if using. Store in sterilized baby-food jars or tins.

Curative herbs
Inflammation and itching: Evening primrose oil, licorice, chamomile
Eczema: Chamomile, calendula, witch hazel
Acne: Calendula, witch hazel
Minor burns and sunburn: Aloe vera, calendula
Wounds and infections: Chamomile, comfrey, calendula, echinacea, goldenseal, St. John’s wort
Insect bites and stings: Comfrey, calendula
Hemorrhoids: Witch hazel, horse chestnut