Ointments contain oils or fats heated with herbs and, unlike creams, contain no water. As a result, ointments form a separate layer on the surface of the skin. They protect against injury or inflammation of damaged skin and carry active medicinal constituents, such as essential oils, to the affected area. Ointments are useful in conditions such as hemorrhoids or where protection is needed from moisture, as in chapped lips and diaper rash.
Ointments can be made with dozens of bases and they vary in consistency, depending on the constituents and proportions used. The simplest way to make a soft, all-purpose ointment is to use petroleum jelly or soft paraffin wax (other methods are explained below). Petroleum jelly is impermeable to water and provides a protective barrier for the skin. Single herbs or mixtures of herbs may be used as required, provided they are finely cut, and essential oil can be stirred into the ointment just before straining.
A solid and relatively grease-free ointment will spread easily and is useful for preparations such as lip balms. This may be made by using alternatives to mineral oils. Melt 140 g of coconut oil with 120 g of beeswax and 100 g of powdered herb. Simmer gently for 90 minutes in a glass bowl set in a pan of boiling water or a double boiler, then strain and pour into jars.
A less solid ointment, for conditions such as skin rashes, may be made by combining olive oil and beeswax. Melt 60 g of beeswax with 2 cups (500 ml) of olive oil and 120 g of dried or 300 g of fresh herb in a glass bowl. Cover and place in a warm oven for 3 hours, then remove, strain, and pour into jars. This ointment can also be made by combining 2 cups (500 ml) of hot infused oil with 60 g of melted beeswax.
60 g dried or 150 g fresh herb (or mixture of herbs) to 500 g of petroleum jelly or soft paraffin wax.
Apply a little 3 times a day.
Store in sterilized, dark glass jars with lids for up to 3 months.
How to Prepare
- Melt the petroleum jelly or wax in a glass bowl set in a pan of boiling water, or use a double boiler. Add the finely cut herb and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring continuously.
- Pour the herb mixture into a jelly bag secured to the rim of a jug with string, and allow the liquid to filter through.
- Wearing rubber gloves, squeeze as much of the hot herb mixture as possible through the bag into the jug.
- Quickly pour the molten ointment into jars before it sets in the jug. Place the lid on each jar without securing it firmly. When cool, tighten the lids and label.