A few months ago I started seeing a naturopath for a host of things that I was struggling with, anxiety, stress, exhaustion – a lot of which was being manifested in my skin. I’ve always had very dry skin, it’s genetic… my littlest brother and I have always struggled with it and no amount of over the counter products have ever been of much use to me. With the Nothing New project, a big instigator was an instinctual pull that I felt away from consumer ‘solutions’ and more toward natural alternatives.
When I started seeing my naturopath we talked a lot about natural solutions to the problems that I was experiencing. We talked about changes of diet and natural supplements. We talked about reducing stress and getting more sleep. We talked about lifestyle changes and positive coping strategies that could help me combat some of the more difficult areas in my life. We talked about natural balms and oils and products.
Then we talked about chickweed.
I had read a bit about chickweed oil/salve (one of the places was here in this great run down of chickweed by Little Eco Footprints) and wanted to discuss it further with a professional. My naturopath raved about it but did warn that it could be quite expensive. Chickweed salve has great natural skin healing properties, it is excellent for dry skin but is also recommended for minor burns, skin irritations, minor abrasions and rashes (particularly when associated with itching or dryness). I was very curious… something natural that could be used as a kind of skin healing balm? It sounded ideal. But I coudlnt’ find any locally produced and at around $10 for 50g it was going to be very expensive to use as a moisturiser.
Then I discovered, chickweed grows (like a weed) all over this part of the world.
So we foraged. We experimented and we made our own. I made about 2L of the oil for less than $10
And you know what? It works!
Are you game enough to try it?
HEALING BALM DIY: CHICKWEED SALVE
Fresh or dried chickweed (check here for some tips on how to identify chickweed growing in the wild)
Good quality olive oil
I had a medium-sized basket of chickweed that I foraged at our local university with a couple of friends of mine. First of all it’s best to wash and dry your chickweed so that the leaves are free of any potential dust or nasties. I just gave a good wash in the sink and lay it out in the sun for an hour or so.
There are several methods for making chickweed oil, here is one for slow infusion, and one for infusion in a double boiler. This is a great website for some different options if you want to try it another way. I used a slow cooker that I borrowed off my mum. It’s really important that the chickweed is submerged in oil AND that the oil never gets too hot as the chickweed will then become deep-fried. You want the oil really hot, but not boiling.
In a slow cooker put equal parts oil and chickweed. I had a lot of chickweed so used about 2L of Olive Oil to ensure that the chickweed was fully submerged.Make sure the slow cooker is on its lowest setting and pop on the lid. Then leave for 4-6 hours.
Strain the chickweed infused olive oil through a muslin cloth squeezing the herbs to ensure that as much of the oil comes out as absolutely possible.
That’s it. Simple, beautiful, healing oil.
Now you can use the oil as it is… I used it on my skin for a month or so before I even bothered making it into a balm. But once I made the balm, I haven’t turned back – the texture is nicer and it’s a lot less messy to use in a rush.
To make the balm simply use a solution of 5:1 (five parts chickweed oil to one part beeswax).
Create a simple double boiler by placing the tin can in a couple of inches of boiling water and place the oil and beeswax into the tin. Keep an eye on the mixture, stirring occasionally, until fully combined.
Remove the tin can from the boiling water (be careful it will be very, very hot) and pour into prepared sterilised jars or containers.
Keep a jar in your bathroom to use as a moisturiser on any skin conditions and another in your first aid box for use on burns, bites and rashes.