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Warming salve.

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This warming salve is very good for cold days and nights.

I made a warming salve last week. Here's the how-to:
Pour 1.3 l oil (I used cold-pressed safflower oil) into the top bit of a waterbath, add 100 g powdered ginger (I zapped mine with the blender), add 100 g powdered cayenne, add 50 g powdered mustard, leave on heat for 1.5 hours, let cool.

Photo: Waterbath 2. Pic: Some small ginger pieces float in the cayenne-red oil in the waterbath.

Put a sieve onto a bowl, put an industrial-sized coffee filter into the sieve, pour as much of your oil'n'herb mess into the sieve as will fit, let drip overnight. If you top up the mess in the sieve with what's left in your waterbath bowl you can finish your salve the next day; if you didn't you'll just have to wait until your oil has dripped through the coffee filter, which possibly takes another night.

Photo: Filtering. Pic: Leftovers after 2 days of dripping.

Then measure your oil (I got 1 liter), add beeswax (1:8, that is, 125 g), melt on full heat, and pour into jars. Let cool, add lids, label.

I got the original warming oil recipe from the UK herb society pages, back when Rene Burrough ran the site and Chris Hedley and Non Shaw were regular contributors. When I first saw it I just shook my head: is anybody crazy enough to actually make this? But hey, this was Chris Hedley, one of the best herbalists I know, so I gave it a try with a small test batch. It was very nice: put some oil (or salve) on your skin, and wonder 15 minutes later why just that spot is so warm.

The original proportions for Non's hot oil, as given on the Jan 1998 herbmonger page, were:
25 g (1 oz) cayenne pepper
30 ml (2 T) mustard powder, Sinapis alba
15 ml (1 T) ginger powder, Zingiber officinale
10 ml (2 tsp) ground black pepper, Piper nigrum
300 ml (10 fl oz) vegetable oil

Photo: Capsicum annuum 4. Photo: Zingiber officinale 3. Pic: Cayenne powder and cut'n'sifted ginger.

They said to double infuse for a stronger oil - I haven't found that necessary, my recipe is hot enough for me. And I really dislike recipes where you mix grams with tablespoons, 'cos then you can't tell the proportions of different ingredients at a glance.

Salves are less messy, and you can use less of them for the same zing, so I made this into a salve. Which I've made every winter -- it's a very popular xmas gift.

One caution: wash your hands after applying the warming salve (to cold feet, to the chest and back if you have a cough, or just to warm your bones). If you don't, and you rub your eyes or touch other sensitive mucous membranes, it's going to hurt. For quite a long time.


This sounds like a dangerous product. Make your enemy's day by hiding some in his/her tube of KY!

Seriously though, does it actually make you feel warmer? It's actually just stimulating pain receptors rather than providing any actual heat, isn't it?

Yes, this salve actually warms - it enhances the peripheral blood supply. It really is very nice.

Though I agree, it's not the first choice for KY -- that is, not unless both of you are convinced practising masochists.

I have several friends/family members who are seriously sensitive to cayenne. Could this be made without the cayenne? Are there other ingredients that could add to the warming quality without hurting those capsacin-sensitive folk? Thanks for the great blog!

Yes, you can make it with ginger, mustard and black pepper. I've never made it without cayenne myself - please let me know how it turns out!

I also add Tumeric to this recipe, have made it without the Cayenne and it turned just fine, a little more mild but still worked non the less.

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