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Rose salve.

Botanical name: 

Xmas is getting near, and so are xmas markets.

I've been selling my salves at a few local markets every xmas for the last few years, and last week got an order for 5 rose salves, "they're so good, and make such good presents". Right, I was all out, and needed to make some more salves anyway, so I got to work.

Photo: Rosa x damascena. Pic: Dried rosebuds, whole and powdered.
Here's the roses I used. There's an abundantly flowering rose right next to the house, but while its scent wafts nicely on the evening breeze around mid-summer, the dried flowers have no scent whatsoever ... I know, 'cos I picked them. I only did that one year, though, after that I've left them on the bushes.

These days I buy organically grown dried Moroccan rosebuds by the kg. I think it's Rosa damascena, but I could be wrong. Whatever, it's very strongly scented. (An aromatherapist friend promised me Bulgarian contacts for 2-4 kg high quality dried roses a year, but I haven't heard from her again, so shrug.)

When making salves the scent of the rose is very important: the stronger the dried rose, the stronger the salve. Even with the strongest of roses you need to double infuse the oil to get a scented salve, unless you cheat and add essential oil of rose of course. I very very very very rarely cheat when making salves, because people are allergic to essential oils; they're not allergic to my salves. When I do add an essential oil I always mention it on the label.

So it's, powder up 200 g dried rosebuds (I just zap them with the blender), pour 1.3 liter oil into the top bit of a waterbath, add 100 g powdered herb to the oil, add a bit of calendula flowers, and let sit for 1.5 hours on medium heat. I usually leave it on 4 (of 6), once the water has started to boil.

Photo: Waterbath. Pic: A simple waterbath.
This is just a small kettle inside a larger one. Water in the larger one, oil'n'herb in the top one. I stir with an unpainted bamboo chopstick. My usual setup involves a larger kettle and a steel bowl, with three chopsticks in the water bit holding the bowl away from the sides of the kettle, and one chopstick to stir with.

Once your oil has been on the waterbath for 1.5 hours you let it cool for about 20 minutes; then wipe the underside of the oil'n'herb bowl and pour the mess into a cheesecloth. Take the 4 corners and start to wring. Pour the oil back into the top bit of the waterbath, top it up with 0.3 liters oil (you left lots of oil in your discarded dried roses), add 100 g dried roses, add more calendula if you so like, and let sit again for 1.5 hours.

Let cool again, strain through another cheesecloth, and measure how much infused rose oil you have. Add 1 part (by weight) of beeswax to 8 parts (by volume) of oil: 100 g beeswax to 800 ml oil makes about 30 x 30 ml salve jars. Hotter climates might need more beeswax to the oil; 1:5 makes very hard salves for our temperatures, but might be just about right for hot places. 1:10 makes a very soft salve, so soft in fact that you can pour it, even up here. Not good.

Clean your waterbath bowl -- you don't want bits of dried herb in your salve once it's done -- with a dry cloth or a dry paper -- you don't want water in your salve. Pour the oil back into the bowl, add the beeswax, and put the heat onto full, or the wax won't melt. Let sit until the wax is all dissolved and give it a few twirls with whatever you're stirring with, just to make sure that there's beeswax in all the oil and not just in some parts of it.

Take the top bowl off the waterbath and put it next to your jars. I use a syringe (50 ml) to pull liquid hot salvemass from the bowl and push it into the jars; when done correctly it has a lot of pros:
- you get the right amount into the jars (30 ml, for me)
- it's not messy
- it's rather faster than pouring straight from the bowl, because it's not messy
Cons, well, one of my four syringes used to get stuck halfway, and you had to really push so it would go further. Splash, liquid salve all over the place. Throwing that particular syringe away gave me great satisfaction.

Let the salve cool and congeal before you add lids and labels, or you'll have salve all over the insides of the lids -- not pretty at all.

Calendula is in almost all my salves, because a little calendula never hurt anybody, and it's an extremely efficient healer.


You have to wipe the underside of your bowl before you pour your oil'n'herb into another bowl with a cheesecloth draped over it, because you don't want any water whatsoever in your salve. Water means mold. Remember to also wipe the underside of the rim of your bowl/kettle, you'll find there's lots'n'lots of water there.

You have to use a scentless oil for rose salve. While roses on the bush smell very strongly, scented oils (sesame, almond, walnut etc.) overpower it easily, leaving you with a rose salve with no rose scent. And what's the use of that? Safflower is a nice scentless oil; for home use, rapeseed works as well.

Use a good cold-pressed oil, preferably from organically grown plants. Most (but not all) cold-pressed oils contain loads of vitamin E. Vitamin E means slower rancidity. Forget all the cheap cooking oils, they're not worth the bottle they come in. (I don't use cheap cooking oils in my cooking, either - it's cold-pressed all the way.)

I use a lid on the top bit of the waterbath when making rose and lavender salves; those are the only salves I make for the scent of the flowers. All my other salves can sit merrily on the top of their waterbath without lids; they have no fragile scent I want to protect. That top lid needs to be small enough: if it's bigger than the bowl it's protecting you'll get water in your salve, from condensation.

Don't let the water boil dry. Or, well, the world won't end if you do, but your chopsticks will get burnt a tad and it might smell bad. And the waterbath isn't as hot (and therefore less efficient) if there's no steam rising from the hot water.

This recipe works for dried herb. Fresh herb, well, you'll have to wait until I make a fresh herb salve for tips'n'tricks on that. Next summer.


I haven't used the oil'n'herb-in-a-glass-jar-on-the-windowsill -method for years. I don't think I'll use that one ever again, because it's messy and the herb goes bad (rots, gets moldy) way too often.


What is your source for the Moroccan rosebuds? Thanks

A local organic produce wholesaler.

That makes no sense. The rose absolute/essential oil comes from the petals of the rose. It's the same oil you are trying to infuse out of the roses. You make no sense. In addition, you should KNOW without a doubt what kind of rose you are using making a medicinal salve and selling it on top of that. Not just I guess, or I think... You are just one of the many who act like you half assed know what you are doing, but don't and hurt people with your products and making those who truly know what they are doing in the industry look bad. You have nothing but misinformation posted here.

I for one would like to thank Henriette for sharing her recipe. I think there is a difference in the oil extracted for rose absolute. They use a solvent to obtain perhaps it is better that you start googling what the solvent is instead of criticising Henriette. I understand the need to have fragrance for products, some customers really do love them and can't get it strong enough. I use essential oil sparingly, as I had an accident when I was moving. A bottle of essential smashed into my wall from falling from 2 floors. It seems to eat into the wall and I have repainted and apply putty to try to cover it up but it keeps coming thru. My son has eczema and if I use a little bit more essential oils in my soap or salve, it stings him. It's ok for me cos I have normal skin.

I just tried Henritte's recipe and the smell is amazing, smoky rose. It isnt easy to get so much fragrance out and if you have not experimented before please dont come down so harsh. Absolute is expensive but also very concentrated. It might not be the rose that her customers are allergic to, but perhaps the residue solvent or residue chemicals left behind in the absolute rose that could be the culprit, hence there are subtle difference from infused oil and absolute oil. The best way to test it out is from the response she gets from her customers.

She used dried rose which you can make tea from, so how much harm can it be? I am sure you can confirm the scientific name for Moroccon roses, just google. She has given enough information and there is nothing that makes the industry look bad. Just cos she has no explaination for why her customers prefer her infused salve to the essential oil salve says alot. Everyone raves about essential oil cos we are told how great it is. I think it is good to experience it for ourselves. I am looking into infusing other herbs into my oil to enhence my fragrance and hopefully they smell as great! Thank you Henritte for sharing a great recipe and also tell it as it is. So proud of you

Thanks Jocelyn. The full botanical name of the rose used is totally and utterly irrelevant ... it's a rose, and one with a strong scent.
Have fun

I feel so embarrassed for this person. They must not be aware of the differences in an herbal infusion, which is what this article/ recipe is for, and the distillation process for acquiring Rose Attar or Rose Absolute. Henriette, I must apologize for this person. Some are angrier than others. Then there are those who listen, comprehend, and then speak. Thank you for this fine recipe and keep up the good work. It is much appreciated.

You know, the only thing I want out of dried rose buds (or dried rose flowers) is the scent. It doesn't matter at all (at all) what kind of rose it is, as long as the scent gets through to the oil, and thus to the salve.
This is, after all, herbal medicine, not aromatherapy. It's herbs, not single extremely concentrated constituents.

And - hurt people? With a rose salve? Get real.

This doesn't look like misinformation to me, it looks like a pretty good guide for making a salve.

Thanks! :-)