How to MAKE CHAPARRAL SALVE---And Why Everyone Needs It in Their Home!
I just LOVE Chaparral! I know this is a strange plant to love, because after all, it is known to kill off its own offspring to reduce competition in the harsh desert lands in which it lives. In fact, if you ever end up in a Chaparral Belt, take a look at all the plants. You will find they are all approximately the same distance from each other and spread apart. Chaparral is also known as Creosote Bush (that is what I grew up knowing it as), Greasewood, Gobernadora, and Hediondilla.
Chaparral has some terrific properties, making it one of the handiest salves to make and have around! Find out where to find it, how to make it, and why every home should have on hand!
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Why I LOVE Chaparral and You Should Too!
I grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada during the 60's and 70's. We had several of these bushes growing in our backyard at that time. During the past couple of decades, the Chaparral bushes lower in the Las Vegas Valley have disappeared due to drought, and I'm guessing the depletion of the water table there. However, they are still plentiful higher up and also at lower elevations where there is more water available. (Isn't it a shame what a large city will do to the surrounding ecosystem?)
What I just loved best about them was not the waxy small dark green leaves; or the beautiful bright yellow flowers in spring that turn into cute little puffballs of seed; or the way they are able to survive in the harshest of desert environments....IT'S THE SCENT of these amazing bushes. If you have ever smelled the desert after a rainstorm, you have smelled Chaparral. You just can't describe it. Fresh, pure, lovely, green. The smell after a rain is seriously incredible! The desert smells alive!
Later, after I began studying herbalism and learning more about the native plants, I learned that Chaparral has many significant uses! There is quite a bit of science around why Chaparral works so well for so many different things, but suffice to say that the compounds contained in Chaparral have evolved over many thousands of years of tough living.
1. Chaparral Battles Skin Issues and Potential Infections
Chaparral is great as an antimicrobial agent on the skin's surface. It slows down bacterial growth (infection, anyone?). This is best done in the form of either a strong tea, tincture, or a salve (we'll get to the salve-making in just a moment). You can place it directly on the skin, or make a poultice from the crushed or powdered plant matter wrapped in a cloth.
2. Helps a Variety of Body Systems
Taken internally in tea or tincture form, Chaparral is thought to help with liver function, digestion, and even dry skin/hair/nails.
3. It's a Great Herbal Antibiotic
Additionally, Chaparral is "one of the best herbal antibiotics, being useful against bacteria, viruses and parasites." (Tierra) When combined with other powerhouse herbs such as Echinacea or Goldenseal, Chaparral is great for fighting off colds, flus, urinary tract infections, and bronchial issues.
4. Chaparral May Possibly Have Anti Tumor Properties
There is a very powerful antioxidant compound found in Chaparral called NDGA (nordihidroquaiaretic acid), which may have anti tumor properties. It should be noted that not enough is known about it, although studies are pointing to the fact that it may help some people. Source (See disclaimer below)
5. Scent Masking
If you are a hunter or want to mask your scent in the wild for other reasons, then creating a Chaparral tincture to spray on yourself will help mask your scent! Plus, you'll smell great! My husband uses it, and has found it be VERY helpful! If you'd like to make a tincture here are some great directions!
6. For Survival Purposes and for Your Home Apothecary
If you know how to use Chaparral, in can be incredibly handy if you have it in your environment. If not, just having the dried herb ready to go, or have a bottle of salve and the tincture set aside can be truly helpful if you need an antibiotic for external or internal use.
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How to Make Chaparral Salve
Chaparral salve is super EASY to make, smells GREAT (like the above-mentioned desert rain), and is so very useful for a variety of external problems. I actually keep this salve by my kitchen sink and this is what I lightly rub into my hands after doing the dishes. Veeeerrrrry Soothing, and it smells just like the desert after a good refreshing rain!
If you don't live in an area where Chaparral grows, you can purchase it from Starwest Botanicals.
A quality oil (organic EVOO is great---I get mine from Costco because it's the very best for the price I've been able to find.)
***THAT's IT!!! Isn't that awesome!? (This is by far my easiest salve.) Note: You can add essential oils for more scent, but I don't. I just love its natural scent too much.
Where do you get Chaparral?
Well, if you live in a place where you can gather it safely without fear of vehicle exhaust fumes, too much road dust, or chemicals/pesticides or in a non protected area, you can wildcraft it yourself! That's what I do, because it's plentiful here in the Mojave. I like to gather it in the spring when the flowers are blooming because the juices are really flowing at that time. But you can use it anytime...it's fine.
If you can't just go out and gather it up yourself, then you can order it online! I like Starwest Botanicals. This online shop has high quality, organic, reasonably priced herbs. They ship fast too. They also pay attention to sustainability, and the customer care is excellent.
**If you are interested in making other salves, check out this article on How to Make St. John's Healing Salve, and stay in touch! I'll continue to share my other salve recipes here soon!
Directions for Making Chaparral Salve:
1. Infuse the Chaparral in the carrier oil.
To do this, just fill half a Mason jar with dried Chaparral, then fill to within an inch or so of the top with organic olive oil (you can also use almond oil). I like the sun to hit my infusions, because I believe there is extra power and energy associated with the sun. So, I put a lid on the jar and leave it on a sunny shelf for at least four weeks. Shake it daily, and give it some LOVE. :-)
**The oil in the picture was actually infused for about 15 weeks. As long as the herb is left in the oil, I have never once had oil go rancid. Once the herb is strained out, the oil will last at least 6 months to a year--sometimes even more, depending on the herbs used.
Here's a GREAT article on how to infuse oils with herbs for use in salves and body care products.
2. Strain the Herbs
You'll be left with a goldenish-greenish lovely oil naturally scented with....you guessed it! Desert Rain. I still can't get over how awesome infused oils are!
3. Heat Up Your Oil & Beeswax Combination
Use 1/4 cup Beeswax to 1 cup of the infused oil. Place this combination in a double boiler (See my makeshift one? I have dedicated Mason Jars for all my different salves.)
To make your own simple double boiler, just use a Mason jar for the oils/beeswax mix. Place it in a pan with an inch or two of water---
Set the stovetop to a very low heat. PLEASE do NOT use high heat---you could crack the jar. Just be patient. Wait for the beeswax to melt completely. I gently the swirl the mixture to help the melting go a little faster.
4. Remove from the Heat and Let Sit a Moment
After it's melted and completely liquid, remove from the the double boiler and let "rest" for a second. Swirl again.
5. Jar Up Your Liquid Salve
Carefully pour (it's HOT) the liquid into jars of your choice. My favorite containers for salves are amber glass apothecary jars I purchase from Amazon. I generally use a 4 ounce jar for this size salve. You can also purchase 2 ounce jars, too.
6. Label Your Salve
Once set up (about an hour or so, depending on the room temperature) it's safe to move! Label with something cute and use or give away! Be sure to put the type of salve, the date it was bottled, and the ingredients. If you are giving it away, you will also want to add how to use it. **These are NOT FDA standards for labeling. If you are planning to sell salves, their rules are very strict, and you'll want to be sure to check them out!
This recipe will make about 10 ounces of salve, so you should definitely plan on which jars or tins you want to use.
That's it! Enjoy! :-)
Do you make your own salves, and have you tried Chaparral salve? I'd love to hear about your experiences!
Hugs and Self-Reliance! It's a journey!
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Moore, Michael; Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West, 1989.
Tierra, Michael; The Way of Herbs,1998.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, and the ideas, procedures, and suggestions in this article are not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of a trained health professional. All matters regarding your health require medical supervision. Consult your doctor before adopting the suggestions in this article or elsewhere in the website. In no manner, stated or implied, are any statements made in this article or elsewhere on my website meant to prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure any health issue.
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