How to Make a Salve @ The Furnace

I’m not normally one for extracurricular education, but The Furnace had one I just couldn’t resist. A DIY workshop on salves. Their next workshop is on elderberries. It’s a series taught by Stacy Pettigrew, of Echo Lake Forest Farm and the fee per class is a sliding scale of $5-25.

They’re on Sundays at The Furnace (84 Grand St, Albany, NY), and a great way to spend the afternoon. Stacy was an engaging teacher, and I know I’m up for taking some more workshops. I’ll put the schedule at the end of this post, so you can too. This post is by no means comprehensive, and likely riddled with inaccuracies, but it IS full of spastic enthusiasm. Go take a class, trust me, you’ll have fun.

Check out all of Stacy’s cool wares. Some tinctures (which can be ingested), and some salves in a box (which are topically applied). Salves don’t go in your mouth. I know this is a food blog, but this is some interesting local stuff, and it’s kind of like cooking. And tinctures are edible!

So making a salve is pretty easy. Way easier than I thought it would be, although I am going to credit that to Stacy’s teaching skills and relaxed manner.
First thing you need is a devoted double boiler.
Well, I take that back. The first thing you need are some dried herbs, packed into a jar with the best kind of vegetable oil you can get. Organic extra virgin olive oil, or something like that. Have those dried herbs ground up as finely as possible, then let them sit in oil for a week or two around 100F and then strain the oil and pop the oil in the double boiler.


Weigh out beeswax. Just a smidge of beeswax. This was just about 1.25 oz for a large mason jar of oil. Smidge. Stacy said it’s better to underestimate your beeswax, since you can always add more to make it firmer, but you can’t take it out. And then you might have a rock hard salve.

Beeswax in the heated, strained oil! Stacy had some oil that had soaked up some arnica goodness. Arnica is good for aches and sore bits. Just don’t put it on cuts. Or eat it. CUZ YOU WILL EXPLODE! Or not. But just don’t do it.

Tins! To put salves in! There are places you can get these from locally, like Burch Bottles in Watervliet.

Stacy also mentioned some places to buy dried herbs from (Pacific Botanicals), or seeds to grow your own(Horizon Herbs). Needless to say, I’m already planning out next year’s garden, and wondering if I can start growing any of them indoors over the winter.


After the beeswax melts into the oil you can test to see how firm it will be by placing a spoonful in the freezer for a few minutes. Once you’re happy with it, you can bottle it up (if you want it firmer, just add more beeswax). It only takes a few more minutes for this to go from liquid to solid.

Tada! Arnica salves!

I can’t wait to try making my own, or even trying to make my own solid perfume with some essential oils, beeswax, and olive oil. But here’s the thing. A pint of oil makes a lot of salves. I think this would be awesome to do for a girl’s night in, or for holiday presents. Or maybe you like to slather a lot of things on yourself.

So you’ve missed the first DIY class, but guess what? You’ve got plenty more to catch! Here’s the lineup:

DIY Herbal Salves, 12/5: Learn about herbs used for salves and their different uses. Class participants will make and take home an arnica salve for aches, pains, and trauma.

The Amazing Elderberry, 12/12: Review different clinical and scientific studies about the effectiveness of this powerful berry in fighting influenza. Class participants will make and take home elderberry syrup.

DIY Tincturing and Percolation, 1/9: How to make alcohol extracts – the math and chemistry demystified. Which herbs work best? Fresh or dry? Ratios and percentages and step-by-step instructions. Plus – DIY tincture press construction and demonstration.

Herbs for Winter, 1/23: Fight colds, flus, coughs, and sore throats.

Medicinal Mushrooms, 2/6: A review of uses, scientific and clinical studies, and preparation of medicinal mushrooms. Examples of locally harvested mushrooms will be available to see and sample.

Workshops led by Stacy Pettigrew.

Stacy Pettigrew earned a Clinical Herbalist certificate from Michael Moore’s Southwest School of Botanical Medicine, and has also studied with 7Song at the Northeast School of Botanical Medicine and taken classes at the North American Institute for Medical Herbalism. She is the proprietor of Echo Lake Forest Farms LLC, which offers a wide range of herbal products. Stacy is also the co-author of Toolbox for Sustainable City Living: A Do-It-Ourselves Guide and is the Executive Director of the Radix Ecological Sustainability Center

2 comments
  1. DelSo said:

    Spastic enthusiasm!! That should be adopted as a philosophy by way more people.

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