A few months back I made a batch of Cayenne Salve. It was simple to do. After infusing the ground cayenne pepper in olive oil, I added some beeswax and was good to go. My feeling was this: if a catastrophic disruptive event occurred, after a year or two I would exhaust my supply of pain relieving essential oils and then what?
The answer, I hoped, was to infuse spices and herbs in a carrier oil and use the resulting concoction instead. If I could turn the results into a salve, all the better.
Fortunately, infusing spices and dried herbs is very easy to do. It does take a couple of weeks but other than that, all you need is a carrier oil, your spice and herb mixture, and a covered jar. It really does not get much simpler than that.
Here in my own household, my first attempt at creating a pain relieving cayenne salve was met with mixed results. I personally do not have many aches and pains so self-testing was not an option. On the other hand, the Survival Husband is a walking pain machine. The problem was that he was achieving such good results, fantastic actually, with “The Birch” salve, that he was loath to change.
Recognizing the importance of having an alternative to essential oils for pain relief, I took my missive out to readers via the weekly Survival Buzz. I was thrilled to find a volunteer to test the salve and now, two months later, the reports are glowing. This stuff really works on chronic pain resulting from woes such as arthritis, sore and stiff muscles, and more.
When I sent my DIY Cayenne Salve to Dee in Oregon, I was cautiously optimistic about the results. I knew that Dee was already a proponent of natural medicine and cayenne in particular. It is one of the ingredients in the tonic she uses and also in the tonic that prevented me from having to have a root canal. (You can read about that particular adventure here and here.)
Initially she wrote and said that she had been “having fun watching reactions to people trying your salve. Only had one who didn’t like it. Tried it on 8 different people and each found it worked well enough they want to know where they can buy some. So….are you making enough to sell? “
Note: Nope. I am not selling anything. This is so simple to make that you can do it yourself!
I needed more information, naturally, and asked about the type of pain that the Cayenne Salve appeared to mitigate. Here is what she had to say:
As to your cream, I had a couple of people with arthritis in their hands who applied it. They felt significantly less pain almost immediately. Enough so in a couple of weeks, I’ll be hosting them so they can learn how to make your salve.
Another who has aches and pains but no dx, she too, was helped enough so she could function w/o pharma meds during the daily chores. One young woman in her early 30s was having pain in her hips (no knowledge as to why). She applied it to them on several occasions and she has said it works almost as good as my pain tonic. She’s tried both now.
I did have one who wouldn’t try it since I had told him it had cayenne in it. As to myself, when my pain level gets to 7, using your salve and my tonic, eliminates the pain for hours.
There may be something to the idea that for some it takes a few weeks but I didn’t find any of that in my limited number to subjects.
In further research, it seems even used topically, it helps the circulation. Enough so that one person who has tingling in her hands and tried it, it helped her to get feeling back into her hands. I do not begin to understand all this. I am still amazed.
This is another one of those DIY recipes that is so simple it is embarrassing. I will first share the basic recipe that suggest some variations.
1/2 cup olive oil (or 1/4 cup each coconut oil and olive oil)
1 tablespoon ground cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tablespoon beeswax pellets
Optional: 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper flakes
1. The first thing you are going to do is infuse the oil. This can be done in the top of a double boiler but I found it simpler to use a Pyrex measuring cup or mason jar sitting in a water bath on the stove. Combine the oils and the cayenne in your vessel and set aside.
2. Heat the water until is boils then turn down the flame to low and let the jar of oil and cayenne steep in the water bath for about an hour. Turn off the burner.
3. Stir up your infusion and let it sit for awhile.
4. After an hour or two, or the next day it really does not matter, repeat the process in #2 and #3.
Optional: At this point I got lazy and let my infusion sit around for a week. I am not sure whether that made it stronger and more potent but it certainly did not hurt. Because I used half coconut oil, before proceeding to the next step, I gently heated the infusion so that it was liquid again.
5. After the second session, get out your cheesecloth and strain the infused oil into a clean glass cup or mason jar. Hopefully you will remove most of the spice which, while not a bother, can feel a bit gritty on the skin.
I actually set the cheesecloth on top of a small strainer to “double strain” but this is totally optional.
6. Add the beeswax and return your infused oil and beeswax mixture to the water bath. Set the burner on low and allow the beeswax to melt, stirring occasionally. You want a nice slow melt.
7. When done, pour your liquid salve into a jar or tin and allow it to cool. I have no qualms using plastic jars (like these) but given a choice prefer glass jars.
The salve sets up quickly. This is within minutes of pouring it into the jar.
This will make about 4 ounces but can easily be doubled or tripled.
Here’s the thing: the smell is not too pretty. That will not matter during SHFT but to sweeten things up plus add extra pain-relieving benefits, you can add 8 to 10 drops of clove bud or peppermint essential oil to the salve. You will want to do this before you add the warm liquid to your jar or tin then stir it up a bit after the fact.
Although I have not tried it myself, you could substitute ginger or turmeric or even combine one or the other with the Cayenne. Both spices have their own healing properties that would be useful in a salve.
The last variation I will propose is making your Cayenne Salve in a stick, or lotion bar form. The only change in the formula would be to use 2.5 tablespoons of beeswax pellets. For some, rolling on the salve may be more desirable then dipping your fingers into a jar. I have purchased empty stick containers to use for this purpose but you can also re-use old deodorant containers.
Resource: Learn about making lotion bars in the article Make Your Own Healing Lotion Bars
This salve is great for aches and pains, including joint pain from arthritis, sore muscles, stiffness swelling an inflammation. It is probably not a good idea to use on open wounds, though, because it may sting. Also, it may stain so be mindful of your clothing.
That said, one thing you can do to prevent staining is to really rub it in well. You want to massage it gently into your muscles and not simply let it sit on top of the skin. It you skin becomes stained, use a bit of vinegar to clean it right up.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, it may take a week or so to begin to feel relief:
“Pain may get slightly worse at first, but then may get better over the next few days. Capsaicin should be applied regularly several times a day. It usually takes 3 – 7 days before you notice substantial pain relief.”
On the other hand, from what Dee says above, she has not found that to be the case. Bottom line? Everyone’s body is unique and your mileage may vary.
Dee also offered up some additional information on cayenne (aka red pepper or Capsicum annuum or frutescens):
Now, 2 things which people should know: 1. Cayenne works to relieve pain but it’s also a blood thinner internally, so if you’re anemic, this isn’t something you should take w/o consulting with your doctor. If you’re on some form of blood thinner, again, consult with your doctor. 2. For those who produce too much iron in the blood (hemochromatosis), this will ease that condition because cayenne binds iron to it as it passes through the body.
For those interested, here’s an article to help you understand better, then consider what Gaye is offering to inform you about: http://jonbarron.org/herbal-library/herbs/cayenne
For my salves, I used the standard household spice that you can pick up at the grocery store. For storage purposes, I recommend buying in bulk then packaging the excess in a Mylar or metalized bag with an oxygen absorber in the same manner as the rest of your food storage. For salve making purposes, a pound of cayenne will go a long long way.
If you are lucky enough to have a cool, dark basement, storing in mason jars with an O2 absorber will also work.
More of a challenge for long term storage will be the oils but, then again, you could use 100% coconut oil which has a very long shelf life. There really is a reason I purchase coconut oil in 5 gallon tubs! In a true, long term SHFT situation, oils of any type will become precious over time but if I had to, I would get over the negative connotation and use rendered animal fat. There will always be options, just not those we are accustomed to.
Truth be told, I still believe that using essential oils for pain relief should take priority over an herbal remedy. They are many times stronger and more powerful, they do not leave a residue, and smell nice. That said, how much can you store? A five year supply of essential oils is pricey plus, if you lack a cool dark storage area and your home gets hot and humid, the shelf life might become limited to just a few years.
The nice thing about Cayenne is that it is inexpensive, plus, you can grow it yourself. While I will not give up my essential oil salves unless forced to, it is good to know that I have some alternatives.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!