Learn how to make a simple yet effective salve using jewelweed, an herb with powerful anti-itch properties that you might be surprised to find growing close to home.
Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis), which also goes by the rather charming name of Spotted Touch-Me-Not, is hard to miss when it’s in bloom. With its striking red-speckled orange and yellow flowers, jewelweed is a natural draw to pollinators and foragers alike. (And it’s a special favorite of hummingbirds!)
What I love most about jewelweed, though, lies in its gorgeous green leaves, which have powerful anti-itch properties. These leaves are the base of this salve, which I always have on hand when we’re headed out for a hike or camping trip. Once you’ve tried this salve, you’ll be amazed at how effective it is at soothing itchy skin and tempering painful stings and other forms of external irritation.
If you’re just hoping to find a ready-made salve and skip the DIY portion, I’d suggest checking on Etsy for small-scale cottage industry producers since it’s not something that you’ll find in a store.
(Always consult your doctor or a clinical herbalist before trying any new herbal remedy, as there’s always the possibility of unintended consequences, allergic reaction, or interactions with other medication. If you’re harvesting wild plant material, make sure you’re 100% confident in your identification and consult multiple sources for your ID. The following is based on my research and experience, but I don’t claim to have any certifications that would qualify me to advise you on your health. Please do your own research and always verify with multiple reputable sources.)
What is Jewelweed?
Jewelweed is an herb that grows to a height of 3 to 5 feet tall. It has coarsely-toothed, oval-shaped leaves that are green on top and slightly paler underneath — the name “jewelweed” comes from the gathering of dew and rain on the plant’s leaves, which shimmers in the sunlight like a jewel.
Jewelweed grows plentifully all over the United States (with the exception of some of the more arid states in the southwest), and prefers moist areas with some degree of shade. A good place to start looking for jewelweed is along a nearby river or creek, especially in wooded areas.
The flowers, leaves, and stems of the jewelweed plant can be used to calm itchy poison ivy blisters or to relieve residual pain from an encounter with stinging nettles as well as a number of other external ailments.
The seed pods, however, are absolutely delicious and taste like walnuts.
Benefits of Jewelweed Salve
Supplies & Equipment for Making Jewelweed Salve
Making your own salve at home is easier than you might think. All you need are a few basic pieces of equipment (nothing fancy required!).
You’ll need a double boiler, like the ones found here, but it’s also super-easy to set up your own makeshift version using a heatproof bowl and a small pot, which is the method I use.
You’ll also need a neutral oil for infusing; olive oil is my go-to but you can also use almond, coconut, jojoba, or grapeseed oil. Each of these oils is soothing to the skin and they’re all easily sourced.
To thicken the salve and help it set, I use beeswax pellets because I find it’s less work to measure and you’re more likely to get an accurate measurement. You can also cut beeswax from a larger block if that’s what you prefer or have available.
And lastly, you’ll need some containers to store the finished salve. I like these 2-ounce salve tins because the screw top ensures the salve is kept free from dirt or dust (not to mention, they make lovely little gifts). If you like the look of glass, these quarter pint mason jars are also good options for storing your homemade jewelweed salve.
How to Make Jewelweed Salve
Making your own jewelweed salve takes only about 30 minutes of active prep time and the rest is almost entirely hands-off. I’m going to be showing you the warm rapid infusion method, which cuts the infusion time down from three to six weeks to only a couple of days. If making a salve is brand new to you, my guide to herbal healing salves is a great place to learn about the process as a whole.
The warm infusion method works best for fresh plant material as it eliminates the risk of the plant oils going rancid over a longer infusion process. If you’re interested in slow infusion, I’d recommend testing it out with dried plant material that isn’t as likely to spoil.
For this particular infusion, I’m going to use jewelweed leaves that have been freshly picked and then roughly chopped with gardening shears. You can see in these photos I’m more concerned with surface exposure rather than uniformity.
This salve is made from jewelweed leaves, but don’t worry if some stems find their way into the mix.
Fill a clean mason jar with the freshly chopped leaves, you want them to be packed down pretty firmly. I have jewelweed growing close by, so when I’m making this salve I usually bring the jar with me and cut the leaves directly from the plant, stuffing the jar as I go.
If I’m preparing multiple jars, I’ll bring the leaves back to the porch and stuff the jars there.
The next step is to cover the plant material with a neutral oil, whichever one you have chosen for the salve. I always have olive oil on hand since I cook with it regularly, but as I mentioned above you can use any oil that’s nourishing for the skin.
Prepare a double boiler by filling it with about an inch of water. Alternatively, you could make your own with a saucepan and heat-proof bowl, or you can even use a slow cooker. If you go with the slow cooker method, make sure you place the jar on a trivet. Again, you can DIY the trivet by using a mason jar lid or an old cotton dishtowel instead.
(Lacking a stove, there are other ways to make herbal infused oils, including a slow infusion method that uses dried herbal material.)
Gently heat the water in the double boiler to 110 to 120 degrees (the keyword is gently, you’re not looking to cook the herbs, just infuse the carrier oil with jewelweed). If the oil gets too hot, it will result in a finished salve that’s not as potent as it could be.
Keeping the water at a steady 110 to 120 degrees, infuse the jewelweed over the next 24 to 48 hours. To minimize the risk of too much heat (or not enough), I like to bring the water back up to temperature before turning it back off. Overnight, I’ll use this same strategy, but I’ll drape a towel over the pot to keep the infusion cozy. Monitor the water level over as the infusing is going on, adding more as needed.
When you feel like the jewelweed infusion is finished, it’s time to make the salve. Strain the jewelweed leaves out of the infused oil and pour it back into a heatproof bowl (or double boiler). Place the bowl over simmering water in a small pot, and add the beeswax. Keep stirring until the beeswax and oil are completely incorporated and the mixture is totally smooth.
For fairly accurate beeswax measurements without a kitchen scale, 1 ounce of solid beeswax is roughly the equivalent of 1 heaping tablespoon of beeswax pistils.
Carefully pour the salve into tins or jars and let it sit for at least 30 minutes before using. Use the salve within 1 year for best results (you can continue to use it after a year, it will just lose some of its potency).
Other Ways to Use Jewelweed
Looking for other ways to use jewelweed?
- Jewelweed Soap for Poison Ivy from Simple Life Mom
- Jewelweed Tincture from GRIT
- Jewelweed Ice Cubes from Sweet Song Herbals
This herbal salve is ideal for poison ivy, stinging nettle burns, and itchy bug bites!
- 1 1/2 to 2 cups fresh jewelweed leaves
- 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups olive oil (or any other neutral oil)
- 1 ounce beeswax
- Double boiler
- Salve tins (or small resealable jars)
- Roughly chop the jewelweed leaves until you have enough to fill a mason jar almost to the top. Make sure the leaves are packed down.
- Cover the leaves with olive oil (or any neutral oil you've chosen).
- Fill a saucepan or slow cooker with 1 inch of water. Carefully place the jewelweed- and oil-filled jar on a trivet in a double boiler or in the slow cooker.
- Slowly heat the water until it reaches 110 to 120 degrees. Turn off the heat.
- Over the next 24 to 48 hours, infuse the oil over very low heat by bringing the water back up to temperature periodically over the next 24 to 48 hours. Don't leave the heat on for any prolonged amount of time and never allow the water line to get too low.
- Once the oil is infused to your liking, strain the jewelweed leaves from the oil.
- Pour the infused oil into a heatproof bowl (or double boiler) over simmering water.
- Carefully add the beeswax to the warm oil, stirring until smooth.
- Pour the finished salve into small tins or glass jars.
- Let the salve cool for at least 30 minutes before using.
Homemade Herbal Salve Recipes
Looking for more homemade herbal salve tutorials?
Disclaimer on Homemade Herbal Remedies
I’ve been foraging wild medicines and treating my family with herbal remedies for the past 20 years, but I’m self-taught. Be aware that I am not a clinical herbalist, and this is based on my own research and personal experience using medicinal plants. I do not claim to have the experience that’d qualify me to advise you on your health, and I’m only providing this as a reference to encourage a broader interest in medicinal plants.
Please use this as a jumping-off point, but always do your own research and verify anything you read with multiple sources.
It’s always possible to have an adverse reaction to any medicinal herb, and plenty of people are allergic to even gentle herbs like chamomile. Always consult your doctor or a certified herbalist before trying any new medicinal plant. Often, they can have unintended reactions in combination with other herbs and supplements, and many herbs have side effects even when they are effective for their intended purpose.
If you are seriously interested in herbal medicine, I’d suggest investing in a course in herbal medicine, and I’d recommend any of the online courses put out by the Herbal Academy of New England. Specifically, the introduction to herbal medicine course and the family herbalist group of courses.