There’s nothing worse than a stubborn cough that just won’t quit. After you have been coughing for a while, your muscles start to ache, making every breath hurt even more.
When a cough hits my family, my go-to remedy is this hot and cold cough salve. Not only does it help stop the hacking cough, but it soothes all those aching muscles too. That allows you to breathe more deeply. Then any coughing you do is more productive and helps dispel any mucus you may have in your lungs.
When I’m making a salve or any herbal remedy, I always try and use herbs and ingredients that I have harvested, or purchased locally from people I trust. Now, if you aren’t as lucky as I am to be able to harvest and produce your own herbs and oils, then, of course, you can buy them from a reputable source. Just try and make sure you are purchasing the highest quality products for your medicinal salves. Always look for products that haven’t been treated with chemicals or pesticides.
To make this salve, I use herb-infused oils that I blend with cacao butter and beeswax. The cacao butter and beeswax help provide a more solid consistency that you get using just oils. You can omit these ingredients and just use the oil blend, but you may find it is a little greasy. But we will discuss that more in the process section.
Now let’s look at each ingredient and why I chose it.
People used eucalyptus traditionally to treat coughs, bronchitis, and upper respiratory issues. And there is a reason for that. It is an antispasmodic, expectorant, and mucolytic (that means it helps your mucus thinner and easier to cough up). But beyond that, eucalyptus has anti-viral properties as well.
Turmeric is one of my favorite ingredients to use in my medicinal remedies. It is just such a beneficial plant. Turmeric is used to treat coughs, bronchitis, colds, and lung infections. Usually, you ingest it in a tea or capsule form. Ginger, turmeric tea with honey, and lemon are wonderful for coughs.
Turmeric Harvest: I am blessed by the fact that turmeric grows rampant in my garden, so I tend to add it to a lot of my salves. It’s an anti-inflammatory and is beneficial for your skin as well. The only downside is that it does turn your skin a light orange color when you apply it as a salve.
When I can get them to grow well in my garden, I prefer to use cayenne pepper to infuse my chili oil. However, I’m not always the best gardener. Luckily for me, there are many varieties of local chilis in my area that are always growing wildly on my property. I constantly harvest them and set them on my stovetop to dry.
The capsicum in the chilis helps add heat to this salve. That heat penetrates your lungs to help them open so that you can breathe more clearly. It will also help loosen the muscles so that your chest doesn’t feel so tight. But make sure you use care when handling your chilis. That heat can burn, especially if you touch-sensitive areas like your eyes or mucus membranes.
I have a small oil press that I used to press all my oils. Living in the tropics, I have access to a wide variety of seeds and plants that I can press into oils. Most commonly, I press sesame oil for my carrier oils as it has the best yield. However, coconut oil is another popular choice for me.
Pressing Sesame Oil: You can use the carrier oil of your choice. Sweet almond oil is another popular carrier oil.
I add cacao butter as it helps make a harder salve without the stickiness that can sometimes be associated with beeswax. It also is super conditioning for your skin. I press my cacao butter in the same oil press I use for my sesame oil.
Pressing Cacao Butter: I add lightly toasted cacao nibs to the hopper. The liquids will harden into cacao butter. The solids are a cocoa powder that I use to make delicious desserts. I place the liquid cacao butter in the fridge to chill it initially. Once it has chilled and hardened, then it will stay hard at room temperature.
Beeswax helps create the consistency of your salve. It is what makes it makes your oils not runny. The more beeswax you add, the harder your salve. As a general rule, you want to use one part beeswax to between 3-6 parts oil. The harder the oils, the less beeswax you need to use.
Because I’m using cacao butter in this recipe, I use a little less beeswax than I would otherwise. If I were using coconut, which solidifies in temperatures below 78 degrees Fahrenheit, I would reduce the amount of coconut oil even more.
In the end, the amount of beeswax you use is a personal choice. I don’t like my salves to be too hard or too soft. I want it just firm enough that my fingers penetrate the mixture but not so hard that I have to use a lot of pressure. You might prefer something different. Experiment with the amount of beeswax until you find the best consistency for you.
Once you have gathered all your ingredients, you are ready to get started. But before you can make your salve, you need to prepare your oils.
One of the things I do with herbs that I grow is dry them and infuse them into oils. So I generally have a large stockpile to choose from in my cabinet. However, if you don’t want to take the time to infuse your oils with dry herbs, you can use essential oils to create this salve. If you choose to use essential oils, make sure you always check safe usage levels, as they are highly concentrated.
You can infuse oils in two ways. You can either infuse them slowly in the sun or more rapidly by heating them in a double boiler. Infusing them in the sun is a lengthy process, so if you are in a hurry to make this salve, you should skip to the double boiler method instructions.
Sun infused oil
When I harvest my herbs and have a surplus, I infuse them in oils to use later. The first thing you do is make sure all your plant matter is completely dry. If you want to work with fresh herbs, skip down to the double boiler method.
- I sun-infused both my chili oil and my turmeric oil. First, I dried the chilis and turmeric in a solar dehydrator. Then to make certain they are super dry, I pop them into my oven turned down low (around 150-200 degrees). I leave them in the oven for an hour.
- Next, I put the ingredients in a glass jar. I try not to fill it much more than ¾ of the way full with dry ingredients. Then fill the jar with oil to the top. Seal it well. Give a shake to make sure all the material is submerged beneath the oil. If the material is wet or not submerged, you run the risk of mold.
- Leave it in a sunny window for a couple of weeks. Check it every two to three days and give it a shake. You may find that you need to top off the oil in the beginning as the dry ingredients absorb some of it.
- You will see the oil color change as the plant matter infuses into the oil. After two to three weeks, you can strain the plant matter out using a coffee filter or cheesecloth. Store the remaining oil in a glass jar in a cool dark place until you are ready to use it.
Double Boiler Method
If you don’t have weeks to wait or are working with fresh herbs, you can prepare your infusions using the double boiler method or in a water bath.
To use the double boiler method, you will first add water to a stainless steel pot. Bring that water to a boil. Add your herbs and oil to a smaller stainless steel saucepan. Once the water is boiling, place the smaller stainless steel pan inside it. You will want to simmer your oil herbal mixture for 30-60 minutes and then strain.
This is the fastest but weakest method.
The stovetop method
My preferred method is a combination of the two methods above. I place the herbs, fresh or dry, in a glass jar and cover them with my carrier oil. Then I place the glass jar in a pot of boiling water (you can use a crockpot for this). Leave the jar in the water for anywhere from 4-8 hours. Make sure the boiling water never runs dry.
When it is done, you will have a concentrated herbal infusion. Strain out the plant matter and store the oil in a glass jar in a cool dark place.
Now that you have your infused oils prepared, we are ready to make the salve.
- 2 parts Eucalyptus Infused Oil
- 2 parts Chili Infused Oil
- 2 parts Turmeric Oil
- 1 part cacao butter
- 1.5 parts beeswax
Parts can be whatever you choose to use to measure with. If you are making a small batch, you could use tablespoons. If you want a large batch, you could use cups. I am making it for a 9-ounce jar, so I will measure my recipe in ounces.
For this recipe, I use the same method as infusing oils with the stovetop method. You could also use the double boiler method. For one jar, the stovetop method makes fewer dishes, but the double boiler method makes more sense for larger batches.
- Measure out all your ingredients.
- Add your oils, butter, and beeswax to a glass jar
- Boil water in a stainless steel saucepan
- Place the glass jar in the saucepan, making sure no water gets in the jar
- Wait for all the ingredients to melt together and then stir
- Remove from the water and let cool
- When the glass is no longer hot to touch, you can place it in the fridge to set it up more quickly.
The salve can be applied to the chest, back, and soles of your feet to help alleviate a stubborn cough.
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