On the face of it, this salve sounds simple. Chamomile, shea, some carnauba wax. Meh. Nothing fancy, right? But… oh. Oh my. It’s so much more than you’d think from looking at the ingredient list. Smokey raw shea butter and silky, nutty macadamia nut oil are infused with chamomile flowers and a hint of bee propolis. Add a bit of glossy carnauba wax and you’ve got a rich, creamy salve that smells incredible and leaves your skin feeling surprisingly silky—there’s no shea butter stickiness or greasiness here. This pretty yellow Silky Chamomile and Shea Salve is so much more than the sum of its parts.

How to Make a Silky Chamomile and Shea Salve

If you’re familiar with unrefined shea butter, you know it has a distinctive smell. It’s slightly smokey, but also shea-y, which I realize is a poor description, but once you’ve smelled it, you’ll know what I mean. It’s a smell that can carry through to end products, and that’s not always a welcome addition, which is why I sometimes strategically choose unrefined, deodorized shea butter. Here, however, I wanted to use unrefined shea butter for maximum skin healing goodness, so I had to work with that smell.

I’ve always found it best to try to work with a smell rather than cover one up, so I chose nutty macadamia nut oil as my partner in crime. Macadamia nut oil is utterly lovely here for two key reasons, which makes it hard to replace (so… please don’t…). Reason #1: it smells nutty and fantastic, and that nutty smell blends so well with the smokey shea scent. It’s a bit sweet and smokey and mysterious and swoon. I think this may be favourite new natural ingredient scent combo (after coconut oil and cocoa butter, or course).

Reason #2: macadamia nut oil is beautifully light with a lightning fast absorption speed. Since shea butter is notoriously thick and has a slow absorption speed, pairing it with a lightweight liquid oil helps speed up the overall absorption speed of the concoction, and that’s super fantastic. This pairing solves the shea-is-too-greasy problem I’m sure any shea user knows, and it solves it very gracefully. Mmm.

Anywho; I infused the lovely shea/macadamia mixture with calming chamomile and healing bee propolis. You can leave the propolis out if you want, but I really like it. Propolis is a pretty cool cloddy dirt-looking substance made by bees. Inside the hive, propolis is used for many things. It’s used to patch small holes in the hive and reduce vibration. If something large crawls into the hive and dies (like a mouse or a lizard), the bees will mummify it in propolis so it doesn’t rot in the hive.

Propolis is made from the trees and flowers that the bees visit on their pollen and nectar rounds, and its composition understandably varies by what’s available near the hive. Once the propolis is harvested from the bees, it’s also very useful to us humans. Its strong antibacterial properties make propolis a fantastic healing ingredient for nicks, cuts, scrapes, and all other kinds of miscellaneous boo-boos.

Once the infusion is done all that’s left is thickening up the mixture with a bit of glossy carnauba wax (but not too much, because I wanted it to be soft) and adding a single drop of German chamomile essential oil for extra chamomile-y goodness without overriding the awesome shea + macadamia thing we’ve got going on. Mmm.

The final salve is downright addictive. It smells great, but in a pretty low-key way so dudes and people who don’t like super fragrant things will like it. It leaves my skin silky soft but not at all greasy, and is brilliant for minor abrasions, eczema, or other kinds of irritated skin. You should make this Silky Chamomile and Shea Salve. It’s awesomesauce.

Silky Chamomile and Shea Salve

10g | 0.35oz macadamia nut oil (read the pre-amble re: substitutions)
23g | 0.81oz unrefined shea butter
0.2g | 0.007oz Vitamin E MT-50 (USA / Canada)

1 tsp dried chamomile flowers
1/2 tsp raw propolis

3g | 0.11oz carnauba wax (can substitute candelilla wax)

1 drop German chamomile essential oil

Prepare a water bath by bringing about 3cm/1″ of water to a bare simmer over low to medium-low heat in a small saucepan.

Weigh the macadamia nut oil, unrefined shea butter, and vitamin E oil into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup or 250mL (8 fl oz) beaker. Measure the chamomile flowers and propolis into an empty disposable tea bag, and tie it off. Place the tea bag into the measuring cup/beaker with the oils to infuse; I used a rubber band to hold the string up out of the water bath so it didn’t wick water into the solution.

Place the measuring cup in your prepared water bath to melt everything through and let the chamomile/propolis mixture infuse. I left it over medium heat for about an hour, and then left it overnight before reheating the mixture the next day. An hour is probably fine, but it’s nice to know that if you forget about it or run out of time one day, the next day is also ok!

Pull the tea bag out of the oil mixture and press it with the back of a spoon to squeeze out as much oil as possible, taking care not to rupture the tea bag. Weigh the carnauba wax into the measuring cup, and place the cup back into your water bath to melt the wax through, stirring with a flexible silicone spatula to thoroughly blend everything together.

Once the mixture is melted through and uniform, add the single drop of essential oil. Stir to combine and pour the liquid mixture into a 45mL/1.5oz glass jar and leave it to set up—this will take about half an hour. And that’s it! Enjoy your lovely Silky Chamomile and Shea Salve.