Arnica and Chili Muscle Balm

I am so excited to share this muscle balm recipe with you because it has been so helpful on my aches and strains. It's wonderful for relieving muscle tension or for chronically sore areas (including arthritic pain) and it would make a lovely gift. It's beautiful red colour and comforting heat feel like your spreading a massage blanket onto your skin!  

Warming Herbs

A warming balm is fantastic for muscle fatigue or aches from over-exertion or on areas where we tend to hold chronic tension. For me, the left side of my neck tends to get bunked up whenever I've been on a computer too long. If I don't deal with it, the tension will radiate down into my shoulder and back. This kind of tension is when warming herbs are ideal. Adding heat topically increases circulation to that area, encouraging the release of stiffness and strain. If placing a heating pad or hot water bottle on an area sounds dreamy, then a warming balm is for you! However, on acute injuries where the area is already pulsating heat, an ice pack or cooling balm might be more appropriate. Once the acute phase of injury has passed, then applying heat will help speed recovery time. 

Arnica is one of the most popular herbs for warming. It increases circulation and is an effective anti-inflammatory. Arnica is ideal for muscle strains or fatigue. 

Chili peppers contain capsaicin which gives them their heat. Capsaicin is anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving. Topically, chilis infusions have been used to speed healing and relieve pain from injury, tension and arthritis. I've infused chili pepper into my carrier oil, but you can also simply use chilis or cayenne powder (I've included this option in the recipe). 

Ginger is another fantastic pain-relieving herb. We've all likely felt the heating effect of fresh ginger root on our hands when cooking with it. It's a fantastic herb for muscle tension and arthritis.

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Muscle Balm Recipe

Infusion:
500ml extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup arnica flowers
1/2 cup chili pepper flakes (or use 1 Tbsp cayenne powder)
2 Tbsp ginger powder

Balm:
500ml infused oil
90ml beeswax
1 tsp shea butter
Optional: Essentail oils for scent or additional warming effect. I used 50 drops rosemary, 10 drops black pepper and 10 drops cinnamon essential oil

Infuse arnica flowers, chili peppers (or cayenne powder) and ginger powder into olive oil in a double boiler. Simmer on a low heat for several hours. You can also use a slow cooker on a low setting. 
Once infused, remove from heat and allow to cool. Strain oil using a nut milk bag or several layers of cheesecloth into a heat-proof container. Top oil up to 500ml.   
Melt beeswax in a double boiler. I highly recommend investing in a pyrex that's dedicated to melting beeswax. Beeswax is amazing but a real pain in the ass to clean up! 
Add melted beeswax and shea butter to infused olive oil and melt together in a double boiler over a low heat. (The beeswax will harden on contact, this is normal.)
Once melted, add any essential oils, stir, and pour into containers. 
Please be cautious using the balm, avoid using it on mucous membranes, irritated skin or cuts. Wash your hands thoroughly after use. The balm may stain clothing and fabrics. 

I used chili pepper flakes, but you can use cayenne powder instead

I used chili pepper flakes, but you can use cayenne powder instead

When straining herbs, if you've used chili flakes wear gloves to prevent skin irritation 

When straining herbs, if you've used chili flakes wear gloves to prevent skin irritation 

Such a beautiful red infusion from the chilis!   You can also reserve some of this oil for a warming massage oil

Such a beautiful red infusion from the chilis!   You can also reserve some of this oil for a warming massage oil

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