Achy muscles and joints are some of the most widespread pain there is. Chances are you or someone you know has experienced chronic or acute pain from arthritis, exercise, migraines, or back aches. Keeping a salve for achy muscles and joints on hand can be very helpful in providing topical pain relief where it’s needed most.
The main ingredient in our salve is the mighty cayenne pepper! Cayenne is a very hot and spicy herb; that heat comes from the constituent capsaicin. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center,
Capsaicin has very powerful pain-relieving properties when applied to the skin. It reduces the amount of substance P, a chemical that carries pain messages to the brain, in your body. When there is less substance P, the pain messages no longer reach the brain, and you feel relief.
When used topically, cayenne can help reduce muscle, joint, and even nerve pain from arthritis, shingles, back aches, post-surgical pain, and conditions like fibromyalgia and diabetic nerve pain.
Today we’re going to make a super easy salve with cayenne pepper, olive and coconut oils, and essential oils for an extra pain relief boost.
Cayenne Salve for Achy Muscles and Joint Pain
We’ll begin by infusing our oils with the cayenne powder in a double boiler, or I just use a glass measuring cup that I’ve placed directly into a small saucepan filled with a few inches of water.
Heat the water until it boils, then turn the heat down low. Add the oil and cayenne to the glass measuring cup, place it into the water, and let it steep for about an hour. Turn off the heat, and let it sit for a few more hours. If you forget about it until the next day, that’s totally fine, so don’t worry about exact times here.
Once you’ve infused the oil with the cayenne, go ahead and strain out the powder by lining a strainer with a few layers of cheesecloth and placing it over a clean jar. Pour the oil/cayenne mixture through the cheesecloth, then squeeze the cheesecloth to extract as much of the oil as you can from the cayenne before discarding the powder.
Congratulations, you’ve just made some herbal infused oil!
Now, place the jar of infused oil back into your pan of water (double boiler style), add the beeswax to the jar, then heat it back up on med-low heat until all the wax is melted (you can buy beeswax here and here!). Stir it up to make sure the oil and beeswax are thoroughly combined.
Note: You could also try adding a little more beeswax to make a hard stick or bar that you rub directly on your joints and muscles. I haven’t tried this yet, but I like the idea of it. If you try it, please let me know!
Which essential oils to use?
I like to use peppermint, which provides a cooling effect to help dull the pain (NOT for use while pregnant or breastfeeding!), and lavender because it relieves stress and is anti-inflammatory (you can buy essential oils here and here!).
Other great choices of oils include rosemary (analgesic, avoid while pregnant), chamomile (anti-inflammatory), and even clove oil (analgesic, avoid while pregnant). Of course, you could just skip the essential oils altogether and still have a great salve!
Other herbs to add to your salve
Although the salve works great as is, you may want to experiment with adding other herbs to your salve for extra pain relieving properties (you can buy herbs here!). During the infusion stage, try adding some powdered ginger or turmeric, as both have anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric does tend to stain, so use with caution. You could also try adding some arnica flowers, which are great for inflammation, bruising, and joint pain.
How to use the salve
With your fingertip, scoop out a small amount of salve (a little goes a long way), and slowly massage it into your achy muscles and joints. The salve should leave a nice, warming sensation on the skin, followed by a cooling effect (if you added the peppermint oil).
Use it for muscle pain, achy joints, nerve pain, arthritis, shingles, back pain, etc.
If you’re using this salve for arthritis pain you may need to use it daily, for up to a week or 2, before seeing results.
Store the salve in a cool, dark place, and use within 6 months for best results.
- Infuse the cayenne into the oil, using a double boiler. Heat water to a boil, then turn heat down low. Add oil and cayenne to glass measuring cup or jar, place it into the water, and let steep for about 1 hour. Turn off the heat, and let sit for a few more hours.
- Strain the cayenne. Line a strainer with a few layers of cheesecloth and place over a clean jar. Pour the oil/cayenne mixture through cheesecloth. Squeeze cheesecloth to extract as much oil as possible. Discard the powder.
- Place jar of infused oil back into pan of water (double boiler style). Add beeswax to the jar, then heat back up on med-low heat until all wax is melted. Stir to make sure oil and beeswax are thoroughly combined.
- Add essential oils. Remove from heat, and add essential oils, if using. Stir again to thoroughly incorporate oils.
- Immediately pour into jars or tins. Let cool before covering and labeling. (Makes about 4 oz)
- With your fingertip, scoop out a small amount of salve (a little goes a long way), and slowly massage it into your achy muscles and joints.
- Store the salve in a cool, dark place, and use within 6 months for best results.
For more safety precautions, including possible drug interactions between capsaicin and certain medications, please read this link from the University of Maryland Medical Center.
While capsaicin can help relieve achy muscles and joints, it’s not a cure for any of these conditions. Please consult with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns. If your condition worsens, discontinue use and notify your doctor.
How do you treat achy muscles and joints? Have you ever tried cayenne pepper to treat these pains?
Where to Buy Essential Oils
I use either Plant Therapy or NOW oils for their quality and affordability. You can purchase them online or find them at your local health food store. Just make sure that whatever you buy is labeled as essential oils, and NOT fragrance oils. *NOTE: Essential oils are very potent and should be used with caution. If you are pregnant, nursing, or have any health issues, please consult your health care provider prior to using essential oils. If possible, seek the professional help of a licensed aromatherapist.