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!). Stir it up to make sure the oil and beeswax are thoroughly combined.
Remove from heat, and add the essential oils, if using. Stir it again to thoroughly incorporate the oils, then pour it immediately into your jars or tins. Let it cool before covering and labeling.
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. 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.
- 1/2 cup coconut oil ( (or olive oil, or combination of both))
- 2 teaspoons cayenne powder
- 4 tablespoons beeswax pastilles ( (about 36 grams))
- 15 drops peppermint essential oil ( (optional))
- 15 drops lavender essential oil ( (optional))
- Double boiler ( (or glass jar/cup placed in a pan of water))
- Cheesecloth ( (or an old, thin scarf or shirt))
- Storage tins ( (glass or metal jars and tins))
- 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. How to store:
Store the salve in a cool, dark place, and use within 6 months for best results.
Caution: Not for internal use. Cayenne will burn and sting if it comes in contact with your eyes or nose, so be sure to wash your hands very thoroughly after use, or you could wear gloves when applying. Do not use on open cuts or broken skin. If applying the salve to your hands, it’s best to do it at night, and then just slip on some cotton gloves before going to sleep. Do not use on young children.
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.
When adding the additional herbs of ginger and turmeric, is it the same amount as the cayenne pepper? And how much arcina flower would you add?
Yes, I would add the same amount as the cayenne. For the arnica, you can try about 1 oz of dried flowers for this amount of oil.
I followed the recipe and used part olive oil and part coconut. I used 35 g of grated beeswax instead of the pastilles. The salve ended up so hard I re-melted it and added a 2nd batch of the oil. Maybe pastilles have a different quality about them? I liked the finished product.
Thanks for this, I tried to infuse the powdered cayenne pepper but it didn’t feel warm after I applied the balm
I can’t get the ingredients to emulsify – they just separate into solid & liquid. Any suggestions?
Hi. Need to know.. .this salve can stain the skin. Thanks
No, it won’t stain the skin.
I forgot to ask a question! If I don’t have beeswax, could I use solid coconut oil, cocoa butter, and Shea Butter and make this into more of a “body Butter” type cream?
Great idea – I don’t see why not! You could follow a recipe like this one and then just substitute the “light oil” in her recipe for the infused cayenne oil. Good luck!
This looks very easy to make, thank you! I suffer from severe arthritis in both of my knees and my back, and the cold Midwest winters cause terrible joint pain. I’m looking forward to making this, and using it! Thank you again!
Hope it helps you find some relief, Rebecca!
Dear Sarah, I have beewax in bar shapes (10 sm) rather than pastilles so could you please tell me the amount of beewax in grams for this salve? Many thanks
Hey Nana, thanks for your comment which led me to go and research this and finding a neat little guide for converting beeswax from pastille measurements to grams! According to this site, http://blog.andrewkoebbe.com/blog/beeswax-conversion, 1 tablespoon of pastilles = 9 grams. So for this recipe, you would need 9 grams x 4 = 36 grams of beeswax. Hope that helps!
You might say you’re my salve-ation. Have you played with habaneros yet?
Hi! I have all my ingredients ready to go! Just wondering about the containers (where to buy and how many should I have on hand)? Looking forward to making this! Thanks for sharing!
Hey Missy, I just repurposed old jars and tins that I had on hand, but I’ve included links to jars and tins that you can purchase online – they’re hyperlinked in the recipe part above. And this makes about 4 oz so you can either make several small ones or one big 4 oz jar. Happy salve making! 🙂
Hi Sarah I’ve got sciatic pain and I apply this on my legs and both my knees cos I run, but am confused for how long should I keep it for ?
You mean how long to keep it on your skin? It’s supposed to just be rubbed into the skin and absorbed. You would just remove it the next time you shower. 🙂
I made this and my olive oil that I used for the 2 teaspoons of cayenne did not harden up the pretty burnt orange like yours did. Any suggestions? Thank you!!
Are you sure you used enough beeswax? That’s what makes it harden.
Love this recipe!
Thanks, Amber! Means a lot coming from you 🙂
Would this work if it was rubbed on the bottoms of your feet?
Yes! You can definitely rub this on the bottoms of your feet, then slip on some dark socks (in case of staining). This salve helps promote blood flow and circulation, so it can really warm those feet right up too. I would skip the peppermint oil in that case though.