Tag Archives: Make your own

Making Your Own Tiger Balm

Salve ingredientsAs a little girl I loved it when my parents would rub Vick’s Vapor Rub into my chest.  Eventhough my father claimed it was just a placebo, I still insisted he rub it over my congested chest.  I knew it worked, long before the advent of nicotine patches which blasted away the idea that topical medications were ineffective.

Later I graduated to Tiger Balm, especially the red version, redolent of cinnamon and resinous infused oils.  This worked not only on my chest, but also soothed sore muscles.  I also played with the oil versions of Tiger Balm and Po Sum On oil.  And while I prefer the absorption of oils for most muscle pain, there is much to be said for a salve that continuously leaks essential  oils through the skin.  The salve is also less likely to spill and easier to travel with.

The commercial Tiger Balm is made with petroleum jelly and paraffin wax to which essential oils are added.  Different formulations of Tiger Balm have the following essential oils:

Red – Extra Strength

White – Regular Strength




18 gram glass jar
(in carton)


18 gram glass jar
(in carton)


28 mL glass bottle
(in carton)









Cajuput Oil








Clove Bud Oil




Mint Oil




Cassia Oil





I have formulated a salve that lacks the petroleum jelly of commercial salves and can be customized with essential oils for a variety of  uses.  I use coconut oil as a base for its many healing effects and pleasant odor, hardened with beeswax.

To make your salve you will need a stainless steel pan, a wooden spoon, and some containers.  I like to use 2 oz or 4 oz tins or old body butter containers.  Determine how many ounces your containers can take, and adjust the weight of the coconut oil and beeswax accordingly, preserving the proportions.  For instance for three 2 oz containers (6 ounces) you will use 4 ounces of coconut oil and 2 ounces of beeswax.

I use a good virgin coconut oil from the health food store and organic beeswax.  While the beeswax may come in bars, it is easier to melt a shaved  or pelleted version.


  • 2 parts coconut oil
  • 1 part beeswax
  • Essential oil of white camphor:  5 drops/ounce
  • Essential oil of peppermint: 5 drops/ounce
  • Essential oil of eucalyptus or lemon eucalyptus: 8 drops/ounce
  • Essential oil of cinnamon:  3 drops/ounce

Melt the beeswax and coconut oil over low heat in a stainless steel pan.  Do not burn the oil.  When melted, remove from heat, cool a bit and mix in the essential oils.  The essential oils are volatile and you don’t want to lose them.  Put the container in the refrigerator and it should harden in 15 minutes.  If too soft, remelt and add a little more beeswax.  If too hard (and keep in mind that coconut oil will liquify at 76 degrees) add a little more coconut oil.  If you remelt you may lose some of the punch of the essential oils, so you may need to add more.

Choose essential oils that are good for the condition you are treating.  For instance, if you have a child with asthma, you may elect to use an anti-inflammatory oil like German chamomile along with eucalyptus, clove, mint and camphor.  If you have arthritis that gets worse with cold, you may elect to warm it up with more cinnamon and frankincense.  If you have dry skin with an angry hot rash, you may want to add peppermint, German chamomile and calendula.  Other essential oils that can be useful include tea tree,  myrrh, rosemary and thyme.  You can also substitute infused oils like St. Johnswort, calendula, arnica or poplar bud for a third of the coconut oil.  Don’t be afraid to play with it to suit your family’s needs!

Tiger-balm-s (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



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Alternatives to Milk You Can Make Yourself

English: Glass of soy milk and soy beans.
Soymilk with soybeans. Image via Wikipedia

My sister has an outright milk allergy but I can tolerate it so long as I  don’t go crazy on the fresh ricotta. That means I’m not without some sensitivity to milk, and pretty much only use it for coffee.  So we have always had some milk alternatives in our house.  In fact now you can find all kinds of milk alternatives in the refrigerator aisle, from soy to coconut milk.  But the prices are high and I was pleased to see that you can make milk substitutes from soy to chickpea to oat milk.  If you are allergic, vegan, frugal, keep kosher or just like the taste of different milks, here are some recipes.  Note that these may lack the nutritional qualities of dairy milk and that the freshness of the beans or nuts will affect the flavor.  Use these in baking if you don’t like the flavor.  You can adjust saltiness, sweetness or add vanilla or other flavor if desired.  And you can dilute milks that seem too thick with water.  Best yet, you usually have some residue that can be used in soups and sauces.

 Oatmeal Milk

This is perhaps the easiest milk to make since it requires no cooking.  Take one cup of oatmeal and put into a blender. Add a quart of filtered water, cap and blend for a minute.  Strain through a fine sieve.  Season as you wish (vanilla is nice) and serve or use for baking.

Herbalist’s gloss: I always have oatstraw (the green stalks and immature seeds) in the house for overnight infusions which are rich in minerals and help my nerves.  So I will bring a cup of oatstraw in a quart of water to a boil, simmer for 20 minutes and strain out.  Top up to a quart and use in place of plain water for a more nutritious oat milk.

Garbanzo Bean (Chickpea) Milk

This can be used for chickpeas, soybeans, chana dahl, or other white beans.  Because beans contain antinutrients that can inhibit the thyroid, they require cooking.

Close-up picture of white and green chick peas.
Chick peas- white ones are better for milk. Image via Wikipedia

Soak 2-3 cups of beans in water overnight, in a large container with enough water to expand the volume by 2-3 times.  If you are using a whole bean you can start two days earlier and let the beans start to sprout by draining and rinsing several times a day, but this is not necessary.  At least make sure the beans are soft enough bite.  Place in a blender and grind into a paste, adding water as needed to make sure there are no chunks left.

Half fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.  The bean milk will tend  to boil over so leave room.  (If it does, it is pretty easy to clean up.)  Add the bean paste, stir well, let simmer just below boiling for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Let cool and strain through a fine mesh strainer or squeeze through cheesecloth.  Chickpea milk is thicker than soy milk, so depending on your bean, you may need to adjust the cloth and squeeze or put a weight on top (say a plastic container full of water.)  You can save the bean residue for falafel or hamburger filler.

Bean texture is an individual thing so I often dilute this down by as much as a third, adding a couple teaspoons of Himalayan salt and sugar or herbal substitute for this quantity.  Use your taste as a guide, going slowly.

Fructus Momordicae, a kind of Chinese herb for...
Lo han guo fruit sweetens without calories. Image via Wikipedia

Herbalist’s gloss:  Before blending I crush half of a lo han guo fruit into the blender.  This adds a  non caloric sweet taste (but it also sweetens the residue.)  Lo han guo, Siraitia (formerly Mormordica) grosvenorii, is sold in Chinese herb shops or grocery stores. I find that using stevia causes easy over-sweetening and I’m less fond of the taste,

Almond  Milk

This recipe can also be used for cashews, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts and other kinds of tree nuts. Note that California almonds are no longer really raw even if labeled as such, but they work anyway. You can also use the white meat from coconuts. It is more expensive than the bean or oat milks but has important fats and minerals.  Fresh nuts are key as fats can get rancid tastes as they age.

Soak 2 cups raw nuts overnight in plenty of water.  Drain and add a quart of water.  Blend in the blender until milky- if you don’t have a Vitamix or other high power blender, do it in batches then pour back into the blender.  Add a little cinnamon, nutmeg and sweetener if desired.  Blend again and strain out, wringing through cheesecloth or a cotton towel.  The nut residue works well in baking or in a smoothie. This makes a richer milk than the bean or oat milks.

Herbalist’s gloss: I like to mix a handful of cashews into the almonds, and use cinnamon and nutmeg.  Honey adds an eggnog flavor.

Your home made milks will last 3-5 days in the refrigerator and probably won’t freeze well, but they can be used in baking when slightly past prime.  Since you make them yourself, you can control the amount of water for thickness or taste, as well as added salt, sweetener or spices.  Experiment in how you use them, introduce new flavors gradually and don’t be afraid to mix.  While I think that chickpea milk tastes like soymilk, and I like different flavors in cereal, hot chocolate or baking, I am not happy with any substitute in coffee.

English: Shelled almonds (Prunus dulcis) Itali...

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