Salves, Ointments and Balms
Whats the difference?
Among the herbal community, it seems that some view these terms as interchangeable while others distinguish between them. The big difference seems to be the consistency and aromatic qualities.
Here’s my view:
Balm – a balm is a mixture of herbal infused oils, some form of wax and essential oils. To explain the texture best, think of a preparation that is stiff enough to be used in a twist up dispenser like a lip balm tube. the ratio of wax to oils would be highest in a balm, usually 1oz wax to 1 cup oil. Balms tend to be more aromatic because the higher amount of Essential Oils used for their healing properties releases a cloud of soothing vapors upon application.
Salve – also a mixture of herbal infused oils and wax but contain little or no essential oils. the consistency is one that could be used in a small container, like a tin, that the salve could be dipped into with a clean finger, a cotton swab or a small cosmetic applicator. the texture is easy to smooth over an injury without the pressure required to apply a balm.
Ointment – a mixture of herbal infused oils, wax and possibly essential oils the big difference between salves and ointments is the texture. I think of ointments as a softer, more loose yet oily preparation that is best stored in a tube or jar with a screw on lid to prevent leaks in warm weather.