How to Make Orange Peel & Arnica Extract Salve

September 19, 2021 | By Lee Sutherland

The extracts of citrus fruit peels and from the arnica flower (Arnica Montana and others) have been used for relief from inflammation, aches, and bruises for centuries.

The first uses for oranges were noted in Eastern medicine as Chenpi. The extract of mandarin oranges appeared in medicinal notes beginning in the 16th century and used ever since. It was introduced to the West at around the same time to Europe. They were valued for their medicinal properties as an addition to the Western pharmacopoeia rather than as food initially, but cultivation and availability in Europe skyrocketed. The migration came full circle from its roots in Asia, Australia, and Polynesia to the New World shortly thereafter.

Arnica also appears in wide use at around the same time in Europe independently as a folk remedy, first mentioned in Germanic writings in the 16th century and expanding rapidly in importance along with the printing press. Easily grown as a perennial in a range of soils, it was a primary contributor to the European pharmacopoeia. In the New World, relatives of the European plant have independently been in use before Europeans arrived, and dried remains have been found along with other dried medicinals in caches hundreds of years old.

I discovered arnica salves during my college years on long ski camping trips for sore legs in the mountains of Montana. Orange oil seems to take effect within a half hour, whereas arnica provides a longer period of relief lasting a few to several hours. Together, orange oil and arnica extract seem to work synergistically to provide comfortable relief both rapidly and throughout the day more than either one alone.

Both plants are fundamental extractions for home remedies, and the SOURCE Turbo and EtOH Pro allow you to easily and efficiently make your own salves for your home or small business.

You can use your own orange and lemon peels after thoroughly drying them. I purchase both arnica flowers and dried orange peel in bulk from online suppliers.

The therapeutic benefits of each extract come about for different reasons that are not fully understood, like many natural compounds. For Arnica, compounds called helenalins appear to down-regulate the body’s own reaction to injury to temporarily relieve swelling. They are also mildly antiseptic and help keep an area free from infections. For citrus, the effects are gained from a range of flavonoids that also appear to interact with the body’s natural inflammation response. Both are perfect for ethanol extraction, and even though the flavonoids in the orange peel are slightly less soluble, the amounts captured in each ethanol extraction cycle are substantial and useful. In both cases, the concentration of compounds from extraction is high enough to cause skin irritations and other issues. However, dilution with a carrier like solid coconut oil makes a soothing salve with the properties appreciated over the centuries.

Both extracts are very toxic to ingest orally, but are very effective when applied with a diluted salve. You can use a range of bases as a carrier for this extract, but the solubility in coconut oil is easy, and I have a lot of excess beeswax available as a beekeeper.

Ingredients and materials:

  • 2 cups of dried orange peel, finely chopped but not ground

  • 2 cups of dried arnica flowers, not ground

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of beeswax (optional for firmer texture).

  • 1 cup solid coconut oil

  • 48 ounces of 190 proof or higher ethanol spirits

  • Container for heating: small saucepan for stovetop, or microwave safe

  • Two to three glass canning jars or similar containers for tincture making, or a buchner funnel system with a vacuum pump.

  • Silicone spatula

To start, place the 2 cups of dried orange peel in a large jar with 3 cups of 190 proof or higher ethanol. In a second jar, use 2 cups of thoroughly dried Arnica flowers together with 3 cups of the ethanol. Let both sit overnight to form a strong tincture.

You can either simply decant the alcohol off of each extract, or use a Buchner funnel. I prefer to extract separately from each tincture.

Process each tincture in the SOURCE Turbo or EtOH to remove and recover the alcohol for re-use again and again.

You should have between a half and a full tablespoon of extract from each 10 oz extraction from the tincture at the end of the process. The extract is completely processes when it is the consistency of cooking oil.

Using a silicone spatula, place the extracts into either a ceramic bowl for microwave processing, or a small saucepan for stove top processing.

Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of beeswax (optional, if a firm consistency is desired) and a full cup of solid coconut oil to the receptacle. Cook on low heat to slowly melt and dissolve all the components together, making sure the wax and extracts are fully dissolved in the coconut oil without bubbling the mixture from excessive heat.

Pour into salve containers and cool before using.

Many people are sensitive to orange oil salves, especially in direct sunlight. Use a little at first to test the concentration, and adjust the recipe accordingly.

I find this recipe offers significant relief in less than 15 minutes to my joints, and has a neutral, non-medicated smell.

ExtractCraft machines make ethanol extraction at home easy, safe, and efficient for a huge range of botanicals. You will save money, create new and unique products for health and beauty, and save money at the same time by re-using the ethanol solvent.