aromatherapy salves and butters


Difference Between Aromatherapy Salves and Butters

An article about the differences between aromatherapy salves and butters and how to use them in aromatherapy practice. By professional aromatherapist and author Sharon Falsetto.

The amazing thing about aromatherapy products is that there are so many different bases that you can use! You don’t have to be a cosmetic formulator to makes some of the more basic bases at home for personal use. In this post I’m going to take a quick look at the difference between two common aromatherapy bases: Salves and butters.

What is an aromatherapy salve?

Salves may vary in base ingredients depending upon who or what you turn to for advice. However, I believe in keeping things simple and use just two basic ingredients in making aromatherapy salves.

Salves, also used in herbal medicine, are a healing application used for topical use on the body to address such issues as:

  • Burns
  • Bites
  • Itching and inflammation
  • Dry skin

I personally wouldn’t use salves for drawing; for that I would advise using a drawing poultice with the applicable ingredients added.

Salves can be made with two simple ingredients: Beeswax (Cera alba) and a carrier oil/infused oil. The ratio of each defines the consistency (as discussed below).


Essential oils may also be added to a salve to increase its medicinal properties.

What is an aromatherapy butter?

Extracted from Module 7 of the Certificate in Professional Aromatherapy Course by Sharon Falsetto:

Butters are chemically composed of similar ingredients as those found in carrier oils which is why they are often categorized together; for example, cocoa butter (Theobroma cacao) contains the principal components of stearic acid, oleic acid, and palmitic acid. Sweet almond (Prunus dulcis) oil also contains oleic acid, palmitic acid, and stearic acid – but in different quantities and with other components. The terms butter and oil are used interchangeably in aromatherapy recipes, so be aware of the differences.

Butters include:

  • cocoa butter (Theobroma cacao)
  • shea butter (Vitellaria paradoxa)
  • avocado butter (Persea americana)
  • mango butter (Mangifera indica).

Aromatherapy butters can be combined with each other to make a custom butter. They can also be made into a deliciously luxurious whipped butter (for topical use, not edible).

Aromatherapy butters are popular for skincare issues, but they can also be used for many of the same issues that salves are used for. Butters tend to be made in larger quantities than salves whereas salves are often small enough to be portable and fit into your purse for on-the-go treatment.

You can also add essential oils to aromatherapy butters. Butters vary in consistency from hard to soft, depending on the ratio in combination of hard to soft butters (and/or beeswax (Cera alba) and/or carrier oils) in your final recipe.

How to make a simple salve

Here is a simple salve recipe to get you started. I recommend a 4:1 ratio, although you can work with anything from 2:1 to 8:1, depending upon your preference.

Simple Salve Recipe 

This recipe makes 8 x 0.5 salve base. I recommend that you add an essential oil blend for your specific needs. 


  • 1-oz. beeswax (Cera alba)
  • 4 oz sweet almond (Prunis dulcis) oil

Equipment Needed:

  • Scales
  • Spatula/spoon to weigh out your solid ingredients
  • 8 x 0.5 oz salve tins
  • 2 x Pyrex® jugs
  • Small pan.

To Make: 

1.      Weigh out all of your ingredients using your scales and separate them into individual containers for organizational purposes; put the beeswax in the Pyrex® container because this is the one that you are going to melt your ingredients in.

2.      Set up the salve tins ready to pour the mixture into. Label them with the date and contents.

3.      Heat up regular water in a small pan; do not boil. You just need it hot enough to start melting your ingredients.

4.      Place the Pyrex® jug containing the beeswax (do not take out of the container; just place the container in the water) into the pan and wait for the beeswax to melt.

5.      Once the beeswax is melted, stir in the sweet almond oil and immediately take the Pyrex jug® off the heat.

6.      OPTIONAL: If you add an essential oil blend, add up to 12 drops per ounce* to the mix. Stir together.

7.      Pour the finished product into the salve tins, before the mix starts to solidify

8.      Place the lids on the salve tins and place them into the refrigerator to solidify.

9.      You will need to take the salve out of the refrigerator and store them at room temperature in order to make them soft enough to use.

*Please consult a certified aromatherapist before using with babies and children, in pregnancy, with seniors, or with those with certain medical conditions.

To learn more about the difference between salves and butters, check out the Certificate in Holistic Aromatherapy and the Certificate in Professional Aromatherapy from Sedona Aromatics!

About the Author:

The author of this article has been working in the health care industry since the 1990’s and in the aromatherapy industry since the 2000’s. She is UK-certified aromatherapist and a NAHA Certified Professional Aromatherapist®. She is both a published author and editor in aromatherapy, a consultant, custom blend formulator and herbal studies student. She is the author of Authentic Aromatherapy and the current chief editor of the NAHA Aromatherapy Journal. She has taken the online Master Gardener short course series with the University of Oregon. Sharon works from her garden studio in Sedona, Arizona, where she gardens and distills plants from her own aromatic gardens, surrounded by natural fauna and flora on an original pioneer homestead property.

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