How to Make a Pain-Relieving Herbal Salve for Migraines

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Headache disorders are among the most common nervous system disorders, and they aren’t going away anytime soon. There is nothing worse than an excruciating migraine where the only relief seems to be hiding under a blanket for hours until the throbbing subsides. According to The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), as many as 70% of Americans suffer from disabling, chronic headaches severe enough to seek medical attention.

Over-the-counter or prescription painkillers are often the first treatment step for headaches and migraines, but while they are effective at relieving immediate pain, these harsh pharmaceuticals come with a myriad of harmful side-effects. Luckily, there is another way! 

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Cannabis salves are always my recommended “gateway product” to medical marijuana — they don’t get you high and people are always amazed at the relief a simple salve can provide. At the first sign of a headache or a migraine, a little bit of salve rubbed on the temples subsides the pain almost immediately. Rubbed on the neck and shoulders, this salve will relieve tension and stress headaches as well — honestly, I rub this stuff anywhere I feel pain and it works wonders. But since I have some friends who are cautious about any cannabis touching their body because they get drug-tested for work, I designed this recipe to be just as pain-relieving without cannabis.

You can make this recipe as simple or as complex as you like. I’ve written the “complex” version, which isn’t any harder to make, it simply has more herbs and essential oils. You can simplify this recipe by only adding essential oils instead of dried herbs, which skips the herbal infusion step and goes straight into melting the oil and beeswax together. Salves may seem intimidating but they really are surprisingly simple to make. Once you make one, it’s hard to stop — there are endless ways to experiment with different herbs and essential oils. Find out what works best for you!herbal-headache-salve-1

What You’ll Need:

20 oz of olive/coconut oil

Equal parts dried herbs (listed below)

20 grams of cannabis flower/trim (flower will provide stronger pain relief)

4 oz of beeswax

A couple drizzles of castor oil

Cheesecloth or Fine Metal Strainer

Jars or containers to store your finished salve (glass jars are recommended)

10-15 drops of essential oil (peppermint, rosemary, eucalyptus, lavender)

*This recipe filled about 5 1/2 pint jars*


For this tension-melting salve, I utilized a unique mixture of potent herbs, however, it can be customized to fit your situation. Cannabis isn’t even necessary, if you can’t access it, this salve is still very relieving without.

You could even omit all of the herbs and just infuse with essential oils (as many headache salves recommend) but I think the herbal infusion takes this salve to the next level. If you don’t want to use all the herbs, valerian root and willow bark are the two strongest pain-relieving herbs you should prioritize.

I purchased my herbs through a local, organic farm (Sunna Ra Acres) but a great online source is Mountain Rose Herbs.

These herbs are all known for their pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory qualities…

~ 5 grams Willow Bark

~ 5 grams Skull Cap

~ 5 grams Valerian

~ 5 grams Calendula

~ 5 grams Meadowsweet

~ 20 grams Cannabis


The essential oils in this recipe can also be customized to fit your specific situation…

Peppermint — a strong topical analgesic (pain-reliever) with anti-inflammatory properties.

Lavender — great at relieving stress and tension headaches.

Eucalyptus — very cleansing, opens the sinuses, helps with congestion or sinus headaches.

Rosemary — powerful analgesic and anti-inflammatory qualities, relieves insomnia and stress, improves circulation.


Start by making the herbal infusion:herbal-headache-salve-23
Measure out 20 ounces of coconut oil or olive oil (I used half of each) and pour into a glass, heat-safe container. Measure out all the herbs (if you want to be precise), or grab a small handful of each and add them to the oil. Place the glass container into a larger pot filled with water to create a double-boiler. Bring the water to a boil, taking care to not to splash any into the herbal mixture. Once your mixture reaches a boil, turn down the heat and continue to simmer for 60-120 minutes. The longer it simmers, the stronger the infusion will be. cannabis-canines-46

Next, using a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth, separate the oil from the herbs. Squeeze every last drop of precious, infused oil out of those herbs!

The leftover herbs make a great snack for chickens or an addition to your compost pile.

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Now that you have your herbal infusion, it’s time to create the salve. Break up your 4 ounces of beeswax into smaller pieces using a knife or cheese grater. I think this amount of beeswax makes the perfect salve consistency, but to make a creamier, softer salve, add less beeswax. Place into a non-stick or ceramic pan on low heat. Add the infused oil, a couple drizzles of castor oil for smoothness, and continue stirring occasionally until the beeswax has melted completely.

Once the beeswax and oil have melted together, it’s time to add the essential oils.

Add about 10-15 drops of essential oil into the mixture and stir to combine.

Finally, get your jars ready and gently pour your beautiful salve.

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Place into the fridge to harden, which takes about 10 minutes, and then your salves are ready for use!

With 5 of these jars, you’ll have a year’s supply of migraine salve! They also make great gifts for friends, family, and co-workers.

I hope this herbal salve works as well for you as it does for me, I’d love to hear your thoughts and personalized recipes in the comments below.

Happy healing, my friends!

About Author

Allie is a NW-based content curator for Marijuana.com and an organic farmer at TKO Reserve. She has been a professional in the marijuana industry since she was 18 years old, spending the first five years of her career working for Dope Magazine as lead photographer. Allie has worked on mainstream projects such as Idiot's Guide: Growing Marijuana, Branding Bud: The Consumerization of Cannabis and her own self-published book, As The Grass Grows.

3 Comments

  1. Nice article on tropicals Allie! I too have introduced the power of cannabis tropicals to people who have a serious stigma attached to the plant. When an 80yr old grandmothers arthritic hands are cramped with pain and you massage a balm into her them and the pain melts away in mere minutes, it changes peoples perceptions quickly re; the medicinal use of the plant.

    I think the biggest barrier to people using topical’s is education or lack there of, availability of various brands/preparations that we had before legalization for medical patients, and cost! Making your own like your article so eloquently provides the instructions for is really the long term answer for pain suffer’s.

    I would concur with the previous comment that finding the right strain with the correct CBD/THC ratio is key. Via my research and trial and error have found that a 1:1 or 2 or 3:1 CBD/THC strain works the best for pain and/or inflammation. if pain is derived more from inflammation like (skeletal muscle pain) choose a higher CBD strain, if pain is more diffuse or CNS in nature, higher THC…headache for example.

    Also, I would add camphor to the top of my essential oils list esp. if the balm is to be used on backs, knees, or any skeletal muscle pain. Camphor provides a nice cooling effect and is great compliment to reduce pain. In headaches, the scent might bother some.

    Re; UA’s there are numerous studies that support that cannabis tropicals do not permeate into the blood stream at a rate that would trigger a positive UA which is either at 50ng/ml (cup/stick) or 20ng/ml (sent to lab for analysis). Most employers will do both when they send you to the doctor to donate a sample. Those are the thresholds that are standard industry wide in the laboratory testing field for cannabinoids.

    Lastly, thanks for your recipe, I will tweak my own a bit, cheers!

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