How to Make Naturally Tinted Homemade Lip Balm

Our cabin is on the edge of the wilderness, nestled in an evergreen forest. In the spring and summer, the forest floor is covered in native medicinal plants and just outside my door there is an abundance of arnica, uva ursi, wild roses, and red root.

But the warm weather is long gone in these woods and wintertime provides a stark contrast to the diversity of summer. The forest floor is now covered in snow. The woods are quiet. Shrubs like elder and chokecherry poke out from the snow, sometimes dripping in icicles or with a carefully balanced layer of snow on their branches.

It would be easy for me to whine and complain about the scarcity of plants during these frigid months (…in truth, I sometimes do). So, instead, I try to mimic the plants and their slumber. Now is the time to slow down. This time of year also gives me the opportunity to revel in the gifts of the one medicinal plant group that continues to shine: evergreens.

Aptly named, evergreen trees retain their green needles throughout our winter. In my forest we have an abundance of ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) and Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii). Both of these trees offer many gifts. Their wood keeps us warm through the winter and many trees from this property were used to build the cabin that we call home. Evergreen trees can also be used as medicine. When the tree is wounded, it exudes a thick, resinous pitch which makes an antimicrobial and pain-relieving salve that is also reputably good for drawing out splinters.

Close up of a douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) branch with cones

In this recipe we are going to learn how to make lip balm using the green needles. High in vitamin C, they make a delicious fresh tea (I am partial to Douglas fir tea) that is also a great stimulating expectorant for congested mucus in the lungs.

They also simply smell wonderful. Because of holiday wreaths or Christmas trees, you may equate the resinous balsam smell of conifers with the season. For me, it’s simply the smell of home and the forest that has surrounded me for the past seven years. The festive lip balm in today’s recipe is attempting to bottle up that heady scent so that you can slather your lips in it any time of year.

This homemade lip balm recipe makes a red or pink tinted lip balm. It’s not a pronounced red like the Red No. 5 artificial dye lipstick you would pick up at the drugstore. Unlike commercial lipstick, however, it is completely safe and is full of nourishing oils, butters, and waxes to protect your lips from the harsh winter elements. You can omit the alkanet root (Alkanna tinctoria) if you don’t want a red tinted lip balm.

You can use practically any evergreen needles for this homemade lip balm recipe, with a few cautions. While most evergreen needles are safe to use, the needles from the yew tree (Taxus spp.) are not. Be sure to know the identity of your needles to make sure they are safe. If you would like to use the needles from your Christmas tree or holiday wreath, check with your supplier to make sure the trees or boughs weren’t sprayed with any strange chemicals.

Red Tinted Evergreen Lip Balm

Nourish your lips with this festive holiday lip balm. This slightly tinted homemade lip balm will protect your lips from the harsh elements of winter while smelling like the rich and resinous boughs of an evergreen tree. For the carrier oil you can use jojoba oil, almond oil, grapeseed oil, or apricot kernel oil.

What you’ll need…

  • 4 ounces carrier oil (measured by volume)
  • 1 tablespoon alkanet root (cut and sifted)
  • 1/2 cup chopped evergreen needles
  • 30 grams shea butter (roughly 1 ounce)
  • 45 grams beeswax (roughly 1.5 ounces)
  • 20 to 30 drops Douglas fir essential oil
  • 20 drops peppermint essential oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vitamin E oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon rosemary antioxidant

Place the carrier oil, alkanet root, and evergreen needles into a double boiler (or a pot with a metal bowl sitting on top of it).

Heat the ingredients until they are fairly warm to the touch. Turn off heat and let stand. Every couple of hours, re-heat the oil, and then let stand. Continue this for 24 to 48 hours.

Strain off the evergreen needles from the oil using a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Compost the needles.

Place 3 ounces of the infused oil, the shea butter, and beeswax into a double boiler. (If you don’t have enough infused oil, then add more carrier oil.) Heat slowly until the butter and wax melts completely. Add the essential oils, vitamin E, and rosemary antioxidant and stir well.

Immediately place the mixture into something with a spout (such as a glass measuring cup) and carefully pour the mixture into lip balm tubes or small glass jars.

Let stand to cool.


Label and enjoy.

These make a great gift! This recipe makes approximately 3/4 cup. I filled 10 lip balm containers and three (1-ounce) glass jars.

Which herbs & remedies should you always stock in your kitchen?

  1. awesome looking lip balm and fantastic recipe! Thank you for sharing! I have one question – what is the I guess.. :)

  2. oops,, looks like my question was cut. I was asking what is the point of using needles because essential oils are used? Definitely not for scent because EO are stronger I guess :)

    • I made this without the EO and the scent wasn’t strong enough for my liking. However, infusing the oil with doug fir needles helps extracts many different beneficial chemical compounds from the plant that you wouldn’t get with just the EO.

      • Would Red Cedar oil also work? I have an infusion of that oil already made from wild-crafted Red Cedar that I use in a topical blend with arnica oil.

  3. i have a Pine and a Hemlock in my front yard, would either of those needles be fine?

    • I’m no pro….definitely check on the Hemlock…I know there are plants in that family that are poisonus.

      • You’re probably thinking of poison hemlock (Conium maculatum) which is in the carrot family (Apiaceae). The hemlock tree is an evergreen in the Pine family and many of those plants are edible. Always good to know your plants and be careful!

      • She might be talking about the Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) which is an evergreen. I use it all the time and it is especially nice for this lip balm recipe. :)

    • Both pine (Pinus spp.) and Hemlock (Tsuga spp.) are both edible. Just be sure to have a positive ID.

    • Those worked for me! I especially love the Hemlock.

      • Thank you, everyone : ) It is an Eastern Hemlock : )

  4. Thank you Rosalee! I would love to make this lip balm for christmas presents! I received the herbal remedies kit from my brother years ago and made the salve. It was a much loved gift, that I will make again. It was marvelous as a diaper rash creme!

  5. What is Rosemary antioxidant?

      • Thank you for the great information. Are we able to use Rosemary essential oil in place of Rosemary antioxidant?

  6. Good Morning, the rosemary antioxidant is expensive – is there an alternative and/or can it be excluded from the recipe?


    • It can be excluded from the recipe. However, if you make a lot of oil based medicines like salves and creams then I highly recommend it. Because you use so little at a time, one bottle will last for many batches. In terms of alternative, I really like to use cottonwood bud oil or tincture. But, as I’ve posted many recipes over the years listing that as an ingredient, I’ve found that many people don’t have access to cottonwood buds. So now I list rosemary antioxidant as something that can be easily found.

      • Rosalee, thank you for sharing your gifts so openly. I’m excited to learn more about the rosemary antioxidant. I’m wondering if it smells like rosemary? I make creams and would like to use it but rosemary scent might be a bit strong sometimes.

      • Thank you! I look forward to making the recipe and will purchase the antioxidant as I considered the point you made regarding how long one bottle will last.

      • It does smell like rosemary, but not strongly. I use it in small amounts and don’t notice the rosemary scent in my end products.

  7. I always love your recipes! Thank you. =) I have a question regarding making pine tea. In researching it, I’ve found some say to boil the needles to extract more properties (does this destroy the heat sensitive Vit. C?) and others say NOT to boil the needles or turpentine is made. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks so much!

    • For a generally pleasant tea I like to steep the needles in just boiled hot water. It has a light citrusy flavor and is one of my favorite teas. I’m not sure how much vitamin C makes it through that process. What I’ve found is when I simmer the needles it becomes more medicinal in taste and in action. I think the simmered needles are a much stronger stimulating expectorant than the steeped needles. Hope that helps!

      • Thank you, Rosalee. I appreciate you taking the time to answer. My children love to go into the back yard and pluck fir twigs from across the fence and make “tree tea”. =)

  8. Ohhhhh, Howwwwwww funnnnnnnn!!!!! Thank you! I’m so on it!!

  9. I can source alkanet powder locally but so far have not found a source for alkanet root. If it is OK to use the powder, what quantity would you recommend?

    • I’m sure powdered alkanet would work. Just make sure to strain it well. You might even let the oil sit after straining to allow for the tiny particles to settle to the bottom, then pour off the oil from the top leaving the particulates behind. As far as quantity… alkanet root is fun to play around with. I was actually hoping this batch was going to be redder (but it still turned out well). You could start with a tablespoon or so. Use less if you want it lighter and more if you want it darker.

      • What about using a bit of beet juice or pulp for our red hue?

      • You could try using beetroot. My guess is that it won’t be strong enough. It might also cause the lip balm to spoil more quickly (if using fresh). But, these are just my guesses as I’ve never tried it. Certainly worth experimenting.

  10. what is the difference between and infused oil and a carrier oil? there are a lot of carrier oils to chose from..Can you be specific and tell me what you are using? why use the pine tree tea and pine essential oil?

    • The carrier oil is the base oil that you use. I like a variety of options because there are so many choices to choose from based on availability or even price. I love using jojoba oil but it’s really expensive so I list many to choose from.

      An infused oil is the base oil after it has been infused with herbs.

      As for the essential oil question I’ll paste my response from above: “I made this without the EO and the scent wasn’t strong enough for my liking. However, infusing the oil with doug fir needles helps extracts many different beneficial chemical compounds from the plant that you wouldn’t get with just the EO.”

  11. just read your reply concerning the EO and the pine needle “tea” sorry for the repetition. Am planning on make this for Christmas gifts…Thank you for all the info you so graciously share!!

    • No problem, I know it can be overwhelming to read all the comments in the hopes of finding your question. :)

  12. I have never heard before about alkanet root or rosemary antioxidant. Can we just omit them from the recipe? or replaced with something easily available in most health stores, which carry some herbal supplies? For people in Canada, many supplies from Mountainrose Herbs can not the shipped.

    Besides if they could send them here, the shipping adds to the products cost. It would be best to use more easily available ingredients.

    Also how do you control the colour of the lipstick to make it lighter or darker red or pink? Is it by the amount of needles? Can we use some other natural color in the place of needles and what would you recommend?

    • You can omit the rosemary antioxidant. It’s the alkanet root that makes the lip balm red. The more you use the redder it is. You can omit it and have a normal colored lip balm.

      • just clarifying, that the alkanet rt is just for the color and the rosemary antioxidant just for extending life and that both can be omitted and all the other ingredients stay the same

  13. Looks like a great recipe and gift idea! I was wondering what kind of scale you use in the photo and where to get one? Thanks!!

    • I got it from Amazon years ago, it was about $15. Any digital kitchen scale should do the trick!

  14. Can Cedar infused oil be used? Can you tell me a little bit about the benefits of cedar vs pines?

    • You could use cedar infused oil. I’m not able to give you an in-depth analysis of the difference between the two. I think of cedar (Thuja plicata) as having a strong antifungal element.

      • I have cedar, juniper, sage and sweet grass infused oil…can I use this oil for your Chapstick recipe?

  15. I can’t wait to try this! I think I will use Grand Fir needles (Abies grandis), they have a fir and citrus-y smell.

  16. Wonderful recipe and I can’t wait to try it! I am still learning so I love following you so my question has probably been answered before but can rosemary essential oil be used instead of the antioxidant? I have everything but that

    • You can omit the rosemary antioxidant. It is there to help preserve the oils, but as long as you use them up within 6 months to a year they should be fine. I’m not sure if the EO would have the same effect.

  17. I too am curious about using Red Cedar (Thuja plicata) needles and EO. Might RedCedar be too strong? (i.e., cause allergic responses in some? — I suppose that might always be a possibility!). Any suggestions?

    • I’ve used Thuja plicata a lot in infused oils and salves. It’s a wonderful antimicrobial and vulnerary. I am not familiar with using the EO though.

  18. Oh, and thank you so much, Rosalee! I’m looking forward to making this recipe with both Doug Fir and Red Cedar, maybe a small batch of the latter to experiment.

  19. fun idea! I’m going to make this lip balm with my daughter to give as holiday gifts. I’m also making an herbal first aid travel kit to give my husband. Looking forward to more herbal gift giving ideas. Thanks!

    • Sounds like a wonderful herbal holiday gift list. :)

  20. Fantastic recipe! I simply love the idea of an evergreen lip balm. I bet it is amazing to wear. Thanks for sharing your recipe with all of us!

  21. Nice recipe. I like that is does not require essential oils and you can forage for the needles. I have been taught that shea butter needs to be added last and when the product is off the heat because heat destroys its benificially properties. Is that just a prefence between herbalists and aromatherapists?

    • Serves me right for trying to type out a long response using my phone. So many spelling mistakes!

    • I’ve never heard of this. In this recipe you have to heat the shea butter until it is melted, ideally you do this using very low heat.

  22. Could I use my crock pot? Instead of the stove.

    • Sure, just be careful it doesn’t get too hot.

  23. Thank you, very excited to try. I have a recipe for a lip balm similar to burt’s bee that I make and love…:)

  24. Hi Rosalee! I have infused oil before. It was suggested (and worked well) to use a jar with a loose lid. I set it on the water heater for a certain amount of time and shoook twice a day. It was pretty easy for me to remember. What do you think?

    • Yep, you can do that. It typically takes about 4-6 weeks to infuse well. The heat makes things go a bit faster. I like the longer oil for most of my projects but I made this with the holidays in mind.

  25. Thank you so much for this recipe!! Whenever I smell any kind of pine, I could just eat it :)

  26. We just bought a rosemary bush and I have rosemary essential oil – could I substitute these in the same amounts for the evergreen needles and Douglas fir essential oil?

    • You could. Rosemary lip balm would be nice. I’m not sure if the rosemary EO amounts would be the same or not. You’d have to experiment.

  27. Would coconut oil work for your base? And where do you get the empty lip balm tubes?

    • Coconut oil could work as a base, however because it has a completely different consistency than a liquid carrier oil you would have to play around with amounts to get the desired end consistency.

  28. Also I am wondering if Rosemary antioxidant and Rosemary extract are interchangeable?

    • I’m not quite sure what you mean by rosemary extract. If you mean an alcohol extract of rosemary, then no, those are different.

  29. I may be thoroughly dense or missed an explaination, but what is rosemary antioxident and where does one get it? Otherwise it is a very neat recipe.

  30. Two questions:

    How is it red, where does the color come from? (is it the root?)

    Instead of Douglas Fir essential oil, could I use Pine essential oil instead? Or would that taste bad?


    • The red comes from alkanet root. Read through the article to learn more about it. I think you could use pine essential oil. I haven’t used it so I can’t speak from experience.

  31. Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe! I look forward to making it with my kids. Happy Holidays!

  32. I am glad to find a recipe which makes my tree go further! Thanks!

  33. Can white cedar be used for this? I couldn’t find alkanet root at my local coop so I plan to substitute annatto seeds for color.

  34. Thank you for the recipe. I wish I could find alkanet root nearby so that I could make it right away. Do you have any suggestions for substitutions

    • the lady at my coop suggested beet root powder or annatto seed.?.?

  35. Just thought I would put it out there, if someone has a latex sensitivity, you might want to omit Shea butter. I didn’t know it Shea and cocoa butter have the latex protein in them, until i did research to find out why my skin would get red cyst type bumps after i used products that had shea in them.

  36. Where can I get the 1 oz glass jars?

  37. Do you think Juniper would be good to use?

  38. Rosalee, you ROCK. Thank you for being so patient and helpful.

  39. Your intro said your house stands among Ponderosa and Douglas Fir pines. Yet in your article, you omitted to mention that Ponderosa pine needles are thought to be poisonous or at least inedible. I quote below from gardenguides dot com, because their version is much more concise than the USDA version…

    “The Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture says the needles of the ponderosa pine, Pinus ponderosa, contain isocupressic acid, which can induce abortions during the first trimester of pregnancy in cattle. Both the dry and green needles contain isocupressic acid. The abortions generally occur during the late fall and early spring. The cows have weak contractions, excessive hemorrhage of the uterus and incomplete cervical dilation. If the abortion is near-term, the calves may survive but will be weak. After the abortion, cows may develop septicemia and fever and may die if not treated. The USDA recommends supplemental cattle feeding during cold, snowy weather to prevent cows from eating the needles of the ponderosa pine. The ponderosa pine is also called the blackjack pine, western yellow pine, yellow pine and bull pine. Other pine trees that contain isocupressic acid include the lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta), common juniper (Juniperus communis), and Monterey cypress (Cupressus macroparpa). These pine trees also may cause abortions in cattle.”

    So it seems that one’s choice of evergreen needles does make a difference in the resulting balm’s properties.

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