Drawing Salves

Dateline: 8 February 2015

Old Fashioned Black Salve
"For Man or Beast"

I am intrigued by drawing salves. I first learned of the whole concept of a salve that can draw out splinters just a few years ago from a friend who said his mother always had it on hand, and used it often. It turns out that a lot of families once kept a container of drawing salve in the cupboard. It isn’t just for splinters, it is for most any skin irritation, like sunburn, insect bites, pimples, boils, and so on.

When I mentioned drawing salves to a neighbor last summer, she said, “Oh, yes. ichthammol. That’s good stuff. Doc Mackey used a lot of it.”  Doc Mackey (now deceased) was the veterinarian in these parts for a very long time. He is something of a legend. Most everyone has a Doc Mackey story. I’ve heard it said that, on occasion, he treated needy humans with veterinary medicines. 

I'm pretty sure that Ichthammol is a brand name of ammonium bituminosultfate. Here is an internet definition of ammonium bituminosultfate:

"A viscous fluid, reddish brown to brownish black, with a strong, characteristic, empyreumatic odor, soluble in water and in glycerine; obtained by the destructive distillation of certain bituminous schists, sulfonating the distillate and neutralizing the product with ammonia. It is used in skin disorders; its beneficial effect is due to its mild irritant, stimulant, antiseptic, and analgesic action; used in 10-20% concentrations in ointment ("drawing salve").

In other words, it's made from a rock. 

It is possible to mix up your own drawing salve, and I plan to do that someday. There are a few recipes on the internet (Here is one), but they differ quite a bit. None have ichthammol because I don’t think it can be purchased in it’s pure form by just anyone. 

Many drawing salves have pine tar as an ingredient. I’m partial to pine tar and I’m pretty sure I want to use pine tar in my recipe. I bought a container of high-quality, organic pine tar a few years ago, with the intention of making some pine tar soap, but that didn’t happen. So it will go into my homemade drawing salve.... someday.

In the meantime, I have purchased several different drawing salves and found others on the internet. I'm listing them below, along with their ingredients and instructions. 

If there is an Amazon.com link for the product, I’m including it because you can go to the links and read the comments and testimonials from people who have used the product. The comments make for some interesting reading.

One important point I should make clear is that some of these general purpose drawing salves are black in color but they are not the same as the black salve with bloodroot that is a traditional remedy for skin cancers (as shown in This You Tube Movie). 

Drawing Salve
“Since 1918”

Amazon Link: Quret Drawing Salve

Manufacturer: Jamark Labratories, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Color: dark amber

Smell: wintergreen

Ingredients: Petrolatum, Beeswax, Castile Soap, Tallow, Rosin, Methyl Salicylate, Chlorothymol.

Information on container: “An effective drawing agent and soothing ointment. Place Quret on bandage, apply to affected area. For minor skin irritations, sunburn, etc. place a small amount on fingertip, dip in water, smooth on area. Repeat application twice a day or as needed.”

Comments: My family has used this for a couple of years. I don’t have any medical miracle stories. It certainly seems to have helped with splinter removal and healing of minor skin irritations.


Smile’s PRID
Homeopathic Salve
All Natural Drawing Salve

Manufacturer: Hylands, Inc., Los Angeles, California

Web Site: Hylands Homeopathic

Color: Dark amber (darker than Quret) with a reddish hue.

Smell: mild medicinal 

Ingredients: Carbolicum Acidum, Ichthammol, Arnica Mont, Calendula Off, Echinacea Ang, Sulphur, Hepar Sulph, Silicea, Rosin, Beeswax, Petrolatum, Stearyl Alcohol, Methyl and Propyl Paraben.

Information on Container: “Uses: Temporary relief of pain and irritation associated with boils, minor skin eruptions and redness. Also aids in relieving the discomfort of minor skin irritations, superficial cuts and scratches”

“Directions: Wash affected area with hot water, dry and apply PRID twice daily on clean bandage or gauze. Do not squeeze or pressure irritated skin area. After irritation subsides, repeat application once a day for several days. Children under two years, consult a physician.”

Comments: I purchased a tin of this at WalMart


Pa Smith’s 
Black Drawing Salve

Manufacturer: Applachian Heritage Soaps, Marietta, Ohio

Web Site: Pa Smith's Black Drawing Salve

Color: Black

Smell: Medicinal

Ingredients: Olive oil (infused with alfalfa, comfrey, plantain, and poke root), Pine Tar, Castor Oil, Beeswax, Vitamin E.

Information on Container: “This old-time recipe was used to draw out infection, splinters and boils. Every farmer valued this salve and even the delicate used it for psoriasis and excema.”


Grandma’s Black Salve
Healing and Drawing Ointment

Manufacturer: Grandma’s Black Salve, Cameron Park, California

Color: Black

Smell: (unknown)

Ingredients: Lard, Onions, Olive Oil, Beeswax, Pine Tar, Grapefruit Seed Extract.

Comment: This is the only drawing salve I know of with onions!  


Union (Black) Salve

Manufacturer: H & H Remedies, New Philadelphia, Ohio

Web Site: H & H Remedies

Color: Dark Brown

Smell: Medicinal

Ingredients: Sheep Tallow, Pine Tar, Carbolic Acid, Castor Oil, Mineral Oil, Lanolin, Beeswax, Petrolatum.

Description: “Fantastic product for healing cuts and abrasions, and relief for minor burns, sunburns, minor skin irritations, and bites of non-poisonous insects.”

Comment: This is an old (100 years) family business and recipe. The company is now operated by the  great grandson of the man who developed the salve. It is described not only as a drawing salve, but a healing salve too. There are numerous testimonies of this salve being used with amazing results on serious burns. A free mini-sample is available upon request.


Hills Remedy
Black Drawing Salve

Manufacturer: Hills Remedy, Toledo, Ohio

Web Site: hillsremedy.com

Color: Black

Smell: Unknown

Ingredients: Olive Oil, Beeswax, Honey Powder, Activated Charcoal, Kaolin Clay, Cocoa Buttr, Shea Butter, Calendula, Chamomile, Chaparral, Chickweed, Comfrey, Echinacea, Golden Seal Root, Lobelia, Marshmallow Root, Mullein, Plantain, Red Clover, Eucalyptus Essential Oil, Lavender Essential Oil, Myrrh Essential Oil, Vitamin E.

Description: “Black Salve works by softening the skin surrounding the infection or foreign body. This allows the foreign body or substance to be “drawn” to the surface of the skin. Hills Remedy’s BLACK SALVE also contains many healing herbs which aid in quick healing.”

Comment: Web site provides insights into the useful qualities of each ingredient. 


Dr. Christopher’s 
Black Ointment

Amazon Link: Dr. Christopher’s Black Ointment

Manufacturer: Wholistic Botanicals, Spanish Fork, Utah

Color: Black

Smell: Strongly medicinal

Ingredients: Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Chaparral Leaf, Comfrey Root, Red Clover Blossom, Mullein Leaf, Plantain, Chickweed Herb, Marshmallow Root, Goldenseal Root, Lobelia, Poke Root, Pine Tar, Mutton Tallow and Beeswax.

Information on Container: “Apply externally as needed or as directed by your health care professional.”


Vet One
Drawing Salve

Amazon Link: Vet One Drawing Salve

Distributed by: www.vetone.net

Color: Black

Smell: None

Active Ingredients: Ammonium Bituminosulfonate, 20%

Inactive Ingredients: Anhydrous lanolin, amber petrolatum

Information on Container: “Purpose: For hooves, nails and skin of horses and dogs.”  “For external use only. Not for human use.”


I'm far from an authority on drawing salves, and I haven't tried all of them, so I can't tell you which one is the best to get. It may well be that every one of them is a worthwhile formulation. But I am partial to the, empyreumatic pine tar formulations, like Pa Smith's, Union Black Salve, and Dr. Christopher's, even if they lack Ichthammol.

As far as getting the most ointment for your money, the veterinary drawing salve is by far the best value.


I'm wondering.... Do you have any experience with, or insights into, drawing salves? Please share in the comments below.


ELittle said...

HI Herrick, We always had a 'Stick" of drawing salve around the house. My Dad would take out a match and hold it under the stick until a drop melted off onto the offending part. Then a bandage was applied for a couple of days. Then a little squeeze and out popped the splinter! Small ones not in to deep were dug out with a sharp pointed knife! NO crying thank you very much!

Anonymous said...

I put lavender essential oil on my last splinter. I then put a bandaid on it as it was on a prime knitting finger. It came out without incident within a day or so. I read that essential oils that have anti-inflammatory properties would encourage the tissues to release the splinter. I made plantain salve last summer, and activated charcoal/bentonite soap (not salve) last week but can't really attest to their drawing power. If I were to make a salve, charcoal/clay/lavender would probably be where I would start as I have them on hand. I also have sheep tallow which I noticed one ingredient list used. I got some comfrey roots last year (bocking 4 and 14) and would like to read up on using them in salve(if they survived). I have no idea where pine tar could be purchased...or, do you "just" get it from a pine tree?

Frank and Fern said...

I use a drawing salve on my goat's udders if they get a scratch or sore from the briars and such in the pastures. It works well on them, but I haven't tried any on myself. It does have Ichthammol and the active ingredient is listed as Ammonium Bituminosulfonate. I get it from an online animal supply.



odiie said...

I don't have any experience, but thanks to your blog, I hope to soon.
I'm glad you stated that there is a difference between drawing salves and the one used for skin cancer. A friend of mine is treating her skin cancer with this and it's the first time I'd heard of black salve at all.

Anonymous said...

One of the best drawing salves is bread and milk. Seriously - plain old bread and plain old milk. Wrap it up for a couple of hours and the splinter will come right out. Try it!

Anonymous said...

No experience with drawing salves, but I do make a pine tar soap with goat's milk that is awesome for people and pets with skin issues...

Harv said...

We used to get this from the Watkins Man, a home delivery guy that used to show up in a 50's vintage panel truck. I still have a can I salvaged from the barn when my Mother sold the old farm house and out buildings. Now I will have to go on a search and locate it.

Sheila Gilbert said...

Ours came in a tube, like tooth paste, when they were metal. It really smells bad, but works great. I haven't seen it in years. Thank you for reminding me.
I will pick up some this week.
I do remember that it was used for everything, and worked very quickly too.

RonC said...

My mom had a tin of brown viscous salve that was used to doctor cuts and scrapes when I was growing up. It came from the Raleigh Man. The "Fit for Man or beast" on the tin of the first picture was also on the yellow Raleigh tin. I did a quick Google search and ran across this remembrance:


The Raleigh Man...That's something I miss from my childhood.

Herrick Kimball said...

Thank you, everyone, for the great comments.

Unknown said...

I have a small blood clot in my finger that won't dissolve naturally. It now seems like maybe a blood cyst. Does anyone have advice on a type of salve to draw it out? I can't find any information on finger blood clots that won't dissipate. Thank you.