Draw Out Salve


Draw out salve, also known as drawing salve, black salve, black drawing salve, bear grease and ichthammol, has been used as a means of treating skin irritations and ailments since the 1800s. How can draw out salve work for you? Read on.

What is Draw Out Salve?

Draw out salve is a topical ointment that has a number of uses in alternative medicine. The salve is black and tar-like in consistency with a strong, somewhat unpleasant odor. It is applied directly to affected areas where it is allowed to work by "drawing out" any foreign bodies or substances.

It is typically made of a blend of oils, extracts, roots and herbs that are known to draw out foreign bodies and soothe skin irritations.

Formulations vary based on the manufacturer, but it has many common ingredients that can be found in most versions of the salve. Here are the common ingredients and their properties:

  • Ichthammol - This ingredient is also known as ammonium bituminosulfonate. It is the most common ingredient in draw out salve. Ichthammol, which is derived from the distillation of sulfer-rich oil shale, is what gives the salve its characteristic black color, strong odor and drawing out properties. It is believed to have anti-inflammatory, fungicidal and anti-bacterial properties.
  • Arnica - This ingredient is a popular homeopathic topical treatment used for treating bruising and irritation.
  • Echinacea - Derived from the purple cornflower, this common herb has multiple uses including prevention of infection.
  • Calendula - This soothing herb is used topically for the treatment of cuts, bruises and minor skin irritations.
  • Vitamin E - This is a skin-softening vitamin that is used in a variety of topical treatments.
  • Essential oils - Many of these oils are believed to have softening, anti-irritant and anti-inflammatory properties.

History of Draw Out Salve

The salve was originally created by Native Americans to "draw out" infection from the body. Originally, its black color came from ground ash, and the main herbal component was bloodroot. U.S. settlers discovered the treatment, and it has been a popular treatment in natural first aid kits since the 1800s.

What Are the Most Common Uses?

Draw out salve has a number of commonly reported uses, including:

  • Treatment of infections that burrow under the skin such as ingrown hairs, ingrown toenails and boils.
  • It can draw out splinters, insect stingers and burrs from plants such as thorns or cactus needles.
  • It treats insect bites by drawing out the venom that causes itching and irritation.
  • It treats plant-based irritations such as poison oak, poison ivy and nettles by drawing out the poisons that cause irritation and itching.
  • There has been interest in testing drawing out salve in the treatment of tumors and cysts.
  • It is used in the removal of moles and skin tags.

How Does It Work?

Icthammol - the most common active ingredient in drawing out salve - softens the skin and weakens it slightly or corrodes it a little. This increases circulation to the area where the salve has been applied. The increased blood flow then causes the area to eject any foreign bodies such as toxins, pus or irritants.

Where to Purchase the Salve

Draw out salve can be found both on the Internet and at brick and mortar locations. Many drugstores carry drawing salve, as do some grocery stores. It can also be found at natural products stores.

How to Apply

  1. Apply a warm compress to the affected area for about ten minutes. This can be as simple as a clean washcloth soaked in warm water.
  2. Thoroughly clean and dry the affected area.
  3. Apply the salve to the affected area.
  4. Cover salve with a band-aid to keep the salve in place.
  5. Leave band-aid in place for 12 hours. Check to see if re-application is necessary, and reapply using the above steps.

Caveats and Cautions

Drawing salve is not approved by the FDA. There is no scientific evidence that points to its safety or efficacy. Draw out salve is a tissue corrosive. As such, it can lead to permanent scarring of the tissue. It can also lead to corrosion of the surrounding tissue. You should avoid use of draw out salve in the eye area.

One final caveat - the black color of the salve can stain clothing. Use care when applying it, and keep the salve covered.

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Draw Out Salve