A drawing salve is an herbal medicine that is as old as time. Certain plants and other natural materials function to physically “draw” things out of the body. You can put this action to good use in a drawing salve to help pull out splinters, pathogens from insect bites, boils, small pieces of glass, and any foreign bodies or substances embedded in the skin.
This salve is based off of an old Amish recipe that uses charcoal as the main drawing agent. I took the original recipe and tweaked it because I specifically wanted a black drawing salve to use on tick bites.
Many Lyme-literate herbal practitioners recommend using the herb andrographis directly on tick bites to help stimulate the body’s natural immune response and work as a natural antimicrobial. You can do that through a tincture, but have you ever tried to get a liquid tincture to stay on a tick bite on a four year old? Yeah, ain’t happening. So I decided to instead infuse it into my black drawing salve.
Along with the andrographis, I infused calendula (to soothe the skin), plantain (another skin soother with drawing action), and chickweed (to help aid in healing and reduce inflammation) in the base oil. I’d say if you just go with andrographis and calendula, you’ll have one heck of a powerful salve on your hands! But plantain and chickweed are both pretty easy to forage for in the springtime around here, so I added them just for kicks.
How to Make The Drawing Salve
First, you will need to know how to infuse an herbal oil to create this salve. We covered it a bit in my Poison Ivy Salve recipe, but let’s deep dive here. There are really two ways to create an herbal oil—solar/lunar infusions and heat infusions. A solar/lunar infusion is quite literally sitting a jar filled with oil (I like extra virgin olive oil for medicinal preparations and sweet almond or fractionated coconut oil for cosmetic preparations) and herbs in a sunny or moony (is that a word?) spot for 4-6 weeks, until the oil absorbs most of the medicinal properties from the herbs. You then strain and use. This is the way I almost always infuse my oils. It takes some time, but I’ve heard that patience is a virtue.
If you’re short on time, you can also infuse the oil over a double boiler on the stove on a very, very low burner (you don’t want deep-fried herbs here). This will reduce your infusing time down from a few weeks to just a few hours. How do you know when it’s finished? Well, it depends on the herb, but a good rule of thumb is that when the oil has taken on the color and smell of the herb pretty strongly, it’s ready to go. You then strain through cheesecloth and use.
After the oil is made, the rest of the salve-making process is as simple as melting some beeswax into the oil along with a few other ingredients until it’s smooth. Then pour into a jar, label, and have it stashed in your tick kit for the next time you get a bite!.
To use, just place a big glob onto the affected area and then cover with a large bandage. Activated charcoal tends to stain fabric, so you don’t want it touching your clothing or furniture. Leave the salve on the spot for at least 24 hours, then, in the case of splinters and other foreign bodies, check if it’s moved enough to grab it with tweezers. For tick and other insect bites, after 24 hours, you can remove the salve, clean the spot, and then either let it be open to air or cover it with another bandage—whatever feels good to you.