Black Drawing Salve

Drawing salve

No herbal first aid kit is complete without black drawing salve. This common ointment treats infections and 'draws' or pulls splinters, stingers, thorns and infections from the skin.

Purchasing Black Drawing Salve

Before purchasing this salve, it is important that you do not to confuse it with another herbal product with a very similar name: black salve. Black salve contains a powerful herb called bloodroot (Sanguinaria candensis). Bloodroot can burn skin tags and tumors off the surface of the skin. Many websites make a common mistake and use the two names interchangeably. To be certain that you're buying the topical ointment form used to treat splinters, look for the active ingredient ichthammol or ichthyol in the ointment.

You can find black drawing ointment at many sites online. The recipes may vary; always check the ingredient lists before ordering to ensure you are getting the correct product.

What Is Ichthammol Drawing Salve?

The actual ointment known as black drawing salve is an innocuous preparation that pulls irritants from the skin. Drawing salves became popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. People thought that many illnesses could be drawn out through the skin. Today, black ointment acts as a powerful antibacterial and anti-inflammatory agent, speeds healing and helps the body expel foreign objects, such as small splinters or thorns.

  • Available in tubes or tubs, this drawing salve has the consistency of a gooey ointment. Some people think it resembles tar or auto grease.
  • Chemists derive its main ingredient, ichthyol or ichthammol (ammonium bituminosulfonate), from the distillation of sulfur-rich oil shale.
  • Herbal ingredients may include, depending on the brand of salve, arnica montana, Echinacea, calendula, bergamot oil and comfrey oil. The ointment contains a base of beeswax and Vitamin E mixed with ichthammol and herbs to create a healing salve.
  • Ichthyol's anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and fungicidal properties are well-documented; the European Medicines Agency published a report in June 2005 citing the safety of ichthyol products, particularly their use in animals intended for human consumption.
  • When purchasing drawing salve, look for products containing 10 to 20 percent ichthammol. Anything less will prove ineffective.
  • Herbal ingredients, such as arnica and calendula, have a long and distinguished history as skin soothers with antibacterial properties. Echinacea fights infection, while bergamot and comfrey reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Purchase black ointment at your local pharmacy or health food store; most pharmacies keep the ointment behind the counter, but it is available without a prescription.

Uses for Drawing Salve

Remember to seek the advice of qualified medical personnel for any emergencies, deep cuts, splinters, burns or insect bites accompanied by swelling, rashes or trouble breathing. These indicate medical emergencies that must be treated promptly. Black drawing ointment may stain clothes, so always cover the application area with a bandage and avoid contact with clothing.

The main uses for drawing salve include the following:


Wood, glass or plastic splinters create pain and inflammation and can lead to infection. First, try to remove the splinter using tweezers sterilized with alcohol. Don't dig or pick at the splinter. Your body will actually push the splinter out over time if you cannot extract it. Drawing salve can help during the healing process. Simply wash the affected area with soap and water, dry it and place drawing salve on the skin. Cover with a clean bandage and repeat as necessary. The drawing salve acts as an anti-inflammatory and antibacterial agent and promotes rapid healing.


Gardeners can apply black ointment to hands, arms or legs where embedded thorns refuse to budge. Raspberry, blackberry and rose bushes all contain small thorns, as do some weeds, that can be nearly impossible to remove with tweezers. The salve can help.


Boils caused by bacterial infections of the hair follicle often respond to salves. First, treat the boil. Home remedies are fine, although if the boil persists or is accompanied by a fever, see a doctor. Apply salve over the boil and cover with a bandage.

Insect Bites and Stings

This slave can help with a variety of insect bites or wasp stings:

  • Spider bites: Spider bites create painful bumps on the skin. To dry out the poison within the bite, apply a bit of black drawing ointment on the surface. Repeat as necessary.
  • Wasp and bee stings: For stings, try to remove the stinger by swiping the skin with something stiff, like a credit card, if the insect left an embedded stinger. Apply drawing salve to the area and cover with a clean bandage, using other first aid techniques for stings as necessary.

Please remember that with any insect bite, an allergic reaction requires prompt medical treatment.

Keep Some on Hand

Keep some black drawing ointment on hand at all times. It is a safe and effective way to treat many minor skin problems before they get out of hand.

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Black Drawing Salve