Drawing Salve

Recipe for Black Drawing Salve with Free Printable Labels (good for splinters, boils, insect bites, etc)

A while back, I wrote about how I was taking an online herbal class through the Herbal Academy of New England. I absolutely love it so far! (By the way, it’s self-paced, so it’s never too late to join! Click HERE for more information on the beginner’s class or HERE for the intermediate class.)

For a homework assignment, I had to choose a recipe from their herbal flipbook to make. There were sooo many great ideas to choose from, but I finally settled on this drawing salve. I actually took great liberties with their original recipe, but that’s okay – they encourage experimentation! (If only all homework could be so fun as the kind in this class!)

Since we heat our house solely with wood, we’re always getting tiny, bothersome splinters in our hands. I tested some of this out on the palms of my hands and was quite happy with how it helped! (Note: the charcoal in it tends to stain, so be sure to keep it covered with a band-aid and away from white shirts and such.)

Besides splinters, the salve can also be used for things like boils and insect bites.

I liked it so much, I thought that I’d make some up as stocking stuffers for the wood-working guys in my family. (The labels I created for gifting can be found below the recipe.)


Black Drawing Salve Recipe with Printable Labels

Drawing Salve

(Click HERE for printable recipe.)

  • 6 tablespoons infused olive oil*
  • 2 tablespoons castor oil
  • 2 teaspoons beeswax
  • 3 teaspoons activated charcoal
  • 3 teaspoons clay (kaolin or bentonite, etc)
  • essential oils: 30 drops lavender, 15 drops tea tree (where to buy)

*Olive oil should be infused with an herb such as calendula, plantain, violets or goldenseal. You can buy calendula oil HERE or you can infuse your own oils, following the directions HERE.

Combine oils and beeswax in a heat proof container. (I recycled a tin can for melting purposes, since items made with charcoal can be difficult to wash out. However, you’ll want to be sure to store the finished salve in a glass container.)

Set the container down in a saucepan containing a few inches of water, forming a make-shift double boiler. Heat over a medium-low burner, until beeswax has melted.

Remove from heat and stir in essential oils, charcoal and clay. Immediately pour into glass containers.

This recipe is sized to fill 1 four-ounce jelly jar. Store finished salve in a cool, dark place. Apply a small amount to skin, as needed. Cover with a band-aid and leave on for up to twelve hours before washing off with soap and water.


Adding Labels to Drawing Salve


Here are a few printable options for labels. Click on the link below that best describes the amount you’re looking for. Print on sticker paper (like this kind) or, in a pinch, use plain copy paper and carefully affix to a regular canning lid with a thin layer of glue.

Sheet of Two Labels (with recipe)

Sheet of Four Labels

Sheet of Six Labels

Want more body care projects? Be sure to sign up HERE for my newsletter, so you can get my latest soap ideas, herbal projects and other DIY recipes sent straight to your inbox each month!


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72 Responses to Drawing Salve

  1. thank you so much for this recipe-we only heat with wood too and I am always getting splinter in my fingers. last summer I got bit by a spider this would have been good for that too thanks again Kathy

  2. Suzanne Hendrickson says:

    We used to have a drawing salve called ‘Wonderful Dream Salve’. It was truly amazing. It was commonly called a tar salve. It was great for everything! It removed bee stings, reduced the size and pain of ‘piles’ (hemorrhoids) and stopped the itching of mosquito bites. Is there a way to make this without the charcoal by substituting something less staining? I would like to make some and use it on chigger bites.

    • Jan says:

      Sounds wonderful! Maybe it had pine tar in it? (I have a recipe for Pine Tar Salve that I want to experiment with too!) I haven’t tried leaving out the charcoal in this recipe yet, but thought maybe next batch I would substitute green French clay for it. In that same line of thought, maybe you could use more kaolin clay for the charcoal portion? Let me know how it works out, if you try it!

  3. Janine says:

    thank you for that, it sounds wonderful….just a question regarding your herbal studies…i’m in Australia and trying to find a course that covers the making of herbal concoctions, what is the name of your course that you are doing?

    • Jan says:

      Hi Janine! I’m taking the Intermediate Course through the Herbal Academy of New England. (It’s call intermediate, but the first section is review of basics, so they say that really anyone can take it, even beginners and those that have never taken a class.) There’s a link to it in the very first paragraph of this post if you want to check it out! :)

  4. Stephanie says:

    Is this the kind that stinks really bad? My great gramma used to make a drawing salve that was black but smelled sooooo bad lol. It worked really well though and I wish I would have been able to get her recipes before she passed but I was to young to realize what I was missing

    • Jan says:

      No, this one only smells like tea tree oil and lavender. :) Maybe the kind she used had pine tar in it – it supposedly smells REALLY strong! It’s on my list to experiment with too, but I need to find a pure pine tar source first (or see if I can DIY my own.)

      • Molly says:

        Pine tar is still used by many horsemen. My ancient old tin of it doesn’t admit to any ingredient but pine tar, and I expect that pine tar is pretty much the same regardless of who packs it. If i remember, it’s what’s left in the crucible after the turpentine is distilled out of the pine pitch. (I suppose the species of pine could make a difference but there might not be a choice of turpentine forests these days. :-)

      • Molly says:

        Oops, forgot — many feed stores carry horse remedies! I seem to remember pine tar coming up in a few of the Herriot vet stories, and they used to paint hunting dogs’ pads with ‘tar’ to toughen them but I never figured out which kind, road or pine.

        • Jan says:

          Hi Molly, I believe I’ve spotted some pine tar in my local Tractor Supply store before (that’s the only feed store around here.) I’ll have to check out their horse section next time I’m there! :)

  5. Lea says:

    I was raised on only wood heat and vowed never to have it as my sole source…and now we live in a house where it is our only heat source. :-)
    Will definitely need to make this. My husband works in the forest and often gets splinters, my dad is a carpenter…we could use this in my family.

  6. Kay says:

    Hi Lea, I was raised with a Gran’ that always used a drawing salve on splinters and boils. It stank to high heaven (tarish).
    When we moved to West Texas I learned to take a Nopal cactus pad remove the thorns and peal one side and place the pealed side to the boil or splinter and cover for about 12 hours. In our case it was usually a cactus or mesquite thorn we were drawing but it worked great. Just wondered if you have ever heard of this or can find more info on it.

    • Jan says:

      Kay, that is so interesting! I’ve not heard of using a nopal cactus pad, but I’ve heard of using the same technique with various leaves such as plantain, violet, even maple and oak leaves. Any non-toxic leaf can be used as a first aid poultice like that. It’s amazing how many great remedies can be found in nature! :)

  7. Diana says:

    Is it okay to make without the oils, I am allergic to so many oils especially lavender and tea tree, causes migraines?

    • Jan says:

      Hi Diana! Yes, you can absolutely leave the essential oils out. The original recipe called for several more types that I omitted, but the main drawing action is with the charcoal and clay so the essential oils are just bonus ingredients.

  8. jodi says:

    thank you for sharing this remedy, I needed this one, we heat our home with a wood burning stove.

  9. Traci says:

    I can’t wait to try this recipe. Can I mix a calendula extract with the olive oil to make the calendula oil?

    • Jan says:

      Hi Traci! If your calendula extract is oil based, then you sure can try it out. If it’s water or alcohol based though, it will separate out from the oils.

  10. Traci says:

    I was able to find some premade calendula oil on Etsy that was all natural and didn’t cost a fortune. Made the drawing salve for my husband’s cellulitis and it has worked wonders. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  11. Lisa says:

    I can’t wait to try this! I get boils a couple times a year…this sounds great. I treat with tumeric (oral and topical) now.  I want to take The Herbal Academy course but i am a novice…will I be okay to take it???

    • Jan says:

      I hope it helps! The Herbal Academy course is great for beginners too. They start out with a review of the basics, so you’ll catch up quickly! :)

  12. Andrea says:

    This may sound silly but its the activated charcoal just plain charcoal that you would use to bbq? Or something else? can you get it on the Mountain herbs website as well?

    • Jan says:

      Hi Andrea, Not a silly question at all; I had wondered that before too! Activated charcoal (carbon) is specially processed to have pores and more surface area for absorbing toxins and such. (It’s also the type of carbon used in aquariums & water filters.) Charcoal for the bbq hasn’t been specially treated like that plus the briquettes are usually all bound together with chemicals to make it easier to light. They aren’t interchangeable.

      I get my activated charcoal from: http://www.brambleberry.com/Activated-Charcoal-P4956.aspx Before that, I used capsules from the health store, but they were messy to try to open and dump out as much as I needed.

  13. Jennifer says:

    I have French green clay. Can that be used rather than the kaolin clay?

  14. Elizabeth says:

    This looks awesome. Any chance you have an etsy store so I can just get one tin?

  15. christen baker says:

    I don’t have castor oilbon hand could I use olive oil instead?

    • Jan says:

      Hi Christen, You could try it and see how you like it. Castor oil is helpful for its drawing action, but the clay & charcoal have that as well, so as long as you keep those ingredients in, I think it should work in a similar manner.

  16. adrienne lohn says:

    Charcoal neutralizes toxins. This is as important as drawing. Activated is best. However, charcoal from a wood fire can also be used. Just not birquets.

  17. Jodi says:

    My mom would use a comfrey poultice to draw poison’s out of bites, etc. It worked wonders. One time I got stung by dozens of gnats around my eye and she had me chew the comfrey and then we put in all over the bites and bandaged it. I do not remember any pain or anything other than swelling and the nasty taste of the comfrey. It was wonderful and worked quickly.

  18. Rebecca says:

    Do you have a recipe for the black drawing salve that contains bloodroot? The kind that is supposed to help cure skin cancer? I would love that recipe. I actually have all the ingredients for this recipe at my house, but the herbs. I do have herbs but not the specific ones that I would want to use for this.

    • Jan says:

      Hi Rebecca, I’ve been reading on that type of salve lately! It’s highly interesting for sure, but I haven’t tried making any yet, so unfortunately don’t have a recipe to share.

  19. Christy says:

    Could you use sunflower oil (infused instead) and could you store it in a plastic container?

    • Jan says:

      Hi Christy! You sure can use infused sunflower oil instead. As far as the plastic container – some essential oils tend to degrade plastic over time and I’m not sure how the drawing ingredients would work with it either. (We avoid tins so it won’t absorb metals into the salve.) It might be okay, I’m just not sure one way or the other though. So, to be safe, I use glass.

  20. Sarah says:

    I have heard that Activated Charcoal and the Clays are really only very effective for 30 minutes after they are ‘activated’ with water or liquid. Is this true? I keep wondering what it is that allows this salve to continue working for quite a while if that is true? Maybe what I have heard is not true at all…

    Also, I know glass is always recommended, but can you put this in a metal tin or is it too runny…. or maybe something in it would react with a metal tin?

    Thank you!!

    • Jan says:

      Hi Sarah! That’s not something I’ve heard before, but if my understanding is correct, its drawing power is effective whether it’s in a moist form or dry. We scrape down to the very bottom of our salve jar and it still works great! My husband asks for it all the time for the splinters and such he gets working in construction. The reason it’s not good to store in metal is because there’s a chance the clay can draw metals and other impurities from the tin that you wouldn’t want rubbed on your skin. I do use tins for some salves and balms, but never for anything with clay in it.

      • Sarah says:

        Thank you so much! This is wonderful and I do have a container of Black Drawing Salve that I made last year. I had just wondered about the effectiveness of it after a while. I can *definitely* see the benefits of storing in glass – that is ideal for all skin care products, but especially for something like this I would think! Thanks for addressing my questions.

  21. Sarah says:

    Oh… and how long does this keep well?

  22. Heather says:

    Why dies that salve need to be stored in a glass container? Just curious as all I have is regular 1 Oz tins.

  23. Lisa says:

    How long to you leave this on? I’m going to make some for my elderly mother who keeps getting boils.

    • Jan says:

      Hi Lisa! Usually for a few hours or overnight, covered with a bandaid. Between applications, wipe off any leftover salve with a clean rag or paper towel (there could be stuff in there you don’t want to leave on your skin) and reapply until things improve. I hope it helps her!

  24. Brianne says:

    That is a very cool recipie! I was thinking the addition of clove essential oil would also be helpful as clove will draw out splinters on it’s own. Pretty cool stuff I wish I was taking an herbal class!

  25. The drawing ointment for boils may be very good. But people who have boils need to know that they may have a MRSA infection. I did. It took antibiotics to clear it up for good. MRSA is nothing to fool around with! See your doctor if you get boils, especially frequent ones.

  26. Betty says:

    I love this site so far..

  27. Genice says:

    I understand the drawing salve will draw boils, but wonder if just a dab would draw deep facial acne bumps to a head? I know one isn’t suppose to “squeeze” them out, so would the salve be okay to use? This is basically your teenage acne problems but worry about scarring and ‘pits” in the face. Thank you!

    • Jan says:

      Hi Genice! Yes, you sure can use it for acne – my teens use it sometimes and it works great as a spot treatment! (Just put it on at night before bed.)

  28. Stacy says:

    In the 70s I remember using a little tin of black drawing salve for drawing out larger pimples that were under the surface of the skin…you know, the huge pimple that surely will show up on your face the day of a school dance :0 From what I remember, it worked great to draw acne out quickly so it would not last for days/weeks. The smell was not pleasant, and it was sort of sticky. I’m guessing that would be the pine tar type?

  29. Jennifer says:

    Hi! I can’t wait to try out this recipe! I did have a question though. Our family has been using Iodex for all kinds of issues for years but it is no longer available. Would this be a good substitute or do you know of anything that is? I have tried googling homemade Iodex but can’t find anything. Thanks!

    • Jan says:

      Hi Jennifer! I googled & the active ingredient in Iodex is iodine, so it will act differently. I use liquid iodine here- I buy JCROWS Lugol’s and dilute it 1:5 with water.

  30. Shirley says:

    Hello Jan. I really liked your post. Could I buy a jar of this from you? Let me know where to go to do this. Thxs.

  31. Rebecca says:

    Could I also add frankincense EO for cancer healing properties? I am thinking of making this for a possible skin cancer mole on my husband’s shoulder!


  32. Russ says:

    my grandfather had made what he called GREEN SALVE,it worked in the same way,splinters,boils,bug bites,posion from infections,but all my dad can remember about the ingredients are,beef tallow,copper acetate(green stuff from copper)i think,and not much more,it would be great to find out more,if you or anyone has an idea,or remember this stuff? as i’am a diabetic and have lost a few toes to this disease,no feeling or circulation knees down,i get a small rub mark or blister and within 2 or 3 days gangreen,would love to hear if someone has this green recipe.

  33. Russ says:

    if anyone knows how i can get any of the drawing salves without making any,it would be great,i will prepay for it before it is sent to me,thanks.

    • Jan says:

      Hi Russ, I don’t sell any right now, but might open up shop later in the year. Have you checked Etsy.com or PoppySwap.com? You might find some ready made over there too!

  34. Russ says:

    no,i have’nt yet,will check it out thanks.

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