Is Drawing Salve Safe to Use?

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  • Written By: Harriette Halepis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2018
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Drawing salve looks a lot like tar, and it is used to relieve topical skin ailments. Whether or not it is safe is still debated, but this ointment is not linked to any serious damage if it is used topically. Some natural companies claim that the salve is safe for internal use, though this is not the case.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, this type of salve was considered to be a cure-all for various ailments. During this time, many believed that physical afflictions were a spiritual matter. Taking advantage of the public's belief in religion, medical "magicians" created salves that could "draw out" any evil spiritual affliction. Black drawing salve was one of the most popular forms created, and it is still widely used around the globe.

Black drawing salves, not to be confused with black salve, contain ichthyol or ichthammol, which are types of ammonium bituminosulfonate derived from oil shale. Other ingredients may include echinacea, arnica montana, bergamot oil, calendula, and comfrey oil depending upon the brand. Beeswax and vitamin E are also often included in this mixture.


This type of salve differs drastically from black salve, which is made from the bloodroot herb. Black salve was once the only form of skin cancer treatment available, and it can cause a great amount of skin damage. It causes skin tissue to die, since it literally burns. This is not the salve that is used to treat minor skin irritations.

Any kind of ointment should only be used topically unless otherwise directed by a medical professional. Anyone considering using drawing salve should make sure to speak with a healthcare provider before doing so, since this type of salve can easily burn the skin. With the careful monitoring, a physician or other medical professional will be able to tell a patient when to stop using this ointment.

This type of salve should only be used to relieve pain caused by bee stings, splinters, boils, thorns, and spider bites. On occasion, an allergic reaction to black drawing salve may occur. If it has been used without the watchful eye of a physician, and a rash occurs, medical attention should be immediately sought.

When applying this ointment, users be careful to keep it away from any clothing, since it can cause permanent stains. While this type of salve can be purchase on the Internet, it is recommended that patients purchase it from a health store. This way, they can be sure that they are buying the right kind of salve, since there are many similar ointments on the market.


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Post 4

@orangey03 – My aunt uses ground cumin seeds to make a natural drawing salve. She grinds them with water in a food processor.

She puts this paste on the area with the boil or splinter, and she covers it with a bandage. This keeps the salve in place and keeps it from smudging off onto the furniture or clothing.

I've also heard of a few other simple yet safe forms of drawing salve. One is a piece of bread that has been soaked in milk, and another is a heated slice of tomato.

Post 3

Does anyone know of any natural drawing salves? I don't feel safe putting black salve on my skin, but if there is some easy combination of harmless ingredients that can do the trick, I would love to give it a try.

Post 2

@OeKc05 – Some online sources of information about drawing salves do state that it can be used on acne. However, they also say that you should get a doctor's opinion on this before trying it.

Some drawing salves can really mess up your skin. If your acne is on your face, then you might regret using it there. What if you happen to be allergic or the salve burns some of your skin off?

Post 1

Can you use boil drawing salve for acne? I would think that since it is supposed to draw the toxin or debris out of your skin, it would be ideal for drawing the pus out of big, deep pimples. However, I've never heard of anyone using it for this.

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