Skunk oil is very different from what most people might think when they hear about the product. It is not the same as a skunk's spray, which is foul-smelling and produced by a live skunk when it feels threatened. It is actually the oil obtained by frying the fat from the animal's body. For many years this oil has been said to have medicinal properties, although its effectiveness is questionable.
The most commonly touted use for skunk oil is to relieve or cure the common cold. Proponents say that rubbing this oil balm on a person's chest will cure a cold as quickly as possible. While there is no scientific evidence to back up this claim, many remedies that warm the skin and organs beneath, including this type of balm, open the passageways of a congested system by causing everything to expand and relax. This allows obstructions, such as mucus, to easily pass through the body and be harmlessly digested, easing the discomfort.
Skunk oil liniment is also used as a moisturizer to cure dry and chapped skin. Because skunk oil is essentially grease, it penetrates the skin a small amount at a time. It also forms a protective barrier to keep cool or dry air from doing further damage or irritation to the skin.
Skunk oil is reputed by some to have very little smell, while others report that it has a slight odor. Still others claim that it has a very distinct and unpleasant smell. Those who persist in using this old home remedy often add a drop of wintergreen or mint oil to their preparations to ward off any smell, or to aid its purported decongestant qualities.
Products are commercially available through a number of smaller retailers, mostly those who cater to people seeking holistic care. The easiest way of obtaining skunk oil remains the same as it was in past centuries — hunting and processing your own skunk. Before using a home remedy, even one as mild as skunk oil, the help and advice of a qualified medical professional should be sought. It should also be noted by anyone using a home remedy that if symptoms persist or become worse, or if an adverse reaction is noted, immediate medical attention from a qualified medical professional should be sought.