How Does a Drawing Salve Work?
A drawing salve is a topical ointment, or mixture that is used to “draw out” foreign objects in the skin. It has been used for many years on splinters, boils, pieces of glass or cactus stickers. The drawing salve is applied, covered and in a few days, the foreign objects are drawn to the surface of the skin to be removed.
In older versions, it was black in color, contained tar and was a thick ointment or salve. The main ingredients in modern brands are ichthammol, (which is a black distillation product of bituminous schist or shale), phenyl alcohol, Arnica Montana (Wolf's Bane) and Echinacea, and may contain bergamot oil or comfrey oil, in a base of beeswax. It is also known to act as a mild anesthetic and antiseptic 1. Pastes of honey and iodine, or brown soap and sugar have also been successful treatments.
You can buy the drawing salve at most drugstores, but it is possible to make your own at home. The best home remedy would be made one of two ways. You can either make a drawing salve by mixing honey with a few drops of iodine, or you can get brown soap from a health food store, mix in a little sugar and water to make a paste.
Using the handle or the back of the spoon head, spread the mixture over the affected area, covering completely in a thick layer. You can also use a spatula 2. Once you have spread the drawing salve, you need to cover the area at least overnight, and some cases, it may take a few days to work.
The drawing salve seeps into the tissue, and the most active ingredient, Ichthammol, softens the skin by weakening it, and increasing blood circulation to the affected area. The increased blood flow causes pus to form around the foreign object. Both pus and foreign object are then ejected. Normally, the drawing salve can work in as little time as overnight, although, if the foreign object is a splinter, boil or cyst that is deeper rooted, it may take as long as 3 days to work.
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- Michelle Nesbit, Clinical Nutritionist
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- Croaker A, King GJ, Pyne JH, Anoopkumar-Dukie S, Liu L. A review of black salve: Cancer specificity, cure, and cosmesis. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2017;2017:9184034. doi:10.1155/2017/9184034
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA 101: Health fraud awareness. Updated May, 2009.
- Sivyer GW, Rosendahl C. Application of black salve to a thin melanoma that subsequently progressed to metastatic melanoma: a case study. Dermatol Pract Concept. 2014;4(3):77–80. doi:10.5826/dpc.0403a16
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Skin conditions at a glance. Updated November 13, 2019.
- MedlinePlus. Protecting yourself from cancer scams. Updated July 26, 2018.