Every summer, my dad would bring out the activated charcoal when anyone got a mosquito bite or the occasional bee sting. He would make a paste by adding a little water to activated charcoal and baking soda and apply it to the skin.
It made a major mess, so we walked around with a paper towel bandage for hours. I was always skeptical of dad’s natural remedies, but this one worked!
So I’m glad that activated charcoal is popular again—and this activated charcoal salve recipe works just as well at drawing out stings, itches, and splinters as the stuff my dad used to use.
Benefits of Activated Charcoal Salve
At first glance, this recipe seems to have an intimidating number of unusual ingredients. Charcoal? Clay? Infused oil? But if you’re interested in building a natural remedy kit, these are all good ingredients to have on hand.
Activated charcoal & clay
You know how clay face masks are often used to draw impurities out of pores? The same applies here. Both the activated charcoal and clay pull toxins from the skin, reducing the sting of bites and stings. Hence, why this recipe is commonly called “black drawing salve.”
We’ve talked about infused calendula oil before for headaches and healing, and the process is super simple. If using the solar method, just cover a handful of dried calendula with oil in a tightly closed jar and let it sit for a couple of weeks. Calendula-infused oil is easy to make and nice to have on hand because of its many skin healing properties.
Lavender oil is a wonderful anti-inflammatory [source] that soothes skin and treats conditions such as eczema and psoriasis [source]. Meanwhile, tea tree oil kills common bacteria, fungus, and viruses, boosts wound healing, scavenges free radicals, and fights inflammation [source].
Activated Charcoal Salve Recipe
After wasting way too much time chopping up bars of beeswax, I discovered beeswax pellets and—whoa—game changer! So much easier to measure out for recipes, the pellets are quite handy because about 80% of DIY recipes start with busting out the double boiler to melt beeswax and oils together.
While we’re talking about melting ingredients, I recently discovered how much easier it is to just melt the ingredients right in the glass container you plan to use. Put the container in a saucepan with a couple of inches of water, and warm it on low heat. Note: this only works with heat-safe glass. Dorky me already melted a plastic container.
For a recipe like this, I recommend melting in a glass bowl in a makeshift double boiler and transferring the mixture to containers later. There are lots of powders and essential oils to add and stir together, and that can get tricky with small jars.
How to Use Charcoal Salve
Yes, this stuff is still a bit messy, so cover it with a bandage or paper towel. Keep applying salve directly to the skin every 12 hours until no longer needed.
Not surprisingly, charcoal and clay will also draw moisture from the skin, potentially leaving you feeling dry and flaky after extensive use. Make sure to apply a light moisturizer every so often, and take a break if you notice any redness getting worse.
Lastly, feel free to use this salve as a light face mask if you have irritated or acne-prone skin.
Charcoal Salve FAQs
Can I use this salve on boils? What about fire ant stings?
Yes, this salve is safe to apply to insect bites, stings, boils, splinters, and other minor skin irritations.
Can I use aloe vera in this recipe?
Sure! I recommend using store-bought aloe since fresh aloe will drastically shorten your salve’s shelf life.
Also, make sure to let your salve mixture cool considerably (you want it to be almost solid, but not quite) before adding your aloe. Then stir continuously as the salve cools to keep it from separating. Since aloe is water-based, it may sink to the bottom over time, so give it a stir every now and then.
Does activated charcoal draw out infection?
While activated charcoal may help soothe small skin infections, it most likely won’t have much of an effect on larger infections. That being said, the other ingredients in this salve have potent antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and can boost this salve’s healing properties.
As always, if you have a wound that won’t heal or that appears to be getting worse, head to your doctor’s office ASAP.
What are some other types of clay I can use in my salve?
How long will this activated charcoal salve recipe keep?
If stored in a dry, airtight container, it should last for at least a year.
Activated Charcoal Salve Recipe
- Double boiler
- 4-ounce container with lid
- Use a double boiler to melt the beeswax and oils together. Add the remainder of the ingredients together and stir.
- Pour into a lidded container and let salve cool until it hardens. Keep in a cool, dark place.
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Gina Jansheski, a licensed, board-certified pediatrician with over 20 years of experience in practice. Learn more about Hello Glow’s medical reviewers here. As always, this is not personal medical advice, and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before using this recipe to determine what’s best for you.
Photos by Ana Stanciu107