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
When you’re ready to use the salve, apply a small amount directly to the skin affected by a bug bite, sting, or splinter.
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?
Any type of clay used for beauty or medicinal purposes is fine! French clay, kaolin, Rhassoul, or Fullers earth will all work.
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
- 1/4 cup calendula-infused oil (make your own or buy online)
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 2 teaspoons beeswax pellets
- 3 teaspoons activated charcoal (approximately 15 capsules)
- 3 teaspoons Bentonite clay
- 10 drops lavender essential oil
- 10 drops tea tree essential oil
- 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 Stanciu101
monica young says
Can this salve be used on boils? What about fire ant stings?
“Corrosive” black salve was great for disappearing a mole that had suddenly turned to black, and had reacted to the salve testing. (other moles didn’t)
It took a few weeks but seemed to gather up those cells and like a volcano, emit them, leaving a concave area that quickly healed.
I was very grateful for the treatment.
Love one another! Use black salves and be healed. Peace ✌?
Liz O'Neal says
Can you use Aloe in this salve I have something we bought about 26 years ago called Aloe Mystery, it is a brown salve says it is 10 times stronger than aloe plant, had no ingredients on label, but it still works and it is really good. Wish I could find it again.
Liz O'Neal says
No one answered my question, and I need to know do you have a printable recipe for the Black drawing salve. and explain how big of a batch were you making when you said the batch you were making you used 80 drops of oil, I said no one answered my question but I need to say I did not get an email
What are some other types of clay to use?
I’ve heard many great things about charcoal.
Sounds great! How long will this keep?
So is this like the old time “prid salve”….. Imagine my big fat greek wedding…..windex…… well my mother and her prid salve……lol
When I saw the name “black salve,” I was worried that it would be the scary type made with bloodroot. That stuff is corrosive and can really hurt you (seriously, don’t look at the google images!). This salve sounds nice though! I’ll be trying it this summer when the mosquitoes come out :)
Hugh Varange says
Black salve is not corrosive. Inform yourself before spurting nonsense.
There are several sites on the internet that describe a cancer salve, also known as amazon black salve. It contains zinc oxide and bloodroot. The names do get confusing. But if someone is just looking into salves, it is easy to see thr confusion. Maybe try rewording to teach instead of berate. You can never tell where a person gets their information, and if they were accurately informed.
Janis Mc says
Bloodroot in a black salve is what causes it to be corrosive and the quantity of bloodroot affects how strong the effects are. A simple drawing salve without bloodroot would be my personal choice.
It was said that bloodroot is corrosive and can hurt you so please re read before you react bcuz they weren’t saying anything wrong with this one just an ingredient that may be in others.
Responses like yours are why so many people hesitate to post comments. There’s always a nice way to communicate to someone and sadly belittling them is not the go to approach for most. There’s so much misinformation online that it does become very difficult for some to the disseminate facts. Some times a little gentle guidance is all that’s required
I use the blood root salve whenever I need to it works amazingly. It’s only scary if your silly with it and use to much
Great recipe! WILL BE TRYING AT HOME X