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 with activated charcoal and baking soda (just add a little water) and apply it to the skin.
It makes 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 in this pull the 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 it has so many skin healing properties.
Lavender oil is a wonderful anti-inflammatory that soothes skin and treats conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. Meanwhile, tea tree oil kills common bacteria and viruses, boosts wound healing and fights inflammation.
Activated Charcoal Salve Recipe
After wasting way too much time to count chopping up bars of beeswax, I discovered beeswax pellets, and, whoa, game changer! So much easier to measure out for recipes, which is quite handy because approximately 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 in the glass container you plan to use. Put the container in a sauce pan 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 transfer to containers later. There are a lot 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 with Band-Aid or paper towel. Keep applying salve directly to 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 skin 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 FAQ
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, topical infections, it most likely won’t have much of an effect on large infections. That being said, the other ingredients in this salve have potent anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and can help 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 Fuller’s 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
- 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.
Photos by Ana Stanciu85