An ointment is a soothing, healing, slightly oily or fatty substance into which the essence of a healing plant has been dissolved. Basically this is accomplished by heating the fat or oil with the plant until it loses its normal color and the oil or fat has absorbed the healing chemical principles. The plant is then strained out, and beeswax is added to harden the ointment. Preservatives such as drops of tincture of benzoin, poplar bud
tincture, or glycerine are optional additions. If you make ointments in small batches and keep them tightly lidded and closed with paraffin wax, they don't decompose.
Pork Lard This is a traditional folk, herbal, and pharmaceutical base for ointments. Purify it by simmering and straining. It has healing abilities even without the addition of herbs, but, then, so do a lot of fats and oils. It is said to have great drawing power, but despite this undoubted virtue, its accessibility, and inexpensive price, I prefer the following fats and oils.
Lanolin I use a purified, liquefied anhydrous lanolin. Lanolin, the substance washed from the wool of sheep, comes in many levels of purity, so the results vary depending on the product. This oil is the closest to skin oil. Some people are allergic to lanolin, however. If you think you may be allergic, purchase small amounts and only the purest of the products.
Neutral Oil Bases Almond Oil, Cocoa Butter, Wheat Germ, Vitamin E Almond oil is a more neutral base than lanolin, as is wheat germ oil, cocoa butter, or vitamin E. If you have no other product available, or if you are applying mashed garlic to the soles of the feet in the antiflu procedure, Vaseline may be used, but is listed here for emergency purposes only.
All ointments must contain one substance that will thicken the final product. Lanolin is a thickener, as is cocoa butter. Both are nonsticky and mix well with most other oils.
Cocoa butter is available in 2 ounce lipstick shaped containers and can be purchased in drugstores. In addition to its thickening abilities, cocoa butter is useful for its healing potential, for internal suppositories (it melts at body temperature), skin lotions (lovely during the summer to increase light tanning), and for ointments.
Purified lanolin is available through Caswell Massey, Kiehl's, and possibly through local botanical sources.
Other useful but sticky thickeners are glycerine, honey, or liquid lecithin. In addition, various powdered resins and gum swell up and thicken when first soaked in cold water, then simmered in gentle boiling water, and added to preparations. Agar agar and Irish moss are seaweed thickeners. Green apples provide an excellent acid fruit pectin that is a good addition to skin creams and ointments.
While any of the above sticky and nonsticky thickeners will help swell a product and keep it emulsified (so that it doesn't separate into parts), you will still need some wax to harden a cold cream or ointment. Beeswax is perfect. However, it is terribly expensive on the open market. I therefore combine beeswax with paraffin wax.
Make Ahead Wax Portions
It is fun to make ointments on the spur of the moment or when you have picked a plant you want to work with. Since it is difficult to break off just the right size chunk of beeswax for small batches of ointment, I devised this make ahead tablespoon portion mold.
Collect two egg cartons. Take off the tops. With aluminum foil, work out a layer across the indented top, and gently depress the thin foil into a mold that will easily take a tablespoon of the melted wax.
Heat a small chunk of wax in a nonaluminum pot. With a cold, clean silver or stainless steel soup spoon, lift out a full measure of the melted wax. Place it piping hot in the aluminum mold. Wipe the spoon with a paper towel. Rinse in cold water, and dry the spoon. Repeat the process until you have twenty four (or more) tablespoon portions. When the wax hardens, lift out, and place in box or plastic bag. It will keep indefinitely and is easily cut in half if necessary.
8 ounces lard by weight
2 ounces or 4 tablespoons wax
Melt wax, add lard gradually, and stir until cool. This is the basis for most old fashioned pharmaceutical ointments. It can be varied by using a cooking oil, such as safflower or olive, or sweet almond oil or avocado.
The following herbs made up excellent healing ointments: goldenseal, goldenseal and slippery elm, plantain, pot marigold (Calendula officinalis), juniper berries, comfrey root, leaf, cucumber, yarrow leaves, plantain leaves, marigold flowers, arnica flowers, meadowsweet, chickweed, lady's mantle, wintergreen, eucalyptus, elderflower.
Crush fresh or dried herbs and simmer with lard, lanolin, wheat germ oil, vitamin E oil, safflower, almond oil, and so
on. Simmer on top of the stove for several hours. If preferred, the ingredients may be baked in the oven for several hours. (I prefer this method.) Strain out the sizzling (and sometimes burnt) plant material. Place in jar. The ointment is ready when the lard or the lanolin hardens. If it doesn't harden, reheat and add a small amount of beeswax depending on the size of the preparation.
To make a very strong preparation, strain off the first batch of herbs and add another handful or batch to the strained liquid. Boil again to a watery decoction, and add olive oil until the water has evaporated. Strain off the plant. Add beeswax or resin to solidify. These must be added in hot melted condition so that they mix uniformly in the ointm
Plantain Liquefied Ointment
21/2 cups fresh plantain leaves 11/2 cups wheat germ oil 1/2 cup honey
Mix the wheat germ oil and the honey in a blender, making sure the blades are covered with the oil. Add fresh plantain leaves. Scrape out the preparation with a spatula. Place in a labeled bottle or jar.br>
Sore Leg Ointment
I handful chickweed
I handful red rose leaves
1 pint oil (any)
Cook the chickweed and the red rose leaves together in the oil on top of the stove or in the oven. After one to three hours, strain out the herbs. Use as liquid ointment on sore legs.
Juniper Berry Ointment This ointment is useful for wounds, itching, scratches, scars from burns, hangnails, and festering sores.
Collect the berries from the garden or the wild just as they are getting ripe.
2 cups juniper berries
2 cups oil (olive, peanut, wheat germ, lanolin)
2 3 tablespoons (or more if necessary) beeswax
Soak the berries overnight. Strain out the water. Simmer the berries in the oil and take care that they do not burn. Heat the wax in a separate container. Strain out the berries. Add the melted wax while the preparation is hot. Since each batch has a slightly different consistency, the amount of wax must be added by eye after the hardening process has started. If necessary, reheat and add additional melted wax.
Golden Wound Paste
Equal amounts slippery elm bark powder and goldenseal root powder
I tablespoon olive oil (or spring water)
just mix the two powders together to make a paste. Add the olive oil or the spring water, and apply on a cloth to a wound. Attach to the body with a bandage or elastic binding. Later wash the wound with sage tea. If the wound is festering with pus, roll and press down the ridges of a white cabbage leaf, and/or attach or mash some banana, and apply to suppurating area.
The combination of the slippery elm (soothing), goldenseal (antiseptic and healing), sage (cleansing), and cabbage and/or banana is very effective.
1 pound (7 pounds for a large quantity) cucumber
31/4 ounces (24 ounces for large quantity) pure lard
21/4 ounces (15 ounces for large quantity) veal suet
Grate the washed cucumbers into a pulp, or use blender or food processor. Strain the juice. Cut suet into small pieces, heat over a water bath until the fat is melted out from the membrane, and then add the lard. When melted, strain through the muslin into an earthen vessel capable of holding up to 1 gallon (if the larger quantity is utilized). Stir until thickening starts. Add 1/3of the juice.
Beat with a spatula until the odor has been wholly extracted. Put into jar and cover. Heat in a water bath until the fatty matter separates from the juice. Strain off the green coagulum floating on the surface. Put jar in a cool place to solidify.
The crude ointment is then separated from the watery liquid on which it floats, melted and strained, and placed in glass jars which must be kept sealed. Add a layer of rosewater on the surface to help preserve it. Rosewater may also be added to make this preparation creamy and white. This is a most healing and cleansing cream.
The very best, and oldest, of professional cucumber creams is made by the Caswell Massey firm which maintains a worldwide mail order business. Culpeper in London also has an excellent cream.
Emergency Ointment Combine wheat germ oil and honey. Apply to sore, bruise, or wound. If you have tinctures of comfrey, calendula, St. John's wort, or mullein, add 5 15 drops of the tincture to oil and honey..
Ointment for Painful Sores
8 ounces vegetable glycerine
12 ounces white oak bark powder
Heat together in top of double boiler for thirty minutes. Cool, strain, bottle, and label.
Soothing Soaps Napier's in Edinburgh produces a famous healing slippery elm soap. Culpeper in London, CaswellMassey in New York and elsewhere, all produce other skinhealing soaps.