Drawing salves are a mixture of oils and herbal ingredients that work to draw toxins out of the body and are often used to treat insect bites, stings, boils, slivers, and minor infections.
The use of Ichthammol, popular with modern veterinarians, traces back to the 19th century. It’s a salve made from sulfonated shale oil, an ingredient used in wound care since at least the 1400s. Lots of herbal remedies have been lost and replaced with pharmaceutical alternatives. We don’t always have laboratory testing on herbal remedies, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t safe and effective.
I dealt with my first case of bumblefoot five years ago. A quick google search brought up all kinds of articles and videos about how to excise the lesion using surgical means. I jotted down some notes, made a make-shift operating table on my kitchen counter and used a scalpel to remove the bumble. Over the next couple of years, I repeated this method on several other birds. Of course, I didn’t have access to a localized anaesthetic or pain medication. Chicken keepers often have a misguided idea that because birds are often stoical in the face of pain that they actually don’t feel it like we do. I assure you they do.
Most people, like me, do surgery because that’s the overwhelming recommendation for how to treat the infection. Last summer, I was contacted by Laura, who wanted some assistance with her cockerel’s bumblefoot. We opted to try a drawing salve. She couldn’t find one locally and didn’t have enough time to order one online. I googled some recipes and gave her a list of ingredients to buy. Laura made up a simple drawing salve using coconut oil, bentonite clay, propolis and tea tree oil, and we worked on Steve’s infection together. Since then, I’ve used, and recommend trying, a drawing salve instead of a scalpel. I’ve found it easy to manage, effective and best of all, it’s painless for your patient.
There are loads of online recipes and some are more complicated than necessary. The main ingredients for the base usually include:
- Bentonite Clay Powder or Activated Charcoal: draw out toxins from skin.
- Beeswax/Propolis: act as barriers trapping the healing ingredients and thicken the oils.
- Jojoba, olive or coconut oil: carrier oils with antimicrobial properties.
The following are optional:
- Essential oils: tea tree, lavender, rosemary, geranium, eucalyptus and lemon (antibacterial); calendula (promotes healing); comfrey and plantain (anti-inflammatory).
- Honey: Manuka or unpasteurized (antibacterial)
I’m not one for measuring or being exact, but here are some guidelines. You can tweak them according to what ingredients you have on hand and see how it works for you.
- 6 tbsp coconut oil and/or olive oil
- 2 tsp beeswax
- 3 tsp activated charcoal
- 3 tsp bentonite clay
- 30 drops total essential oils (see list above)
- In a double boiler, slowly heat up the oil, honey and beeswax until just melted.
- Remove from the stove and add the bentonite clay, charcoal, and essential oils.
- Pour the drawing salve into a glass jar and let cool before using.
If you don’t have time to make your own these two homeopathic drawing salves are highly effective and easy to order online or find in your local pharmacy or health food store.
Caution: Don’t use anything containing bloodroot or zinc chloride which can have negative side-effects for chickens.
Featured Image: Linda Darnall