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Salve making with animal fats

February 6 2009 at 4:25 PM
Sarah Head 
from IP address

Something which is exercising my curiosity is the possibility of making salves with animal fats. Apparently, lard is the best medium for complete absorption of herbs through the skin. I've always wanted to try it and was encouraged last year when some lard I'd strained off our 10lb Boxing Day roast stayed good for around 11 months in the larder. Unfortunately I just left it there and didn't do anything constructive with it!

There was a superb blog posting about rendering lard by an American herbwife called plantainpatch, but she has recently ditched her blog, so I can't link to it any more.

Zoe Hawes, down in Bath, has said she is going to use lard in her salves made from her home grown pigs, but I don't know how she has got on.

Today I was wandering in blog land and came across this NZ blogster who has also posted about making herbal salves from animal fats. http://www.myherbcorner.com/wiki/index.php?title=Salve The lady is originally from Germany and has given her great grandmother's reference book "Taschenbuch der Heilpflanzen, 13. Auflage, 1913,Verlag von J.F. Schreiber, Esslingen und Muenchen, Seite 17".

I thought our historical bloodhounds might like to see if this was ever translated into English because the methods given are not something I have ever come across.

a) Melt 10 parts lard with 3 parts beeswax on low heat and let cool again. Now stir in 2 parts herb oil. This keeps for more then a year.
b) Mix 1 tsp fresh juiced herb with 2 tsp pig lard. Melt and keep on low heat until all liquid is dissolved. Now strain the warm liquid and let cool in a small jar. Store up to half a year.
c) Grind 1 part dried herb in a mortar. Then give it to 5 parts lard and melt it on low heat. Add 1-2 parts beeswax if you wish.

She also gives a recipe for using butter, which must be close to the Ayuvedic method of using ghee for many preparations.

"Mix 4-6 g fresh plant juice (eg: calendula, watercress...) with 30 g unsalted butter.
Good thing with herb butter is, that you can eat it if you don't need the whole for wounds or other treatments,

Ref: Taschenbuch der Heilpflanzen, 13. Auflage, 1913,Verlag von J.F. Schreiber, Esslingen und Muenchen, Seite 17 "

She also cites a recipe from a German Time Life magazine which uses tincture, oil and salve mixed altogether which looks very fiddly and time-consuming on first appearance, so I won't be attempting it for a while.

I wondered if anyone here had tried making salves with lard and how they had been received.


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Re: Salve making with animal fats

February 8 2009, 3:59 PM 

Hi Sarah happy.gif

I've never tried using animal fats in creams, but I was interested in some of the recipes they've been using in the Victorian Farm programme recently, she made a lip gloss and a hand balm and all seemed to keep well. I would be interested to hear how other people have gone on if they've used animal fats.
In the days of our grandparents and great grandparents they only had animal fats and no access to things like shea butter and cocoa butter that people use for creams today. I have some old recipe books somewhere I'll have a look and see what I can find happy.gif


Jane Tapping

Using animal fats in salves

February 9 2009, 12:54 PM 

Hello Sarah,

Was interested in you posting about animal fats. I have not used lard my self but in one of my favourite cookery books "Farmhouse Fare", published fron 1935 -1973 by the Farmer's Weekly, there are quite a few recipes for hand creams especially using lard and also vaseline. The farmer's wives seemed mainly to use it with elderflowers, adding a drop or two of oil of lavender or other 'good scent' Seems to have been used not only for work roughened hands but bumps and bruises, nappy rash etc. Most of the recipes seemed to have handed down from mothers and/or grandmothers. One recipe for Farmhiouse Herb Salve uses 1lb home-rendered lard and a good handful each of elderflowers, wormwood and groundsel. "Dried herbs can be used but fresh are considered better. This is particularly good as a veterinary aid for softening the udders of newly-calved cows or for sore teats. Its healing properties are remarkable" I have met one farmer's wife who always used udder cream for her hands anyway.

My W.I booklet "Lotions and Potions" seems to mainly use glycerine in hand creams. One uses equal parts glycerine and opodeldoc. What the heck is opodeldoc? Must admit I have not the least idea. In the last section 'Some curious and Historical Receipts' is Restoration Jelly, claimed as an infallible recipe for and old woman or a sick Turkey. lol! "Regular pursuance for six weeks is absolutely necessary to render theis Restorative thoroughly efficacious; therefore should an old woman or sick Turkey be in the habit of visiting from house to house, they must make a point of taking a supply with them. Perfect convalescence will be the certain result" sorry if my tyoping is a bit haywire, I'm laughing too much. I hope the turkey had a large enough bag!




Re: Using animal fats in salves

February 9 2009, 1:31 PM 

Hi Jane happy.gif

Opodeldoc was/is the name of a linament invented by Paracelsus, you can find out more on this Wikipedia page www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opodeldoc

Re your WI booklet, any chance you could make a copy of it and send it to me pretty please, or let me know where I can get a copy if its a recent publication?


Anthony George Lyman-Dixon


February 9 2009, 5:20 PM 

I saw Sarahs message just after I came across Macers note on mallow this rote soden and aftirward stampid and medled wel with swynesgrece and terbentyne is seide to hele the swellynges of the matrice.

From classical times to the Renaissance, and possibly well beyond, all manner of unfortunate animals were sacrificed in the cause of making vehicles for herbal concoctions, these included red dogs, kites, bears, vultures, badgers, lynx and camels. Also human babies of course, though these days baby oil seems to provide a suitable substitute for those intent on flying. Ever aware of the demands of elfnsafety I always tell my customers that if grinding up herbs for this purpose in a food processor, wash it out well afterwards, left-over bits of flying herbs ending up on a pizza may have unfortunate effects.

A further point for consideration concerns those who derive pleasure from taking vicarious offence on behalf of those who couldnt give a toss. If these people can get aerated from Carole Thatchers allegedly private and innocent remark about Robinsons trademarks, how about Sarahs question on this web site and therefore a far less private situation, involving the use of pig fat? Think Indian mutinies!

I know this sounds totally absurd, but we live in absurd times. In a world in which supermarket checkout employees can refuse to handle bottles of wine, it is no great stretch of the imagination to envisage a world in which pork chops are banned from the meat counter. My advice to Sarah is to stock your freezer up with dead pigs without delay. Best do it quickly before some middle class honky with too much time on her hands declares a PC fatwah against you.

PS Janes remarks about Glycerine brought back memories of my first and admittedly somewhat short-lived job as second whip to the North Ledbury Hunt. The financially embarrassed Master insisted we saved the fat which dripped out of the flesh boiler as a substitute for saddle soap. The result was that the tack room stunk like a butchers dustbin. Later when I got my own establishment, I always insisted on glycerine saddle soap which may not be unconnected to the fact that I and many of the people I knew in those days married our grooms.

Jane Tapping

WI booklet

February 9 2009, 11:37 PM 

Hello Debs,
The booklet was 1st published in 1955 and then in 1973 by the Nat. Fed. of W.I's price 15pence, oh the days when things were so cheap.. I acquired it when I cleared out my parent's cottage after mother died. I'm in a state of love/hate with the scanner but my husband will scan it when he eventually gets back from the Hospital. He's been there far too long and is getting stir-crazy, so is pleased with something else to think about apart from boredom! It's a great book, including one remedy for baldness that includes mice dug. Makes Antony's saddle soap sound almost bearable,if my daughters pet mice were anything to go by. Stinky little creatures.


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