Soothing salve for strains, sprains, bashes and bruises

Duck Poo is here again!  This healing, soothing salve contains no duck products at all, just Comfrey herb, also known as ‘bone knit’, for tissue healing, Arnica montana for bruising, and Gaultheria procumbens or Wintergreen for its anti-inflammatory salicilates, bound together with organic beeswax.  Available from Herbalist Scotland – just send me a message from this page or from the website.  For those who feel queasy at the thought of duck poo, this medicated salve is also lovingly known as ‘Arnagreen’.

Duck Poo salve

For strains, sprains, bashes and bruises from Herbalist Scotland

One of the loveliest things about being a herbalist is having the opportunity to make healing salves and creams, with a solid background of knowledge about what works and why it works.  This means I can combine my creative, crafty, hand-made yearnings with my solid academic nerdy side.  Bliss!

Duck Poo is used partly for its effect on bruising, helping tissue to remove debris from bashes or strains quickly, and restoring good blood flow to the area;  the anti-inflammatory effect of the Wintergreen combines with the Arnica to reduce pain and swelling, whilst Comfrey (Symphytum officinale), has been confirmed in numerous clinical trials to be an effective therapy option for topical treatment of painful muscle and joint complaints including pain, inflammation and swelling of muscles and joints in degenerative arthritis, acute myalgia in the back, and in sprains, contusions and strains after sports injuries and accidents.  Just one of those trials can be viewed here.

Best of all, Comfrey grows readily in almost anyone’s back garden!  This is no exotic foreign import.  Right now, I am looking out onto a patch of magnificent Comfrey shooting up by the compost heap, which will be giving me leaves to macerate in safflower oil for the next batch of Duck Poo.



Muscle, bone and joint salve

One of the best things about being a herbalist is that I can make my own salves, balms and ointments.  One of our best-sellers is the marvellously named ‘Duck Poo’ – it does really look rather greenish in the jar!  Its magic lies in the Arnica (for bruising), Symphytum (for healing tissue: it contains allantoin, which the body produces itself to aid tissue repair), and Gaultheria or Wintergreen, a very rich source of anti-inflammatory salicylic acid, similar to the acetyl salicylic acid in aspirin.  The fragrance is divinely medicinal.  Am rubbing this on my own sore back, helping to relieve muscle tension, and it works well on all muscle, bone and joint conditions, for soothing pain relief and healing.  Get in touch with me at Herbalist Scotland if you would like some yourself .  We still have a few jars left of this batch.

Wound-healing ointment


I’ve been thinking about an ointment that can be put on wounds, cuts, scrapes, grazes or ulcers.  Dedj’s Duck Poo contains arnica, so can’t go on open wounds.  It works amazingly on bruises, bashes, sprains, strains and the like, though.  Now, if I had an ointment or a cream that worked as well as that for open wounds, that would be a fine thing.

I tried two ideas, using the Duck Poo ratio of oil parts to aqueous parts, and making it slightly less hard, so using less beeswax.  Here you see the results.

I had made a deep decoction of Achillea millefolium, a wonderful vulnerary, which smells deep, dark and delicious.  This I used as the aqueous component for both, and I used organic Symphytum officinale, also an extremely effective wound-healer, in the form of infused oil in both, with organic beeswax.  The ratios are roughly 30 oil, 10 aqueous, 2 beeswax.  Then add whatever you think will give it a little extra something.

IMG_1524I had recently acquired some Shilajit capsules – Shilajit is supposed to be a wonder-healer, developed, I think, from some kind of resin. It’s difficult to get reliable information on it – the one leaflet I read (and bought!) was written by someone who made up spelling, syntax and grammar as she went along, so I didn’t even begin to trust her research.  Hey ho.  Anyone who knows more about this substance, please get in touch.  I cracked open 15 capsules, which on my scales did not add up to even 1g, and added that to 10g Achillea, and put them in a bain marie to heat.  29g of Symphytum oil were added to 2g of beeswax, and they were also heated to melt the beeswax.  The Shijalit expanded immediately in the deep decoction so the mixture became very stiff, and stuck to spoon and glass, hardening quickly.  It took some stirring when the oil and beeswax were added, to break up the consistency and scrape it off the walls of the glass.  When it felt as if the Shijalit had been suspended sufficiently not to ruin my coffee frother, I frothed until the mixture turned gleaming and fairly smooth.  Here is the result:  a wonderfully dark ointment with “bits” of Shijalit in it.  Shall try it out on an unsuspecting (grown-up) child (of mine) this evening.  He has a big scrape on his elbow from heroically avoiding a suicidal run-out in cricket.

IMG_1526The second batch was made with double the quantities of everything and 10g of Commiphora molmol (Myrrh) powder instead of the Shijalit.  It looked about double the Shilajit  in bulk, and I am wondering whether my scales were having a sulk when I was weighing the Shilajit.  I usually put Myrrh powder on open wounds, so this may be a more efficient way of doing it.  This time the powder didn’t bulk up so much in the deep decoction, but the result is still grainy.  Frothing it was fairly easy as you can see here.  Again, I shall experiment this evening for results.

IMG_1529Here you can see the finished Commiphora molmol nestling gleamingly in its tin, and if you look carefully you can see flecky bits residing within.  Both these ointments will suit the “It looks so disgusting it must be doing me good” tribe, closely related to the “No pain, no gain” family.

Bruises and Bashes Salve

The subtitle for this post has to be


The recipe (classified) for this wonderful preparation comes courtesy of the delightful Dedge Leibbrandt who lectured us on herbal first aid a couple of weekends ago at Lincoln College.  As hinted, it is designed for bashes and bruises, sprains and strains, fractures and swellings, and combines a speedy anti-inflammatory action with bone healing and soft tissue repair, as well as being analgesic, or pain – lindering.  The magic ingredients are Symphytum officinale (Comfrey), Arnica montana and Gaultheria fragrantissima (Wintergreen).  The magic lies largely in Symphytum having large amounts of allantoin, the substance that occurs in the body itself wherever healing is required, Arnica having proven bruise-healing ability, and Gaultheria having very large amounts of salicilic acid, the stuff in aspirin. It smells fantastically antiseptic and medicinal, courtesy of the Gaultheria, and it would be fair to say that I am chuffed with it.

Of course, I had to tinker with the recipe as given, as if this tried and tested preparation has not already been road-tested to dynamic perfection.  So I have added some emulsifying wax to the beeswax, and some glycerin, as it looked more like a cream on paper, than an ointment.  Why I think that I can improve on the recipe, never having actually made it, eludes me.  Next time I shall make myself do it as per instructions and it will undoubtedly be even better.

Many decades ago, Joolz’ grandfather, ‘Grandpa Flynn, the chemist’ developed and used a preparation called ‘Grandpa’s Healing Cream’ which Joolz says smells very similar to Duck Poo.  However, whereas Duck Poo has the colour and consistency of, yes, duck poo, Grandpa Flynn’s Healing Cream (GFHC) was orangey – black in colour and very ointmenty.  Sadly, Joolz dropped and smashed the very last jar of GFHC many, many, many years ago, and Grandpa Flynn went to his grave with the recipe, despite his son and daughter-in-law both being doctors… or maybe because… and there has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth since, as it did work extraordinarily well.  The latest gnashing and wailing has obviously come from me, as I would have been MOST interested in getting my grubby little paws / brain cells on that recipe.

Arthritis balm – ‘capsicum cream’ in push-up sticks

‘Lipbalm’ sticks with chilli or capsicum ointment for arthritis sufferers – the idea hit me as I contemplated making my lovely mother-in-law another batch of ginger and chilli oil for her poor fingers.  She has been given capsicum cream from the doc but finds it inconvenient to use sometimes as it leaves her fingers sticky – not a good feeling when you are about to do piano practice or needlework.  So, I thought, how about a stick of something with the same / similar ingredients that may be a little more easy to use.  Just rub it on exactly where it is needed, minimally sticky paws, and easy to carry around in your handbag.

I have some good chilli oil, of the ‘blow your head off’ type, just waiting for this opportunity to show its true worth outside the culinary field.

Having spent a fair amount of time researching for and experimenting with making solid hand moisturisers, I have developed the beginnings of a ‘feel’ for what is hard enough to stay solid in a stick.  This was scuppered – entirely – by my foolish decision to ‘look up some recipes’ before starting.  One book I consulted went on about the need for more beeswax for a stick than a balm-in-a-tin – reasonable – then gave a recipe with a ratio of beeswax to oil 1 : 1.  Hmmm, thought I, that’s quite high, but maybe it does indeed require that much wax.  So, I duly weighed out 15g beeswax and 15g chilli oil, melted them down, and filled a couple of sticks, with some left over for a 15g pot.  More on the tricky art of filling lip balm sticks below.

Result? Almost no hint of chilli in the preparation at all!  There MAY have been a little reddening on my finger as I rubbed it on, but I suspect that was caused by my… rubbing it on.  No heat, not even any discernible warmth, and certainly no sting.  Oh dear, I thought, (since I am a lady) and melted down the pot’s contents to try a different ratio.  Having learned so recently how to fill lip balm sticks, I left those intact, not wishing to break the spell.  Weighing the brew, I found that somehow, in the 15g pot, there were 19g of wax/oil mixture.  So, to turn this into a 1:2 ratio, I need to halve the 19g and add that amount, 9 1/2g, of chilli oil to the mixture.  This I duly did and refilled 2 lib balm sticks and a slightly larger pot.

Well, firstly, the ratio of 1:2 feels much better than 1:1 and goes on much more easily.  As for the efficacy of the preparation, I am confused, and I suspect the proof of the pudding will be in the actual use on arthritic fingers.  As before, there was no discernible sting or warming, and no reddening on my finger, but a little on the inside of my (very white) arm.  I was a little bemused by this, and decided to perform the ‘lick-it-and-see-if-there-is-any-chilli-in-it’ test.  My tongue is still stinging.  Huh?

For anyone wanting to reproduce the experiment, the ratio is 1:2 beeswax to chilli oil, and I used 15g organic beeswax to 22.5g chilli oil, melted them down, by circuitous means, in a double boiler and then filled the lip balm sticks when the beeswax had melted.  The chilli oil is olive oil which has had chopped up chillies sitting in it for a month or so.

Filling lip balm sticks:  yes… not as easy a task as might seem at first glance.  The sticks need to be sat, according to the author of the book I shouldn’t have used for the lip balm wax-to-oil ratio, in a bowl of iced water, fill them one quarter full to begin with, so they don’t leak out of the bottom (very good point) and then, when the bottom ‘plug’ is solid, fill them to the top.  Fairly straightforward, no?  The picture in the book shows lip balm sticks standing upright in a bowl, all one quarter filled.  Many of you will be anticipating the problem, but I just ploughed on blithely.

Oils hot, hot enough to need a tea towel to grasp the glass jar, ice and water in bowl, sticks at the ready.  Place a stick carefully into the icy water, and… no, of course not… the stick won’t just stand there, will it?  It will float!  It is plastic, unfilled, and there is nothing that will persuade it to root in the water.  Oh dear.  Notwithstanding, I held the stick steady, poured in the oil and waited.  And waited.  Why was it not solidifying more quickly?  The ice water did not reach the bottom of the section the oil was sitting in.  Expertly I flicked the teatowel around the bottom of the still hot jar, to set it down, then, cradling the bowl in my arm and still holding the stick upright I made my way to the cold tap to add water, not wanting to remove the stick from the cold in case it leaked.  So with the addition of water the plug solidified and I could fill the stick up to the top.  Oh no I couldn’t – the hot oils in the glass jar had also been waiting and as the plug had solidified… well, you can see the problem.  Back in the bain marie went the glass jar to remelt its contents before I could fill the stick to the top.  At this rate I would take four days to make lip balm Christmas stocking fillers for the family.  The second stick went marginally more quickly, but I am left with the feeling that the photo in the book is somewhat dishonest – and the direction to ‘stand the sticks in iced water’ is ludicrous.  Next time I shall crush ice and wedge the sticks in firmly.

It only remains to label the sticks carefully, warning of the dangers, and hope, hope, hope that nobody ignores the label and tries to use them as lip balm 🙂