Posted by on Dec 2, 2014 in Blog | Comments Off on Black Salve

Black Salve

I suppose most of us can remember things that parents did to keep us well. Our lives are filled with little sayings that can be of aid in situations of illness. Personally, I can never remember if you feed or starve a cold. This gives me little ammunition in case of a fever. One unique treatment in my mother’s family was Black Salve. Black Salve was what you put on a cut or scratch that was getting infected. I am not sure this is anything unique. A Google search instantly turns up many recipes for Black Salve.

Aunt Arline was the keeper of the Black Salve recipe, and she doled out Black Salve in little glass cosmetic jars. It was kept in the medicine cabinet along with the iodine. Our neighbors were mercurochrome folks, but my mom was an iodine woman. In came in a little bottle with a glass wick that was used to rub the iodine on a cut. It didn’t hurt, and the red dye made you feel as if something had been done about your wound.

Black Salve was the big gun. Black Salve was for when you finally got around to telling your mother about a cut or stab wound, and she would grab your arm saying, “Here, let me look at that.” The tone of the request let you know that she suspected trouble and that you might need an application of Black Salve. All my aunts were big believers in Black Salve, and I guess the kids believed, too. However, discussions among the cousins showed that we suspected something other than the ingredients of Black Salve was curing us.

I have no idea what black salve was supposed to be like, but the Sheely Black Salve was hard as a brick. It was more brown than black, with little craters in it. It had often shrunk away from the walls of the cosmetic jar. The application of black salve went something like this. The wounded was instructed to “stay there” while the Black Salve was prepared. A table knife chiseled off a piece which was placed on the pad of a band-aid. Then a match was held over it, to help it melt into a gob. It was then allowed to cool a moment until the practitioner felt it was ready. Then it was shoved onto the wound, held with a firm thumb while the ends of the band-aid we wrapped tight and fastened.

The cousins, upon reflection later in life, strongly suspected that while there might be wondrous medicinal contents in Black Salve, the cauterizing effect of the sometimes really warm salve was the true key to healing. At any rate, the band-aid stayed on for a day. Luckily, in those days they did not worry about skin allergies and band-aids actually stuck to you. When the band-aid was removed, there would be a little spot of pus in the middle of the Black Salve. The wound itself looked as if had been in water for about a week. All color was gone as the Black Salve had “drawn out the poison”.

This didn’t mean you didn’t have to get a tetanus shot when you stepped on a nail, but Black Salve, I am sure, saved me from “horrible death caused by blood poisoning”. I never got blood poisoning, but we all knew that “when the red streaks up your arm reached your heart, you died”.

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