Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Bear Grease and Cottonwood Salve

Last week I twisted my lower back somehow, and after a few days it was almost back to normal, but we had a Balms & Salves class to give and that meant standing for a couple of hours.
Earlier in the day, we had all the stuff out for the class, and I decided to play a little and see if I couldn't make something that would help. I was very pleasantly surprised, and then we did it again at the end of the class to demonstrate just how forgiving and fun it can be to put together a recipe on the fly.
My sister has a nice bit of bear grease that was left over from a soapmaking adventure a while back, and I'd heard wonderful things about its healing properties. Since anything from wild animals is illegal to use in products for sale, we've been hanging onto it for ourselves. What a fun ingredient to be able to share with our class!
It is pure white, no discernible odor, and solid at room temp. I started out with that and put a nice dollop (about a cup) into a heavy saucepan over low heat.
To that, I added about a half cup of cottonwood buds in olive oil that my friend Marci sent me from the Pacific Northwest. Cottonwood buds are also known sometimes as "balm of gilead" and are used for pain relief among other things. As they heated up slowly in the warm oil, they opened up like flowers and released all of their resin into the oil.
The warmed oil was strained, and returned to low heat to melt in a small sprinkling (1 Tbsp) of beeswax pastilles. I really like the pastilles because less heat is needed to melt these tiny pellets.
A teaspoon or so of menthol crystals, a very aromatic, penetrating ingredient that is great on sore muscles went in after the mixture started to cool.
Essential oils of camphor, black pepper, and fragonia were at the end just before the salve was poured into jars. I wish I had noticed the ginger in the fridge when I was heating the oils...
As it turned out, this blend was everything I'd hoped for and provided immediate relief.
After going through well-measured demonstrations of lipbalm, lotion bars, and another all-purpose salve - which is my sister's favored method, it was fun to show the class my usual technique of "a little of this, a handful of that" and have it come out beautifully.


Marci said...

I cannot wait to try it, Tina! Your healing salve sounds wonderful. I especially love that you used Bear grease. I've wanted to try it ever since I read that the Native Americans heated the Cottonwood Buds in Bear grease.

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Tina Sams said...
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Bonnie said...

I know this is old, but I'm looking for bear grease. Can you please tell me where your sister got this? Thx

Tina Sams said...

An area hunter looked her up because he wanted some soap made with it. They did a trade.

Unknown said...

How much of the essential oils did you add?

Tina Sams said...

Just about 3 drops of each - not much! The menthol crystals make it really strong, and we don't want to go too much over the guidelines of 10 drops per ounce - but it's hard to judge with the crystals. Less is more with eo's.


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