Sunday, April 29, 2007

Olde Thyme Herbal Salves

Ok, so there's no thyme in the salves, but I just couldn't resist using that spelling.
During the last week we did the on-line salves and balms class. It was lots of fun (especially since Maryanne helped out with a lot of the questions), and it seems like everyone got to try out some ingredients they didn't "know" before - that's always the most fun for me.
I did some research into old recipes. There were several on the web, including one that has bloodroot which claims it will draw tumors right out of the skin. Don't know about that. It's fun reading the old recipes and trying to figure out what they meant by some of the different measures and even what they called some of the ingredients.
Here are some from an old book I have:
From Household Discoveries and Mrs. Curtis's Cook Book - 1908

To cure mosquito bites
2 ounces of spermaceti
1/2 ounce white wax
1 ounce of camphor
2 ounces of olive oil
Melt in gentle heat and sir vigorously. Preserve in covered jars for use.

For chapped hands:
Camphor Ice
1 ounce Sweet Almond Oil
2 ounces Spemaceti
1 ounce White Wax
1/4 ounce Camphor
Melt these ingredients in a double boiler and pour in molds of proper size and form.

Also for chapped hands:
Equal parts of white mutton tallow, unsalted butter, beeswax and stoned raisins. Simmer until the raisins are dried up but not burned. Strain into molds to cool. This preparation smarts chapped hands, but quickly heals them.

Circassian Cream (rouge?)
Put in a glass fruit jar 4 ounces of fresh suet, 6 ounces of olive oil, 1 1/2 ounces of powdered gum benzoin, and 1/2 ounce of alkanet root. Place the jar in a double boiler and simmer with gentle heat for several hours. Let stand 24 hours more; heat, and strain through cheese cloth, and when cold perfume with 1/2 dram of essence of ambergris, 1/2 dram of oil of lavender or any other essential oil preferred.

Ointment for Wrinkles or Relaxed Skin (so that's where they got the idea for the jeans! Relaxed...)
To 10 grains of camphor add 2 ounces of prepared lard and 1 fluid dram of rectified spirits of wine. Apply a little of the ointment at night, previously washing the face, and strengthen the body by means of tonics and nourishing diet.
Or bathe the parts where the wrinkles appear with alum and water. This will tighten the skin.
Or fresh butter, 2 drams; essence of turpentine, 2 drams; mastic, 1 dram.

Wikipedia says: "Spermaceti is a wax present in the head cavities of the Sperm Whale and in the blubber of all whales. ....brilliant white crystals that are hard but oily to the touch.... devoid of taste or smell. "
This ingredient is no longer available or used. Jojoba esters, a solid wax (as compared to jojoba oil which is liquid) is a botanical alternative.
Spermaceti has gone the way of civet musk. Animal products are no longer available for purchase or use - at least to hobbyists. I don't think they are for industry, either. Last year there was a story about a couple who'd found a giant gob of ambergris on the beach (whale vomitus). Ambergris was once a cherished ingredient in perfumery.

The most interesting thing is that every time I teach something, I learn more. Researching for pearls that will be memorable leads me all over the place - internet, books, magazines, and emails to friends who might know. Every speaker, class, or workshop I've ever attended has *something*. There have been some dismal disappointments, where I've expected to learn a lot, and find that it is a typical "101" type class (after paying for the more advanced class, IMHO). Even so, there is ALWAYS some little pearl of wisdom that comes from each class. One class, that meant learning that I knew way more than the teacher, and therefore might want to start teaching it myself :-).

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