Pine sap has strong antibacterial properties, making it effective as the main ingredient in an externally applied skin salve. You can find pine pitch salve sold in places like rural New Mexico, or in and around Native American reservations. However, since it is based on such a commonly available resource, it is cheap and easy to make your own. The salve is effective on bites and stings, to prevent or cure infections from scratches and scrapes, as a natural and safe underarm deodorant, and as a hand cream and lip balm to prevent germs and illness.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Collect as much fine, clear, soft sap as you can find, as this will break down most easily, although harder, dirtier sap will do if you can't find enough of the purer sap. Harvest sap from pine trees at any time of the year, although summer tends to be best as the trees ooze more during the warmer months.
Put your pine sap into a jar that will stand a certain amount of heat. Break up any large, hard pieces of sap into smaller bits. Don't use your best containers as the sap is difficult to remove afterward.
Cover the sap with olive oil and leave the jar in the sun for several weeks, if you live in a hot enough area, or keep it in a wood stove warmer. Putting it in a warm airing cupboard or above a radiator in winter are alternatives. Shake the jar daily for the first week.
Smell the oil occasionally until you are satisfied it is suitably infused with pine sap. Most of the smaller chunks, at least, will probably have broken down. Then sieve the pine oil using a cheesecloth or fine mesh sieve.
Melt some beeswax in a saucepan and, when it is liquid, add some of your pine oil. You can experiment with different quantities of each until you are satisfied with the salve by remelting the mixture as many times as you need to. Add more beeswax to make the salve more solid or more pine oil to make it more liquid.
Tips and warnings
- The ratio of 1.5 to 2 tbsp of beeswax to 1 cup of pine oil makes a decent salve consistency, but make yours to your own preference. Keeping some pine oil for immediate home use is a good idea, while a more solid salve is useful for travel.
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