The first herbal salve I ever made was formulated with two plants, Elder leaves and Jimson Weed (thorn-apple or Datura Stramonium) leaves. I infused the properties of these plants into hog lard which can usually be purchased at many grocery stores and rural meat lockers. Traditional salves were usually brewed in earthen-ware pots. It is probably a good idea to avoid aluminum, in particular, and all metals in general, due to possible chemical reactions with some herbal compounds. I find an earthen-ware slow cooker very convenient to use. Second-hand ones may be picked up for a few dollars at most garage sales or flea markets. The low heat setting will be the primary temperature used for the herb/lard infusion. I keep the lid cracked just a bit to allow water to evaporate out. By doing this, fresh green herbs may be used, rather than dry ones. One will need the following:
1. 5 pounds of hog's lard
2. 1 pound elder leaves
3. 1 pound jimson weed leaves
4. 1 oz of benzoin resin
5. 8 ounces Bee's wax
I am approximating the amounts in pounds. It is usually a good idea to have a minimum 1:5 ratio of herb to base (1 pound of herb to 5 pounds of lard). I will normally place 5 pounds of lard in the slow cooker, melt it to liquid form and add as much of the cut herb as it will cover. Gather a nice batch of elder leaves. I pick and infuse the elder leave first, since it minimizes the time one works with Jimson Weed which is more toxic and must be handled with care. Remove elder leaves from the woody branches and chop in a food processor. Once the leaves are cut, empty directly into the melted lard, stirring. After adding as much cut herb as the lard will comfortably saturate, cook on low temperature for 4-5 hours. I would avoid a boiling heat as much as possible. I then turn off the heat and let cool the rest of the day, repeating the process every day for approximately a week. If you miss a day, no big deal. After a week, you need to strain the infused lard from the elder leaves. You can use a kitchen sieve or any other sieve which will allow the liquid fat to drain into a bowl. I use a milk strainer which belonged to my grandfather when he milked 50 years ago. They can still be purchased at dairy supply houses. A sieve should not allow any plant matter to escape with the lard. Salve should always be filtered to a grit-free state. Once the elder leave is separated, I will put a fresh charge of chopped elder leave into the lard again for a second round of infusion for another week. I repeat the filtering process again, then add fresh cut Jimson Weed leave to the lard and let it infuse at low heat like the elder for a week. Filter again as before, and put a second charge of chopped Jimson Weed in. When picking and handling Jimson Weed, gloves should be worn to protect the skin from excessive exposure to the toxic properties of that herb. Mainly, one should avoid rubbing eyes as Jimson Weed can produce a temporary dilation of the pupils. With four weeks having elapsed and after filtering the final charge of Jimson Weed from your lard, benzoin and bee's wax should be added. Purchased powdered benzoin can be added into the hot lard and stirred at a minimum rate of 10 grams per 1000 grams of lard. It doesn't have to be exact. Adding an ounce or 32g to whatever is left of your 5 pounds of lard should be acceptable. Benzoin is to protect the hog lard from rancidity. If you plan to use the salve quickly, then benzoin could perhaps be overlooked. Vitamin E (few drops/oz lard-don't overdo it) or the herb, Balm of Gilead (5 buds/gal of lard) may be substituted for benzoin. Bee's wax is now added to the infused benzoinated lard to stiffen up the mixture into a salve configuration. Wax is added to lard at an approximate rate of 10g per 1000g of lard, for 5 pounds that would mean approximately 8 ounces. Drop 8 ounces of wax into your hot herbal infused lard and stir until melted and mixed. Let your salve mixture cool in the slow cooker and test the stiffness of your preparation. If it is too soft, one can add more wax. Once the desired stiffness is obtained, melt salve and pour into appropriate containers for use.
from King's American Dispensatory, 1898:
History and Description.-Stramonium is a well-known poisonous weed, growing in all parts of the United States, along roadsides, waste grounds, etc., and flowering from July to September. Its native country is unknown. It is found growing in Asia, Europe, Canada, Mexico, and Peru. The whole plant has an unpleasant, fetid, narcotic odor, which diminishes upon drying. Almost every part of the plant is possessed of medicinal properties, but the official parts are the leaves and seeds. The leaves should be gathered when the flowers are full blown, and carefully dried in the shade. They have a rank odor when fresh, especially when bruised, which is lost on drying, and a mawkish, amarous, nauseous taste. They impart their properties to water, alcohol, and the fixed oils. Water distilled from them slightly possesses their odor, but does not contain their active properties. The seeds, when bruised, emit the peculiar heavy odor of the herb. They should be gathered when ripe. Spirit, water, and fixed oils take up their active properties .
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.-
In medicinal doses, stramonium acts as an anodyne antispasmodic, without causing constipation, and will prove serviceable in cases where opium can not be given. It does not readily produce sleep, but if sleep follows, it is generally due to the alleviation of pain or nervous irritability produced by the drug. Belladonna has proved serviceable in gastritis and enteritis , and may likewise be used to allay neuralgic pains. It is very remarkable that a plant so closely allied to belladonna in physiological action, should be so different in some of its therapeutical effects, and particularly in regard to pain. For deep-seated pain, as of neuralgia, etc., it is far less effective than belladonna, but for superficial neuralgia, when locally applied, it is more effective than that drug. It well illustrates the fallacy of prescribing remedies for certain effects, because of known physiological action of a drug-the therapeutical effects often being widely at variance. Again, it is more effective in mental disorders than is belladonna. Besides, while daturine, in some respects, exceeds atropine in power, in many respects it does not in the least accomplish the therapeutical results of the latter. Stramonium, in combination with quinine, forms an invaluable preparation which has been found beneficial in intermittent fever, periodic pains, headache, dysmenorrhoea, delirium tremens , etc. It is said that the seeds exert an influence to prevent abortion.
Externally, a poultice of the fresh leaves, bruised, or the dried leaves in hot water, will be found an excellent application over the bowels, in severe forms of gastritis, enteritis, peritonitis, acute rheumatism, painful bladder affections, pleurisy, etc. "I have in many instances applied the leaves to the perineum, in cases of retention of urine from enlarged prostate, where it was impossible to introduce a catheter, and, after having allowed them to remain for about 1/2 hour, have been enabled to pass the catheter with ease and facility, and thus afford relief to the patient. I have met with similar good results in spasmodic urethral stricture" (J. King). It will also be found beneficial as a local medication to all species of painful ulcers, acute ophthalmia, taking care not to produce too great mydriasis, swelled breasts, orchitis, parotitis, and other glandular vulvar inflammation, inflammatory rheumatism, and irritable hemorrhoidal tumors. An ointment of it is very valuable in many of the above diseases, but it should be prepared carefully without too great heat, from fresh leaves and stems, if possible. In cases where the leaves can not be obtained, a plaster of the alcoholic extract or inspissated juice may be applied over the affected parts, or the extract may be rendered thin by heating it in diluted alcohol, and then forming into a poultice with meal or moistened bread and applied. The ointment is exceedingly efficient in cutaneous hypertrophy around the anus, attended with great itching, and sometimes with sero-purulent secretion. Dose of the powdered leaves or seeds, from 1/10 to 5 grains; of the extract, which is the best form of administration, from 1/20 to 2 grains; of the tincture, for which the seeds, bruised, are preferable, from a fraction of a drop to 30 drops; specific stramonium 1/20 to 10 minims.
Specific Indications and Uses.-Delirium, furious, enraged, and destructive; continuous talking; restless, can not rest in any position, seems to be fearful; pain, especially when superficial and localized; spasm, with pain; cerebral irritation; bloating and redness of face; purely spasmodic asthma; convulsive cough.