January 28, 2014
Survival Skills: Make Balm to Save Your Skin - 1
by Tim MacWelch
As I write this, my palms and fingers are full of little bleeding cracks from another busy weekend in sub-freezing temperatures. Even if I use lotion and gloves during the winter, my hands still end up with painful skin cracks that bleed like cuts. If it goes too far, these wounds can impair movement and even become infected. How do you deal with these small but nagging injuries? I use a penetrating treatment, like a balm.
A balm is a medicine that is thicker than lotion and greasier than salve. It typically contains more volatile oils than other skin remedies. This type of topical treatment can be medicated or without medicinal qualities. A balm works to restore your skin’s health by replacing the oils and moisture that have gone missing from your skin. The balm provides the oil directly, and your skin generates the moisture underneath that oily coating. Here are two different ways to make balm from a wide range of natural oils, both in the field and at home.
Plant Oils: Oily tree nuts make the best field-made balm I’ve ever gotten from plant sources. Shell out the nut meat from hickory, pecan, beech, or walnut fruit. Crush this nut meat into a paste and rub it deeply into your dry skin. In a survival scenario you may be better off eating those nuts for their high calorie content—more than 180 calories per ounce. But for normal outdoor living and sporting, you can probably allow this non-food use of a food item. And if you ever need a more refined skin product, simmer the crushed nut meats in a little water for 30 to 45 minutes. This will bring the oil to the surface as a liquid, which can be skimmed off and used as a liquid skin lotion.
Animals Fats: The lard, tallow, marrow, and fat of game animals is often the most abundant source of oil in hunting and survival situations. Wipe it on your skin as a solid or liquid, raw or cooked—although cooked is the safest approach, as it destroys any pathogens. Bear fat is my favorite choice because it penetrates your skin so deeply. It’s also great for conditioning other skins, like leather.