How to Make and Use Spruce Pitch Salve

Guest post by Jenny Lamb of The Last Frontier Blog

Beetle Killed Spruce 217x300 How to Make and Use Spruce Pitch SalveIt’s easy to make spruce pitch salve and oil. There are no pine trees in our area, but if that’s what you have, then you can substitute it for spruce, and make Pine Salve. Spruce pitch (and pine) has many wonderful uses, and is one of those little things I wouldn’t want to be without in the woods. I first discovered its value after an insect bite that wouldn’t stop itching. I smeared on a little spruce pitch, and within minutes the itching, swelling and redness were gone. I’ve since used spruce pitch salve and oil for many things:

  • On spider and other insect bites and stings
  • To prevent or cure infections of ugly scrapes
  • As a natural, safe and effective underarm deodorant
  • As a lip balm and hand cream to help kill germs and prevent illness
  • To increase circulation and speed healing of a sprained ankle
  • It makes homemade soap smell fantastic! I don’t know if it still has antimicrobial properties after it’s made into soap. I kind of doubt it, but it still smells delightful.
  • How to Make Spruce Pitch Salve and Oil

    About ten years ago, I was peeling the inner bark of a spruce tree to make a basket and came upon a large pitch pocket. I wondered if I could make a salve from it. That would be much handier than finding a drippy spruce tree and scraping the pitch every time I needed it. I’m always on the lookout for medicinal plants.

    Spruce Pitch in Oil 300x269 How to Make and Use Spruce Pitch SalveTo make spruce pitch oil and salve, just find some pitch dripping from a tree, or some saturated bark on a limb or dead tree. If you have bark beetles, that shouldn’t be a problem. Scrape off some pitch or saturated bark, place it in a jar and cover with an edible oil. I like olive oil, but you could use any vegetable oil, including oils that are solid at room temperature such as coconut or palm oil. Even rendered animal fats work. If using a solid oil or fat, melt it over low heat before adding the pitch. It’s best to avoid collecting the pitch in wet weather.

    Spruce Pitch Salve How to Make and Use Spruce Pitch SalveOnce you have collected your pitch and covered it with oil or melted fat, replace the lid and keep the jar in a warm spot. If you have a sunny window, that’s a great place to let it brew. I keep it on the warming shelf of my woodburning cookstove for a few weeks during the winter. Try to remember to shake the jar daily, at least for the first week. As the pitch dissolves and is extracted from the bark, you should notice the scent getting stronger. After a couple of weeks or more, strain through several layers of cheesecloth, a paper towel or disposable coffee filter.

    It’s now ready to use. I keep the oil in a little squirt bottle. Salve is more convenient for a backpack, first aid kid, or in your bags while traveling. To make salve, pour the infused oil into a pan and add 1 ½ to 2 Tbsp. of beeswax per cup of oil. Over very low heat, stir and melt the wax. Now, pour into a clean jar or a tin, and allow to cool and solidify before closing the lid. If it’s too thin, melt again and add a little more beeswax. If it’s too hard, melt with a little more infused oil.

    That’s it. To make your load lighter if you don’t want to pack around a jar or tin, you can scoop a little salve into a small zip lock plastic bag and place it in your survival kit or first aid kit. I hope this is helpful.

    Comments

    1. Thanks! Another reason to wait for the sap to rise.

    2. Great post! I’ve got spruce on my land. I had no idea that it could be used this way. I’ve always loved the fragrance though. I’ll give it a try. Thanks

    3. wonderful info. Thank you so much.

    4. This stuff is an excellent fire starter too. When it dries just collect it and pt it in a zip-lock bag and use it when yo need to start a fire.

    5. Mountain lady says:

      Thank you. Very interesting, and something I did not know. I will print the article and try it when I find the right tree.

    6. Cool! Thats a new one on me, Im gonna have to look at it closer. I use lots of stuff like this most of which I got out of the Foxfire book series. They are pretty good, but a lot of the stuff in them is isolated to our part of the country close to Appalachia.

    7. Do you know of a way to create a glue with the pitch?

    8. Thank you for the comments. For glue, I’ve read of using a mixture of 5 parts pitch, 1 part wood ashes and 1 part tallow. This was on a flint knapping website. I’m planning to try it this summer when I get my next black bear. Not sure if it will work because rendered bear fat is softer than lard.
      Jenny in Alaska

    9. Thanks for this info. We have several large spruce on our property and I will give this a try when the sap runs. Since I’m madly in love with coconut oil, I’ll work with that instead of olive. Can’t wait to make a salve, either. Thanks so much for this how-to!

      I’m also inclined to try this spruce pitch as a resinous binder with incense cones. If pine works, spruce should too! I can’t believe I didn’t think of those trees until your article. Must’ve been a duh-moment.

    10. Peter Horvatin says:

      I was wondering, it may sound silly. Do you think you could use pine pitch as an alternative to denture adhesive?

    11. I have no idea if that would work. Sure worth a try. I’d think that if you mixed it up like a glue, with the ashes, it might feel gritty. Maybe try it alone or with some rendered fat to make it smoother. I don’t think it would be like super glue on skin. You might want to test it first though. :)

    12. We have a wealth of different species of fir and hemlock down here in Western WA, but few pine or spruce trees. Do you know if fir pitch works the same way?

      Thanks!

    13. I’ve read of using fir in salves, but since we don’t have any here, I’m not really sure if it would be used the same as spruce and pine. I think it probably would, but that’s only a guess. If I suddenly found myself with fir rather than spruce or pine, and could not find information about it, I would probably experiment.