What Is Creosote Salve Good For?

What Is Creosote Salve Good For?

What Is Creosote Salve Good For? Making The Most Out Of The Desert’s Medicine Cabinet

Creosote, Greasewood, Chaparral … “The Desert’s Medicine Cabinet.” For many people in the American Southwest, Creosote is synonymous with the smell of a thunderstorm. But it’s more than just a nostalgic scent. 

This herb has as many uses as it does names. Historically, it’s been used to make tea. This tea was taken to treat all kinds of ailments. 

At one point, Creosote Bush was included in the United State’s “Pharmacopoeia.” The official book of medicines and their uses.

What Is Creosote Salve?

Today, one of the most common ways to make use of Creosote’s properties is on your skin. Normally by making a salve or balm infused with its leaves. 

What is a Salve?

Basically, a salve is something you put on your skin to protect or heal it. 

This can be a mixture of natural oils and waxes infused with herbs. That’s the case with our Double Extracted Creosote Salve.

Or it can be petroleum products and chemicals. This is how a lot of commercial salves are made.

Either way, salves are semi-solid and shelf stable. This is thanks to the fact that no water is used while making them. This keeps bacteria from developing, which can happen over time with water-based skin care products. 

Benefits and Uses of Creosote Salve

The Creosote Bush (or Chapparal as it’s sometimes known) has been used for centuries. It has been used to treat everything from snake bites to chicken pox to stiff muscles. 

Primarily the compounds that people look for for healing are found in the leaves. The leaves of the Creosote Bush produce a thick resin. This resin is rich in “phenolic compounds,” including antioxidant flavonoids (like you find in acai or blueberries.) They also contain a substance called NDGA which is an antioxidant that’s 100x more potent than Vitamin E!

It’s these compounds in the resin that are extracted into Creosote Salve, and they’re what give it its benefits.

Benefits for skin health

Thanks to the high amount of antioxidants and healing oils in Creosote Salve, it has a ton of different uses and benefits for skin health.

     Healing properties for dry, cracked skin

This is one of our favorite uses for Creosote Salve. Laura and I live right outside of Big Bend National Park, so we’re always outside. Whether we’re hiking, climbing, harvesting creosote, or working on our place, our hands always seem to get roughed up. 

Creosote salve is the best thing (sorry O’keefe’s) I’ve found to heal dry, cracked hands. If I use it regularly, it stops cracks from even forming in the first place.

     Soothing effect on skin irritations

One of the main compounds that we look for when making Creosote salve is NDGA. It’s this compound that makes all the difference when it comes to things like redness, irritation, eczema, or even minor allergic reactions.

NDGA has both anti-irritant and anti-inflammatory effects on skin. Not to mention it actually helps nourish and repair your acid mantle. 

The acid mantle is like a little shield all over your body, keeping your skin healthy and regulated. Taking care of it is very important, which is why we double extract all of our Creosote salve. We want to make sure we have the highest concentration of NDGA possible and get all that goodness on your skin.

     Relief for minor burns and sunburns

Again, NDGA plays a big role here, but so do the other antioxidants found in Creosote Bush leaves. 

A sunburn is essentially a radiation burn, which sends “Free Radicals” running through your skin. This ends up causing pain, irritation, and cell death (that’s why your skin ends up peeling off.)

Creosote salve is the perfect remedy for sunburn. This is because all of the antioxidants scavenge up free radicals. Keeping them from causing any further damage.


Promoting wound healing

Creosote Bush contains compounds that help heal small scratches and cuts. The added benefit of infusing it into a salve is the rich natural oils create a barrier. Keeping out infection and promoting a healing environment.

     Antiseptic and antimicrobial properties of Creosote Bush

Creosote bush has long been known to promote healing thanks to its antiseptic properties. It has antifungal and antimicrobial compounds. In fact, it was even used to preserve food up until relatively recently. 

The antiseptic properties make Creosote bush salve perfect for healing small scrapes and cuts. I’ve also used it on bruising and noticed a difference. 

  Other potential uses and benefits

The many uses of Creosote Bush could fill up a whole book, but we tried to hit the main ones. Here are a couple of other popular uses. 

      Sore Muscle Rub

Creosote Bush has been used topically to loosen up stiff muscles. Adding a freshly harvested branch to a hot bath after a long day of working is an amazing experience.

If you don’t live where that’s possible Creosote salve is a close second. The salve helps to ease aches and pains in muscles and joints. It loosens up any stiffness about 30-45 minutes after applying.

      Assisting with insect bites and stings

We mentioned above that Creosote Bush has been used historically for rattlesnake bites. I can’t say we recommend that. Find some antivenom. However, if you got bit by some mosquitos or a spider, Creosote salve is just the thing to take the itch down a notch. 

      Tattoo healing

I don’t have any tattoos myself. Neither does Laura, but we’ve known a couple of our friends who say that it works amazing for post-tattoo recovery. That makes a lot of sense given its moisturizing and wound healing properties.

      Athlete’s Foot

Creosote contains antifungal properties so it can be a great DIY remedy for Athlete’s Foot or other mild external fungal issues. It’s not pretty, but it’s true. It’s also great for getting rid of stinky feet.

How to Use Creosote Salve

It couldn’t be easier, simply apply it liberally to whatever part of your skin is in need of some TLC. Whether it’s dry and cracked skin, after-sun care, or sore muscles. 

For wound healing we recommend reapplying any time you notice it’s completely dried up, as the physical barrier helps with the healing process.

Is it safe?

There is a lot of confusion between Creosote Bush and Creosote the toxic oil. Creosote Bush is 100% safe for external use. It has no relation and is not dangerous or toxic for your skin. We don’t advise eating it as it has been linked to kidney issues, but who’s going to eat salve anyways…

As with any new skincare product always patch test a small amount to test for allergies.


Where to Find Creosote Salve

   Local Shops or Craft Fairs

This is how Terlingua Rain Creosote Salve got its start. Laura and I went around and pitched the idea to local stores and set up at craft shows. 

If you live somewhere where Creosote Bush grows you just might find some at a small “local goods” type of store.

   Make It Yourself

Also if you live somewhere where Creosote Bush grows, you can just make it yourself. This is what I’d recommend and we put together an easy guide for you. 

It can be a really fun craft project, especially for those with young ones. Plus you can impress all your friends with your new magic healing salve!

   Terlingua Rain Web Store

If neither of those are the case, we’re happy to plug ourselves. We make the highest quality Creosote salve we’ve found. We’re the only maker that uses a double extraction method to ensure the highest concentration of beneficial compounds.

We’re very careful about temperature control and only using high quality natural ingredients to make the best product we can. Everything is made by hand, it’s a very labor-intensive process but it’s worth it!


Wrapping it up.

The Creosote Bush is an amazing plant and making it into a Salve is a great way to explore its uses. It’s got incredible benefits for skincare, wound healing, sunburns, etc. It also smells fresh, natural, and hydrating. Truly a nostalgic blast for anyone who’s spent much time in the Southwest. 

If you’ve got the means, give making it a try. If you don’t, click here to visit our store and pick up a tin or two of our handmade creosote salve!

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