Bear and Sheep Fat Salves

About bear fat: Animal fat has a long history of being used medicinally.  Easier for the skin to absorb and more readily available than vegetable oil, animal fat was used alone or as a base ingredient for healing salves.  Bear fat is highly valued by northern Russians, Native Americans, the Saami of Finland, and other northern peoples. In the early 19th century, a bear fat craze hit the U.S. and bottles of bear oil were sold as hair pomade and a cure for baldness.

In Vermont, there is a stable population of around 6000 black bears, which is higher than it has been in 200 years.   We are not hunters, but we strongly believe that once an animals life is taken all parts of the animal should be used.   When our local butcher gave us a box of fresh bear fat that was destined for the dump, we felt that we had been given a precious gift.  We rendered the bear fat on our kitchen stove, strained off the impurities and fed them to our happy chickens.

Try our bear fat salve for dry and chapped skin; joint and muscle pain; minor bruises and burns; weatherproofing leather boots; and as a chest rub.  Store in a cool, dark place, and use within a year.

Bear Fat has been used for:

  • salve (alone or as base)
  • weatherproofing leather
  • predicting weather
  • seam sealant (w/ pine pitch) for canoes
  • gun oil
  • lamp oil
  • mosquito repellent
  • hair pomade
  • treatment of head lice
  • protecting skin against cold weather
  • saddle conditioner
  • joint pain relief
  • paint (mixed w/ pigment)
  • applying to sacred objects

Balsam has traditionally been used externally for:

  • coughs, bronchial infections
  • joint pain
  • muscle pain
  • warts
  • skin infections
  • headaches
  • burns
  • bruises
  • wounds
  • hemorrhoids

Cedar has traditionally been used externally for:

  • rheumatism
  • fungal infections
  • insect repellent
  • swollen feet
  • burns
  • congestion

Balm of Gilead (balsam poplar) has traditionally been used externally for:

  • Burns
  • Sunburns
  • Wounds
  • Arthritis
  • Bedsore
  • Eczema
  • Chest rub for colds

About sheep fat (also known as mutton tallow):

Wherever people raise sheep, the fat has been used for cooking, medicine, and skin care.

In Kyrgyzstan, sheep fat treats coughs as a chest rub, and is drunk melted with hot milk for sore throats. In the Ukraine, sheep fat is valued as a healing salve for burns. In Zimbabwe, traditional healers use sheep fat to exorcise evil spirits, cure insomnia, neutralize mental disturbances, and as a love potion. Traditional Islamic medicine recommends sheep fat as a cure for sciatica. Old time Vermonters used sheep fat, or mutton tallow, mixed with pine resin, as a “drawing salve” to draw infections out (from splinters, ingrown toenails, etc.)

Sheep fat has a similar make-up to our cell membranes, making it easily absorbable and nourishing for skin. Sheep fat, or tallow, from grass-fed animals contains abundant fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K, as well as vitamin E, which are all necessary for general health and for skin health. Sheep fat also contains fats such as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which has anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as palmitoleic acid, which has natural antimicrobial properties.

The sheep and lambs at Cate Hill Orchard eat fresh grass and herbs from May-December. They are moved onto new pasture every one to two days, and they eat organic apples in the fall. We save the fat from our animals, render it, and mix it with pine resin collected from our forest to make our sheep fat salve. Try it for dry or chapped skin; burns, bruises, and small cuts; ingrown toenails; back pain; or as a chest rub.

Made at Cate Hill Orchard in Greensboro, Vermont with 100% local, on farm ingredients: Sheep fat, pine resin.