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What Is Basilicon?

By Anna B. Smith
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Basilicon is the name given to ointments commonly used in the treatment of wounds and infections, and as a drawing agent. One common formula is referenced in early medical texts, though more than likely, other formulas existed and were in use by doctors and surgeons. This type of herbal remedy is typically no longer used by modern doctors, though it is available to the general public from some herbal remedy manufacturers.

The original formula for basilicon most likely consisted of a combination of wax, rosin, oil, and pitch. Many different variations on this basic formula most likely existed, however, this one remains the most well known. This mixture could be spread directly onto wounds and other infected areas, or would be heated and used in a poultice, which would then be placed over the wound. It was often used by early surgeons in the bandages placed around those wounds which had been operated on, to encourage healing.

The ingredient rosin is derived from the resin which is excreted by conifer trees. These evergreen trees are known for the medium to large sized pine cones they bear throughout the year, and their needle-like branches. The resin which they produce is a sticky substance often found dripping from their trunks or the tips of branches. In its original form, this ingredient is not usable as part of the basilicon ointment. The resin must be boiled down to remove potential toxins before it can become rosin, and thus be usable by the human body. When mixed with additional ingredients, it lends a coating property to the overall mixture.

The wax used to create this ointment had to be melted down to a liquid form, before combining it with other ingredients. The pitch used in the original recipe would have been similar in consistency to rosin, and similarly derived from pine tree resin or other petroleum sources. The type of oil combined with these thick materials is not specified, though it could have been any type of cooking oil or an animal oil byproduct.

This ointment remains available for purchase at some specialty herbal remedy stores and through online ordering. The ingredients are similar to those used in the more commonly referenced original treatment, with slight variations. The type of wax used in modern basilicon is beeswax, and only one form of resin is incorporated. Olive oil is included in this mixture, to add fluidity and medicinal value, as is lard.

Modern basilicon may be used to draw foreign matter out of the skin, and to cure minor skin ailments. Some users believe this medicinal ointment has the ability to gradually remove splinters, thorns, and insect stingers from the upper layers of the epidermis. Others may prefer to use it directly on skin irritations, such as boils and pimples, to draw out pus and bacteria.

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