Bag Balm, a commercial salve made in Vermont since 1889, comes in a distinctive square green tin. Its original use was for softening and protecting chafed cow's udders, but it has found favor as an all-purpose lubricating balm. Its main ingredients are petroleum jelly, lanolin and 8-hydroxyquinoline sulfate, an antiseptic.
The primary "off label" use of Bag Balm is as a hand cream. The lanolin and petroleum jelly soften and moisturize the skin and keep hands from becoming overly dry.
Bag Balm can also be used to protect your hands and face from the chapping effects of cold, windy weather. The petroleum jelly provides a protective layer between your skin and the cold air.
If your hands are already chapped, abraded or cracked, or you suffer from eczema, Bag Balm can help. The thickness of the salve helps it stay in one place to assist the healing process. Bicyclists use it to treat saddle sores.
Breastfeeding women are sometimes advised to use Bag Balm on their nipples if they suffer from cracking or chapping. Some, however, question whether the petroleum jelly content is safe for nursing babies to ingest, so ask your doctor before using it for this purpose.
Another nursery use for Bag Balm is as an ointment for countering diaper rash. The thick texture keeps it in one place to act as a barrier between skin and diaper, allowing the rash to heal and preventing further irritation.
People's skin conditions aren't the only things Bag Balm has been used for. According to "USA Today," the salve was used to treat the paws of search dogs that worked at the World Trade Center collapse, and by Arctic explorer Admiral Byrd to prevent his company's guns from corroding.
Lori A. Selke has been a professional writer and editor for more than 15 years, touching on topics ranging from LGBT issues to sexuality and sexual health, parenting, alternative health, travel, and food and cooking. Her work has appeared in Curve Magazine, Girlfriends, Libido, The Children's Advocate, Decider.com, The SF Weekly, EthicalFoods.com and GoMag.com.