Estimated reading time: 25 minutes
Neosporin is a topical antiseptic developed by Pfizer and currently marketed by Johnson & Johnson. Its intended use is to be applied to cuts and wounds to prevent infection and speed healing.
The ointment consists of three basic antibiotics including bacitracin, neomycin, and polymyxinB. Before it was branded as Neosporin, it was known as Mycitracin and Topisporin.
Some people have allergic reactions to the neomycin component of Neosporin, and that’s one of the reasons some people consider making their own version of this antiseptic salve, although OTC alternatives without the neomycin component like Polysporin are also available over-the-counter.
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- Primary Benefits of Antiseptic Ointments
- Neosporin and Bacitracin Versus Vaseline
- There Are 3 Ways To Make DIY Neosporin
- The Primary Ingredients
- The Secondary Ingredients
- Some Notes on Essential Oils and Infusions
- 3 Homemade Neosporin Recipes
- Shelf Life?
- Is It Worth Doing?
Primary Benefits of Antiseptic Ointments
Without getting terribly complicated, there are two types of bacteria: “gram-negative” and “gram-positive.” The neomycin component in Neosporin targets the gram-negative bacteria while the bacitracin component targets the gram-positive bacteria.
That’s important to know when crafting a homemade topical antiseptic because you want natural alternatives that target both types of bacteria. All of the alternative formulas we will recommend target both types.
Neosporin and Bacitracin Versus Vaseline
Vaseline or petroleum jelly actually has some surprising healing properties, and while it does not share the strong antiseptic properties of Neosporin or other antiseptic ointments and salves, it promotes healing and acts as a barrier to bacterial invasion of a wound to some degree.
For this reason, we’ll cover a DIY version of Neosporin that uses Vaseline, also known as petroleum jelly, as an ointment base instead of the most common base for Neosporin alternatives: beeswax.
Beeswax is a natural alternative you can actually find in the wild, but if you have some Vaseline in the medicine cabinet, you’re good to go.
There Are 3 Ways To Make DIY Neosporin
There are many ways to make an alternative antiseptic with the properties of Neosporin, but we’re going to cover three determined by situations and events:
1. A Neosporin alternative made at home using ingredients purchased at a store or online under normal, everyday circumstances.
2. A Neosporin alternative made at home with limited resources using substitutes either grown in the garden or crafted from homegrown, bartered, or stockpiled ingredients in a time following a natural disaster or other disruption.
3. A Neosporin alternative made under extreme survival circumstances from wild foraged and improvised ingredients with minimal equipment and resources during desperate times.
Why three approaches? Because preventing infection is important no matter the circumstances. Stockpiling antiseptic creams and salves is always a good idea, but as time goes on, so do stockpiles. So in addition making DIY Neosporin with common ingredients you can find in the store, you also need to know how to make it with natural ingredients found in the wild.
The Primary Ingredients
There are two primary groups of ingredients that define a natural formula for Neosporin. All of these ingredients vary across different formulations.
The first primary ingredient group acts as a binding agent that gives the formulation its creamy consistency, like a salve or ointment. Some, such as honey and coconut oil, also have antimicrobial properties. Across a variety of formulations, these are the binding ingredients that are often included in homemade Neosporin:
Beeswax (pellets are often recommended)
Beeswax forms a protective barrier on the skin’s surface, protecting your skin from environmental irritants and harsh weather. What makes beeswax exceptional is that it’s non-comedogenic (non-pore blocking), allowing the skin to breathe freely.
This makes beeswax particularly beneficial for acne-prone and sensitive skin. To put it simply, beeswax helps your DIY Neosporin stick to the skin.
Honey (manuka honey is often identified as the best)
Honey has significant medicinal properties. It has a strong anti-inflammatory effect when applied topically, making it useful for a variety of inflammatory skin conditions including eczema, psoriasis, and atopic dermatitis.
Honey also has the ability to fight skin infections due to its powerful antimicrobial, antibacterial, and anti-fungal properties. Due to Manuka honey’s unique ability to promote healing and cellular regeneration, it is widely used by medical professionals for wound and burn care.
If you don’t have access to Manuka honey or can’t afford it (it’s a bit expensive), any honey will do, although non-pasteurized honey is best because it retains more of its natural, medicinal compounds.
A quick note on using honey in homemade antiseptic: It has a tendency to separate and sink to the bottom over time. Even when using beeswax, honey can still separate.
To prevent separation, let your oils cool until they develop a loose, pudding-like consistency (thick but not solid) before adding the honey. Spoon the mixture into your container and stir from time to time as it cools completely.
As a result of this extra step, we’re going to leave the addition of any honey to any of the recipes we cover as an option. Just remember to let your oils cool in the jar before adding it.
Petroleum jelly hit the market almost 150 years ago under the trade name “Vaseline.” It’s still a favorite of dermatologists. That’s because it seals water into your skin. That’s good for your wounds because they need a moist place to heal. It may take up to twice as long for dry injured skin to get better.
This oily moisturizer may also ease the redness of a new scar and lower your chances of infection. It also won’t burn when you put it on. Plus, petroleum jelly gives your Neosporin alternative the body and “stickiness” we associate with most ointments. In actual fact, petroleum jelly is the foundation ingredient in store bought Neosporin.
Coconut oil has a pasty, solid consistency at room temperature that works with the beeswax to give homemade Neosporin the texture and adhesion of an ointment. It contains nourishing fatty acids that help hydrate, protect, and soften skin.
Coconut oil can reduce inflammation and promote wound healing. It is antibacterial, antifungal, and has antiviral properties. It’s another ingredient that often shows up in homemade antiseptic ointment formulas.
The Secondary Ingredients
The second primary group of ingredients are the essential oils and herbs that have strong antiseptic and antimicrobial properties. These are sometimes added as a refined essential oil or as a homemade infusion of fresh herbs that have either been made into an essential oil or steeped in hot water and strained to create an infusion that is added to the formula as a water based solution.
Lavender not only smells amazing but is great in aromatherapy, helps with anxiety and sleeping, and is great for skin and hair. Benefits of lavender are seen in both the flower and essential oil form.
It can be added to an antiseptic ointment preparation either in its essential oil form or as a steeped infusion blended with a binder like petroleum jelly or beeswax.
Calendula is a marigold plant that has historically been used for ailments affecting the skin like healing wounds, soothing eczema and even diaper rash.
Calendula contains natural plant chemicals including triterpenoids, which are anti-inflammatory, and saponins, micronutrients, flavonoids, and polysaccharides that aid in skin healing.
On top of that, calendula kills pathogens in skin wounds and stimulates the immune system. It can be added as an essential oil or as a steeped and strained infusion.
Yarrow is particularly beneficial in reducing inflammation. It’s effective in speeding healing, reducing the appearance of wrinkles, improving skin softness, and keeping the skin free from bacteria that can lead to breakouts and infection.
Yarrow is regarded as safe with no known side effects when used topically. Better yet, yarrow often grows not only in the wild but also along roadsides and ditches, so it’s relatively easy to forage.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil, when used topically, is antibacterial and can be used as an insect repellant to treat acne, athlete’s foot, and nail fungus. It can also be used as a natural deodorant, to soothe skin irritation, and as an antiseptic for minor cuts and scrapes while boosting wound healing.
It shows up as the most common ingredient in most of the antiseptic ointment formulations presented as an alternative to Neosporin.
Lemon Essential Oil
Lemon oil has antiseptic and antibacterial qualities and is also very effective in cleansing small abrasions, cuts, and wounds on the skin, and also treating some microbial skin problems.
In particular, the anti-fungal properties of lemon essential oil can make it an effective ingredient when blended and applied topically in the treatment of fungal and yeast infections.
Vitamin E Oil
Anecdotal reports claim that vitamin E oil speeds wound healing and improves the cosmetic outcome of burns and other wounds. Many lay people use vitamin E on a regular basis to improve the outcome of scars, and several physicians recommend topical vitamin E after skin surgery or resurfacing.
Castor oil is a triglyceride that has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. Research shows that, when applied to the skin, it may prevent infection, reduce inflammation, improve localized blood flow, and shed damaged skin cells — all of which help skin’s healing process.
Aloe vera can not only increase the amount of collagen in wounds but also change the composition of collagen, increase collagen cross-linking and thereby promote wound healing. Scientific studies have shown that the gel can increase the flexibility and reduce the fragility of the skin since 99% of the gel is water.
Turmeric has been shown to possess significant anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-carcinogenic, anti-mutagenic, anti-coagulant, and anti-infective effects.
The curcumin in turmeric has also been shown to have significant wound healing properties. It acts on various stages of the natural wound healing process to hasten healing.
Plantain has anti-inflammatory properties that reduce swelling and redness. It also soothes rashes, reduces itching, and eases the reaction of bites and stings. Plantain is a very common plant growing across lawns, along roads, and in the wild, as well as in cities.
It’s a healing plant that has been used in folk medicine for centuries. Plantain is also listed in the original herbal handbook, Culpeper’s Complete Herbal, published in the 17th century. It is also added either as an essential oil or an infusion.
There are other medicinal herbs with antiseptic and antimicrobial properties, from witch hazel to rosemary, but they don’t show up as often in most homemade formulas for Neosporin. For the most part, you have the option to mix and match the ingredients we just covered, but try to use at least two essential oils.
Some Notes on Essential Oils and Infusions
In order to derive the health benefits from medicinal plants, most are infused through a variety of methods. The most common methods for making an ointment alternative to Neosporin is either an oil soaking or a hot water steeping process.
Hot Water Steeping
The hot water steeping process involves chopping the leaves and/or flowers of the plant. The proportions generally recommended are 1 cup of chopped medicinal plant to 1-quart of water and the following steps:
1. Place the herbs in a glass container.
2. Pour boiling water over the herbs so they are completely covered.
3. Seal the jar with a tight-fitting lid to keep the steam and volatile oils from escaping.
4. Allow the infusion to steep until the water cools to room temperature or for the time recommended by the infusion recipe. In general, roots and barks require the longest infusion (or a decoction) of about 8 hours. Leaves should be infused for a minimum of 4 hours, flowers for 2 hours, and seeds and fresh berries for at least 30 minutes.
5. Strain the spent herbs out of the water using cheesecloth or a fine-mesh strainer (or both). Repeat if necessary to remove all of the herbs.
6. The resulting liquid is called an infusion or decoction. Clean out the jar and pour the infusion back into it before adding to your antiseptic ointment formula.
Making an Essential Oil
The process for making an essential oil from a medicinal plant is simpler but can take longer, from 24 hours to 6 weeks depending on whether you are doing it with a hot oil or cold oil process.
You can use just one species of plant or combine 3 to 4 plants to make a hybrid essential oil. The most commonly recommended oil base for essential oils is coconut oil, but olive oil or any other vegetable oil can be substituted in an emergency.
1. You begin by picking the flowers and leaves fresh from the garden, drying them, then immersing them in liquid coconut oil (or another oil).
2. Fill a jar 2/3 full of dried plant material, then cover it with the oil. The oil should not be heated above room temperature, although some other recipes require the use of a double boiler to release the compounds from certain plants with repeated reheating of the oil and plant pieces every 2 to 3 hours until the oil assumes a green tincture.
(If the situation is extreme and you don’t have the equipment or ability to use a double boiler, you can crush the chopped plants and let them sit in cold oil for 30 days in a mason jar, shaking every 2 or 3 days.)
3. Leave in a warm place, but out of direct sunlight. Giving it a shake every now and again helps the infusion process, whether you’ve used a double boiler or are simply letting it cold-soak in oil.
4. When the tincture turns a green color, strain it and pour it into a jar until ready for use in your homemade Neosporin formula. If you are using a double boiler for certain plants, the essential oil is usually ready to be filtered and used the same day.
It’s not necessary to make your own infusions or essential oils. You could also buy them, but if the times are challenging or your budget is tight, it makes sense to not only make your own Neosporin but also many of the ingredients that go into it.
With all of that being said, here are the three approaches and formulas for DIY Neosporin.
3 Homemade Neosporin Recipes
Recipe 1: DIY Neosporin Using Purchased Ingredients
This formula and approach is what you typically come across for a standard Neosporin alternative. It assumes you have the resources and wherewithal to purchase the essential oils and other ingredients, although you always have the option of making your own essential oils.
Like many recipes and formulas, you can improvise a bit and customize the formula, and we’ll identify those options. This approach is the fastest and least labor-intensive and can be put together in about an hour in the kitchen.
- Glass canning jar
- Containers for the finished ointment
- Ladle or funnel for filling containers
- 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup of unrefined coconut oil
- 2 Tbs beeswax pellets
- Tea tree essential oil
- Lavender essential oil or homemade yarrow essential oil or plantain essential oil or castor oil
- 1 Tbs of honey (optional)
1. In a glass canning jar, combine the coconut oil, olive oil and beeswax.
2. Pop in the microwave and melt at 25 second intervals until completely liquefied.
3. Carefully remove from the microwave. Remember, it’s glass so the jar will be somewhat hot.
4. Allow to sit for a minute or two on the countertop, then add the essential oils – use any combination you wish. The essential oil usage rate should be 1% of your total oil weight, so for this formula figure ½ a teaspoon total of essential oils in combination.
5. Stir to combine, and then pour immediately into jars.
6. Push to the rear of the counter, and cover with a paper towel. The jars will harden as they cool.
Recipe 2: DIY Neosporin Using Mostly Homemade and Found Ingredients
This formula and approach can be used if you simply don’t have the budget to buy the ingredients or are in a situation like the height of the pandemic when many items were unavailable or simply overpriced. It depends on a certain amount of herbs and medicinal plants that you have either grown in your garden or have in storage.
This approach is more labor intensive. Anywhere from a full day to about a month or more to infuse your own essential oils, but the final assembly will still take only about an hour in the kitchen or outdoors if need be.
- 5 oz beeswax or petroleum jelly
- 1 cup of olive oil or vegetable oil
- ¼ cup of aloe vera gel pressed from the shoots
- ¼ teaspoon homemade calendula (marigold) oil
- ½ teaspoon turmeric or yarrow oil
- 20 drops of homemade lavender essential oil
- 1 Tbs of honey (optional)
1. In a small pot, melt the beeswax and olive oil on a very low heat setting.
2. Once that has melted, take the pot off the heat source.
3. Add the aloe vera gel, calendula oil, the yarrow oil or turmeric and top with the 20 drops of lavender oil. The lavender oil is optional if you don’t have it on hand.
4. Stir with a wooden spoon.
5. After the mixture is blended, pour it into a small and sterilized container, and let it cool.
6. When it’s cooled down, store in a cool and dark place.
Recipe 3: DIY Neosporin Using Improvised Ingredients
This formula and approach is a worst-case scenario when stores and products are either unavailable or too expensive. It’s also a good approach for someone living in a very remote location. It uses many wild foraged or garden plants and some found materials. Substitutes are indicated as well.
It will involve making your own essential oil, but with all of the medicinal plants combined into one oil, so it’s a one-time process. If you’re missing an ingredient or two, you can skip it as long as you use at least two essential oils from medicinal plants.
This approach is also time-consuming and somewhat labor-intensive, including the time it takes to forage medicinal plants, infuse the essential oil, and finally combine the ingredients and finish the ointment.
- Double boiler
- Wooden spoon
- Jars and lids
- A large handful of fresh plantain leaves.
- A large handful of fresh yarrow leaves and flowers.
- A large handful of fresh calendula (marigold) leaves and flowers.
- 1/3 cup of lavender flowers heads.
- 1 1/4 cup olive oil (or whatever vegetable or seed oil like sunflower seed or safflower seed you have on hand).
- 1 oz of beeswax (you can use petroleum jelly (Vaseline) as a substitute or find a beehive in the wild and they don’t have to be honeybees.
- 1 Tbs honey (optional).
1. Harvest your plants one day ahead. Leave them in a cool and dark place overnight to allow them to wilt and lose some of their water content.
2. The next day finely chop the herbs. For this recipe you’ll want a 1/3 cup of each plant.
3. Place the wilted and finely chopped plants in the top of a double boiler (or a bowl placed over a pot). Pour in the oil.
4. Gently heat the oil via the double boiler. You can use a thermometer to measure the exact temperature, ideally around 100° F. I just keep a close eye on it and turn off the heat once the oil is warm to the touch. Continue to heat the oil several times a day for 3 to 5 days. You’ll know you’ve extracted the plants well when the oil has turned green and has the aromatics of the plants.
5. Strain off the plant material and measure out 1 cup of oil.
6. On low heat, very gently heat the beeswax in a small pan. Once it’s melted, add the oil and stir well. It’s normal for the beeswax to harden slightly in this stage. Stir until everything is melted and combined.
7. Remove from heat. Stir well.
8. Immediately pour into tins or containers.
9. Let stand until thoroughly cooled and solidified. Store in a cool place and use within a year.
The average shelf-life for a DIY Neosporin is 6 months to one year, assuming it is packaged in a sealed container in a cool, dark place. One thing to remember is to date the label and clearly identify it as an antiseptic ointment.
If any continued use of your DIY ointment shows any signs or symptoms of an allergic reaction or fails to promote healing in a wound, toss it and start over or open a fresh container.
Is It Worth Doing?
That’s up to you. The easiest and fastest approach is the first formula using purchased ingredients, and in terms of total quantity it will save you money.
The other approaches can provide you with a critical medicine when traditional sources and medicines may not be available. It also gives you the opportunity to experiment a bit and tailor a formula that avoids allergic reactions or any side-effects.
Most importantly, it can give you a valuable addition to your medicine chest that can keep you and your family well at all times good or bad.
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A great DIY project! Thank you for listing three different ways to make the Neosporin alternative. I personally have complications using the store bought versions as does one of my granddaughters. As soon as the plants begin to sprout I’ll be out foraging for the items needed for this project!
Neosporin can be placed directly into the eye, for infections and abrasions (often prescribed for livestock and dogs, sometimes for humans) … If this can’t, it’s not a neosporin replacement. (It’s just a complicated poultice)
Respectfully, I sincerely doubt this will be done by 1 out of 100 readers, even those inclined to be ready for most “what if” scenarios. It’s just too many ingredients, too many steps, for something with only a 6 months to a year of shelf life.
Far better (in my personal opinion), to stock up a half dozen or so fresh tubes of commercially prepared versions, even store branded ones, rotating the stock as needed,. I have several of these that are dated as far as 2 years out, and I suspect they will be perfectly usable for twice that.
Also, I would suggest keeping handy some alcohol and Vaseline and Aloe Vera products, like oil and salve, or even a plant or two if manageable.
Regarding the “making your own”, I’ll paraphrase a line from an older movie, “just because we CAN do something doesn’t mean we should”,,,,,,,,
Love this site, I read a lot of it, but once in a long while it has a sort of “near miss?”
Just my opinion, worth approximately what you paid for it. YMMV.