The Curious Case of Evija Ointment, Beloved by Latvians

Found in bathroom cabinets around Latvia, the ointment is said to help ease colds and soothe burns and muscle aches in humans and pets. While several products co-exist on the market, only one claims to be the real Evija.

ointment with natural beeswax component on light grey stone table
Photo: iStock.com / Liudmila Chernetska

One particular thick, yellow, and rich ointment is found in bathroom cabinets around Latvia and has been for many moons. The supercharged all-natural goo goes by the name Evija after the daughter of its original “inventor,” the folk healer Edgars Riņķis. Why the inverted commas? Because the story of Evija ointment is shrouded in controversy. 

18-century pharmaceuticals

According to a Latvian medical portal, Medicine.lv, the multipurpose ointment first appeared in written sources in 1768, long before the advent of medicine as we know it today. It wasn’t until 1981 that Riņķis registered his supposed invention with the USSR’s State Committee for Inventions and Discoveries. That was when it was given the official name of Evija. In 1994, the Patent Office of the Republic of Latvia extended the validity of the patent until 2001.

However, this was put in question during a conflict between Riņķis and the company Valgunde with which he had shared the recipe. The company helped produce the product in quantities corresponding with the demand. Once Riņķis stopped working for the company, he claimed it should stop using his formula for the ointment. The courts were involved, but Valgunde continued to churn out the balm since the patent had long expired. The question remains: can something be counted as an invention if similar products have existed before?

Only one “true” Evija

Today, Evija Riņķe carries on the family legacy, producing the ointment after her father’s recipe and new iterations of it in the picturesque town of Cēsis in the densely forested Gauja National Park. The company claims it is the only authentic Evija on the market. 

The original recipe consists of just four ingredients – spruce resin, butter, pork fat, and beeswax – however, Edgars’s secret lies in the proportions and blending technology. Going with the times, his daughter Evija has also devised a vegetarian version with oil instead of pork fat and a version enhanced with stevia. Some sources speak of conflict surrounding the original fat content and whether it should be pork or goose. 

Two other companies sell very similar products, but the devil is in the details. One company, Deiro, sells it by the name Evija-Bite (the word “bite” stands for a bee in Latvian). Depending on the variety, it contains additional ingredients like honey and sea buckthorn oil. Valgunde, too, still produces the ointment, using the company name as part of the product name – Evija Valgunde. Its list of ingredients also mentions terpenes and essential oils. 

What is Evija ointment used for? 

The website of Evija Riņķe suggests several applications for the ointment, such as:

  • applying a dab under the nose to ease breathing during a cold,
  • melting a small ball of ointment in the mouth to soothe a sore throat, 
  • rubbing some on the skin after intense sunbathing to ease the burn, 
  • using as a massage oil, particularly in the sauna, 
  • veterinary use. Dog owners, for example, might spread some on the pup’s paws before leaving home in winter to protect them from the harsh effects of the cold and salt on the streets. 

While the product’s popularity speaks highly of its effects, one should always value the advice of medical professionals when it comes to serious conditions. 

Lelde Beņķe-Lungeviča

Lelde combines an education in journalism with a background in destination marketing. She is a Riga-based communications professional and runs LifeInRiga.com, which she defines as the hybrid of an expat blog and guidebook. Latvian by nationality, Lelde grew up in Australia, went to school in Latvia, studied and worked in several countries before happily settling in Riga. Anything Lelde does, she does with a deep dedication.

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