Herbal Poultices are my favorite way to treat injuries. They work really well and are all natural. Last year my older son sprained his ankle for the first time in his life (at 14 yrs. old) and was very worried he'd be laid up for a long time (as he's seen me laid up for a long time after a sprained ankle -before I knew about poultices).
Luckily at the time of his sprain I already had some dried herbs on hand so I was ready to test out the poultices I'd been studying about. I made a poultice of mullein, slippery elm bark, comfrey and plaintain and placed the poultice on his ankle overnight. Over the next couple of days, I repeated the process with new poultices along with R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression and elevation).
To our total delight, he was up and around on day two and walking normally within a few days. Even though the pain and swelling had gone, I still had him take it easy for a couple weeks to allow for a total healing. What a HUGE difference from what I have experienced with R.I.C.E. alone. Now that I know how amazing poultices are, I don't know how I ever lived without them!
How to make an herb poultice
An herbal poultice may be made with dried or fresh herbs and each are prepared in slightly different ways.
Preparing a Dried Herb Poultice
If you are using dried herbs, it helps to grind the herbs to a powder (as with a mortar and pestle, clean coffee grinder, mini food prep, etc). Place the herbs in a bowl, and add enough warm water to make a thick paste that can be easily applied. Make a quantity sufficient to cover the affected area. The ratio of ground herbs to water will vary according to the herb being used. Just add the water in very small increments, just until the mixture is nice and thick but not stiff.
Arrange a clean piece of gauze, muslin or an old cotton t-shirt on a clean on a clean flat surface. The material should be large enough to cover the affected area completely. Spread the warm, wet herbal mixture over the cloth.
Cleanse the affected area with hydrogen peroxide, and place the poultice over the area. Wrap a cloth or towel around the poultice to prevent the soiling of clothes or sheets. Use a pin or other fastener to secure all in place. You can use a hot water bottle or a rice bag heating pad in order to keep the poultice warm.
Preparing a fresh herb poultice
If using fresh herbs for your poultice, place 2 ounces of the whole herb (about 1/2 cup) and about 1 cup of water in a small saucepan. Simmer, but do not boil, for 2 minutes. Do not drain.
Arrange a clean piece of gauze, muslin, linen, or white cotton sheeting on a clean, flat surface. The material should be large enough to cover the affected area completely. Pour the herbal solution over the cloth. Cleanse the affected area with hydrogen peroxide, and place the poultice over the area. Wrap a towel around the poultice to prevent the soiling of clothes or sheets. (Celophane also works well.) Use a safety pin or other fastener to secure all poultice in place.
Herbal poultices should be kept in place for 1 to 24 hours, or as needed. During this period, you may experience a throbbing pain as the poultice draws out infection and neutralizes toxins. When the pain subsides, you will know that the poultice has accomplished its task and should be removed. Apply fresh poultices as needed until the desired level of healing has been reached.
Herbs commonly used in poultices
Comfrey:used to break up congestion, draw out pus, and remove embedded particles from the skin.
Fenugreek, Flaxseed, and Slippery Elm:
Can be combined to treat inflammation. Slippery elm can also be used alone for the inflamed gangrenous sores often associated with diabetes, and for leg ulcers. The use of a slippery elm poultice upon the appearance of sores and ulcers can help prevent gangrene.
good for inflammations of all kinds.
used for inflamed hemorrhoids, lung disorders, mumps, tonsillitis, and sore throat. To make the poultice, mix 4 parts mullein with 1 part hot apple cider vinegar and 1 part water.
beneficial for inflammation, lung congestion, and swelling, and can help relax tense muscles. Because mustard is an irritant, place the mixture between 2 pieces of cloth, rather than placing it in direct contact with the skin. You can also mix some egg white into the mustard to prevent burning. Leave mustard plaster on chest for 10-20 minutes.
excellent for ear infections, boils and sores that have difficulty healing. To make this poultice, place finely chopped onion between 2 pieces of cloth, rather than placing it in direct contact with the skin. I have had great success with using pure onion juice can also go directly into the ear canal to treat an earache. Just grate a little bit of onion, squeeze out the juice and let a few drops (3-5) go into the ear canal. Rest with that ear facing up and wait 30 minutes and it brings good relief and healing.
a super-power herb that is effective in so many ways. It is like a fix-all. Just be careful not to leave it on too long - 1 to 5 minutes - or it will cause a chemical burn. Place crushed bulbs in a folded paper towel and then in hot water for 3-5 seconds, press excess water out and place on chest, feet or wherever needed for effective healing. (The soles of feet are a natural port on the body for drawing out infections so it is a good spot no matter what the problem is.) Click here for a great tutorial on making a garlic poultice.
Store dried herbs in a sealed bag or container in a cool dry place.
Note: that when a mixture that's used to make a poultice contains an irritant, such as mustard, it should not come into direct contact with the skin, but should be placed between pieces of cloth. An added protective measure is to rub some olive oil over the skin prior to placing garlic or mustard poultices to further protect the skin from chemical burns. This will also increase the treatment time.