Where a fomentation uses the application of a flannel or cloth soaked in and strained from a decoction or infusion; a poultice involves placing the herbs themselves onto the body. Poultices have numerous applications, by supplying heat and moisture to an area:
- they provide healing and regeneration to tissues,
- stimulate circulation,
- improve organ functioning,
- can be used for eruptions, abscesses, for enlarged or inflamed glands;
- used to reduce inflammation and help pull foreign bodies or substances from an area,
- promote the resolution of boils, and hasten the healing of irritable ulcers and foul-smelling wounds.
- Hot poultices applied externally can be used for respiratory conditions such as pneumonia, bronchitis and congestion.
- Bruise, grind or crush the medicinal parts of the plant (dried or fresh) to a pulpy mass. If fresh plants are being used, chop them finely before use.
- Add just enough moisture (hot water or brewed herbal tea) to make a thick paste; the herbs can be mixed with moistened slippery elm bark, corn meal, or flaxseed for additional drawing power.
- First wash / disinfect the skin with a rinse of chamomile or calendula tea or tincture. Then cover the skin, with a thin layer of vegetable oil (almond oil, grapeseed oil, or olive oil) to protect the skin and assist in easy removal of the herbs and promote the absorption of the medicinal properties through the skin.
- Apply the poultice herbs directly to the skin or wrap the paste / pulp in a wet, hot cloth (muslin or a towel), cover with saran wrap or plastic to retain heat and secure in place.
- For a poultice to be effective, it should be kept moist and warm by using a hot water bottle or heating pad on top of the pack.
- Remove before poultice gets cold. A second poultice can be applied. After removing wash the area with water, herb tea or antiseptic tinctures such as chamomile or calendula. Repeat daily until the condition clears.
Note: If using irritant herbs such as mustard or onion in a poultice, ensure that the skin is protected with a thin application of oil and keep the paste between two pieces of cloth to prevent direct contact with the skin. If the temperature is too high, the skin may blister or burn from hot temperatures. If a condition continues immediately consult your herbalist or health care practitioner.
Onion Poultice: Onion is one of the oldest and most versatile kitchen herbs. Excellent for drawing out impurities. A high sulfur content makes it ideal for inflamed areas. Traditionally onion preparations have been especially effective for colds and congestion, athlete’s foot, warts, athlete’s foot, muscle pain, and unsightly liver spots or dark blemishes. Yellow corn meal can be added into the onion poultice. Onion juice prepared from steamed or boiled onions was traditionally prescribed as a medicine to improve circulation, and digestion.
Onion Poultice: Prepare a thin cotton gauze or cloth old cotton towel or a piece of flannel (even a thin tea towel will work) of sufficient size to cover the area. Cut up onions very fine; heat them, not cook them too much but heat them; mixing with them – for this quantity – about a tablespoonful of corn meal. Spread this on the cloth, covering with a heavier cloth, – warm, not too hot, – and apply to the body. Use a hot water bottle to lie over the towel and let this heat for at least thirty minutes more. Remove the poultice.
Flax Seed Poultices: Flaxseed is a source of omega-3 acids and is valued for its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. For minor scrapes and infections, a flaxseed poultice is a useful healing aid. Grind 1 tablespoon of flaxseed with a mortar and pestle. Pour hot water over to moisten the flaxseed, and create a thick mulch, like the consistency of oatmeal, (not too runny and not too dry) apply to the skin.
Cabbage Poultice: Use raw or cooked cabbage. Can use whole leaves layered over area and covered with a hot towel. Has a warming, detoxifying and stimulating effect for ulcers, varicose veins, shingles, eczema, gout, rheumatism, infection. Apply to lower abdomen to promote pelvic circulation and assist to dissolve small fibroids and cysts in pelvic cavity. Used over the liver it will assist in breaking up congestion and detoxify. Cabbage leaves placed in the bra will help with engorged breasts.
Carrot Poultice: Boil carrots until soft or use raw and mash to a pulp. Mix with small amount of vegetable oil. Used for cysts, abnormal growths, boils, cold sores and impetigo.
Clay Poultice: Use clay that has been cleaned of impurities. Mix with water or apple cider vinegar to make a paste. Allow to dry completely before removing with warm water. Use on inflammatory skin diseases, bruises, sprains, acne, drawing toxins from the skin.
Mustard Poultice: Good for arthritic joints and any condition requiring increased circulation. Used to help relieve congestion, aid asthma, bronchitis, relieve coughs and assists in getting rid of colds and flu when used on the chest.
Use powdered mustard and mix with water to make a paste. May need to add flour to hold paste together. Place a thin layer of oil on the skin. Do not apply mustard directly on skin, instead wrap in a muslin or cheesecloth or cotton towel barrier between skin and paste. Cover with plastic wrap. Remove immediately if stinging or burning occurs. Use with caution. Do not use on sensitive or broken skin.
Potato Poultice: Grate raw potato, mix with boiling water. Used to reduce inflammation as in arthritis. Has soothing and cooling effect. Can be applied to boils or carbuncles.
Plantain Poultice (Nature’s Band-Aid) Plantago major or lanceolata: An invaluable remedy for scrapes and wounds, bee stings and burns; even drawing out foreign objects imbedded in the skin. Best gathered fresh, collect enough to cover the affected area. Mash it, grind it, or even chew it if necessary. Add enough water to create a thick paste. Apply the poultice HOT daily or as needed until the irritated area heals.