These days, it’s easy for us to focus on internal medicines, such as painkillers or over-the-counter topical treatments, all of which are full of unnatural toxins. Nature already provides everything we need to take care of our health!
Native Americans used poultices, as did the pioneers. But what’s a poultice?
A poultice is a way to use herbalism topically to reduce swelling, inflammation, aches and pains, and irritated skin. It is ideal for treating arthritis, gout, burns, cuts, sprains, pulled or strained muscles, general aches, eczema, psoriasis, insect bites, and rashes. It’s the process of crushing herbs into a pulp or making them into a paste and spreading them on the skin. A cloth bandage keeps the herbs in place. If you don’t have a bandage, a large leaf can work just the same! This makes a poultice an ideal first-aid treatment when you are outdoors.
How Does a Poultice Work?
When healing herbs are applied to the skin, they are absorbed, and their beneficial characteristics can pull out infections, keep the area protected, reduce inflammation and begin the healing process.
Additionally, warming the poultice can aid in circulation, which is beneficial for treating gout, sprains, arthritis and other aches and pains.
Cooling the poultice can help to relieve the pain of burns, skin irritants, rashes, insect bites and even sunburn.
What Herbs are Best for Making a Poultice?
One thing to remember when selecting herbs to use for a poultice is that if you can’t ingest the herb internally, it might not be good to use on your skin, either. This is because once you apply the herbs to your skin, their properties will be absorbed into your body. There are exceptions to this, of course, but for a beginner herbalist, it’s best to follow this rule.
The following herbs are commonly found in nature or can be grown at home. Furthermore, they are all safe to use for medicinal purposes.
Dandelion leaves are found almost everywhere in warm clients. The abundance of dandelions makes them easy to find during an emergency, as well. They are high in antioxidants, are a natural anti-inflammatory, are antimicrobial, and antifungal.
Furthermore, dandelions are high in vitamin C, fiber, potassium, iron, magnesium, calcium, zinc and phosphorus when ingested. They have been known to help treat aches and pains, boost the immune system, and are a good digestive aid. Additionally, dandelion can assist with high blood pressure and diabetes.
Calendula (flower petals):
Calendula is a beautiful flowering plant which grows naturally in nature and is easy to grow at home, as well. In fact, it’s part of the marigold family. When applied to the skin, calendula petals can reduce pain, inflammation, muscle spasms and swelling. Furthermore, calendula is antimicrobial and antiviral, so it’s ideal for pulling out infection and protecting wounds. It’s also a natural astringent, so it’s good for treating mouth wounds, such as ulcers. You can chew on a wad of petals to help with any mouth pain and to support overall oral health.
Chickweed (leaves and stem):
Chickweed grows abundantly and is easy to find once you can identify it. You can grow your own chickweed, as well. Chickweed has a lot of the same properties and nutritional value as dandelion does, as it’s high in vitamin C and is an immune system booster. Many people eat it in their salads daily. For a poultice, it’s a natural anti-inflammatory, so it’s useful for reducing aches and pains. Additionally, when applied to the skin, chickweed is good for treating various skin conditions such as skin wounds, burns, rashes, insect bites, ulcers and symptoms of eczema and psoriasis.
Plantain is a weedy plant found all over North America. Once you can identify it, you will probably see it growing right in your backyard and in the cracks of your walkway. The most common use of plantain leaves is to treat skin ailments. It’s a natural anti-inflammatory, calming, and healing agent. It’s good for conditions such as aches and pains, rashes, eczema, psoriasis, insect bites, sunburn, burns and cuts. You also can chew on plantain leaves to treat mouth conditions and to support oral health. When ingested internally, plantain supports the immune system and eye and bone health.
How to Make a Poultice With Dried Herbs
This is the easiest method to make a poultice, because there is less mashing involved. If you prefer to stockpile on dried herbs, it’s good to gather or grow the mentioned herbs on a regular basis and let them dry out. That way, you always will have them on hand when you need them. Keep in mind, however, that dried herbs will lose potency over time.
- Take the desired amount of dried herbs and place them in a small bowl, or use a mortar and pestle.
- Add a few drops of water at a time and lightly mix until you form a thick paste. You can use hot or cold water for this process.
- Spread the paste over the affected area.
- Wrap with gauze or cover with a bandage.
- Leave it on until the herbs dry out and repeat as needed.
How to Make a Poultice With Fresh Herbs
If you grow the mentioned herbs yourself or have them growing nearby, you can use this method of making a poultice. Additionally, if you find yourself outdoors and in need of first-aid treatment, the mentioned herbs are readily found in nature. Fresh herbs are very potent, as well.
- Estimate the amount of herbs you will need and harvest them fresh from the plant.
- Chop the herbs up in small pieces with a knife.
- Use a mortar and pestle to crush the herbs until they become a pulp. You want to see juices flowing.
- Spread the pulp onto the affected area of the skin.
- Wrap the area with a gauze or cover with a bandage.
- If you are outdoors, find a way to cut and mash the herbs, then use a large leaf to cover the herbs and either keep the pressure on it yourself or find a way to wrap it to the affected area.
- Repeat as needed.
Easy to make and use, poultices are a fundamental part of any herbal medicinal chest.
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