An age-old remedy - poultices! - McDowell's Herbal Treatments

Poultices are an age-old remedy for many conditions. The practice of applying poultices to the body goes back centuries and was a method in which medical results were achieved. It was also something which remains in our cultural consciousness - although we all know what a poultice is, very few of us actually use them at all or have never even seen them used...

stock poultice LRG

But what is a poultice? A poultice consists of herbs and other ingredients made into a paste and placed directly on the skin. This allows the ingredients to transfer their benefits and also draw out any toxins, depending on the ingredients. 

Lightly cook together in a little water until soft. Cool slightly, mash and apply to the chest while still warm. Cover with a soft cloth.

Poultices are used to apply remedies to a skin area using moist heat. Poultices can be kept warm by replacing it entirely or using a hot water bottle on top of pack. Do not allow poultice to become cold. Do not reuse poultices. Do not use a poultice on an open wound or burn.


Bruise or crush the medicinal parts of the plant to a pulpy mass and heat. If using dried herbs moisten the materials by mixing with a hot, soft, adhesive substance such as moist flour, corn meal, or flaxseed meal.

Apply directly on the skin or wrap the paste or pulp in a wet, hot cloth and wrap the cloth around to retain moisture and heat. If using an irritant herb such as mustard, keep the paste between two pieces of cloth to prevent direct contact with the skin. Use muslin or thin cotton towel to wrap herbs in and cover with towel or plastic to retain heat. Remove before poultice gets cold. A second one can be applied. After removing poultice wash the area with water or herb tea such as chamomile or mugwort.

Poultice treatments

Bran Poultice: Make a paste with hot water and bran, apply as hot as can be tolerated. Used for inflammations, strains, sprains, bruises.

Bread and Milk Poultice: mix together to make a paste. Used for bringing boils and abscesses to a head.

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. Used for ulcers, varicose veins, shingles, eczema, gout, rheumatism, infection. Apply to lower abdomen to promote pelvic circulation and dissolve small fibroids and cysts in pelvic cavity. Used over the liver it will assist in breaking up congestion and detoxify (use only 10 minutes first time and work up to more as it can cause a strong detoxification reaction).

Carrot Poultice: Boil carrots until soft or use raw and mash to a pulp. Mix with small amount of vegetable oil. Used for cysts, tumors, boils, cold sores, 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 before removing with warm water. Use on inflammatory skin diseases, bruises, sprains, acne, drawing toxins from the skin.

Mustard Poultice: Use powdered mustard and mix with water to make a paste. May need to add flour to hold paste together. Do not apply directly on skin. Wrap in muslin or cheesecloth or cotton towel 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. Good for arthritic joints and any condition requiring increased circulation. Used to help relieve congestion, aid asthma, relieve coughs and assists in getting rid of colds and flu when used on the chest.

Onion Poultice - Sautee chopped onion in oil add 1-2 tablespoons of flour and wrap in cheese cloth. Apply to area. Excellent for drawing out impurities. High sulfur content makes it good for inflamed areas.

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.

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McDowell's staff Herbalists can not diagnose your disease or illness. What they can do is offer a herbal program to assist with healing, after you have had advice from your doctor or specialist. If you have unexplained pain or symptoms, seek medical advice.

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