DIY: Poultices

Last week, my boyfriend had an accident at work. He stumbled at the edge of a loading dock and fell between the dock and the lift gate of a delivery truck. Luckily, he escaped with only bruises on his hips, ribs and elbow, but he was in a lot of pain. I took the opportunity to try making my first poultice, which is an amazingly underused herbal home remedy for bruising, swelling and muscle pain.

There are many ways to make a poultice. You can make the simplest kind of all by just making a tea out of a demulcent herb (comfrey, plantain, mullein, etc.). Because my boyfriend suffered some bad bruising, I decided to kick it up a notch and use a vinegar/sage poultice, which supposedly helps bring the bruises to the surface of the skin, reduce swelling and ease pain.

I simply simmered equal parts water and white vinegar with St. John’s Wort (an herb famous for its healing properties) for about ten minutes. I then added two large bunches of sage which I had crushed a bit with a pestle. This mixture sat for about five minutes, and then I placed the soaked sage bunches into a towel.

The trick is to apply the poultice as hot as the “patient” can stand. But be careful! When you are using the actual herbs in the poultice, remember that they retain heat much longer than if you only used a towel soaked in the poultice infusion.

After applying the poultice, cover it with a dry towel to seal in the heat for as long as possible, and leave it on for 30-60 minutes.

We did this twice on the day he was injured and it seemed to help immensely (though the bedroom smelled like an herbal salad!).

It’s a great idea to stock up on some healing herbs like those mentioned here, and old towels so you will be ready to prepare poultices as needed. Use your old towels or dark-colored towels, as herbal infusions tend to stain. But all in all, they are super easy to make and are very effective.