When people hear the word poultice, they think it’s some elaborate way to prepare herbs for healing purposes and some even say it has some kind of mystical connotation. There’s nothing further from the truth, and a poultice is simply another way to apply various herbs directly to the skin. As you will see in this article, these old home remedies are simple to make and use.
To make a poultice, you need to grind the herb into a paste with a mortar and pestle. Nowadays, most people prefer to use a food processor since it makes things much easier. Once you obtain a one-inch thick paste, you need to apply it directly to the affected area and hold it in place with a bandage. This will allow for the poultice to set and cure the affected area.
Depending on the issue, you could apply a warm or a cold poultice on the affected area. The warm poultice will stimulate blood circulation while the cold one will help soothe the injured area.
Using wild herbal poultices is perhaps one of the oldest methods of herbalism and thanks to the Native Americans and the early pioneers, we now know what wild plants were harvested and used to make healing products. In some parts of the country, people continue to do so, today and they rely on home-made remedies to treat healing issues, rather than spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on hospital visits.
Before I share some of my wild herb poultice recipes, there are a few things I need to mention. Things like how to make a fresh herb or a dry herb poultice, but also when to use said poultices.
Making a fresh herb poultice:
The methods of making poultices from fresh or dried herbs are a little different and it’s important to learn what to do, based on what herbs you have available. When you have plenty of wild herbs in your area and you are able to pick them fresh, you can just start to make the thick paste. You will need to make enough of it to cover the affected area and it’s better to pick more plants than you think you will be using. What won’t be used can be dried for later use.
There is no need to add liquid when making a fresh poultice since the natural moisture in the herbs will help create a paste.
Once you have the poultice ready, you need to cover the affected area with the paste and let it sit for a minute or two, before covering it. When the paste is spread evenly, you need to cover and secure it tightly with a wrap or piece of muslin. I usually leave the paste on for several hours, usually when I’m sleeping. You can re-dress and apply as needed until the area heals.
Making a dried herb poultice
I dry and store various herbs that I can use during the winter season. I don’t like to waste resources and I often dry medicinal herbs that I pick during the warmer seasons. Using dry herbs to make a poultice is a simple process and there’s not much to it.
All you need is to choose your dried herbs and add them to the mortar. Pour a small quantity of warm water to rehydrate the herbs. Make sure to grind or turn into a powder the roots of herbs as you will not be able to create a paste from hard roots.
Depending on the quantity you are using, you may need to add more water to the mixture. However, once you reach the desired consistency, you can apply the herbs directly on the skin and cover tightly with a wrap. Leave on for a few hours and re-dress when needed.
When you use poultices
Most people use poultices to heal wounds, burns and scrapes, but that’s not all they are good for. You can also use them on the chest to help decongest and open airways. Some people also use them on the face, to treat various afflictions, but caution is required. You shouldn’t apply the herb directly on the skin on sensitive areas and it’s best to wrap the poultice in a thin piece of cloth before applying it in those areas.
Wild herbs poultice recipes
Here are some of the poultices I’ve been using and I have to tell you that these have become common remedies for my family and me. I rather use these natural remedies when herbs are available and I stay away from modern medicine whenever I can.
This is one of my favorite wild herbs, and I harvest the leaves all season long. It is considered a weed by many since it grows just about anywhere. However, a little bit of research will show you that Plantain has many medicinal uses. It can be used as an astringent, expectorant and anti-inflammatory, but it can also stop bleeding, sooth the skin and treat bee stings. Plantain tea is used to protect the liver and treat kidney stones.
To make Plantain poultice, you need to pick four or five leaves from the base of the plants. The older leaves contain more of the compounds that make plantain so effective as a poultice. Once you picked the leaves to make sure to clean away dirt, insects or other contaminants from the leaves. If you are stranded in the wild and water is in short supply, you can brush the leaves with whatever is available.
Mash the leaves using or mortar and pestle, or you can add a few leaves in your mouth and chew them until you obtain a paste. The poultice is ready once it smells like fresh wet grass clippings. Apply the mashed leaves to the skin and hold it in place using a piece of cloth. After a couple of hours, your plantain will dry up and may need to be replaced.
Related article: Plantain – A Common Weed With Medicinal Properties
Yarrow is a humble, overlooked plant that has many healing secrets. Besides quickly and effectively stopping bleeding it is also helpful in relieving fevers, shortening the duration of cold and flu, helping improve relaxation during illness, and relieving cramps associated with hormones or illness. Applied topically, it is helpful with skin itching, rash or other issues.
An external tincture or poultice, besides stopping bleeding, it will often help with hemorrhoids, rashes and broken skin.
To make yarrow, you need to pick some fresh leaves after properly identifying the plant. You will need to crush the leaves or chew them up, in order to release the juices of the plant. Place the poultice on your cut, scrape or wound and cover with a bandage.
I often dry yarrow leaves for tea, but I also use them to make poultices. To make a poultice using dried leaves (you can also buy them online), steep 1 tablespoon in 8 oz of hot water for 15 minutes then strain. Use the remaining liquid to moisten a clean cloth and place it on the affected area. As a word of advice, do a skin test before using the yarrow poultice because some people may be allergic to it.
This lovely flower is perhaps most commonly known as a first aid remedy for cuts and wounds. However, calendula can also be used internally as an antimicrobial to help the body resist pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Calendula has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, astringent, and is also a good herb for the skin.
My mother used to dry the flowers and keep them in jars for later use. I found out in my teen years that she was using the flowers to make poultices for wounds and skin rashes. If you use fresh flowers, you can take one flower and crush it using a mortar and pestle. However, if you use dried flowers, you will need two tablespoons of dried flowers and warm water to make a decent poultice.
Just like with the other recipes, put the paste directly on the wound or you can put a layer of cheesecloth on the skin first if you never used it before. Cover with the bandage and allow for a few hours to sit. Remove the wrap and rinse with cold water and allow the skin to dry before re-dressing.
Dandelion root poultice
For the Native Americans, dandelions were a prized culinary herb and this plant was considered a complete edible. It helped with the digestive system, it supports liver function and it’s also an appetite stimulant. These are just a few of the benefits that dandelions can provide and this plant is truly a versatile survival herb. Even dandelion root can be sued to make coffee or turned into a poultice that can treat skin disorders like acne, eczema, itching, psoriasis, rashes, abscesses and boils.
To make a simple dandelion poultice I use dried dandelion roots. Here is how I do it:
I use my food processor to grind one cup of dried dandelion roots until I obtain a fine powder. Once I obtain the powder, I add a small amount of warm water to form a thick paste. I then spread the paste over a piece of gauze and apply to the clean, dry, affected area. Personally, I use a piece of cloth to wrap the affected area and keep the poultice in place but some people also use plastic wrap or duct tape when nothing else is available. I keep it on the wound for at least three hours and repeat the process as necessary.
Suggested reading: 6 Wild Healing Plants You Should Use
Although Burdock is native to Europe and Northern Asia, thanks to the first settlers, this plant is now widespread throughout the United States where is seen as a weed. It is one of the wild healing plants that was widely used as a food source in Europe, but also for its medicinal properties.
When it comes to its healing properties, the root is principally employed, but the leaves and seeds are equally valuable. You can make a decoction using both root and seeds.
To make a poultice using burdock, here is what you need to do:
Start by gathering fresh leaves and make a poultice using a mortar and pestle. You don’t want to chew the leaves because the burdock leaves are hairy underneath and have a very bitter taste. Once you obtain a one-inch thick paste, you need to spread it over the affected area. The burdock poultice is used for any muscle, ligament, or tendon strain or sprain since it helps to reduce pain and inflammation besides speeding up the healing process.
I’ve never used dried leaves to make a poultice, but as I found out from my herbalist friends, it’s pretty easy to dry the leaves and reconstitute them with boiling water if you want to make a dry-leaf poultice.
As you saw in this article, making poultices from wild herbs is not a complicated task and everyone can try it. There are various wild healing plants in your area, regardless of where you live and it would be a shame not to use them. Learning how to make these poultices and what plants to use will become priceless knowledge when no doctor is around.
Rather than relying on modern medicine and pump your body full of chemicals try to discover the benefits these wild healing plants bring. Make sure you can correctly identify the plants before using them. If you have any doubts that it might not be the right plant, leave it be.