How to make an herbal poultice to help treat inflammation

HHerbs and spices feature prominently in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) thanks to their natural healing properties, making them a balm for everything from indigestion and menstrual cramps to overworked muscles. While ingesting them through supplements or herbal teas is certainly a solid way to reap their benefits, learning how to make an herbal poultice — a topical paste made from dried herbs or essential oils — can lend itself to an entirely separate list of benefits. potentials.

Just as you might spread a foot cream with active ingredients to soothe sore arches, applying a poultice loaded with anti-inflammatory herbs and roots essentially brings the ingredients’ healing powers to where they’re needed. To create a poultice, you would combine some pulverized or powdered herbs (more on this below) with a carrier oil or binding agent, such as flour or honey, apply the mixture to your skin, and secure it in place with a piece of gauze. or a cotton cloth.

“When something gets stuck, it slows down the energy flow within the body, which can cause inflammation and pain. Adding a warm application of herbs can help restore that circulation.” —Giselle Wasfie, DACM

Poultices work by gently invigorating the flow of what is called Qi in TCM, or energy that moves along the channels of the body from the organs to the extremities. “When something is stuck or blocked, it slows down the normal energy flow within the body, which can cause inflammation and pain. But adding a warm application of herbs can help restore that circulation,” says acupuncturist and herbalist Giselle Wasfie, LAc, DACM, founder of Remix Lifestyle, a Chicago-based acupuncture studio and product line. And in the midst of winter, a time that brings more tension and stillness to the body in general, according to traditional Chinese medicine, a warm herbal poultice can feel as nourishing to the soul as it is to the body.

Who Might Use Poultices (and Limitations You Need to Know)

Poultices generally work best for problems stemming from inflammation, says Dr. Wasfie. In particular, you are likely to feel the strongest healing effect for any irritation that is on or near the skin’s surface (where it is most accessible by the poultice), such as a sunburn or bruise. That said, if you add heat to a poultice by covering it with a heating pad or using warm water to make the paste, it will naturally trigger the herbs to absorb further into the skin, says Dr. Wasfie, making this more Effective tack to help relieve deeper inflammatory issues, such as a chest cough, joint pain, or sprained ankle, with a few consecutive daily applications.

That said, for conditions like these, Dr. Wasfie suggests seeking the care of a licensed TCM practitioner rather than treating yourself (especially if you haven’t used an herbal poultice before). While research has shown the potential for topical application of medicinal plants to help heal inflammatory conditions, and separate studies on individual substances like turmeric, ginger, and castor oil have shown their unique anti-inflammatory effects, it’s always possible that a particular injury or illness requires a more intensive type of treatment.

And because herbal poultices are topical remedies, Dr. Wasfie also suggests avoiding placing one near any open wounds or eczema to prevent a negative reaction. While poultices are not known to interact with any medications, she also recommends not using one if you’re taking heart medication or a blood thinner, and generally telling your TCM doctor about any medications you’re taking, as well as any underlying conditions. (In that regard, Dr. Wasfie also doesn’t suggest using a poultice for pregnant people.)

How To Make An Herbal Poultice To Help Naturally Resolve 4 Different Conditions

Before applying a poultice, Dr. Wasfie says to do a patch test to rule out any skin sensitivity: Simply place a small amount of the herbs or oils you’ll be using on a non-irritated part of your skin and leave it there. for a few minutes. If you notice redness or another reaction, stop, remove the substance, and wash the area with mild soap and water. If not, you can feel comfortable walking out with a full poultice.

Below, Dr. Wasfie shares how to make an herbal poultice especially well-suited for four common problems related to inflammation. Once you find one that works for you in a first application, you can use it daily or weekly, as you see fit.

1. For chest pain or cough: mustard seed poultice

Start by pulverizing the mustard seeds with a mortar and pestle (or just use a mustard seed powder) and mix with enough flour and warm water to create a paste. In this case, Dr. Wasfie suggests brushing the paste onto the cheesecloth or gauze he’ll be using and first applying a layer of petroleum-free petroleum jelly to the chest or back before applying the poultice. Because the mustard seed is extra potent, it helps protect the skin while leaving the poultice in place for 10 to 15 minutes.

2. For a bruise or swelling of the skin: poultice of frankincense and myrrh

First, give the bruise or swollen area about 24 hours from the time the injury occurred (during which time you can apply ice to reduce swelling) before making a poultice. After that point, blend the organic frankincense and myrrh essential oils with organic sesame or organic olive oil and a little flour or honey to thicken the mixture. Brush it over the area, cover it with plastic wrap, and then place a heating pad over the poultice for about 20 minutes.

3. For menstrual cramps: castor oil poultice

Start by mixing organic castor oil with moxa essential oil. (This comes from the same herb, mugwort herb, that is used in TCM moxa treatments.) As with the above, Dr. Wasfie says that he can make the mixture into a paste by adding a bit of flour or honey, if desired. inclined. Then apply it to a cotton cloth and place the cloth on the lower abdomen, just below the navel. Lay one layer on a heating pad and relax for about 25 minutes.

4. For pain related to arthritis, carpal tunnel and knee or ankle pain: turmeric or ginger poultice

Both turmeric and ginger are powerful antioxidants that can effectively penetrate the skin when applied as a poultice and help resolve the deeper layers of inflammation typical of these sore muscles. You can dissolve turmeric powder or ginger powder in warm water, apply the paste to a gauze pad, and cover the sore area with the poultice. (Just be aware that if you choose to go the turmeric route, it might temporarily stain your skin a bit yellow.) Place a heating pad over the poultice and sit for about 20 minutes.

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