What Are Herbal Compresses and Poultices?

In ancient times, a poultice was once a piece of bread or scoop of mashed potato that was soaked in an herbal extract. It was a common technique used to treat minor injuries and other ailments. Today, a poultice can be made at home using freshly chopped herbs and applied to the skin when hot. Another similar method of topical herbal treatment is a compress. In this article, you will learn more about both.




To make an herbal poultice at home, you will need to get a saucepan and gauze (or cotton strips) as your equipment. The parts of a plant that are used to make poultices are whole parts that are either dried or fresh, but chopped into pieces. The standard quantity to aim for when making a poultice is to use enough herbs that will efficiently cover the area you intend on treating. Once completed, a poultice should be applied every two to four hours and in some cases, more frequently.


To create an herbal poultice, you will first boil the herb of your choice that corresponds to the ailment you wish to treat. After the herb has been boiled, it is important to squeeze out any extra liquid. Next, you will place the herb onto the affected area. For example, freshly chopped pot marigold is used to treat varicose ulcers. You should know that spreading oil on the skin before applying boiled herbs will help to keep them from sticking to the skin. Once the herb is on the skin, you will apply gauze or cotton strips to the herbs in order to hold the poultice in place.




An herbal compress is a cloth that has been soaked in a heated or cold herbal extract. Most compresses are made to treat painful joints and muscles, but other remedies are associated with a compress, including the treatment of skin irritations and rashes. A cold compress is also known to ease headaches. The cloth used for the compress is sometimes soaked in an infusion, decoction, or tincture that has been diluted using hot or cold water. Depending on the type of herbs you choose from a compress, an old tea towel is often chosen, as well as muslin, or cotton wrapped with a surgical-type of gauze.


To make an herbal compress, you will need a cloth pad and a bowl. The standard amount of infusion or decoction for a compress is 500 ml, while 50 ml of tincture is adequate for a compress as well. All of the above should be diluted using 500 ml of hot or cold water. When applying a compress, there is no limit to the amount of times it can be used. The process of creating an herbal compress begins with soaking a clean piece of soft cloth in a hot infusion or other herbal extract. The excess liquid should be squeezed out. Next, you should hold the pad against the body part you wish to treat. When it cools or dries, it is suggested to repeat the process using a hot mixture.


To get an idea of the type of ailments that a compress or poultice is associated with and what kind of herbs to choose, check out the article titled, “Herbal Compress and Poultice Ideas.”