What is a Poultice?
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A poultice is made from any organic substance, typically a mixture of (fresh) herbs and a very minute amount of base or essential oil that is usually heated and placed before an affected area, usually to help relieve pervasive and lasting pain, or inflammations. Poultices are amongst the oldest types of herbal remedies, as they are easily made, readily applied, and may even provide almost instant relief from the affliction.
Poultices can be made from any type of organic matter, typically in its fresh state. Seeds and nuts cannot be employed as a poultice, though roots, vines, braches, and sometimes even bark (if sufficiently softened via steam heating) can be pounded and employed as a poultice. Poultices typically employ fresh herbs, as they are easier to pound and apply to the afflicted area, although in the absence of fresh herbs you might always substitute dried herbs mixed with a little amount of oil (whether base oil, essential oil, or a mixture of both), to act as a moistening agent that will help bind the dry herbs intended for use.
What are poultices used for?
Poultices are typically employed to provide quick and ready relief from aches and pains, cramping, concussions, broken bones, and any sort of inflammatory problem. The most common use of a poultice is in preventing the worsening (i. e. swelling) of injuries such as sprains, broken bones, and sore muscles. It may even be employed to help relieve the pain of tired and aching muscles after a hard day's work, or a long session of sports. Because poultices are applied topically (that is, upon the skin, typically over or near the injured area), they work in much the same way as liniments or salves, but are quicker to make than either of the two in a pinch. Poultices also work great for staunching and disinfecting minor wounds and sores. Poultices are excellent emergency medicines, since you can always carry a bag of fresh herbs to use for healing if you go out to camp or hike, in order to have some kind of precautionary measure against possible injury.
How are poultices made?
Poultices are typically made from a wide assortment of fresh herbs that are ground into a paste or otherwise bruised using a blunt instrument (more commonly a wooden spoon or a mortar and pestle). If dried herbs are being used, they may be bruised or ground into a fine powder, and a binder consisting of a mixture of a base oil and an essential oil (or oils) of your choosing is then added in very minute amounts to the concoction to enable a 'binding' to occur. The poultice can then be eiter heated or directly applied without heat to the affected area.
In cases where you have to apply a poultice to an effected part immediately, heating may not be reasonable as it takes too long a time to accomplish. Granted the time however, you may choose to heat the poultice by simply putting it into a clean, sterile cotton or linen square which you may choose to either bind or simply leave open. You may then place the unheated poultice in a bamboo or stainless steel steamer (bamboo steamers are a much better choice), and place it over simmering or boiling water for a few minutes prior to application, making sure of course that the heated pads are of a tolerable temperature prior to applying them to the affected area. As a general rule, heated pads are far more effective than unheated ones, since heat opens up dermal pores, allowing the essences of the herbs and their active constituent compounds to be absorbed faster and more efficiently.
It should be noted that some poultices can cause an allergic reaction to some people, as the herb, or some organic matter (if it is comprised of more than one herb or oil) may be an allergen to the person using it, or it may be a naturally allergic substance. As with all herbal remedies, exercise caution when creating and employing poultices. This web site is not medical advice nor a recommendation to self-medicate.
Main article researched and created by Alexander Leonhardt, © herbs-info.com 2013
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