Let’s Create Some Herbal Medicine ~ Compresses

compresses

Compresses are pads or cloths saturated with herbal teas that are applied externally to heal skin traumas {wounds, rashes, skin infections, burns, scrapes, bites, and stings}, contusions, sprains, strains, muscle aches, and even organ congestion {a lack of proper blood flow that can lead to the functioning of an organ}. A warm compress is helpful for aches and infections, while a cool compress soothes itching or burning pain. You can keep a warm compress heated with a hot water bottle and a cool compress chilled with an ice pack wrapped in a towel.

Warm compresses have a wide variety of healing uses: Calendula tea in a warm compress helps heal wounds and varicose ulcers, rosemary tea in a warm compress helps relieve the pain of arthritis or sore muscles, and thyme tea in a warm compress will prevent or relieve surface infections. Cool compresses reduce heat and soothe: Chamomile tea in a cool compress eases the pain of sunburn or rashes, and lemon balm tea can be used as an antiviral compress and applied to chicken pox and other herpes outbreaks. You can make a compress from any absorbent material – muslin, flannel, towels, and even old T-shirts. We use washcloths because they are absorbent by nature and are often a convenient size to use.

Apply a compress for healing and restoring the skin and relieving inflammation in the joints and muscles.

Basic Compress:

Fold a soft cloth, saturate with a strong herb tea, and apply it to an area of the body in need of healing care – such as a bruise, strain, sprain, or inflammatory condition like an arthritic joint.

  1. Cut a piece of muslin, flannel, toweling, or a washcloth and fold it, if necessary, until it’s slightly larger than the affected area.
  2. Make a strong, dark tea by steeping 1 cup fresh or 1/2 cup dried herbs in 4 cups of purified water for about 20 minutes. If you’re preparing a warm compress, the tea is ready to apply to the affected area. If you’re preparing a cool compress, let the liquid cool.
  3. Soak the compress cloth in the tea. Remove the cloth from the liquid, letting it drip and squeezing lightly until it is thoroughly wet but not dripping.
  4. Apply the compress to the affected area. When a warm compress cools, reheat the liquid and renew the compress by dipping it into the liquid again. When a cool compress begins to feel dry or stiff, renew it by dipping it into the liquid again. You can also use a hot water bottle or ice pack.
  5. You can use the same liquid for 2 days or you can make a fresh batch for each application. When reusing the same liquid, you may wish to bring the liquid to a boil first, to kill any bacteria, and then turn off the heat and let it cool to the desired temperature.

Rash Compress:

The herbs in this formula are astringent, soothing, and healing. Use it for poison ivy and oak, hives, blackheads, and acne that does not come to a head for draining.

  • 1/2 cup fresh or 1/4 cup dried calendula flowers
  • 1/2 cup fresh or 1/4 cup dried yarrow leaf
  • 1/2 cup fresh or 1/4 cup dried gotu kola leaf
  • 1/2 cup fresh or 1/4 cup dried self-heal or peppermint herb
  • 4 cups purified water
  • 2 or 3 drops peppermint essential oil {optional; use for hot, itchy rashes like poison ivy and poison oak}
  • Washcloth, muslin, or other absorbent cloth

Combine the calendula, yarrow, gotu kola, self-heal or peppermint, and water in a covered saucepan. Stir thoroughly to combine. Bring it to a boil, reduce the heat, and gently simmer for about 20 minutes. Let it cool and strain out the herbs, but do not discard them. Add the optional peppermint essential oil, and stir to mix well. Lay your washcloth or other compress cloth in a bowl and ladle about 1/4 cup or more of the wet herbs, plus some of the tea, into the cloth. Gather the edges of the cloth around the herbs and secure with a tie, or hold the bundle closed.

Apply the herb compress to the affected area for 10 to 15 minutes. Return the bundle of herbs to the tea to soak for a few minutes, and apply the compress to the affected area again. Repeat one more time, for a total of three applications. Repeat this process two or three times daily, or as needed. You can also strain out the herbs, compost them, and just use the tea to soak your cloth.

Note: You can also apply St. John’s wort infused oil, calendula oil or cream, or aloe vera gel to your skin between compress sessions; add a few drops of peppermint oil to these oils as well to cool hot, itchy rashes

Ginger Compress:

This compress will help to relieve muscular or joint aches and pains, as well as speed healing and reduces the pain of injuries like strains or sprains. Ginger has a natural anti-inflammatory effect that reduces pain and swelling while increasing your circulation and the distribution of healing immune cells. Apply a ginger compress several times daily after you have used an ice-cold compress for 12 to 24 hours, as is usually medically recommended.

  • 1 ounce fresh or 1/2 ounce dried ginger root
  • 4 cups purified water
  • Washcloth, muslin,or other absorbent cloth

Combine the ginger and water in a saucepan, and stir to thoroughly combine. Bring to a boil, and gently simmer for 30 minutes. Sip 1/2 teaspoon of the ginger tea before you let it cool down; it should taste very spicy. If it doesn’t, add another ounce of fresh ginger {or 1/2 ounce dried} to the tea and let it simmer for an additional 10 minutes before cooling. {Ginger can vary in its spiciness.}

Let the mixture cool to a temperature that is hot, but tolerable. Fold a washcloth or other compress cloth until it’s slightly larger than the affected area, and dip it into the hot tea. Remove and squeeze gently, until the cloth is thoroughly wet but not dripping, and apply it to the injured area. Cover with a small plastic bag or plastic wrap {to prevent water loss} and then a small towel to keep in the heat; leave in place for 20 to 30 minutes.

You will feel the ginger compress cool down, but after about 20 minutes, you should feel it warming up again. This secondary feeling of warmth is due to the stimulating effect of the ginger itself. Leave the compress in place for 5 to 10 minutes after you feel this effect. Repeat the compress two to three times a day or as needed.