How to Make a Poultice

Karen Frazier
Herbs make effective poultices.

If you've ever read about the healing powers of poultices, then you might be wondering how to make a poultice. This article will outline the benefits of using a poultice and then will describe how to make a poultice.

What Is a Poultice?

A poultice is a therapeutic substance that is applied to a cloth over a wounded or hurting area on the body. It is usually warm and moist and has some therapeutic effect for the injury to which it is being applied. Many poultices contain herbs.

Poultices are also known as cataplasms. They have been in use for centuries to treat a variety of conditions - with varying degrees of success.

The word poultice actually means "porridge." This is an apt name because a poultice commonly resembles a porridge, and ingredients in poultices were often traditionally made of food or other edibles.

Conditions Treated with a Poultice

Poultices are commonly used to treat a number of mild conditions including:

  • Congestion
  • Aches and pains
  • Skin conditions and rashes
  • Inflammation and swelling
  • Boils
  • Acne
  • Minor skin irritation
  • Insect stings
  • Bruises

How to Make a Poultice from Dried Herbs

The following steps outline the general principles behind making a poultice. Poultices for specific conditions will be discussed in later sections after you've learned how to make a poultice.

What You Will Need

  • Dried herbs
  • Coffee grinder, food processor or mortar and pestle
  • Warm water
  • Gauze or gauzy material
  • Plastic wrap
  • Towel
  • Safety pin


  1. Select the herbs that you will be using for your poultice.
  2. Using a mortar and pestle, grind the herbs into a fine powder. You may also use a small coffee grinder or food processor for this step.
  3. Add a small amount of warm water to the herbs. You just want to add enough water to make a thick paste that spreads easily.
  4. Cut a piece of gauze large enough to cover the affected area.
  5. Spread the herbal paste over the gauze.
  6. Carefully wash the affected area before applying the herbal paste
  7. Place the gauze on the clean, dry, affected area to cover it.
  8. Wrap the poultice with plastic wrap.
  9. Wrap a towel around the poultice and secure it with a safety pin.
  10. Keep the poultice in place as prescribed. Replace with a fresh poultice as needed.

Fresh Herb Poultices

Poultices from fresh herbs are made a little bit differently.

What You Will Need

  • One half to one cup of fresh herbs
  • Saucepan
  • One cup of simmering water
  • Gauze
  • Plastic wrap
  • Towel
  • Safety pin


  1. Chop one half to one cup of herbs.
  2. Place in a pan with one cup of water.
  3. Bring the water to a simmer, and simmer for two minutes.
  4. Don't drain the herbs, but do remove the excess water.
  5. Place the herbs on a piece of gauze.
  6. Follow steps six through ten in the previous section.

Herbs that Can Be Used in Poultices

There are a number of herbs - both fresh and dried - that can be used to prepare a poultice. Below are just a few herbs to try and the conditions that they treat.

  • Goldenseal: This herb can be used to treat inflammation and irritation.
  • Lobelia and Charcoal: This combination can be used to take the sting out of insect bites and stings.
  • Mullein: A mullein poultice can treat a sore throat, lung inflammation and hemorrhoids. To make the poultice, replace the water with warm apple cider vinegar.
  • Mustard: Mustard is commonly used to treat inflammation, lung congestion and swelling. Mustard poultices should be placed between two pieces of cloth rather than in direct contact with the skin.
  • Elderberry: An elderberry poultice can be used to relieve hemorrhoid pain and itching.
  • Slippery Elm and Lobelia: This powerful combination of slippery elm and lobelia is used as a treatment for the pain of rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Onion: Onion poultices can be used to treat sores that don't heal well and boils. Onion poultices are made by mincing onions and placing them between two pieces of cloth rather than placing the onion directly on the skin.
  • Sage: Sage can be used to help relieve breast pain and inflammation.
  • Dandelion: Dandelion can be used in a poultice to treat disorders of the skin, including acne, eczema and itching. It can also treat psoriasis and rashes.
  • Sage and Vinegar: This preparation can be used to treat bruising. To create the poultice, use the steps in the fresh herb preparation above, replacing the water with vinegar. Simmer for five minutes.
  • Comfrey: Comfrey can be used to draw out foreign objects like stingers or splinters. It can also be used on cuts and scrapes.

Poultices are simple to make and can help to relieve mild symptoms ranging from congestion to inflammation. If more severe symptoms are present, or if symptoms aren't relieved by the poultice after a reasonable period of time, you may want to contact your personal health care provider.

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How to Make a Poultice