Many of us remember as children, being soothed by a grandmother’s home remedy. A sore throat, a bee sting from playing outdoors, or a stomach ache from eating too much candy seemed monumental to us at the time.
However, once grandma worked her magic, our ailments disappeared. Sitting amongst a small group of friends interested in natural remedies, I posed the question, “What was your grandmother’s favorite poultice?”.
Interestingly, each person had a different but equally useful answer.
How To Make A Poultice
A poultice was traditionally made by placing fresh plants or natural substances directly on the affected area. As always you have to match the appropriate plant or substance to the particular condition.
Disclaimer: Please remember that these are general remedies. For acute or serious chronic cases, you may need to work with a practitioner.
The inner part of an aloe leaf for instance is a very effective remedy for a minor kitchen burn.
In some Native American tribes, soft Mullein plant leaves soothed diaper rash when placed directly on a baby’s skin.
There is another preparation method: gather an herb or natural substance, mix it with water and make a paste to put on the affected area. You will hold this paste in place with a cloth. There are multiple benefits from this type of poultice.
Most of us already have the ingredients for a basic poultice, yet may not know how to make one, or what some of the benefits are.
A poultice can reduce infection, subdue inflammation, relieve itching, extract poison or toxins, and heal a wound or burn.
In general, follow these basic steps. Remember: assess the condition and if you need to seek medical attention for something serious, do not hesitate to do so.
- Gather a quarter cup of herbs or a natural substance to make a paste (i.e.: baking soda). If you are dealing with a smaller area you can cut this recipe in half.
- Mix ½ – ⅓ cup of hot water with the herbs or powder.
- Place the mixture on a cotton cloth about half the size of a normal washcloth.
- Lightly pat the mixture down.
- Turn the cloth over and place it on the affected area.
- Secure it with a tie or rubber band.
- Let the mixture soak into the skin for twenty minutes.
- Remove the cloth.
- Pat the area dry, gently.
- Reapply as needed depending on the condition.
Let’s start with the easiest condition first and move to those that are more challenging.
Subdue Inflamed Insect Bites And Mild Itching
My grandmother’s favorite poultice was baking soda or sodium bicarbonate.
As a child, it was the first natural remedy I learned to make myself. It has multiple uses that extend far beyond cooking.
Baking soda has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. It is an alkali, a soluble salt that interacts with acids.
Use the following steps as a remedy for bee stings and conditions that create mild itching.
1. Mix 3 tablespoons of baking soda with just enough water to make a paste.
2. Place the paste on the cloth.
3. Secure the cloth with a band and wait 20 minutes.
In the following cases, my friends had a unique memory of their grandmother healing an infection.
Now, let’s apply this basic process using the different substances my friends remembered their grandmothers using.
Extract Toxins, Poisons, And Heal Wounds Using Plantain
One of my friends had a grandmother from the Abenaki tribe in Vermont who swore by plantain poultices, a very traditional tribal remedy for skin ailments.
Plantain poultices are quite powerful. You will find this unassuming herb growing in lawns, along trails, in driveways, or neglected parking lots. Plantain leaves with ¼ cup to ⅓ cup of water will create a paste.
Plantain has very prominent veins that start at the base of the leaf and go up to the tip of the leaf. It is an analgesic, has a numbing effect on skin tissue combined with extraction power.
A seemingly mild herb, it contains allantoin and can promote rapid regeneration of healthy skin on ulceration, or abrasion.
Heal Chest Congestion And Coughs With Onion
One friend’s grandmother came from the Midwestern region of the US. She used onion poultices routinely on her large family as a cough remedy; when one person started coughing, soon, the family came down with the same ailment.
An onion poultice is easy to make, effective and very inexpensive. It is a wonderful traditional home remedy for bronchial infection.
Onion juice is an expectorant. When absorbed into the chest and the bronchioles, it loosens mucus and subdues inflammation.
Use a warm onion poultice if someone has a hard time breathing, has an upper respiratory infection, a sinus/upper respiratory infection, or a serious cough with mucus.
Onion poultices work for lingering coughs that do not seem to fade away. Actually, onions contain vitamins and minerals like quercetin, which helps enhance immunity.
Onions are high in Sulphur and are antibacterial. If you have very sensitive skin on your chest this remedy may not work for you because it may irritate your skin. Use your best judgement.
The method is quite easy:
- Slice two 1/4 inch slices from a medium sized onion.
- In a pan with a little bit of water warm the onions up for just a couple of minutes.
- Put them in a washcloth, a tea towel folded in half lengthwise, or square of clean cotton fabric.
- Make sure the onions are just warm, not hot.
- Place the slices side by side on the upper part of the chest.
- Leave the slices there, covered, for 20 minutes.
- Remove, dry the area, and cover up with warm comfortable clothing.
Heal Burns With An Aloe Poultice
Split the spine of an aloe leaf and open it, placing the gel side face down on an affected area
A friend who came from the Southwestern region of the US remembered her grandmother using aloe poultices. You can grow this plant very easily in a sunny window in your own home.
An aloe leaf is an excellent way to heal a minor burn. Simply cut a large leaf from the plant and split the leaf down the edge. Open it up and place the gel side face down on the affected area.
Aloe offers cool relief to sunburned or blistered skin. Aloe soothes, Is anti-inflammatory, dries quickly, and makes its own ‘band aid’ when the gel dries and forms a protective layer.
The gel repairs damaged cells. Its astringent quality tightens and tones the skin. Reapply as often as needed until the burn goes away.
One of my favorite proverbs says that: “If nothing is going well, call your grandmother.” If we cannot call her now, we can at least recall the simple wisdom that relieved our pain instantly.