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How to Make and Use a Poultice

Updated July 20, 2017

Poultices have been used as natural remedies by many cultures throughout history. A poultice is a fairly simple method of utilising herbs, clay or other natural substances to treat a wound, infection or irritation on the skin or to affect deeper tissues. Most poultices work by helping to prevent infection or speed the healing process.

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Consult a health care professional before using a poultice for self-treatment.

  1. Select the herbs you would like to use in your poultice. This will depend on the effect you wish to achieve, as well as on the availability of herbs in your area. Be sure to research the effects and warnings associated with each herb you choose, to ensure that it is safe to use.

  2. Gather the herbs to be used in your poultice. If you maintain your own medicinal herb garden, you can pick the herbs yourself. Otherwise, many herbs can be purchased in health stores or at retailers online.

  3. Grind or crush the herbs to help release their medicinal phytochemicals. The amount of herbs needed for a poultice will depend on the herbs used. For some roots, seeds and barks, the phytochemicals can also be released by preparing a decoction. To make a decoction, boil the herbs until the water is reduced by half, cover the remaining liquid, and allow it to cool.

  4. Apply the herb to the affected area. If using ground or crushed herbs, mix one part herb with three parts water -- use less water, if necessary, to obtain a consistency that will adhere to the skin -- and then place the mixture directly on the skin. Cover with a cloth or small towel. If using a decoction, wet a cloth with the decoction and place the cloth onto the skin.

  5. Remove the poultice after two hours (or more, depending on your ailment). Replace it with a new poultice until the symptoms subside.

  6. Pour one cup of water into a bowl. Sprinkle clay over the water, allowing it to absorb the water and fall to the bottom of the bowl. Continue to do this until a thick, paste-like consistency is reached.

  7. Apply a thick layer of the clay mixture onto the affected area. Cover with a cloth; then cover the cloth with cling film, using medical tape to secure it in place.

  8. Remove the poultice after two hours (or more, depending on your ailment). Replace it with a new poultice until the symptoms subside.

  9. Place bread in a bowl and pour boiling water or hot (not boiled) milk over the bread.

  10. Wrap the soaked bread in cheesecloth or gauze. Allow the mixture to cool until it is just warm enough to safely be placed on the skin.

  11. Apply the poultice to the affected area. Replace with a new poultice two to three times per day or until symptoms subside.

  12. Tip

    While either fresh or dried herbs can be used in herbal poultices, many herbalists recommend using fresh herbs for optimal effectiveness.


    Before making any poultice, you should always check that the ingredients you have selected are safe for direct application onto the skin.

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Things You'll Need

  • Herbs, clay or bread
  • Water or milk
  • Cloth or small towel
  • Cling film
  • Medical tape
  • Cheesecloth or gauze

About the Author

Anna Krusinski

Anna Krusinski began writing, reporting, and editing in 2004. She has written on a wide range of topics including health and wellness, eco-friendly practices, local news and women's studies. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from Hunter College in New York City.

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