Updated: Dec 28, 2020
The only difference between humans and nature is the form in which we embody and understand the elements. All organic matter is designed to compliment and work in tandem. For every disharmony there is a remedy. Natural remedies should be instinctive and intuitive. Using topical herbs like poultices are a great way to get in touch with mother nature's medicine because you can visually see the herbs working their magic.
What is an herbal poultice you ask? It is broken down plant material used topically to relieve skin issues, bee stings, cuts, and accelerates wound healing. Historically, the plant material is broken down with your own saliva by masticating the plant just enough to release its constituents (healing properties) and placing directly on the wound. Saliva is a great healer itself! Although now there are a few ways, without saliva, of creating a poultice these days. Hundreds of herbs can be used on the skin for healing but today I'll just be briefing you on the 3 of my favorite, most common, accessible, and sustainable plant materials for rashes, bee stings, insect bites, acne, and wound healing.
Meet the herbs:
Let's begin with an herb you can probably find growing in abundance in your backyard already. You may consider this to be a weed but we consider it to be nature's band-aid! Any guesses? If you guessed common plantain leaf, you are correct! Plantain leaf has some incredible properties, as does many of the "weeds" we pull out and spray in our lawns and gardens. Dandelion flower is number two on this list. Again, probably lurking somewhere in your lawn already, ready for you to adopt its bitter and astringent medicine ;). Last plant extract on this list is white willow bark. It may or may not be in your backyard. Nonetheless, this herb can be easily found in your local apothecary or bulk herb shop, natural food store, or you can find it here online.
Topical Herbal Actions:
Common Plantain leaf: contains allantoin which encourages new tissue growth and protects the skin
- analgesic (pain reliever)
- emollient (soothes and conditions skin)
- vulnerary (encourages healing process of wounds)
- demulcent (encourages formation of a slime like lubrication for wounded mucous membranes) when taken internally.
Dandelion flowers: contains higher Vitamin A content than found in carrots (vital for wound healing and scar prevention!)
- cell regenerative
- tonic & astringent (in this case think of it as an sebum & oil regulator as well as toxin eliminator)
- alterative (can help bring balance back into bodily functions) when taken as a tea or eating the flowers, roots, or leaves
White willow bark: contains the purest form of salicylic acid that is non irritating to the skin. Nature's aspirin and natural acne fighter!
- analgesic (especially when taken as a tea internally it can relieve mild headaches and cramps)
Rashes, Cuts, Scrapes, Bee stings, & Insect bites: Plantain leaf and white willow bark are most appropriate for fresh cuts, scrapes, insect bites, bee stings, and rashes because they are cooling in nature. This provides a Yin response to the Yang reaction your body is having. This 1st aid power duo help to alleviate pain, itching, swelling, and reduces redness. It also stimulates cell regeneration with the naturally occurring chlorophyll content that is anti-inflammatory and detoxing in nature. This topical method can help draw out the allergen causing the reaction & kill bad bacteria.
Mild Acne & Blemishes: Inflammatory skin conditions are not always due to excess yang so the principle above doesn't work the same in this case. Any or all 3 of the above herbs can work for this ailment though. Cystic acne would benefit greatly from white willow bark alone but also paired with the astringent dandelion flower to help detox from deeper layers of the skin. Plantain will help lower inflammation, limit dryness, and help heal the acne. Dandelion will help draw out impurities and help with scar prevention and healing. Now that we know where salicylic acid comes from, white willow bark is a no-brainer to have on hand for acneic skin! If your skin ailment is dry and itchy (yin) in nature use less white willow bark and more plantain. If your skin is more oily or "wet" use less plantain or sub completely with any part of the dandelion flower, leaf, or root.
Making The Poultice: 2 ways
You can make the poultice one of two ways, depending if you have dried or fresh herbs to work with. If you are mixing the herbs use about a 1:1 ratio, otherwise just use enough to fit the area you are trying to address. A few dandelion flowers or leaves will do for a fresh poultice. Since we're working with open wounds and acne bacteria, never reuse the same herbs twice to avoid bacterial contamination and always wash your reusable cloths in-between compresses to ensure a clean application.
Fresh Herb Poultice: Masticate the fresh herbs just enough to release its properties and directly apply to the skin for as long as you need a few times a day until healed. You may also use a mortar and pestle to mash the fresh herbs into a paste using a little water and honey. For longer applications you can wrap with first aid materials.
Dry Herb Poultice/Compress: Make your herb blend (1 tsp of each hrb or 1 T of one herb). Stuff your blend into a reusable cotton tea sachet or wrap in muslin cloth and pour hot water over it. Let it steep for 1- 2 minutes just to soften the herbs and activate its properties. You don't want the properties of the herbs to be completely drained! Always test the temperature of your poultice compress before applying to make sure it is temperature safe for your skin and won't burn your wound. Apply to the skin a few times a day until healed.
Application Tip From Jessica:
I like to perform self-reiki and meditation while i'm using a poultice to enhance its properties and healing time. I simply imagine the heat, inflammation, or pain of the wound being extracted with my palms. It's especially powerful when i'm using raw plant materials when their energy is most potent! Always shake your hands afterwards and rinse with cold water to remove the dead energy. Remember to breathe too when practicing this! The lungs are our 2nd skin and help to relieve symptoms of imbalance that show up in the skin such as acne and eczema. It is also a great tool to use when you are experiencing pain, such as a bee sting! Deep breath in, deep breath out. Relax. You are the facilitator in which your body can be the healer.
A few words...
Inhale to invite balance, exhale to release the uninvited. In between each cycle of breath is where we experience harmony. Over time as we work on each breath, that in-between glimpse of harmony becomes our reality. If you wish to live in harmony, you must constantly pursue balance.
Licenced Esthetician, Holistic Esthetician, Founder, & Herbal Formulator