Poultice Natural Remedy: What Is It for?

Poultices have been part of natural medicine since ancient times. Although nowadays they aren't a common treatment, they can still be used to treat certain ailments.

Last update: 13 October, 2021

A poultice natural remedy is a topical paste obtained from plants and other substances with medicinal properties. The preparation usually has a soft, warm, and moist texture. It’s applied to the painful area to reduce inflammation.

This natural remedy can be applied in case of superficial burns, insect bites, muscle tension, congestion, among other health problems. How does it work? What are its benefits?

In the following article, we want to tell you all about it.

Types of poultices

As a natural remedy, a poultice can be classified into several types, according to its properties and uses. The most common are the following:

  • Astringents. Their purpose is to clean and disinfect the skin. In addition, their properties cause the skin to contract.
  • Hot poultices. In its traditional form, this type of poultice is hot and it soothes ailments and trauma. Also, one of its most common uses is muscle relaxation.
  • Vulnerary. They have antimicrobial, healing, and soothing activity. Because of this, they’re considered adjuvants in cases of open wounds. However, evidence is insufficient and they shouldn’t be a first-choice treatment.

The main uses of poultices

poultices in a bowl
A poultice is a paste that we can obtain from plants with medicinal properties.

As we’ve mentioned, poultices have several uses in natural medicine. It’s important to keep in mind that its use should be for these specific cases, as it doesn’t replace medical treatments. On the other hand, there’s a lack of solid studies that confirm the properties attributed to them.

Poultice for abscesses

An abscess is an accumulation of pus that originates from a bacterial infection or the presence of foreign substances. It often causes inflammation and pain. Although its treatment varies according to the cause, mild cases can improve with a poultice.

The moist heat given off by this natural remedy can help reduce the size of the abscess by facilitating its drainage. Epsom salt, which has anti-inflammatory and soothing properties, is recommended in this case, according to a Cleveland Clinic publication.

A poultice natural remedy for infections

Mild cases of external infection seem to improve naturally with the application of a poultice with herbs, mud, or clay. Although they don’t replace medical treatment with antibiotics and disinfectant products, they’re useful in specific cases where there isn’t any risk of complications.

A study published in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents found that a clay poultice can help fight certain types of infectious bacteria when applied to wounds. However, we still need more evidence to confirm this.

A poultice for cysts

Cysts are small sacs that can be filled with fluid, sebum, and a mixture of other substances. They appear almost anywhere on the body and vary in size depending on the type. In many cases, the solution is a surgical procedure that facilitates drainage.

However, when mild, applying a warm poultice may help. Using it several times a day reduces swelling and pain. In fact, it’s sometimes enough to promote drainage.

A cyst on skin
We can drain superficial cysts more easily if we apply poultices.

Poultices for diabetic ulcers

Since ancient times, poultices have been used as a remedy for diabetic ulcers. Historical data suggest that, at the end of the 19th century, a linseed poultice was used to soften the hard skin before cutting the diseased tissue in these patients.

In this regard, a study reported in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology determined that a Blechnum Orientale fern poultice seems to serve as an adjuvant for diabetic patients’ wounds. However, researchers performed the studies on animals. Therefore, we need more evidence.

Poultices for arthritis

Complementary treatment for arthritis is to apply herbal poultices to painful joints.

For now, there’s no solid evidence of its efficacy. However, some consider it a safe and easily accessible treatment.

Research through the Journal of Advanced Nursing exposes that the application of a warm poultice with ginger contributes to decreasing pain and stiffness in cases of osteoarthritis. They even seem to cause improvements in overall well-being.

This is reinforced by another study published in the Journal of Intercultural Ethnopharmacology, which states that ginger has anti-arthritic, anti-rheumatic, and anti-inflammatory properties.

What should I remember about a poultice natural remedy?

In conclusion, the application of a poultice can be useful in specific cases of superficial wounds, abscesses, infections, or ailments. However, it doesn’t replace medical treatments. Therefore, in the face of any health problem, professional care remains a priority.

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  • Poultices. Hospital (Lond 1886). 1887;1(20):336.
  • Cleveland Clinic. (July 20, 2018). 7 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Epsom Salt. Available in https://health.clevelandclinic.org/7-things-you-probably-didnt-know-about-epsom-salt/
  • Caflisch KM, Schmidt-Malan SM, Mandrekar JN, et al. Antibacterial activity of reduced iron clay against pathogenic bacteria associated with wound infections. Int J Antimicrob Agents. 2018;52(5):692‐696. doi:10.1016/j.ijantimicag.2018.07.018
  • Zito PM, Scharf R. Cyst, Epidermoid (Sebaceous Cyst) [Updated 2019 Dec 25]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499974/
  • Yung, Joe & Lai, How & Nalamolu, Koteswara Rao & Ng, Shiow-Fern. (2016). Treatment for diabetic ulcer wounds using a fern tannin optimized hydrogel formulation with antibacterial and antioxidative properties. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 189. 10.1016/j.jep.2016.05.032.