A compress consists of a pad or cloth material, cotton or gauze being the best material choice, that has been soaked in an herbal tea, decoction, or extract, and water mixture. After the appropriate tea, decoction, or extract is chosen and made, you soak the fabric in the liquid, wring it out, then apply the material to the affected area that is to be treated.
Compresses can be used either hot or cold. If swelling, muscle sprain/strain, or a headache is involved, cold is the better option. After the material has been soaked, place the compress in the freezer until it is cold, then apply it.
Sometimes it is beneficial to alternate between heated compresses and cold ones in order to help relieve pressure.
Compresses are ideal for treating, and helping to heal, muscle injuries, wounds, and other external pain. In order to know which herbs are most appropriate for which ailment(s), refer to a herbal book or chart, and look for the list of benefits and properties of the herb that you are looking for. The herbs can be used as single notes, or you can try mixing a few together for a more powerful healing whomp!
For muscle pains, try wintergreen, camphor, lemon grass, sage, or eucalyptus teas. For a headache try a cool lavender, chamomile and/or sage compress. For minor wounds or skin irritations, try rosemary, chamomile, thyme or lavender.
While similar to a compress, a poultice is when the whole herb is applied to an affected area, instead of the liquid soaked fabric. To use the herbs this way, first you must boil the fresh herb (roots can be used too). Then you actually squeeze all of the excess water out of the herb and place it on a thin
layer of gauze that is folded to keep the herb(s) sandwiched inside, then lay the whole thing over the affected area. This poultice should then stay in place for 3-4 hours, but it can be replaced with a fresh one if longer treatment is needed.
Again, the choice of herbs/roots us something that needs to be well though out and researched. However, a poultice of (either one or a combination of two or more) the herbs; rosemary, thyme, lavender or chamomile would make a strong healing poultice.
Chamomile on the skin helps to reduce redness and sooth inflamed skin, as well as being an antiseptic, bactericidal, and mild sedative.
Thyme is reputed to be strongly anti-viral, while also being considered an antibacterial agent and fungicide.
While lavender works well on all types of skin problems, it especially worlds well for healing boils, burns, sunburn, wounds, psoriasis, insect bites, and stings. Among many others, Lavender has the properties of an antiseptic, and an analgesic, an anti-inflammatory, a restorative and a mild sedative.
Rosemary also possesses many properties, but for the purpose of a poultice, it is important for its analgesic, antimicrobial, antiseptic, fungicidal, and restorative properties.