Types of Herbal Applications
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Types of Herbal Applications

There are 6 types of herbal applications. This includes fomentation, poultice, salves, oils, douches, and bolus. These are cotton towels soaked in an herbal tea infusion or decoction which is as hot as can be tolerated. It is placed on a body part.

There are 6 types of herbal applications

     fomentation procedure

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These are cotton towels soaked in an herbal tea infusion or decoction which is as hot as can be tolerated. It is placed on a body part. This stimulates blood and lymph circulation; warms joints and other body parts; reduces internal inflammations; and relieves colic and pain. By alternating hot and cold fomentations, healing blood moves more rapidly into and out of the affected area. This is especially helpful for sluggish circulation, constipation, urine retention, etc. After soaking it in the herbal tea, fold and wring the hot towel slightly and place it on the affected area. Over that place, put a layer of plastic. To keep the heat in, place a dry towel or heating pad on top. Every so often, resaturate the hot, soaked towel.

        cabbage poultice

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This is a small pile of powdered or pulverized herbs, moistened with water (and/or tinctures, infusions, decoctions, salves, oils) and applied to the surface of the skin. Fresh herb can be applied without moistening. If there will be body movement, wrap a cloth around the poultice to hold it in place, perhaps taping it slightly. Poultices are used to reduce inflammation, and withdraw pus and embedded particles. Ginger and cayenne increase circulation; Echinacea and garlic reduce infectious sores. Valerian and kava kava reduce pain. Lobelia tincture added to a poultice will reduce pain very well. Clay poultices, with or without herbs, made into a thick, doughy consistency, are good at drawing out poisons. Clay can be purchased at health-food stores. Mixed with mashed cabbage leaves, the clay poultice is good for boils and tumors. Mixed with powdered cayenne or ginger, painful arthritic joints can be treated.

           herbal salves

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Salves are used to treat boils and dry or itchy skin. Astringent herbs (white oak bark, bayberry) tone the skin. Demulcent herbs (comfrey) soften and keep the surface moist and healthy looking. Salves are a thick consistency of herbal oil, herbs, and a little oil (never mineral oil) to cover the mixture, baked in a covered pot at 125º-200º for 2-4 hours. Melt beeswax (about 1 1/2 oz. to 1 pint oil) and stir it into the oil. Preserve the salve by adding 1/2 tsp. vitamin E per cup of solution to 1 oz. of salve.

           herbal oils

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Oils are usually made from mints and aromatic herbs, and are applied to increase circulation and warmth to the area, and treat skin diseases and painful joints. They are also used when giving massages, for dry skin; these are to be rubbed on the surface of the skin before a poultice, hot pack or fomentation is applied.

Add 1 oz. olive oil to 2 oz. macerated herb. Mix carefully and bake in the oven at 115º-200º until the herbs become crisp (about 2-4 hours). When that happens, the oils have left the herbs and entered the olive oil. Strain out the herbal oil. Add to it the oil from one 400 IU vitamin E capsule to every cup of herbal oil (as a preservative). Put the oil in a dark bottle. Olive oil usually has a long shelf life before it goes rancid.

Certain oils will be absorbed by the skin faster than others. When you want the oil to remain on the skin for a long period to help heal external sores, etc., use olive or peanut oil, or avocado. (Wheat germ, sesame, and sunflower oil absorb much faster.) Essential herbal oils can also be purchased in a health-food store and are more highly concentrated.       


These are used to treat vaginal infections and excessive secretions. They are prepared by making a strong infusion or decoction using herbs such as goldenseal, myrrh, slippery elm, plantain, and (if there are excessive secretions or bleeding) white oak bark. One tablespoon of apple cider vinegar should be added to 1 quart tea, to help maintain and acid pH. While the tea is warm, carefully insert the douche. Retain for 3-5 minutes. Use once daily for 5-7 days, and only during the infection. Thereafter, only used once a month. Pregnant women should not use douches.


This is a suppository inserted into the rectum or vagina, to draw out toxins and treat swellings, infections, cysts, tumors, inflammations, and hemorrhoids. For vaginal infections, boluses are only used when douches are not successful. The herbs used in boluses are astringents (white oak bark, bayberry, witch hazel), demulcents (slippery elm, comfrey root), and antibiotic herbs (garlic, goldenseal, chaparral, myrrh). To make a bolus, add 10% powdered slippery elm (by volume or weight) to your selection of herbs. Mix the herbs well, either by stirring or blending. Slowly pour water into the mixture until it becomes a thick, doughy consistency. Then roll into strips about 1/2-inch thick and 3/4-inch long. If necessary, put the mixture into the refrigerator to cool awhile before rolling the suppositories. When formed, let them dry by being exposed to the sun or in an oven under low heat. Do not burn them. Then put them in a jar and keep in the refrigerator. Before inserting the bolus, let it set at room temperature 15-20 minutes, to warm up. To make insertion easier, dip in olive oil or warm water and quickly insert. Insert before long rest periods in bed.

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