Many years ago, when I was in herb school, I learned the power of the poultice from fellow student and dear friend Cricket (Teri Owens). Tonight, I put it to work again...and inadvertently created a tasty carrot salad at the same time. Grated Carrots, grated Ginger, and infused Black Tea, Echinacea and Goldenseal joined forces with some honey. The target: an impending boil. One of those big humdingers that isn't squeezable, but you just know it's going to splorch eventually. Poultices work by several mechanism. Herbs high in tannins, like Black Tea, with have an astringent effect, to tighten and protect the skin and reduce bleeding should capillaries rupture. Echinacea and Ginger are antiinflamatory when used topically, and Goldenseal will help to reduce the bacterial load in the area, lowering the chances of infection when the boil comes to a head and opens on its own. Carrots are probably better well known in Ayurvedic Medicine (called Gajar) than in American Herbalism, but they do have a western tradition in wound care and treating acne. and, in one of my favorite antiquated herbal terms, is "deobstruent," meaning it removes obstructions. In TCM terms, we might say it breaks up stagnation. In folk herbalism, it's got a drawing action. Cricket taught me about using carrots for "pulling" stuff out of the skin. Honey, of course, is just generally amazing for skin. With a minute amount of naturally occurring hydrogen peroxide and a gently acidic pH, as well as a very high osmolality, honey is very effective and killing microbes and fighting topical infections. It's one of my favorite wound dressings, and one I can incorporate into my nursing practice with a doctor's order for Medihoney, a sterile commercial brand of leptospermum (Manuka) honey.
Underneath, a humble Cabbage leaf. Not for its medicinal properties, but it serves as a rather effective waterproof barrier between the moist poultice and the folded gauze 4x4 underneath. I lightly steamed the cabbage leaf over the mug infusing the herbs, so it would be comfortable and flexible. Above, my poultice is laying on a trimmed piece of transparent film dressing. This particular one is a scrap from a Wound VAC, but any decent medical tape or Tegaderm would do. I could also cover it with cloth and simply let it lay there for a while, but I don't think my client would put up with it for long. With any luck, tomorrow morning things will be much more comfortable. The poultice may be humble, but its healing powers are quite respectable. And, in this case, delicious.