Folk Medicine That Works

Reader Contribution by Lois Hoffman
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Coughing, sneezing, wheezing … It is the season for cold and flu viruses to interrupt our daily routines. Even worse, doctors can’t usually make you feel better because viruses just have to run their course. Yuck!

Even though doctors don’t have medicines that will help, some commonsense folk medicine might just be the cure that the doctor didn’t order. Many folks are going back to “folk medicine” because it works and is all-natural. Essential oils and tinctures are powerful remedies, but, unless you are experienced in these, you may want to use caution.

Essential oils are exactly what their name implies; they are the pure oil extracts from plants and are very potent because of their concentration. Tinctures are liquid extracts made by soaking herbs in alcohol to extract the active ingredients from the herbs.

The safest way to use herbs and other natural remedies is to make a poultice, because poultices provide the benefits of herbs but are not as concentrated as essential oils or tinctures. A poultice is made by mashing herbs, plant material, or other substances with warm water or natural oils to make a paste. They can be used to draw out infection, ease spider bite pain, eliminate warts, and treat a multitude of other ailments.

My favorite poultice is one that our family has used throughout the years to treat congestion in the lungs from colds or bronchitis. It has kept us out of doctors’ offices and even the hospital more than a few times. You simply take paper towels, old cotton T-shirts, or other material, spread lard or Crisco on it, and cover that with a generous helping of ginger. Fold the material in half with the goodies inside and apply to the chest area over night. This will draw the congestion out.

The following poultice ingredients have properties to draw out infections, reduce inflammation, treat chest congestion, hemorrhoid and earaches, and many more ailments. Don’t forget that they can be used on pets and livestock, also!

ONION POULTICE: Mash a raw onion and mix with warm water or organic plant oils. This will help with deep coughs and congestion. You may want a thin layer of cloth between your skin and the onion.

POTATO POULTICE: Grate a raw potato and make a paste to help with inflammation and eye troubles such as conjunctivitis.

MUSTARD POULTICE: Mash some mustard seeds, mix with natural oil or water, and apply. Use a thin cloth between paste and skin, because a homemade mustard poultice is very powerful and can burn your skin if applied directly. Besides easing bronchitis symptoms, coughs, colds, chest congestion, and fevers, mustard poultices are effective in treating boils, arthritis, and removing toxins from the body.

PLANTAIN POULTICE: Plantain is a common weed that has great drawing power. Mash the fresh weed for the paste or use a tincture or compress. Plantain poultices are beneficial for insect bites.

ACTIVATED CHARCOAL: This is a black, odorless, tasteless powder that has been made from wood or other substances that have been exposed to very high temperatures in an airless environment. Make a paste of activated charcoal and water to help digestive and gastrointestinal disorders like acid reflux. It also can be used for infections like pink eye, urinary tract infections and absesses, poisoning, drug overdoses, food poisoning, gout, cholera, and plant allergens like poison ivy and poison oak.

COMFREY POULTICE: Comfrey roots and leaves have great healing properties, especially where bones and ligaments are involved. They work well for aches, pains, and sprains and bruises. Simply crush a small handful of comfrey leaves into a bowl and pour enough boiling water over to cover. Mash into a pulp, let cool, and spread the pulp directly on the affected area.

TUMERIC: Mix 1 teaspoon turmeric with 1/2 teaspoon water, olive oil, tea tree oil, or coconut oil for drawing infection and treating boils. It also helps in treating MRSA infections. For even better results, put a teaspoon of turmeric in a cup of warm milk and drink to help it work from the inside out.

CAYENNE PEPPER: Mix one part cayenne pepper and equal parts of mullein leaves and slippery elm powder, dampened with enough apple cider vinegar to form a paste. This will help alleviate the pain of arthritis and rheumatism and also sciatica and other lower back pain.

BREAD AND MILK POULTICE: These work very well for infections and boils, and they are two ingredients that everyone has on hand. Simply heat milk and add a bit of bread, wrap in gauze or cheese cloth, and place on wound. Use this as hot as you can stand it and repeat a few times a day. This works pretty fast and often much better than over-the-counter products.

LEMON BALM POULTICE: Lemon balm leaves make a poultice for small wounds, cold sores, and insect bites. Crush leaves and mix with a little water to make a paste.

SLIPPERY ELM AND THYME: Slippery elm has great healing properties, and thyme is a great antiseptic. Mash thyme leaves and cover with boiling water. Pour off excess water and mix in 2 tablespoons of slippery elm powder.

POULTICES FOR WARTS: Think both acidic and viral fighters. Garlic is excellent. Apply freshly grated garlic directly to the wart and cover with a bandage trying to avoid the healthy skin around the wart. Cotton balls soaked in apple cider vinegar and placed over warts is another remedy. Aspirin is salicylic acid, so this makes sense. Crush an aspirin and make a thick pate with warm water, then apply to the wart. Figs are an old folk remedy for warts. Use a fresh, mushy fig as a poultice for at least a half hour each day. Chopped onion sprinkled with a little salt and/or lemon juice also makes a great wart poultice. Blackstrap molasses is one of the oldest wart removal home remedies: soak a cotton ball in the molasses, cover the wart, and keep on as long as possible while also eating a tablespoon of molasses every day during the treatment.

BAKING SODA: Make a paste of this and water and use for spider bites. The alkaline substance can help draw out the venom.

SALT: Due to its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, it can effectively draw the venom out of a spider bite.

No matter what kind of poultices you are using, they can only be effective if kept moist and in direct contact with the skin. They are no substitute for modern medicine, but they do have their place alongside it. We live in an amazing world where everything we need is provided for us; we just have to learn how to use the different applications.

Photo by Fotolia/lily

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