how to make an herbal poultice

How to Make an Herbal Poultice with Comfrey

One of the easiest herbal remedies you can make is a poultice. A poultice is basically just mashed up plants: in its simplest form, you mash up fresh plant matter, mix it with water, and apply it topically. When making a poultice, you can also add flour or clay to your mixture to help the plant material stay together. And for the sake of cleanliness, it’s also handy to put your mass of herb mixture in a cloth that can hold all of the plant matter in one spot.

Last month I was on a walk with a dear friend, and she twisted her ankle. We slowly made our way back to my house, and I immediately had her post up on the couch while I fished out a comfrey poultice from my freezer. I warmed up the poultice slightly in the microwave, and had her hold the poultice pack on her ankle for thirty minutes.

Every day for the next week or so we poulticed her ankle, and it really helped reduce the swelling and pain. Once her ankle healed I showed her how to make poultices at home, and she now has a bunch in her freezer too for any future sprains or strains.

A closeup photograph of a fresh comfrey plant in bloom with purple flowers and green leaves.

A patch of comfrey in bloom.

What can I use an herbal poultice for?

People often underestimate the power of poultices, but just as herbs can be used for a wide range of ailments so can this type of remedy. Poultices have been traditionally used to relieve ear aches, tend wounds, ease soreness and swelling, support bone healing, reduce scarring, and so much more.

Can I make a poultice with dried herbs?

Yes! If you want to use dried herbs to make a poultice, you can add a little bit of just-boiled water to your dried herbs. Keep adding spoonfuls of just-boiled water until your dried herbs become a paste-like consistency. Apply the poultice once the paste has cooled to a temperature that is skin-safe.

Do I need cloth to make an herbal poultice?

Not necessarily… Especially for smaller poultices, you can simply place the plant matter on your body and hold it in place with a free hand. Cloth comes in handy, however, if you want to keep the poultice on for a longer period of time and be active or if you’re poulticeing a large area and want to keep the poultice in place.

A closeup photograph of a purple comfrey flower.

Pollinators love comfrey’s small purple flowers.

What are the best herbs to make a poultice with?

The best herbs to poultice with really depends on what ailment you’re addressing. In this article I’ll show you how to make an herbal poultice with comfrey, but you can use a wide variety of herbs…

Here are a few of my favorite herbs (and foods!) to poultice with:

  • Potato poultice for burns
  • Cooked half onion poultice for earaches
  • Fresh ginger poultice for menstrual cramps
  • Plantain poultice for bee stings and mosquito bites

The Benefits of Comfrey

There are many benefits that comfrey leaf and root can offer as a topical remedy. Topical applications of comfrey can soothe inflammation and decrease pain in musculoskeletal injuries, including sprains and strains. Comfrey also works wonders for easing post-workout soreness or for soothing early morning aches and pains. And comfrey is perhaps most well-known for its ability to promote healing after bone breaks and fractures.

When talking about comfrey, it’s important to mention a few cautions and potential side effects:

  1. When using comfrey topically, comfrey shouldn’t be applied to infected, dirty, or deep wounds (including puncture wounds) because it can heal the skin quickly and not address the infection.
  2. Comfrey leaf and root contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids that can cause liver damage when ingested internally in large doses. Topical applications of comfrey do not pose this same risk and are generally considered safe.
A bundle of freshly harvested comfrey leaves.

These fresh comfrey leaves are ready for poultice-making.

How to Make an Herbal Poultice with Comfrey

An herbal poultice is a fantastic way to administer herbs topically — all you need is some fresh or dried herbs, water, flour, and a piece of cloth. I used comfrey for this recipe, but you can substitute the comfrey with any herb you’d like to poultice with.

What you’ll need…

  • about a dozen fresh comfrey leaves (stem included)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 handfuls flour or French green clay
  • A few old dish cloths (or another small piece of cloth you’re no longer using)
  1. Use a knife to coarsely chop your comfrey leaves.

  1. Place leaves in a blender. Add water.
  2. Blend for about 30 seconds, until the water and leaves have combined. The consistency should be a somewhat chunky paste.

  1. Put this freshly-blended paste in a bowl. Add a handful of flour or clay to the paste and stir it in with your hands.
  2. Place a cup of comfrey poultice in the middle of your cloth and flatten it down with a spatula. Now fold in the sides of your cloth and wrap it around the comfrey.
  3. Repeat this process until you’ve wrapped up all of your comfrey paste in cloth.

  1. You can now either use these poultices fresh or store them in your freezer.
  2. When storing them in the freezer, place a piece of wax paper between each poultice (so it’s easier to separate them later). Now place your poultices in a plastic gallon freezer bag for storage.

Note: once you’ve used an herbal poultice once, you can compost the herbs. The cloth can be washed and then re-used.

Yield: 3–4 poultice packs

Want to make more topical remedies with comfrey?

So, now that you know comfrey is an exceptional herb for soothing aches and pains and healing minor/clean wounds, wouldn’t it be nice to always have a little jar of comfrey salve on hand? Learn how to make our favorite first-aid comfrey salve with our free Herbal Preparation Cards.

How do I use an herbal poultice?

Now that you’ve made an herbal poultice, how exactly do you use it? Simply place it on the affected area (i.e., the area that is bruised, swollen, sore, or whatever ailment you’re addressing). You can keep the poultice in place for 20 minutes or even hours at a time. Securing the poultice in place with cloth makes it easier to apply a poultice for a longer period of time.

Another thing to consider at this point is temperature: do you want to use a cold or hot poultice? As with all herbal choices, your decision really depends on what ailment you’re addressing…

If you threw out your back, for example, you may want to use a warm poultice to bring circulation to the area.

But if you got burned yesterday, you’ll probably want to reach for a cold poultice to soothe the inflamed tissue.

how to make an herbal poultice

Now I’d love to know…
Have you ever made an herbal poultice before?
If so, what do you like to use poultices for?
Please share in the comments below.

  1. I’m a newbie and don’t know any herbalists. I would love to grow my own herbal medicine cabinet! Do you have seeds for comfrey, plantain, and other “weeds”? This would help me with identifying them in the wild if I can grow them in a place where I KNOW that’s what it is because I planted it.
    Great article! Thanks!

    • Hi Di, it’s so exciting to hear that you’re an herbal beginner! :)

      We don’t sell seeds, but you can source these either at a local hardware store, health food store, or find them online on Mountain Rose Herb’s website.

  2. This is such a helpful article! I have been studying herbs and herbal preparations for a few years now, but even though poultices seem simple compared to other preparations I haven’t really done them much. One question I have is when you are using the poultice (fresh or from frozen), do I apply the plant material itself to my skin on the affected area or is it supposed to seep through the cloth? This may be obvious to some, but I’ve never really known what to do, so I guess I’ve just skipped it (and probably missed out on a lot of plant aid)!

    • Hi Kelsey, thank you for your question! For this comfrey poultice, you can let the plant material seep through the cloth. But for many different herbs you can apply the plant material itself directly to your skin. For an example of a direct application, you can check out this article we wrote on potato poultices for minor burns:

  3. I love comfrey for poultices. In my family we have removed pain and horrid bruising from broken toes on two occasions, wearing the poultices over night with a plastic bag over it, and gotten over nite relief. Both folks could wear their work shoes the next day with no discomfort. Both times the toe healed very quickly. Comfrey is so healing for sprains, too!

    One thing I learned was that when I applied the comfrey directly to my sprained ankle over night, I ended up with a bumpy rash, a small price to accompany the over night relief from pain and swelling. I have made sure to have the comfrey in a cloth, with the cloth next to the skin since the rash, which did go away quickly.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience with comfrey, Evelyn!

  4. I have applied both plantain and comfrey as poultices, to great positive effect. Plantain can be found in just about any lawn or yard that is not fanatically weeded. Use google images if you aren’t sure what it is. I normally put castor oil on my knee first, and then put plantain or comfrey, but I use the whole leaf. I don’t chop it up or heat it or anything. Dr. Greger of Nutrition facts. org had a show about using whole cabbage leaves on the knees to decrease pain.

    • Hi John, awesome that you have used plantain and comfrey poultices!

  5. Great! Thank you. I usually just place a whole fresh leaf, tapped to release the sap, to the affected area and secure it with an elastic bandage. This sounds impressive! Do you place the poultice with the plant matter directly on the skin or with the cloth between the skin and the plant matter (the plant folded inside the cloth)?

    • Hi Zdenka, thank you for your question! For this poultice, we keep the plant matter folded inside the cloth and apply it with the cloth between the skin and the plant matter.

  6. Thanks for the DIY poultice info….will add this technique to to my medicine ‘cabinet’. Esp for the many athletes in the family

    • Wonderful! Enjoy :)

  7. Thank U for the information.

    • Hi Mokobo, I am glad you enjoy Tara’s article! Have a wonderful day!

  8. Comfrey poultice rescued a rooster whose knee was gashed into the cartilage. The vet couldn’t help him so I bruised a comfrey leaf and bandaged it over, changing daily till he healed and thrived

    • Hi Rosie, awesome that a comfrey poultice helped your rooster! I’m glad that it worked! Thanks for sharing your experiences with comfrey poultices.

  9. What kind of comfrey plant do we use for medicinal purposes? I’ve seen a couple, and I think one of invasive
    Can you please tell me their scientific name of it, or does it matter which plant as long as is comfrey?

    • HI Z, comfrey is Symphytum officinale.

Comments are closed.

The TWO key ingredients for learning about herbs are…

Experiences that inspire + a great learning community

Join the LearningHerbs community for free recipes, remedies, webinars and more…