Forms of Topical Herbal Remedies

Topical herbal remedies are available in several forms. These are forms used for external use.

  • Salve – Salves are healing preparations that are applied to the skin. They are generally thick creams that last a long time on the skin, helping to keep moisture in. Salves have protective qualities that shield the skin from harsh effects of sun and wind. Popular salves are those made with calendula, St. John’s wort and comfrey.
  • Poultice – A poultice is a traditional preparation of fresh or dried whole herbs. The herbs are mashed into a pasty consistency and applied topically to the affected area. Herbs can be moistened and heated and then applied to the skin. Poultices are the way your great-grandmother would have applied herbs and it’s still a useful method today. A crude method, poultices are great for instant use and can use parts of the plant that aren’t normally used, such as the root and stems.
  • Compress – A compress is similar to a poultice. Fresh or dried herbs are mashed and combined with water to make a paste. The paste is then applied to the skin or put into a small bundle, often in fabric, to be held against the skin.
  • Oils – Infused oils are made by combining herbs with oil, usually extra-virgin olive oil, and heated on a slow heat. The mixture is then steeped for at least two weeks, then strained and put into jars. Oils can be used for skin irritations and is commonly used as massage oil.
  • Ointment – Similar to salves, ointments are thicker in consistency. They are used topically on the skin and are particularly good for minor skin irritations and burns.