This post is all about fomentations, what they are and how to utilize them in healing the body. If you know what an infusion or a decoction is, than understanding what a fomentation is will be simple.  A fomentation is an application using a natural fiber cloth dipped in a hot herbal tea. 

A bottle of castor oil sitting on the window s...

Other medicinal substances could be applied utilizing this method.  Hot apple cider vinegar, cayenne, water, herbal oils, essential oils, freshly prepared juices (carrot, onion, garlic), castor oil, olive oil, or a combination of some of these will affect relief and healing.

To prepare a fomentation heat up your tea or chosen medium, soak up a cloth until saturated(I use cloth diapers or old 100% cotton socks cut up), wring out most of the moisture, apply to affected area as hot as can be tolerated, cover with plastic wrap or an oiled cloth to prevent seepage and keep the wetness contained, and put a heat source over to keep warm.  In cases of sore muscles or sprains great help is attained by alternating the hot pack with a cold pack.  Apply the fomentation and plastic wrap, apply heat for 7 minutes or so then switch to cold for 4  minutes, and back to hot for 7.  The times are not so important as the actual alternating of the hot and cold.  Usually the affected person will know when to change because it does not feel so good after a bit.  This really moves the blood in and out of the affected area, speeding up healing. 

The heat can be supplied with a heating pad or hot water bottle, and the cold pack by a bag of crushed ice or a bag of frozen vegetables.

“Why use a fomentation,” you ask? 

A fomentation provides heat, moisture, pain relief,  nutrition, and cleansing. It also relaxes strained and stressed tissues, and reduces inflammation.

It is super great for many conditions:

Sore muscles, aches, pains, swellings, boils, sprains, broken bones, constipation of the liver, constipation of the bowel, constipated capillaries, varicose veins, chest congestion, glandular swellings, arthritis, rheumatism, muscle spasms, sore joints, tumors, cancers, skin conditions.

Couple of  things,

  • A careful study is required to ascertain which herbs, oils, juices, etc. to use. 
  • Never let the cloth dry out completly, always soak the cloth again before it gets too dry.


  1. Miranda had a swelling under her jaw bone on one side, I was quite suspicious it might be mumps.  We went to the doctor and learned she had an infection, but thank goodness no mumps.  I made a tea with 3 parts mullein and 1 part lobelia, made a fomentation, applied it to her neck,  and wrapped it with plastic wrap. The left over tea, she drank.  Off to bed for her and the next morning, this was repeated.   At the same time her diet consisted mostly of fresh juiced fruits and veges, lots of tea and distilled water.   It took one 24 hour period for the swelling to completely disappear, but we kept up this regimen and she was back to her normal schedule in 3 days. 
  2. While at a reunion that was held at a campground this summer, a small 8 year-old had a severe constipated bowel.  Pour thing was in so much pain and the tears coming out of her sweet eyes was quite disconcerting.  We made a castor oil fomentation and applied hot and cold packs for about 3 hours.  She drank apple juice every 10 minutes, followed by water.  She went to sleep and the next morning was greatly relieved.  The oil had done its job loosening and dissolving all the “stuff” and helped it along its way. The extra water and apple juice helped to hydrate her.

As you can see fomentations are a superb way to get the  medicinal qualities of a substance into the system via our largest organ – the skin.  Even unconscious people can be helped using this method of application.  Just using a hot and cold pack alternately will help drastically if that’s all you have.  Just research what herbs, juices, oils etc.  have the actions you are looking for, and go to work!!

If you choose essential oils, mix 5 – 10 drops with a carrier oil such as olive or almond oil, as most of them will irritate the skin.  Cayenne pepper will allay pain and bring needed blood to the area, just use it with a carrier as oatmeal, or rub the area with olive oil first.  Remove cayenne after a few minutes, it will sting if left too long.  Ask my husband:) It’s not unbearable just uncomfortable.

 I use this method often and have always had great success.  It is simple and effective, give it a try.

 Love life & breathe deep,



6 thoughts on “Fomentations

  1. Pingback: Word of the Week | Angela At Her Home

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    • Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for the comment. So true, I always listen to other people. Most of the time they know more than I do. I have learned that the more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know!!


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