Throughout most of the history of medicine, one of the most common folk treatments for boils, cuts and other skin conditions was a poultice, in no small part because it could be readily made from almost anything an average house would have available from bread to clay powders.
A poultice or cataplasm is a paste, typically applied directly onto the skin with the aid of a warm cloth, made of a binding ingredient and a range of herbs, plants and other common ingredients.
Part of the healing comes from the ingredients used but also in the mixture and the heat that is applied through the use of a warm but not hot cloth. Heat applied to the skin increases blood flow, which in turn is a vital part of the healing process.
Typically, poultices are made from bread, bicarbonate of soda or Epsom salt, but they can be mixed out of clay as well, which takes advantage of one of clay’s most interesting features.
Clay is used in some skincare mixes to draw out impurities, and used as a poultice this effect is more potent, helping to reduce the effects of inflammation or inflations, shrinking a boil or helping to draw out a particularly pesky splinter.
There are a lot of different mixes out there, ones that use ingredients such as garlic, eucalyptus, ginger and turmeric, which clay can help bring into the skin.
However, one point to be aware of is that any substance applied to your skin could potentially cause an allergic reaction, so always test a poultice on a small part of your forearm to make sure that it does not sting too much on application.
Typically poultices are applied a few times a day, left on for up to 20 minutes at a time and then carefully washed off with a clean damp cloth.