Vinegar and Brown Paper Poultice

This simple, but amazingly effective traditional remedy is easily made from common household ingredients and will reduce bruising, inflammation, boils, abscesses, sprains and tension headaches.

Cut brown paper up into fat strips. The size will depend on what area needs the poultice. An ingrown nail, for example will only need very small strips, and a sprained ankle will need longer strips. Bruise whole fresh sage leaves (use around 5-10 large leaves) by pounding them lightly in a mortar and pestle or using a rolling pin to flatten them. Do your best not to break or tear the leaves.

Cover the leaves with vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar) whatever you have on hand will be effective. Use a large shallow pan if possible, as shown in the picture. Cover the pan and simmer the leaves gently for 2 minutes over a very low heat. The vinegar should not boil, but just steam the leaves.

Add in the strips of brown paper and allow to steam another 3 minutes or so, until the paper softens and absorbs the vinegar, don’t let them get too soft as the paper will fall apart.

Start to layer the brown paper over the affected part as if you were making paper mache. Use them as hot as can be taken and build up several layers. You can also add in a couple sage leaves after the first layer and layer more brown paper over the leaves. Cover it with plastic wrap and bandage or secure it in place. Leave it on for about 4 hours. Reapply as often as necessary. Vinegar can cause burning in sensitive skin, so be careful where you use it.

This is a surprisingly effective method for dealing with all types of inflammation, it does take some time, care and effort, but I highly recommend turning first to vinegar before popping a pill.

Remember that nursery rhyme, that never really made much sense?

Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water
Jack fell down and broke his crown
And Jill came tumbling after.

Up Jack got and home did trot
As fast as he could caper;
And went to bed to mend his head
With vinegar and brown paper.

Well that Jack was a smart fellow and he sure knew how to take care of himself. A good example for all of us :).

Supportive Sprain Compress:

Another method which follows the same principal, and is said to be unsurpassed for healing sprains, is to simply steam 20 or more lightly bruised sage leaves for 5 minutes. Lay them out on a cloth–try to be quick so they retain their heat–cover the layer with another cloth and wrap it around a sprain or other inflammation. Apply it as hot as can be taken and wrap with towels to help retain the heat. Leave it on for an hour or until the swelling goes down.

P.S. By the way both of these poultice’s work great for tennis elbow (I call it computer elbow) as well. Very supportive and healing.

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Patrick McLaughlin

    My Dr recommended apple cider vinegar for a corn between my toes. It worked so much better & cheaper than store bought corn removers. 20 minutes on cotton ball repeated and the corn dissolves. ? ? ?

  2. Anne

    At one time, brown paper was more likely to be manufactured from hemp, thus containing various amounts of THC, or from more resinous wood than is used for white writing paper. In other words, there’s stuff in brown paper that isn’t in white paper. People probably noticed brown paper had more therapeutic effects, whether it was from pine spirits or Cannabis.

  3. Jane

    Thanks for that. I often wonder about nursery rhymes and wonder if there evidence of truth in the words.
    One question, why brown paper?

    1. hellaD

      Brown paper holds together quite well when wet. Probably it was also more accessible back in the day this nursery rhyme was created.

  4. Frank

    I use vinegar as a very, very, effective cure for itchy feet and athletes foot also. It costs pennies per treatment compared to the fungicides available over the counter.

  5. annie

    Next time my children are uncomfortable with “growing pains” in their legs I am going to try this.

    1. annie

      (and…. just want to thank you so much for your work and writing, so very inspirational for me, a real guide on my journey….)

  6. Rene

    My grandmother used to soak a flannel in vinegar and place it across her forehead while she lay down, to treat a headache.

  7. Katherine Atkinson

    How cool! Would you mind sharing this home remedy on Wildcrafting Wednesday? I’m sure my readers would love it!

    ~ Kathy

    1. Rene

      Sure, please do.

  8. Sharon

    This is great! Are you using brown grocery bags for the paper or something else? Glad you shared this with us at the Herbal Medicine Chest hop! Keep ’em coming…I loved hearing form you!

    1. hellaD

      Oh brown bags would probably work well, I actually use brown packing paper. We often get it wrapped around packages in the mail, so it is recycled. The brown bags are a good idea though too!

  9. hellaD

    Isn’t that what jack and jill did? Humm, I also get the feeling I saw pictures of that sort of thing in old books. One big warning is that the vinegar is quite strong and would burn your eyes and nose a bit. It also starts burning sensitive skin after a while, so it has to be used in limited amounts.

  10. Christy

    How would you do this with a headache?? Wrap it around your whole head?? And the plastic? Would it work for tension in your neck too? How interesting – I need to plant some sage!

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