Dr Hauschka agrees that compresses work as an integral part of Anthroposophical Medicine. “A compress cocoons,” says Gerda Zolle, who is responsible for questions to do with nursing at WALA Heilmittel GmbH. “It acts not only through the particular substance being used, but also through the care and attention implicit in applying the compress. Anthroposophical hospitals apply compresses and Rhythmic Embrocations to their patients. This form of touch represents a measure of human contact that is in itself important for the patient’s healing process.”
The healing effects of compresses differs depending on how long they are left on and the technique used. They can draw out heat, provide warmth or stimulate blood flow. They can be prepared with plain water or using plant substances which have an added effect, like lavender oil or ginger.
Compresses act not only on the skin but also on internal organs such as liver or kidneys. They influence metabolic processes as well as the immune system and psyche: an important reason for their use in Anthroposophical Medicine, where illness is regarded as an expression of an imbalance between the different physical and emotional processes. This is why anthroposophical physicians often prescribe the application of compresses. For example, an aurum/lavender chest compress can be applied for more minor complaints such as insomnia. But this chest compress can also back up conventional medicine in serious conditions such as heart attacks, because it will calm and strengthen the heart. Ginger kidney compresses, on the other hand, which stimulate the production of inner warmth, are employed by anthroposophical physicians to help irritable, agitated and excessively head-oriented patients to more strongly re-engage with the rest of their body.
To apply a compress you will need the following: cotton gauze nappies, cotton handkerchiefs or tea towels made of natural fibres to place next to the skin, and a wrap made of pure sheep’s wool for the final outer layer. Shirts or scarves made of natural fibres are used under the outer layer to keep the inner layer in place. But for a compress you need something else as well: peace and calm – before, during and after the application.
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Liver compresses detoxify and comfort
One of the best known compresses is the hot yarrow compress applied over the liver, which has a detoxifying action and stimulates the metabolic processes. Placed over the liver after the main mid-day meal, it aids digestion and helps the organism cleanse itself. Pour boiling water on yarrow flowers and leave to stand for about seven minutes. Soak a cotton compress in the liquid, wring out well and then place on the skin at the site of the liver. Lie down, cover the compress with warm scarves or similar and leave in place for half an hour. After the compress has been removed it is a good idea to remaining lying down for a further half hour, resting and keeping the area warm. Anthroposophical doctors use liver compresses to treat skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis, digestive problems and associated migraines, and depression.
Onion compresses for earache
The onion compress, which can also take the form of an onion pack and relieves the pain of a middle ear infection. For this, just finely dice an onion, wrap it in a cotton handkerchief and place the pack on the affected ear. Keep in place with a soft towel wound around the head and knotted under the chin. A hot water bottle placed over the pack can enhance pain relief by increasing the amount of onion vapour which reaches the ear.
Kidney compresses have a diuretic action
Horsetail strengthens kidney function and stimulates urine production. To prepare an infusion for the compress add five tablespoons of horsetail herb to one litre of cold water and bring to the boil, then simmer for half an hour. Soak a compress in the liquid, wring out well and place on the skin over the kidneys, together with a hot water bottle. Leave in place for about 20 minutes then remain resting for a further 30 to 40 minutes. The therapeutic effect is enhanced if the compress is additionally filled with fresh horsetail.
Eucalyptus oil compresses for cystitis
Apply five drops of 10% eucalyptus oil (e.g. WALA Eucalyptus, Oleum aethereum 10 %) to a cotton cloth, warm with a hot water bottle and place on the area over the bladder. The effect is enhanced if a woollen scarf is wound around the lower body and held in place. If desired a hot water bottle can be placed on top. After 20 to 30 minutes or as soon as the area starts to feel cool, remove the compress and cover the bladder area with a warm blanket. Remain lying down for a further 20 to 30 minutes for the treatment to take full effect. At the first signs of cystitis apply a few drops of eucalyptus oil to a gauze cloth and place over the bladder. Pull on a pair of panties to keep in place and leave to act overnight.
Lavender oil compresses combat stress and alleviate coughs
Lavender oil has a calming and relaxing effect and can be used anywhere where rest is urgently required. Many parents have found it beneficial for children suffering from a cough. But a compress can also help anxious adults who are having trouble getting to sleep.
Dr Hauschka Cough compress: Apply a few (5-10) drops of 10% lavender oil (e.g. WALA Lavandula, Oleum aethereum 10%) to a long, thin cloth. Warm the cloth, wind reasonably tightly around the chest and keep in place with another cloth (a cut-off pair of tights, a piece of flannel sheet or a woollen scarf are ideal for this purpose). Leave on overnight..
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