How to make a compress!

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Have you ever wondered what it means to make a “compress”?   Compresses are a long-overlooked home remedy that has become a lost art. A compress is actually very easy to make, takes simple ingredients, and it works! Let’s take a look below to see how to create your very own compress.

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Compresses work by the application of heat or cold to a local area of soreness and/or swelling.  Cold compresses draw heat away from a compromised area, thereby limiting swelling and pain.  Hot compresses speed blood flow to an area and can ease muscle spasms, relieve congestion, or even draw pus from a minor wound closer to the surface.

Cold compresses are especially good for life’s minor lumps and bumps, such as a twisted ankle or “bonk” on the head from an open cabinet door.  To make a cold compress, pour 1/4 cup very cold water and 1/4 cup chilled hydrosol into a small bowl. Place a washcloth or soft piece of flannel into the liquid and let it soak for a minute.  Wring out the cloth until it’s still wet but not dripping liquid everywhere. Fold the cloth over and place on the affected area, leaving it on until the cloth is no longer cool.  (By folding the cloth, you’ll then be able to flip it over to the “cool” side once during the treatment.)  Cold compresses can be applied as often as once every hour.

Hot compresses can be very helpful for concerns such as menstrual cramps, muscle spasms from a twisting or lifting injury, and in “drawing” a minor abscess.  To make a hot compress, heat 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup hydrosol until it feels very warm on the inside of the wrist, just as you would test baby formula. The water should be very warm, but not hot enough to burn the skin.  Soak the cloth as described in the cold compress instructions, wring out, fold, and apply to the affected area.  Cover the area with a small towel or plastic wrap to help hold the heat in the compress longer.  Hot compresses can be applied as often as every two hours.

Hydrosols are the aromatic waters obtained during steam distillation of plant materials. Essential oils and aromatic waters contained within the plant material are forced out during the distillation process. Both are conveyed through a condenser and then to a collecting chamber where the essential oils float on the hydrosol’s surface and can be decanted away, leaving aromatic waters which have their own soothing properties.  For cold compresses, helichrysum, calendula, chamomile, or lavender  hydrosols are all great choices. For hot compresses, depending on the particular concern, chamomile, lavender, geranium, eucalyptus, or marjoram hydrosols would be helpful.

If you like, you can choose to add essential oils to your compress.  Add a drop or two of lavender, Roman chamomile, German chamomile, or tea tree to a half-teaspoon of carrier oil and stir; add to the cold or hot water, stir, and proceed to make the compress as instructed.

Finally, another option is to add 1/4 cup of Himalayan sea salt per cup of water/hydrosol (stir to dissolve) before soaking your compress cloth. This can also provide soothing relief.

Compresses are a wonderful tool to add to your household “first-aid” kit for life’s little aches, pains, scratches, and bumps!  If your symptoms fail to be relieved or are otherwise worrisome, be sure to call your medical provider for advice.

We want you to learn as much as you want to about essential oils and how to use them safely. If you have any questions, comments or other concerns, you’re welcome to email us at Or come join us on Facebook at Safe Essential Oil Recipes!




Author: Christina Smith

Certified Aromatherapist

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