Compresses and footbaths were encouraged by Rudolf Steiner to support healthy child development, as well as to prevent and treat illness. Plants and other natural remedies are applied over the skin to specific organs and body parts to bring balance and harmony with the body’s own healing capacity. Used with understanding and regularity they are the basis of healthcare for those who wish to care for themselves and their family with anthroposophic therapies. Children are very responsive to the therapeutic applications and parents who use them often as part of a home healthcare routine find them to be most beneficial.
They are provided here for people who have first consulted or participated in a related workshop and have been led to the site to fulfil a home healthcare prescription. The instructions do not replace the often necessary advice that can be provided in professional consultation with a health practitioner at the time of an illness.
Compresses are used for many and varied treatments over the chest, abdomen, kidneys, liver, limbs and throat. The following details the basic know how of applying a hot compress. Please take care and only use compresses when they have been prescribed. These notes accompany instructions provided in consultation or at a workshop; they do not stand alone. The woollen blankets and compress cloths are sold in sets from the clinic and workshops. Contact me to enquire.
Thermos or a saucepan with lid – to steep the tea
Tea strainer (not necessary in all compresses)
Bowl – to strain the tea into
1 to 2 Hot water bottles with cover – fill it to no more than half, without air trapped inside
3 cloths – made of raw silk, linen, baby muslin or old woollen thermals. The first is the compress cloth and must be large enough to be folded into a padded wad, to cover the abdomen. The second is the wringer cloth and the third is an extra wringer cloth. Tea towels and flannels work well.
Woollen scarf or long piece of woollen material to wrap around the abdomen and tuck in behind the back. A piece of an old blanket is ideal. The wool is insulating.
Scarf Liner – a piece of flannelette or cotton is ideal, the same size as the
In my experience some of the triggers for coughing have included:
when the body is trying to release mucus or other obstacles in the throat;
when the airways is irritated and inflamed;
just prior to sleep because it can aid ‘letting go’ and help the transition to sleep;
when we have a level of uncertainty or holding back in our emotions.
Anthroposophy sheds light on the cough’s attempt to establish equilibrium in the respiratory system. It is clear to me that suppressing a cough hinders or elongates this process. I therefore try to find a treatment that will assist the person through the process rather than removing the process.
A cloth that is layered with melted beeswax is warmed and applied to the chest to create a soothing, calming effect, especially on the breathing. It is a safe, easy, enjoyable and effective compress that I recommend for daily use for asthmatics and those with bronchial tightness.
A yarrow liver compress is the application of yarrow tea (leaf and young stalk) in a hot, dry cloth, compressed over the liver with a narrow blanket. It is indicated to support liver function especially post antibiotic use, during aggressive medical treatments that are known to strain the liver, some cases of abdominal bloating as well as for depression (which can be linked to poor liver function).
Earaches that are caused by a swollen eardrum and fluid are often helped by an onion ear compress. Make a little parcel of diced onion (about 1/4 – 1/2 a large onion). The material used for the compress ‘bag’ could be a thin tubular bandage tying the ends once the onion is inserted, a little cotton bag or piece of fabric tied into a parcel. The compress should be at body temperature. Hold the compress over the ear including behind it. The fluid is encouraged to sweat out of the ear so rest the pained ear towards the pillow and a soft head band of sorts can help keep it in place and catch drips. This can remain in place for a half hour or so, repeated every one to two hours as required to bring relief.
Chamomile Ear Compress
Earaches that are caused by tension and too much noise may be soothed by the application of a little parcel of dry chamomile flowers that has been warmed through and become aromatic. To heat the bag and preserve the delicate oils in the flowers, place the compress bag between two plates and warm the plates over a saucepan of boiling water. When it is comfortably warm temperature place it against the ear and keep it warm with a small extra pad of wool to insulate but let the compress breathe. A little woollen sock or singlet can do the job well. Hold it in place with a headband or beanie and leave it in place as long as it is warm. I tend to suggest at least half an hour, with the possibility of leaving it on overnight. The compress can be re-used until the flowers have lost their aroma.
School sores are a skin lesion caused by a staphylococcus or streptococcus bacteria that can naturally occur on the skin and upper respiratory system, but can get out of control especially in the hotter months. Once the sores open they spread easily by contact. They are considered highly contagious and the Department Health states a need for “time out ” (exclusion) from school.
I have treated numerous cases where prior infections of the same bacteria have been treated with antibiotics and then it reoccurs within weeks or months. The infection requires vigilant treatment and hygiene such as regular hand and nail washing, daily linen changing and avoiding spreading at bath time. Keeping them covered and staying off school is very important. Alongside prescribed anthroposophic remedies to strengthen the immune system, children and adults have been assisted to restore harmony and overcome the disease naturally.
An alternate footbath involves the use of two bowls of water (one hot, one cold) into which the patient’s feet are placed alternatively. The experience of moving between temperatures creates a sensory experience that gently awakens an inner equilibrium that particulary supports the Sense of Balance and the Sense of Warmth. Children find this a fun activity. The parent need not explain the therapeutic effect to children as this may influence how the children experience it for themselves. It also helps to increase circulation, immunity and lymphatic drainage.
A large (feet size) bowl or bucket of hot water
A large (feet size) bowl or bucket of cold water cold water
This compress must be used with precaution and only if prescribed. The ginger can burn the skin of fair haired persons and in some people can be very disturbing on an physiological level. It is included on this website only for those who have been prescribed its use, in which case it can be highly affective to ease dry and asthmatic coughs as well as back ache and joint pain. Tessa Therkleson, a New Zealand anthroposophic nurse has published a paper on its use for osteo-arthritis.
Page 1 of this post links to a website by Dr David Martin who provides videos and clear facts and links to scientific research explaining that fever is an action of the body to overcome what is causing or could case illness, rather than fever itself being the illness. Ways to manage fever are discussed within the videos.
Page 2 of this post provides text instructions for using arnica and water warm compresses to help keep the brain safe throughout a fever.
Arnica lotions 10% (tinctures /essence) can be applied over bruises and impacted body parts as a compress to help recover from the trauma. It can be used for bruised or strained joints and post operative swelling. Do not use arnica over open wounds.
If the injury is new and the site is hot and swollen use 1 part of arnica lotion with 9 parts of cool water. Soak a compress cloth or crepe bandage, wring it out then apply it to the injured site. Cover it with an outer insulating compress cloth. For old injuries warm water may be more suitable than cold. The compress can remain on for up to 45 minutes. An equal duration of rest should always follow any therapeutic application so as to properly allow the integration of the medicinal substance towards healing.
The frequency of application depends upon the injury. Standard first aid applications of icepacks (buffered from the body with fabric so as not to freeze the cells) applied for 15 minute every two hours proves a marked improvement in the healing time of bruising. These standard procedures can be followed with the addition of arnica compresses.
Short, regular, massage applications of a protective lotion provide an experience of the body as well as a buffer to preserve the forces needed for growth and maintaining health. Touch brings awareness to the periphery and body parts in which pressure is applied. Developing whole body awareness is part of healthy child development. In adults it serves as a reminder of parts that may have dropped out of consciousness. The application process draws attention to the distinction between self and other. This awareness increases the opportunity to filter the many impressions that come towards us throughout the day. A well prepared lotion can act as an extra layer between the self and the world. The combination of application process and product can be very useful for hyper sensitive children by receiving extra protection, and for hypo sensitive children whose limbs extend beyond their boundary and into the space of others.
A potent therapeutic bath best given weekly for 7 weeks on the same day each week where possible. It supports rehabilitation post any illness as well as general health throughout changes of season, especially spring.
A nutritional bath uses 1 cup of raw bath milk, egg, honey and lemon.
Follow the instructions closely to gain the most benefit from this therapeutic bath. Please don’t have a nutritional bath when you are fevering or taking medication (or using drugs). And if you are pregnant you should first consult with me or your anthroposophic practitioner before dipping into this bath.
A chamomile compress helps the nervous system quieten, and improves digestion. It is highly valuable for insomnia, pain related to menstruation, for people with poor digestion due to nervousness, or after a busy day studying. It affects the Sense of Movement and Sight by harmonising the relationship between environmental stimulus and the sensory processing that carries the outer stimulus to the inner life. The very sensitive blossoms of the chamomile reach the nervous system to calm it without having to pass through the digestive system.
The lemon footbath is an easy, yet powerful treatment to harmonise body warmth. The result is the experience of being grounded.
Use it at times of change or transition when you need help to leave one activity and move onto the next.
It is perfect to give before bed to promote relaxation, when a child has just come home from the other parents home, after school or on a Friday night so you can breathe out work and step into the weekend more balanced.