Compresses are a very effective ways of using essential oils to relieve pain and swelling and reduce inflammation, Hot compresses are most often used to treat pain of a chronic nature and cold compresses to treat acute pain, and as a first-aid for injuries such as sprains.

A hot compress is prepared by filling a basin with water as hot as you can bear to put your hands in, and sprinkling 4 or 5 drops of essential oil on to the water. Fold a clean and absorbent piece of fabric into several thicknesses and dip into the water, in such a way that the cloth picks up as much as possible of the essential oil floating on the surface. Wring out the cloth to get rid of surplus. water, and place it at once on the painful area. Suitable materials are lint, clean old sheeting or towelling, a face flannel, a clean handkerchief for a very small compress or a folded hand-towel for a larger one.

Cover the compress with a piece of cling-film or other plastic material to prevent soaking clothes and bandages. On ankles, knees, wrists, elbows etc. the compress can be held in position with a crepe bandage. For the back, abdomen or larger areas, it is usually more practical to wrap a large towel around the body over the compress and its plastic covering and encourage the 'patient' to rest.

The compress should be replaced with a fresh one when it has cooled to blood heat. Hot compresses are particularly helpful in treating backache, fibrositis, rheumatic and arthritic pain, abscesses, earache and toothache.

Cold compresses are made and applied in exactly the same way, except that the water should be as cold as possible. If you have ice cubes available, put some into the water for a few minutes before making the compress. If not, run the cold tap for a few minutes to get the water as cool as you can.

Cold compresses are helpful for headaches (apply to forehead or back of neck) sprains, tennis elbow and other hot, swollen complications. They should be renewed once they have warmed up to blood temperature, though there is no harm in leaving the compress in place overnight or during the day if circumstances do not allow frequent changing.

Very large cold compresses can be used to bring down a patient's fever if it is dangerously high, but this should only be done by people who are well trained in handling acute illness, and should never he applied to babies or elderly people, as their body-heat control mechanisms are less efficient than those of adults and older children, and it is possible to cause too rapid a swing from very hot to sub-normally cold.

Alternate hot and cold compressing is a naturopathic technique which aids healing, and is very valuable for sprains and other conditions where massage cannot be used. Use cold compresses as a first-aid measure, but switch to hot and cold ones in the following days. Always start with a hot compress and finish with a cold one.

Arthriris Relief Compress

To relieve the pain and swelling of arthritis, you can put one cup of cool water in a bowl. Add 3 drops each of Camomile and Hyssop essential oils. Two drops of Cypress essential oil can also be added. Stir the essential oils into the water. Use a piece of flannel or a washcloth and saturate completely with the cool water. Wring out and place over the affected area until the cloth is no longer cool. Replace with a fresh cloth. Try to leave the compress on for at least 15 to 20 minutes for full benefit. Elevate the affected joint to encourage circulatory drainage. You can do this process 2 to 3 times a day for relief.

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