Fomentations are a category of treatment in which strips of cloth are soaked in a liquid herbal extract e.g. tea, tincture or succus, and placed over the treatment area on the skin. An occlusive covering such as plastic wrap or waxed paper covers this and is held in place with tape or more bandages for a measured period of time.
There are several ways to apply ginger (Zingiber officinalis) to the body:
A ginger bath is made by adding a decoction of the root to the hot bath water and soaking the whole body is one. This is done to open the circulation and release the interior heat at the start of a fever management protocol.
Another way is to focus the treatment on a particular set of organs and target the circulation of those tissues. Stagnation in any viscera can be alleviated by a ginger compress or fomentation. There are two common ways to make the ginger fomentation that are part of the folk medicine traditions of Japan and China.
- A large root of fresh ginger (about 150g) can be grated or thinly sliced and placed into a pot of about 4L of water.
- Bring the water to a boil and immediately reduce to simmer.
- Once the water has become golden coloured dip a small towel (like a hand towel) into the water and wring it out to the point where it is not dripping. This may require tongs and rubber gloves.
- Have the patient undress down to their under garments and lay on their back or front to expose the treatment area.
- Use blankets to cover the rest of the patient’s body.
- Allow the soaked cloth to cool just enough to be tolerated by the patient. Place the folded hot fomentation over the treatment area.
- Place another large and dry towel over the wet fomentation closing off the area so that the patient is now covered up and comfortable.
- After about 10 minutes the cloth will be cooled down and it can be re-soaked in the slowly simmering ginger water.
- Keep the pot covered between uses.
- One full hour is sufficient for treatment.
- After the last application is over a fresh towel placed in very cold water is applied to take the heat out of the skin and finish the process. 10 minutes should suffice.
A second method is specific for stagnation and the beginnings of kidney failure.
- Take a pot that is as wide as the patient’s backside.
- 150g of ginger, grated or sliced, is put into 4L of water and brought to a boil and reduced to a simmer.
- This time the folded towel is placed over the top of the pot not touching the liquid but absorbing the ginger oil impregnated steam.
- Place the lid over the towel to help hold it in place and fill with ginger steam. After a few minutes remove towel and fold in half again, hot side in.
- Quickly get to patient and place hot side on their back over their kidneys. Have another towel ready to put on the pot whilst one is on the patient.
- After a few rounds the patient will be comfortable with the extreme heat. One hour is a full treatment.
- This method will penetrate deep into the kidneys and move blood and fluids through it.
- Finish with a cold wet towel for about 10 minutes.
On the following day many patients have discovered the silhouette of their kidneys on their nightshirt and on their backside. If the treatment area is not cooled properly there may also be welts on the skin the following day.
How to make a ginger compress
A ginger compress can be made by first grating the ginger root into a small cloth that is subsequently tied off and placed into a pot of slowly boiling water and then placed over an area that needs extra circulation. All tea water can be also put into the tub for a bath.