External Applications in Anthroposophic Nursing

White Cabbage Compress

Kind of substance

White cabbage

Guiding principle

The external application of white cabbage:

  • Stimulates the elimination of congested fluid
  • Reduces swelling by integrating congested fluid into the metabolism
  • Disinfects
  • Drains off substances from inflammations via the skin, by stimulating and absorbing the elimination of fluid
  • Cools
  • Calms
  • Alleviates pain
  • Softens indurations


White cabbage compresses to treat stasis and swelling in tissue, e. g.:

  • Abscess (the cabbage compress is placed directly on the abscess)
  • Ascites (the cabbage compress is placed on the draining lymph vessels or the entire abdomen
  • Inflamed swollen joints, such as arthritis, rheumatic diseases (the cabbage compress is placed on the affected joint)
  • Lymph congestion (the cabbage compress is placed on the draining lymph vessels of the affected area) (see example case)
  • Pain caused by congested tissue (the cabbage compress is placed directly on the congested spot)



  • The warmth of the cabbage application has to be adapted to the situation: more likely cool for acute inflammation, more likely pre-warmed for a weakened, chilled organism
  • Pain may occur temporarily during the application

  • Fresh white cabbage leaves (organic)
  • Plastic tray
  • Sharp knife
  • Glass bottle as a roller, or a marble rolling pin
  • For abdominal compresses: a hot water bottle, plastic bag (food-safe)
  • Intermediate cloth (cotton)
  • For abdominal compresses: outside cloth, thick flannelette cloth
  • For joints: elastic or gauze bandage to fix the compress in place

Applying the compress
  • Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage
  • Remove thick leaf veins with the knife
  • Place the leaves beside each other on the tray
  • Roll across the leaves with the bottle until juice leaks out
  • To warm up the cabbage leaves cover them with the plastic bag and place a hot water bottle on top. This is indicated for weak, chilled patients
  • Place the outside and intermediate cloths ready at the level of the abdomen
  • The patient lies down
  • The cabbage leaves are placed overlapping like roof shingles on the area to be treated
  • Mould the intermediate cloth over the leaves from both sides and then quickly wrap the outer cloth around everything, possibly fastening it with an adhesive bandage
  • For a joint place the cabbage leaves around the joint and fix them in place with a bandage
  • Duration of the treatment: 1-12 hours

  • Dispose of the cabbage leaves
  • Rinse off the treated area with lukewarm water
  • Wrap the remaining cabbage head in a moist cloth and store it at room temperature

Instructions to download

Case example

A 70-year-old male patient with inguinal hernia on the left side, with a hydrocele and ascites, and recurrent peritoneal mesothelioma.
The patient is suffering very much from pressure and tension in the testicles caused by testicular hydrocele. For many weeks a weekly puncture of the testicular hydrocele had to be carried out.
White cabbage compresses on the whole abdomen were prescribed during his hospital stay.
The patient then had to urinate a large quantity within 3 hours after the first application.
The patient received three cabbage applications during his stay.
In the night after the third application he had to urinate 4 times.
He felt an enormous relief from pressure and a reduction in pain after the applications.
His weight of 80.2 at admission was reduced to 78.1 at discharge, with one puncture of 1.7 l fluid.
The testicular hydrocele swelled half as quickly, so that that puncture was only required every 2 weeks.
At home the patient applied the compress daily, later only when needed, and was thereby able to maintain the reduced puncturing schedule of once every two weeks for a number of months.
The patient's medication was not changed during his hospital stay.
Author:  CW


Red., CW


  • Fingado M. Compresses and other therapeutic applications. A handbook from the Ita Wegman Clinic. Edinburgh: Floris Books; 2012.
  • Hermann G. Erfolgreiche Wundbehandlung. Aus der Praxis der anthroposophisch erweiterten Krankenpflege. 1st ed. Stuttgart: Urachhaus; 2000.