External Applications in Anthroposophic Nursing

Ginger Kidney Compress

Kind of substance

Freshly grated ginger, or ginger powder

Guiding principle for the application

The external application of ginger to the kidneys stimulates vigorous inner warmth in the patient’s body, which can spread to the periphery. The soul is invited to join more intensively with the body, which can be seen in the person’s deepened breathing, among other things. The patient can calm down. Emotional and physical tension can be released.

Guiding Principle for the substance


  • Dementia defensive behaviour (see Example Case 3)
  • Depression, reactive (see Example Case 2)
  • Difficulty sleeping through (see Example Case 1)
  • Exhaustion
  • Menopause (see Example Case 1)
  • Hot flashes during the day (see Example Case 1)
  • Sweat outbreaks at night (see Example Case 1)
  • Constitutional kidney treatment in cases of chronic kidney disease
  • For patients who have difficulty starting the day


There is also an Instructional video for this compress


  • Apply in the morning if possible, not after 2:00 pm. Applying the compress in the morning supports the patient’s incarnation process into the day (waking up with the help of warmth). If applied later, there is a risk that deep drowsiness or a dreamy mood of consciousness will persist for several hours.
  • There have been some experiences with ginger kidney compresses used before going to bed to help with sleep. From a medical point of view, however, the ginger compress must be removed after 30 minutes.
  • Location of the kidneys: the kidneys are each about the size of the palm of your hand and are situated in the area of the lower ribs on either side of the spine. The positioning of the kidney compress is not to be confused with an application to the LS area (lumbar spine).
  • The desired warming effect of the ginger compress may be delayed, beginning only after several applications
  • The feet must be warm before the compress is applied, otherwise the warmth of the compress goes to the head
  • In the first phase of the application there may be increased sensitivity to external disturbances – this calls for special protection against noise, light, smells, etc.
  • Towards the end of the application the patient may want to resume being active. The duration of the post-treatment rest should then be adapted to the individual person (shortened)
  • In rare cases there may be itching or a reddening of the skin. Then less ginger can be used to prepare the next application.

Instructions with FRESH ginger
The use of freshly grated ginger root is highly appreciated by almost all patients and is preferable to powder. The moist, fresh root is described as being more stimulating than powder. At the same time, it takes more strength to face its mild pungency.

  • Outer cloth
  • Intermediate cloth
  • Protective cloth (terrycloth towel for moisture protection), folded twice
  • Inner cloth (substance cloth: e.g., torn cloth, handkerchief or strong kitchen paper), large enough to be approx. 20 cm x 30 cm when folded once
  • Hot-water bottle
  • Ginger root, unpeeled, approx. 40 g
  • Grater

Applying the compress
  • Lay the outer cloth on the intermediate cloth
  • Place the filled hot-water bottle in the middle
  • Then put the folded protective cloth on top
  • Place half of the inner cloth over it
  • Grate the ginger root onto the part of the inner cloth that is lying on the cloth
  • Place the free half of the inner cloth on top and fold it in from all sides to form a closed pack
  • Warm for approx. 5 minutes so that the coolness escapes from the moist rhizome mass (do not heat)
  • Roll up the ends of the outer and intermediate cloths
  • Go to the patient with all the materials
  • Have the patient sit up in bed
  • Lay the entire compress on the bed at kidney height
  • Remove the hot-water bottle
  • Uncover the patient’s back area.
  • Place and hold the protective cloth and substance packs on the kidney region
  • Have the patient lie back onto the compress packs
  • Mold the intermediate and outer cloths snuggly around the patient

  • 30–40 minutes
  • Remove the ginger pack and the protective cloth in such a way that the back is exposed as little as possible and the warmth is retained: allow the patient to turn a little to the side, then pull out the ginger pack (inner cloth) with the protective cloth from below.
  • Have the patient lie back
  • Cover well again with the cloths
  • Post-treatment rest 30 minutes, then stand up

  • Wash out the protective and inner cloths

Instructions with ginger POWDER

  • Inner cloth, intermediate cloth, outer cloth
  • 2 level tablespoons of dry ginger powder
  • A basin
  • 300 ml hot water (approx. 60°C, or 140°F)
  • Hot-water bottle

  • Place the outer and intermediate cloths ready in the kidney area on the bed and warm them up with hot water bottles
  • Fold the inner cloth to the size of the kidney area (to cover both kidneys)
  • Put ginger powder in the basin, pour hot water over it and stir
  • Dip the inner cloth into the basin, wring it out thoroughly and place it on the kidney region
  • Lay the inner and intermediate cloths quickly and closely over the area
  • Remove all the cloths after about 30 minutes
  • Post-treatment rest for a maximum of 30 minutes

  • Rinse out the inner cloth, which can be reused

Well-proven in many patients
Once a day to twice a week
Onset of effect
Possible after the first application, but varies greatly, depending on the illness and indication
Length of therapy
Several weeks and as needed
  • Take care with patients with psychoses: the application may intensify psychotic experiences if the application triggers too much dreamy consciousness, so that the patient is internally flooded by a world of images. In order to encourage the patient’s full mental clarity, it would be preferable to administer a mustard powder application.

  • The ginger application can bring strong mental experiences from the past into the consciousness of the patient. If the patient experiences a very dark mood during or after the application, you should shorten the duration of the application or consider discontinuing it if the patient feels overwhelmed by the emerging images.

  • Allergic skin reactions are rare but can occur. Special care should be taken with very light-skinned and red-haired people.

  • In case of strong reddening of the skin and sensation of heat, the amount of ginger powder should be reduced; if the patient does not experience warmth, the amount of powder must be increased.

Instructions to download

Case example

Example Case 1: Menopause, difficulty sleeping through
A woman in menopause, highly committed to her job, suffered from hot flashes and fatigue attacks during the day. During the night, she had heart palpitations, anxiety, night sweats, insomnia and the constant feeling of being “charged up”.
The compress was applied in the evening as a sleeping aid, because the nightly symptoms were in the foreground and she did not find time for it during the day. The duration of the compress was up to 5 hours. She removed the compress when she woke up.
She received 2–3 compresses weekly over a period of about 8 weeks. Her quality of sleep improved already with the first application: fear and palpitations receded. Outbreaks of sweating and lying awake for hours decreased and she could to back to sleep again faster. During the day, her hot flashes were reduced and her warmth organism became more stable. She felt more tired, but more peaceful. The only negative experience was that her skin reacted sensitively with increasing applications, but only briefly each time.

Example Case 2: Depression
A 43-year-old man with recurrent depressive episodes complained of strong inner tension and could neither experience nor communicate his own feelings. After the first ginger application he experienced a sense of relaxation and warmth in his whole body. His nightly snoring stopped.
He experienced lasting improvements regarding mental easing, his warmth organism, and sleep.

Example Case 3: Dementia
This happened in a nursing home in Switzerland. An old, demented man reacted very aggressively to his surroundings, probably also because he had strong pain in his arms. Movement cost him a lot of strength, but he was mobilized into his wheelchair daily. He had unsuccessfully received allopathic drugs and cannabis. He hadn’t recognized his wife in months. At the insistence of a student nurse, he received a kidney compress at 10:00 am each morning for 7 days. This was started with 1 teaspoon ginger powder and the compress remained on the kidney for 20 minutes, after which the patient rested for 30 minutes. He always lay still during the whole time, also during the post-treatment rest, sometimes he dozed a bit. After the first application he was not mobilized into his wheelchair until the late afternoon in order not to overtax him. When his wife came, he spread out his arms and shouted: “That’s my wife!” The next day he lifted both arms towards the nurse to change his pajamas. That had always been an enormous effort, because he was in so much pain. After the fourth application he laughed with the nurses. The ward manager, who had returned from a holiday, recognized the change, so from then on ginger kidney compresses were introduced.


Red., MR, FS, HR


  • Therkleson T. Ginger compress therapy for adults with osteoarthritis. Journal of advanced nursing 66.10 (2010): 2225–2233
  • Fingado M. Therapeutische Wickel und Kompressen. Handbuch der Ita Wegmann Klinik. Arlesheim: Natura Verlag; 2001. English translation: Fingado M. Compresses and other therapeutic applications. A handbook from the Ita Wegman Clinic. Edinburgh: Floris Books; 2012.
  • Glaser H, Heine R, Sauer M, Simon L et al. Ingwerstudie, Praxisintegrierte Studie zur Darstellung der Frühwirkungen von Ingwer als Äußere Anwendung. Verband für Anthroposophische Pflege 2001.