External Applications in Anthroposophic Nursing

White Cabbage Compress for Congestion and Swelling

Kind of substance

White cabbage

Guiding principle for the application

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

Guiding Principle for the substance


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 (see example case 2)
  • 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 1)
  • 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
  • Place the cabbage leaves overlapping like roof shingles on the area to be treated
  • Mold 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

Example case 1:
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

Example case 2:
The legs and abdominal cavity of a 50-year-old female patient were characterized by sigmoid carcinoma with liver metastases full of edema. Ascites associated with peritoneal carcinosis caused tension in her abdomen, shortness of breath and an associated irritable cough.
Already after the first white cabbage compress on her stomach and groin she was able to excrete so much water that she asked astonished: “What did you do to me?” I had to urinate like a waterfall!” In the course of the daily treatment she lost about 20 kg of weight within 4 weeks. Her medication achieved its effect only with the support of the cabbage compresses. The patient gained confidence and hope.
Autor: BB


Red., CW, BB


  • 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.