Bruises can be both annoying and painful. But nature has provided us with a number of ways to reduce inflammation and speed healing.
5 ways to treat bruises naturally
1. Ice: where there is pain, heat, redness and swelling (the cardinal signs of inflammation) cooling the area down can speed recovery, as well as provide some pain relief. A pack of frozen peas makes the perfect ice pack, as it moulds easily around the affected part of your body. Never apply ice directly to the skin, as it can burn.
Pro tip – alternating cold and hot packs (always starting and ending with cold) can further enhance this first aid technique.
2. Arnica: While using the classic homoeopathic remedy for shock, bruising, strains and sprains isn’t backed by scientific evidence, herbal arnica creams have been proven to speed up the healing of bruises. Look for creams containing 20% Arnica montana. Reapply frequently, while the bruise is sore or swollen.
Pro tip – never put herbal arnica on an open wound.
3. Comfrey poultice – the leaves make a great compress. Snap off a couple of leaves and wrap in a clean cloth, bruise them to release some of the juice and apply directly to the injury.
Pro tip – comfrey can be easily confused with borage, another member of the same plant family. Although borage is not dangerous, it’s never advisable to use fresh herbs that you can’t confidently identify.
4. Rest and elevation – you’ve had a minor shock and your body has diverted a little extra blood to the site of the injury. Take it easy to help support your body to do the work of healing. If you have a swollen digit or limb, try to deep it raised above heart level for an hour or two.
5. The humble potato– a potato poultice, is one of my favourite home remedies for swelling. Simply grate a clean, raw potato and place it between layers of a clean cloth (such as a nappy or tea towel). Apply to the swollen area for about 20 minutes, then discard. If the poultice warms up quickly, remove it and apply a fresh one (including using a clean cloth).
Pro tip – starchy white potatoes are best. Leave your gourmet waxy variety for dinner.
DIY Potato poultice video (my poultices are usually larger and chunkier).
Too frequent bruises?
We can all be a bit clumsy sometimes but repeated bruising, or episodes when you can’t remember knocking yourself, can sometimes be a sign of haematological problems. Take photos of your bruises and see your GP to discuss a full blood examination and other tests as required.
A previous version of this article first published in February 2011