A simple cabbage leaf wrap is a centuries old but effective and inexpensive home remedy to reduce joint pain and swelling.
We love eating cabbage in all sorts of recipes. Especially in the summer, a simple coleslaw feels perfect.
In addition to cabbage being healthy when eaten, this humble vegetable can also be used externally.
People have long known that wrapping painful and swollen joints can be very helpful.
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Personal story and update:
If you have been following me here or on social media, you might know that I have suffered a pretty bad knee injury.
Feel free to skip this and go straight to the “recipe”.
We are in the middle of a total kitchen remodel. One Sunday, I was helping my husband remove a support beam. I was on a ladder, the beam came down and essentially pushed me off the ladder. Only having a split second to decide what I am going to do, I decided to step my right leg back and down. Obviously, I fell on the newly poured concrete floor. While I was otherwise fine, I could immediately tell that my right knee was pretty messed up.
I was trying to breathe through the pain. Good thing I was lying down, otherwise I might have fainted just from the pain. We did call 911 and I was taken to the nearest hospital.
Let me put it this way: after some x-rays ( that only show bones) and an MRI, we learned that I had completely torn my ACL. I had damaged both menisci and had a big loose piece of cartilage and bone in my knee joint. The actual report from the MRI was almost 2 pages long.
This all means that I have been on 2 crutches and with a knee brace for the better part of the last 2 months. I have had one surgery where they removed the loose piece and did some meniscal repairs. Currently, I am waiting for my range-of-motion to improve so that I can get my ACL restored.
Ligaments take a long time to heal which is what the ACL is. I am thinking 6-9 months.
This is the reason why I have not been quite as active here on my blog or my YouTube channel. I can walk but it’s slow. Everything takes a lot longer. Plus, I cannot yet fully bend my right knee. I am also ridiculously busy with physical therapy, doctor’s appointments, my own exercises, and “knee-hab” – and all this while our kitchen renovation is still going on.
I still have considerable swelling and pain in my knee joint. Then I remembered this old folk remedy of applying cabbage to the joint.
Why cabbage leaf wraps work
Cabbage is full of glutamine and anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant that helps fight inflammation and joint pain.
Also, cabbage seems to draw out fluids from the body. Whether you suffer from osteoarthritis, have sprained your ankle when hiking, or have engorged breasts when breastfeeding, wrapping cabbage around your body really helps.
Especially in Europe, people have known for centuries that these cabbage wraps really help. More recently, scientists were able to prove the efficacy of those poultices. You can read the study here.
What I like most about this home remedy is that yes, it is effective but it is also very easy to do, has little to no side effects, and is very inexpensive.
What you need:
Obviously, you need cabbage for this wrap. If you can afford it, I recommend getting organic cabbage. Some people say Savoy or Chinese cabbage works best. But I have seen plenty of people using green cabbage. Apparently, red cabbage works really well, too, but it also stains.
How to prepare the cabbage:
Carefully peel off the outer layers of the cabbage.
Cut away the hard stem.
Next, lay some plastic wrap on your wooden cutting board. If you have a plastic cutting board you don’t need to do this.
Now, take your bottle or mason jar or marble rolling pin and gently roll the cabbage leaves. Gently crush them so that the juices come out but not so much that the leaves break apart.
The reason for not using wood is that we don’t want anything to absorb the cabbage juices. We want them to go on and into your body!
How to apply the cabbage leaf wrap:
For most joints, two cabbage leaves will work great. If you have a bigger area that is swollen and painful, you can use more.
Place the cabbage leaves on your joint. You may need another person to help you with this.
Place the plastic wrap on top of the cabbage and around your joint.
Wrap your joint with an elastic bandage. Make sure the bandage is loose enough so it doesn’t cut off circulation but just tight enough so it stays in place. Either tape the end of the bandage or use an elastic bandage clip.
If this is the first time that you are using the cabbage leaf wrap you might just try it out for an hour and take it off to see how you tolerate it.
If your body does ok with it, you can keep it on overnight and for up to 12 hours.
Obviously, this is not a miracle cure. Therefore, you might need to repeat this for a few weeks.
You can also make a wrap with healing clay.