Rubefacient Herbs – Functions

The term ‘rubefacient’ refers to a substance that irritates the skin and is used to bring blood rapidly to a concentrated area of the skin thus causing redness of skin. When applied externally, rubefacient herbs heal through stimulation and ironically through irritation.


Rubefacient herbs are a class of healing plants which have a unique effect on the body when applied to the skin. They are all powerful stimulants; some have a ‘warming’ effect and others a ‘cooling’ effect. Regardless of whether they are hot or cold or simply irritating, they all have an intense and localized impact where they are applied.


Rubefacient herbs stimulate the dilation of capillaries. Blood is drawn from deep within the body increasing circulation around the area of concern and speeding up the healing process. This form of treatment is good for treating the pain due to minor injuries such as muscle sprains and soreness. It is also beneficial for arthritic pain. While initially the sensation may be overwhelming and even painful with some herbs, it is ultimately an energizing and healing action.


Common herbal rubefacients include Cloves, Garlic, Ginger, Horseradish, Mustard, Nettle, Rosemary Oil and Rue.