cabbage leaves for engorgement,why does it work?

Specialties Ob/Gyn


can any one tell me why cabbage leaves work for engorgement? some say they release an enzyme that helps. others say it is just the effect of the coldness from the frozen cabbage leaves.does anyone know for sure?


1,804 Posts

i found this little blurb on the web at

it provides a partial answer to your question.

Lactation consultants frequently suggest cabbage leaves to reduce swelling in moderate to severe engorgement. References to cabbage compresses for swelling and engorgement date back to the early 1800's. Cabbage compresses have been used to reduce the swelling in sprains and broken bones. Research data is sparse but published studies and anecdotal reports seem to support its value in reducing breast engorgement.

The common green cabbage (Brassica capitata) is used for engorgement therapy. Cabbage is known to contain sinigrin (allylisothiocyanate) rapine, mustard oil, magnesium, oxylate and sulphur heterosides. Herbalists believe that cabbage has both antibiotic and anti irritant properties. It is theorized that this natural mixture of ingredients helps decrease tissue congestion by dilating (opening) local capillaries (small blood vessels) improving the blood flow in the area.

Cabbage compresses should be used with other engorgement treatment routines

mother/babyRN, RN

11 Articles; 1,587 Posts

Specializes in cardiac, diabetes, OB/GYN.

Prior to this info I had absolutely no clue. Thanks....

Jolie, BSN

6,375 Posts

Specializes in Maternal - Child Health.

I developed mastitis when I weaned my youngest, and my OB suggested cabbage leaves (cooked and cooled, though, not frozen). I must have given him a strange look, as he assured me he had not gone off his rocker. Even with 11 years of OB and NICU experience, I had never heard of this. He was a foreign-born physician, and I wondered if this was some cultural wive's tale. Anyway, it worked like a charm, and he got the pleasure of saying "I told you so!"

Home Health Columnist / Guide


11 Articles; 18,064 Posts

Specializes in Vents, Telemetry, Home Care, Home infusion.

Wish someone had told me that 18 years ago!


52 Posts

I used them with my first (a little hesitant at first, lol) but they worked like a charm!! Cooked and cooled, but I've never heard frozen, those would be too cold I'm sure.


20 Posts

i've never heard frozen either, but also never heard cooked and cooled! LOL I've heard "very cold from the crisper in your fridge, wrap your breast in them and remove when warm and limp. Repeat as necessary." I've never had to use it but have known several women who have followed the protocol I am familiar with.

I'm guessing that it doesn't much matter HOW the cabbage is prepared, based on these answers... it seems to work any way you get it on there!

prmenrs, RN

4,565 Posts

Specializes in NICU, Infection Control.

Sometimes they're used for headaches, and fevers as well (placed on the forehead!). I think part of it is just the cold compress thing. I'm not sure of any herbal properties. It can't hurt, and nothing gets into the milk like a po med would.

mother/babyRN, RN

11 Articles; 1,587 Posts

Specializes in cardiac, diabetes, OB/GYN.

The kitchen and our nurse manager will STILL not supply them. Looks like I will be stopping at the market before coming in to work tonight.


205 Posts

I was told to pop a couple of savoy cabbage leaves raw,but from the fridge,into my bra for engorgement.Hey,it's cooling if nothing else,and isn't nature great the way she made those leaves *exactly* the right size and shape to fit in a bra!!

NicuGal, MSN, RN

2,743 Posts

Specializes in NICU, PICU, PACU.

Cabbage leaves saved my sanity LOL

After I spoke to our CNS she told me about the cabbage leaves...I told my hubby, hey you need to run to the grocery and get me a head of cabbage. He smiled ear to ear and said "So,you're going to make stuffed cabbage tonight?"

ROFL.....well kinda LOL


272 Posts

I had my 2nd child about 1yr ago and a friend MD told me that I should try cabbage for the engorgement. I just took raw cabbage and stuuffed it in my bra and boy it helped. He also did mentioned that not to put it on the nipple just the breast and that if left too long can decrease milk production. He said that it use to be use for people who wanted to stop breastfeeding.

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