health

I Slapped Some Cabbage Leaves In My Bra To Help Relieve Breast Soreness

by Stephanie Watson
Stephanie Watson is a journalist and novelist who loves writing about everything under the sun. From feminism and hard hitting news, to which cat videos are trending this week. You can check out her work over on Fembotmag.com, Vocally, YourTango, and HelloGiggles.

Breast soreness sucks. Whether you’re on your period, breastfeeding, or simply wearing an ill-fitting bra, it just plain sucks.

My periods usually last between three and five days, and during that time, I pretty much have a constant boobache. (Breast pain is a pretty common symptom of PMS.) My nipples in particular often feel like they’ve been pierced with invisible metal studs.

Even when I’m not on my period, my breasts can (and do) still misbehave. I have an annoying habit of sleeping on my front. Or rather, I fall asleep on my side and wake up on my front. Is it more comfortable? Nope. But my body just rolls that way, I guess! And unfortunately, it leads to even more chest discomfort.

With this in mind, I decided to try out a slightly odd natural remedy I’d heard about many times: cold cabbage leaves. And no, you don’t eat them.

A study by the Singapore National University Hospital (NUH) Centre for Evidence-Based Nursing suggests that rubbing cabbage leaves on breasts can help reduce breast pain and inflammation in lactating women. Yep, you read that correctly.

At first glance, this sounds kind of silly. But humans have taken advantage of the natural healing properties of raw vegetables and herbs for millennia. We used to eat moldy bread to counteract infections for crying out loud, and we still rub clay on our faces for glowing skin.

So does using cabbage leaves topically to relieve breast pain actually work? After a quick trip to the grocery store, I was all set to find out.

How Does Cabbage Benefit Our Boobs?

How Does Cabbage Benefit Our Boobs?

No one really knows who initially came up with the idea of rubbing cold cabbage on engorged body parts. But people have been at it for a while.

A study published in Clinical Phytoscience found that cruciferous vegetables like cabbage have antioxidants shown to decrease inflammation.

 

The leafy veggie has also been specifically examined as a potentially effective treatment for inflamed breasts. Since it’s natural and there are no side effects, why not give it a try?

So does it actually work? Or is it a placebo effect?

What's the Science?

What's the Science?
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Cabbage is made up of a boatload of healthy ingredients that make it a valuable superfood. It has vitamins K and C, calcium, anticarcinogenic chemicals such as sulforaphane, antioxidants such as anthocyanin, and much more.

Now typically, you’d eat all this, and it would be absorbed into your body through your digestive system, so how much of this actually gets into your system through skin contact when it’s used topically is debatable.

Let's Get Choppin'

Let's Get Choppin'
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I chose a white cabbage, as it’s the most common type in my area. I also figured that the juicier the veg, the more likely it was to penetrate my skin.

You can also use green or red cabbage since they all share very similar nutritional properties.

Prepping the Cabbage

Prepping the Cabbage
Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

Using cabbage leaves as a pain reliever is pretty simple. In theory, all you need to do is stuff some leaves in your bra for a while. It’s really that easy!

But first, you’ve gotta prep the cabbage:

  1. Cut the cabbage in half, as this makes it easier to pull out individual leaves.
  2. Take one of the halves and pull apart the different layers.
  3. Wash a handful of the most inner leaves. These will be your #BoobLeaves.
  4. Refrigerate the leaves for a couple of hours.

You can also feel free to cook any unused cabbage so long as it’s clean and has also been refrigerated properly.

Time to Pop These Babies in My Bra!

Time to Pop These Babies in My Bra!
Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

After a couple of hours in the fridge, my leaves were chilled and extra crispy. Many sources suggest that you avoid covering the nipple when you stick the leaves in your bra. This seemed counterproductive to me, as most of my breast pain comes directly from the nipple itself, so I decided to mix it up a little.

I placed a couple of leaves over one breast, avoiding the nipple as suggested. On the other breast, I covered as much of my boob as possible, including the nipple.

Now, We Wait.

Now, We Wait.
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After stuffing my bra with the leaves, I went about my day until they began to wilt. The wilting process took a lot longer than I expected. After an hour or so, they were floppy, warm, and discolored from my warm boob, essentially cooking them like a weak Crock-Pot.

My initial thought during this process was that having the leaves in my bra was surprisingly comfortable. The leaves didn’t poke me in weird places, it wasn’t gross or soggy, and the initial coldness was actually pretty refreshing.

Did It Work?

Did It Work?
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So was this an effective treatment for me? It’s both a yes and a no — but unfortunately, mostly a no.

At first, when I placed the leaves in my bra, I was met with a soothing coolness that made me forget about the pain. As the leaves warmed up, the pain gradually returned. When this happened, I tried to massage the leaves against my skin, but that provided only a little relief.

And as I suspected, the nipple that had no coverage did not get any relief at all.

Time to Get Crafty!

Time to Get Crafty!
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I decided to take matters into my own hands and tweak the remedy a little. Dry, solid leaves just weren’t cutting it for me, so maybe cold and wet cabbage paste would work. After all, a lot of pain relief and healing treatments come in cream or liquid form, like Tiger Balm, Vaseline, Vicks VapoRub, and mud masks. Anything that aims to soothe is usually rubbed into the skin, not just placed on the skin.

So I pulverized some cabbage in a blender with a little water, then put the resulting paste in the fridge for a few hours to chill.

Let's Try This Again, Shall We?

Let's Try This Again, Shall We?
Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

After the paste became nice and cold, I applied a thick coat of it on my boobs like a mask. Since the mixture was so gooey, I couldn’t exactly pop it in my bra and go about my day as I did with the leaves. So I decided to lie back on the couch, massage it on, and veg out (excuse the pun) for a while with Netflix.

Almost instantly I began to feel less tension in my breasts — and in my nipples in particular. It didn’t get to the deep pain right in the center of my breasts, in the pectoral muscles and mammary glands. But it did soothe the nipples quite well.

Did Experiment No. 2 Work?

Did Experiment No. 2 Work?
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Since my mushy cabbage concoction was straight out of the fridge, it was comfortably chilly. This seemed to work a lot better than in leaf form, but it made me wonder if this was due to the cabbage itself or the coldness of the paste. I also considered the idea that the pain relief came from the massaging motion. Maybe by massaging the breast tissue I was relaxing the muscle, taking away the tension, and the cabbage itself was having a negligible effect.

Regardless of what caused the pain relief, it did happen. Not to a huge extent, but enough that there was a decrease in throbbing. I felt more relaxed after the second experiment, which in turn I suspect also brought down the pain level. After all, one of the best painkillers you can get is stress relief.

Would I Recommend This Treatment?

Would I Recommend This Treatment?
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Natural remedies are at their best when used as a supplement to other treatments. I’d try cabbage leaves again if all else failed — as in, if aspirin wasn’t working, if a heat pad or ice pack wasn’t powerful enough, and if meditation did nada.

Then again, our bodies react differently to different treatments. If you try it and discover it works for you, then more power to ya!

Quick PSA, though: If you do decide to blend the cabbage into a mixture, your blender will stink for days. Just a friendly warning!

Ineffective Life Hack Fail or Miracle Cure?

Ineffective Life Hack Fail or Miracle Cure?

Well, it’s neither. While I do believe most of the pain relief came from the coldness of the cabbage and the massaging, I’d still say it technically works.

The fact that there have been so many contradictory studies done on the theory is proof enough that there’s no real, single answer here. I do believe it worked enough for me to call this experiment a success, but it didn’t help me enough to cut aspirin and ice out of my routine. Not knowing how it works also makes me skeptical of its effectiveness. But at the end of the day, it did something, and that’s better than nothing.

cabbage leaves
Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

It’s a bit annoying when someone tries a hack once — usually incorrectly — then goes on to blast it as a total fail. So just because it only slightly worked for me over the course of one period doesn’t classify it as a failure. If you’re truly interested in the treatment, then try it several times in a variety of ways, and you might end up finding your new miracle cure. Things affect different people differently, after all!

Me? I think I’ll stick to ice packs and over-the-counter oral painkillers, as they seem to work flawlessly. But if you’ve tried literally everything and that last shard of pain just won’t go away, then you have nothing to lose by trying out the cabbage approach.