We’ve come forth into Earth’s environment to play, create, travel, build, dance, eat chocolate, romp and pursue many other alluring adventures. As we indulge our passions, however, we tend to bump into things; get bit and stung by other things; cut, puncture, burn and scrape ourselves; and, intermittently, mismanage our internal environment. Clearly, these occasional disruptions are small prices to pay for reveling in the beauty and diverse delights our home planet freely provides us, but they can sorely detract from the fun. So, Mother Earth, our wise and compassionate benefactor, provides boundless herbal medicines that soothe and heal those bothersome discomforts we occasionally encounter on our paths.
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The herbal first-aid remedies and processes we’ll focus on in this article are simple, benign and affordable. They alleviate pain, shock and stress to help re-establish “ease”…the premier doorway to health and wholesome healing. Their therapeutic actions (e.g., anti-inflammatory, astringent, vulnerary, nervine) nurse us along our way to recovery while providing nutrients the cells and tissues of our self-healing bodies can use to regain balance. Along with these qualities, I’ll suggest practical delivery vehicles (e.g., tea, tincture, poultice) that our resourceful ancestors developed through the ages as they learned by observation and experience.
• Uplifting antidepressants: damiana (Turnera diffusa), lavender (Lavandula officinalis), lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), St.John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) and albizia or silk tree (Albizia julibrissin); teas or tinctures
• “Mellowers”: kava root, hops (Humulus lupulus), skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) and passionflower (Passiflora incarnata); teas or tinctures
• To stop prolonged bleeding, apply yarrow leaf (Achillea millefolium) powder or cayenne (Capsicum frutescens) powder directly to injury. (Yes, it stings; yes, it stops the bleeding!) After bleeding abates, cleanse wound and apply comfrey leaf/root (Symphytum officinale) powder or poultice.
Note: Clean a deep wound thoroughly and allow it to heal some before using comfrey; otherwise, comfrey can quickly heal the surface skin while there may still be infection/bacteria deeper down.
• Have the symptom checked out to determine the cause. Drink comfrey root and leaf tea or take “PA-free” tincture if you’d rather. (Based on some notably shoddy science, comfrey has come under FDA censure. Many herbalists, author included, consider this twaddle! Comfrey is nature’s unsurpassed vulnerary that’s been used for healing for eons.)
• For heavy menstrual bleeding, try yarrow, shepherd’s purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris) and cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum) tea.
• Immediately promote bleeding to help eradicate anaerobic bacteria and clean wound with echinacea (Echinacea spp.), myrrh (Commiphora myrrha) and goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) tinctures.
• After cleansing wound, apply a carrot or cabbage poultice to gather and draw out toxins. (Mince raw carrot or crumple cabbage leaf to make a wet mush, and then apply ¼-inch thick to wound, bind it and change every two hours.)
• Take homeopathic Ledum 30C.
Bruises & Swelling:
• Apply a fresh cabbage leaf poultice or choose from the following:
• Clay pack (1 tablespoon clay mixed with water to thin paste; spread paste ¼-inch-thick on gauze and apply). Prepare this using a horsetail (Equisetum arvense) infusion (tea) for better effect.
• Alternate from cabbage poultice to clay pack. The cabbage cleanses and heals; the clay reduces swelling. Strong reactions can be controlled by reducing the time packs are allowed to remain.
• Raw, grated potato (mixed with a little milk) poultice, alternated with cabbage poultice, alternated with a clay pack (prepared with horsetail infusion and St. John’s wort oil). Continue the routine for some time; this will heal the worst swellings.
• St. John’s wort oil applied immediately following an injury often prevents the bruise from forming. A blend of St. John’s wort oil, arnica (Arnica spp.) and calendula (Calendula officinalis) oils makes an excellent “injury oil” to keep handy.
• Arnica oil—spread it around an open wound, not on it.
• Take homeopathic Arnica 30C.
BURNS & SCALDS
• Immediately immerse burned area in cold water, or wet a towel with cold water and apply continuously until pain abates. After cooling the burn, slather with lavender essential oil (anti-inflammatory, prevents infection). Then,
• Apply liquid honey directly to burn (reduces pain, moisturizes burned area, helps prevent scarring) or apply a paste made of flour and water or apply aloe vera (Aloe vera) gel. These will comfort and reduce pain by shielding the burn from air.
BITES, STINGS & RASHES
I recently outmaneuvered a displeased black widow spider using this one.
• Apply tobacco poultice to gather and draw out venom. Purchase a pack of American Spirit organic tobacco cigarettes. Strip paper off two cigarettes, place tobacco on saucer, wet it with a small amount of water, allow tobacco to absorb water, pack it about ¼-inch-thick onto the bite. Bind it in place and change about every two hours.
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• Take homeopathic Latrodectus mactans 200C to prevent any progressive nerve damage.
Note: Check that a shoe is uninhabited before sticking your bare foot into it.
• Crumple or chew up a fresh plantain leaf (Plantago spp.) and rub it into the sting.
• Apply lavender essential oil “neat” (undiluted).
• Quickly rub lemon juice or witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) onto the sting.
• Tamanu (Calophyllum inophyllum) oil alleviates pain, aids in the regeneration of skin, and promotes the healing of insect bites, burns, blisters, cuts and scrapes.
• Remove stinger. Crumple or chew up a fresh plantain leaf and rub it into the sting.
• Slather with lavender essential oil.
• Apply thick pack of clay or mud to disperse venom (these treatments soothe and prevent extensive swelling).
• Take homeopathic Apis 30C.
• Apply (as you would use an astringent) a decoction of comfrey and burdock roots (Arctium lappa). Simmer herbs in water for 20 minutes, strain and cool.
• Apply a fomentation of dandelion and plantain. Make a strong tea of the herbs; immerse a laundered muslin cloth in warm tea and apply to skin until cloth is cool. Repeat.
• Take homeopathic Histaminum 30C.
Poison Oak & Poison Ivy:
• Wash skin (clothes and any companion dog, too) with soap to remove caustic fixed oils. Do not soak in bathtub or use hot water to bathe.
• Apply herbal lotion. Make strong decoction of mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) and horsetail; to 2 parts of this tea, add 1 part apple cider vinegar; to each cup of this blend, add 1 tablespoon of salt. This may burn a bit at first; hang in there—it’ll soon feel much better and heal faster.
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• Take homeopathic Rhus tox 30C. Later on, take oatmeal baths to relieve itchiness. Fill a sock with oats, tie the top. Let this steep in warm bathwater, get into the tub, squeeze the bag a bunch making it ooze mucilage; rub this all over the itchy parts. Sigh and praise the relief!
• Buy two eye cups; label them L and R.
• For eye infections, thoroughly rinse each eye using its designated eye cup with a well-strained eyebright (Euphrasia stricta) and calendula tea.
• Follow by filling each cup with saline water into which a tablet of ferrum phos “Scheussler cell salt” (you can buy this at a natural foods store) has been dissolved. Roll eyes around in this solution hourly.
• Herbal eyewash: Brew an eyebright, chicory (Cichorium intybus) and goldenseal root tea, and strain it well before using.
Upper Respiratory Tribulations:
• Herbal steam. Place shallow pot of boiling water on table top, put 10 drops of essential oil (more or less depending on which oil you use) in water.
• Place face over steaming water with towel over head creating a tent. Blow gently onto water to increase steam. Inhale steam for five to 10 minutes. Some favorite essential oils for this are eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus), lemon (Citrus x limon), tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia), pine (Pinus spp.), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) or the mild thyme-linalol.
• Take antispasmodic teas or tinctures: khella (Ammi visnaga), gumweed or grindelia (Grindelia spp.), wild lettuce (Lactuca virosa), wild cherry bark (Prunus serotina) or small dose of lobelia (Lobelia inflata).
• Chew a small piece of osha root (Ligusticum porteri), an extraordinary lung remedy.
• Take andrographis (Andrographis paniculata) tincture.
• Drink yerba mansa root (Anemopsis californica) and yerba santa (Eriodictyon californicum) teas.
• Use demulcent herbs: licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), marshmallow, slippery elm.
• Make fresh ginger (Zingiber officinale) tea with lemon and honey.
• Try echinacea, andrographis, usnea (Usnea spp.), goldenseal tinctures.
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• Drink elderberry (Sambucus spp.), yarrow, osha, rosehip (Rosa canina) teas.
• Rest, sleep, daydream and keep warm.
• Dry nonproductive: Use licorice, gumweed (grindelia), marshmallow, slippery elm.
• Wet: Use yerba santa, mullein (Verbascum thapsus), coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara), osha, thyme.
• Red clover (Trifolium pratense) and catnip (Nepeta cataria) tea is good for children.
• Goldenseal glycerite (for infection), freeze-dried nettles (Urtica dioica)
• Neti pot wash using saline solution with a couple drops of goldenseal glycerite mixed in
• Freeze-dried nettles
• Tincture of eyebright, nettles, goldenrod, horseradish (Armoracia rusticana)
• Take homeopathic Histaminum 30C.
• Relaxing nervine teas: passionflower, vervain (Verbena hastata), chamomile, hops, kava, skullcap
• Teas well-suited for children: catnip, California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), lemon balm, chamomile, red clover
• Staph and strep: usnea, andrographis, goldenseal tinctures internally and externally
ACHES, PAINS, NAUSEA
• Drink ginger, peppermint, fennel, chamomile, catnip, chamomile, meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria), fennel teas.
• Umeboshi salt plum (gratifyingly alkaline)
• Catnip and fennel tea works wonders (excellent remedy for all childhood fevers).
• Do ginger! Warm tea, tincture, capsule or even ginger candy
• Take homeopathic Nux Vomica 30C.
• Take blackberry root (Rubus villosus) tincture. Drink any berry leaf tea. Eat berries.
• Eat grated apples followed by oatmeal gruel or thoroughly chewed oatmeal flakes; eat nothing else for the next few hours.
• Establish a routine of taking probiotic supplements (beneficial intestinal flora) first thing each morning.
• Take “herbal bitters,” and DRINK MORE WATER!
• Eat a serving of steamed red beets. The next day, your stool will be red; you’re not bleeding.
• Digestive headache: peppermint or rosemary tea; also rub peppermint or rosemary essential oil on temples.
• Stress headache: Rub lavender essential oil on temples. Laugh more.
• Meadowsweet, feverfew teas
• Turmeric taken with black pepper (Piper nigrum), meadowsweet, California poppy, wild lettuce
• Chamomile essential oil reduces skin inflammation and calms a stressed solar plexus.
• Digestive (abdominal) stagnation: Ginger tea to warm abdomen and augment your digestive fire
• Rub ginger essential oil (diluted in a vegetable oil) onto abdomen.
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• To relieve achy spasms: Black haw, cramp bark, valerian root, kava tea or tincture.
• To relieve sharp darting spasms: Silk tassel tincture.
• Take magnesium supplements routinely.
• Valerian, cramp bark, kava, black cohosh (Actaea racemosa) teas
Travel First Aid Kit
When traveling with first-aid remedies, prepare a condensed kit of necessities.
Consider the trip you are planning and the activities you’ll pursue; that will help you sort out what to bring. Small amounts of essential oils can be brought by putting some into tightly sealed vials that have orifice reducers. Bring a few empty one-ounce bottles, including one spray bottle to mix up whatever you may need. (Remember to pack homeopathic remedies away from your essential oils.) Try to bring the ingredients that can be utilized for most situations (Five Flower Formula, lavender essential oil, ginger, echinacea, goldenseal, cayenne powder, homeopathics) along with those that are essential for specific situations you might encounter on your journey (blackberry root tincture for diarrhea,tea tree oil for infection and fungus, umeboshi plums for acid reflux and so forth).
So, freely pursue your bliss as you explore the planet or while you play at home. If you bump into some discomforts along the way, remember the healing flowers, weeds and vegetables; they’re always there to aid you. Be well, smell the lavender and roses, prosper and have fun!
About the Author: James Green is an herbalist health practitioner currently living and practicing in La Quinta and Ocean Beach, California. He has studied the art and science of Herbalism for the past 40 years. During this time, he wrote and published two herbal classics, The Male Herbal and The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook.
This article was originally published in the HERBAL REMEDIES™ #90 issue. To subscribe, click here.