— Using plants for life’s little accidents is simple. Listed below are a few common, easy to find herbal plants to include in your first aid kit.
The ready-made product “Rescue Remedy” is an herbal-based mixture you can keep in the house or car. It’s available in a liquid formula, and can be purchased at any health store. A single dosage would be two drops under the tongue 2-3 times a day. Used for treating shock, it calms people down and allows their body to relax so it can begin to heal itself. It’s useful for any fairly traumatic incident. Bee stings. Nightmares. Crying babies. Feeling emotionally traumatized? Use your imagination on this one.
Plantain or Plantago Major is a very ordinary yet useful weed that can be seen growing in yards or along sidewalks. The root or origin of the plant’s name, “plan,” refers to the sole of the foot because it grows everywhere we walk. (Anyone who knows a bit about plants can help you identify it.) In Minnesota, the plant is available fresh and free about eight months of the year. To use: take a fresh leaf, wipe off the dirt, chew the leaf lightly and apply to the skin like a bandage. Plantain may be the strongest available drawing agent in the plant world. Use it to draw out dirt, shards of glass, splinters, insect poisons or anything embedded in your skin that doesn’t belong there. Plantain is analgesic, and best used for abrasions, numbing the pain. It’s antibacterial, stops itching, bleeding, and swelling. The plant also contains allantoin, which promotes new skin growth instantly.
Yarrow, when applied topically (leaf or tincture), stops the flow of blood from a fresh wound. Yarrow works extremely fast and thus should only be used on clean wounds. Its scientific name, Achillea millefolium, refers to its use by Achilles during the Trojan War.
Factoid: It is well known that herbs can ’cause what they cure’ and ‘cure what they cause’. Hundreds of years ago it was believed that headaches were caused by too much blood congestion in the head. For relief, early herbalists used Yarrow to practice a form of bloodletting, forcing leaf of yarrow up the nose, causing a nosebleed. Hence Yarrow’s nickname, “nosebleed.”
Also called “carpenter weed” (referring to carpenters frequently injuring themselves), Yarrow is able to coagulate and break up the congealed blood of a bruise or open wound. When applied immediately to a fresh bruise it will take away the pain and reverse the bruising process. It’s also said that Yarrow can be used to stop internal hemorrhaging, including excessive menstrual fluid and blood in the urine or bowels. Getting a medical opinion prior to practicing any of the latter is recommended. Additionally, Yarrow, in ointment form, is an excellent sunscreen, and an effective bug repellent (particularly mosquitoes).
Saint John’s Wort or Hypericum perforatum ointment is a basic healing agent, useful in the home or outdoors. Antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antiviral, the salve is beneficial for a variety of miscellaneous first aid needs. Use it as a sunscreen, as well as a burn remedy. Frostbite even responds well to this herb, soothing and restoring damaged and irritated nerve endings. St. John’s wort is also used for sciatica, slipped disks, pinched nerves, teething pain and earaches, sore muscles and menstrual cramps.
A naturopath once asked, “What would you use for drowning?” “I would dial 911,” I responded, and I hope you would too. These remedies are for life’s bothersome, even painful little incidents, but if the issue is life threatening, use good sense and get professional help. Learn simple and effective ways to preserve leafy plant material from your own garden and the harvest, preparation and uses of medicinal roots through The Bakken Library and Museum, 3537 Zenith Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55416, 612-926-3878.
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Dr. Andrew J. Lucking, D.N. DrLuck@honeycomb.com
Herbal Wisdom, Matthew Wood
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