First Aid with Herbs: D to I

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Diarrhea

Diarrhea that doesn't last more than a day or two is commonly caused by an acute infection or inflammation of the intestine wall or by psychological stress. Long term or persistent diarrhea needs to be treated by a skilled practitioner.

Meadowsweet is a herb that can be used safely in all cases of diarrhea. In childhood diarrhea a good remedy is a tea made from equal parts of lady's mantle and meadowsweet which can be sweetened with some honey and should be taken often. For an acute attack in adults a very good mix would be:

  • 1 part American Cranesbill
  • 1 part bayberry
  • 1 part meadowsweet
  • 1 part oaf bark

Combine all the ingredients. Take 1 teaspoon of the herb blend and place into a suitable sized saucepan and add one cup of boiling water. Allow this to stand for 10-15 minutes. Strain out the herbs. Drink 1 cup every hour or until the symptoms subside and then before every meal until the digestion returns to normal.

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Earache

An earache can be very painful, particularly in children, but there are a number of ways to ease the pain. The pain is often associated with an ear infection which, in many cases has spread from the throat via the eustachian tube to the ear. It is important to have the underlying infection treated. For the pain use pennywort juice:

  • Crush some leaves of the herb (be sure not to confuse it with other similar plants) and collect the expressed juice.
  • Put a couple of drops of this green juice (which need to be at body temperature) into the ear and plug it with some cotton wool.

NOTE: do not do this if the tympanic membrane has broken - if you are unsure seek expert advice.

Mullein oil, almond oil or tincture of lobelia can also be used. If none of these are available make a strong infusion chamomile, yarrow or hyssop and use a couple of drops in the same way.

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Eczema

The term eczema covers a range of skin conditions but these differences are of no real importance as far as herbal treatment is concerned. It is necessary to try and work out the underlying cause of the eczema and if an allergic reaction is involved it needs to be identified and removed so that the body has a chance to heal itself. Some of the allergens include things being touched or it might be ingested foods, such as cow's milk or you may be allergic to your perspiration. The herbal remedies will depend on the individual but the digestive process should be examined.

Herbs like burdock root, figwort, fumitory, mountain grape, nettle, pansy and red clover have a good reputation for the internal treatment of eczema. A good mixture would be:

  • 1 part figwort
  • 1 part nettles
  • 1 part red clover

Combine all the ingredients. Take 1 teaspoon of the herb blend and place into a suitable sized saucepan and add one cup of boiling water. Allow this to stand for 10-15 minutes. Strain out the herbs. Drink 1 cup three times per day. This is particularly good for infantile eczema.

Initially the condition may appear to get worse but this is nothing to be worried about as it will soon show a marked improvement.

Externally there are remedies that can reduce irritations and discomfort but they will not heal unless they are used in conjunction with the internal remedies. Herbs like:

  • burdock
  • chickweed
  • comfrey
  • golden seal
  • marigold
  • pansy
  • witch hazel

These can be used as a compress or ointment, for example, marigold can be made by pouring 1/2 litre (1 pint) boiling water on two tablespoonfuls of the dried flowers (or three fresh flowers) and allowing it to stand and cool. The herb is then strained out and the mixture used to soak a compress. This is then placed on the affected area. Continually moisten the compress and leave it in place for 1 hour. Apply this at least twice per day.

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Flatulence

Flatulence is caused by the accumulation of gasses in the bowel. Severe flatulence is often symptomatic of other digestive problems and the underlying cause will need to be investigated. In the short term the following herbs will be of assistance:

  • aniseed
  • balm
  • cardamon
  • fennel
  • peppermint
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Gout

This is a specific type of joint problem due to the build up of uric acid which causes extremely painful inflammation. The body needs help in elimination, especially the kidneys. The use of diuretics as well as anti-rheumatics will provide the assistance needed. The following remedy should prove to be helpful.

  • 1 part burdock root
  • 1 part celery seed
  • 1 part yarrow

Combine all the ingredients. Take 1 teaspoon of the herb blend and place into a suitable sized saucepan and add one cup of boiling water. Allow this to stand for 10-15 minutes. Strain out the herbs. Drink 1 cup three times per day over a period of time.

Your diet is very important in the treatment of gout. A low acid diet with an avoidance of foods that contain purines which are metabolised in the body to uric acid. These foods include:

  • fish, such as sardines and anchovies
  • fish roe
  • shell fish
  • crab
  • liver
  • kidney
  • sweetbreads and
  • beans

Alcohol needs to be totally avoided and so should coffee and tea. Any over indulgence in general is out.

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Hay fever

If you suffer from hay fever start boosting your immune system to decrease your susceptibility to hay fever at least two months before the start of the season. There are also dietary measures, such as eliminating wheat and milk, that you can try. Also take extra vitamin C, zinc, vitamin A and calcium. To boost the immune system take:

  • ginseng
  • huang qi or
  • echinacea

The following herbs will assist in relieving the symptoms:

  • echinacea
  • peppermint
  • chamomile
  • elderflowers
  • nettles
  • yarrow

The following combination can be most effective:

  • 2 parts elder flower
  • 1 part ephedra
  • 1 part eyebright
  • 1 part golden seal

Combine all the ingredients. Take 1 teaspoon of the herb blend and place into a suitable sized saucepan and add one cup of boiling water. Allow this to stand for 10-15 minutes. Strain out the herbs. Drink 1 cup two or three times per day.

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Headaches

Headaches can be caused by many physical and psychological factors. Three common factors are stress and tension, digestive problems and postural problems. Herbs that can be used are therefore varied and can have more than analgesic properties.

General advice

The general advice is to take a relaxing bath with any of the following herbs and if possible, include lavender:

  • balm
  • cayenne
  • chamomile
  • elder flower
  • Jamaican dogwood
  • lady's slipper
  • lavender
  • marjoram
  • peppermint
  • valerian
  • rosemary
  • skullcap
  • tansy
  • thyme
  • wormwood

Or use one of the herbs that are rich in volatile oils such as lavender, rosemary, marjoram or peppermint and massage their essential oils into the head at the site of the pain.

Or take the following herbs as a tincture or tea:

  • chamomile
  • wood betony
  • peppermint
  • rosemary
  • linden blossom
  • feverfew
  • hops
  • skullcap
  • lavender
  • vervain

Headaches - digestive problems

The most common physical cause of headaches is digestive problems. For stomach related headaches the use of calmative and bitters is indicated. The following mixture should be of assistance.

  • 1 part balm
  • 1 part lavender
  • 1 part meadowsweet

Combine all the ingredients. Take 1 teaspoon of the herb blend and place into a suitable sized saucepan and add one cup of boiling water. Allow this to stand for 10-15 minutes. Strain out the herbs. Drink 1 cup whenever it is needed.

If this is needed often then the diet and digestion will need attention

Headaches - tension in neck or shoulders

Tension in the neck or shoulders caused by either psychological stress or postural problems (usually both) will bring on a headache. The use of a nervine such as valerian will often be the most effective.

Headaches - menstrual problems

Menstrual problems can also cause headaches and these are best treated by correcting the hormonal imbalance. However, for the short term the following tea will be useful.

  • 1 part skullcap
  • 1 part valerian

Combine all the ingredients. Take 1 teaspoon of the herb blend and place into a suitable sized saucepan and add one cup of boiling water. Allow this to stand for 10-15 minutes. Strain out the herbs. Drink 1 cup of this tea when it is needed.

Headaches - migraines

Migraines are a distressing and intense headache often accompanied by nausea and vomiting and visual disturbances and photophobia (Light sensitivity). Like the other headaches migraines can be triggered by a range of factors. The treatment is individual and will often require the assistance of an expert as self diagnosis of the underlying problem or problems can be difficult.

Feverfew is a herb if used fresh or as a tea for a month or so will often clear the migraines. If you have migraines plant feverfew in your garden.

A number of herbs will ease the pain of an attack if they are taken at the first sign. These herbs include:

  • black willow
  • Jamaican dogwood
  • passion flower
  • valerian
  • wood betony

If there are symptoms such as nausea and vomiting or acid indigestion then the following herbs can be useful:

  • black horehound
  • chamomile
  • golden seal
  • meadowsweet
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Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids or piles are a distressing condition of the rectum and anus. They can be internal or external and they do respond well to herbal treatment but it is important to trace the cause of the problem and treat that cause. If this is not done they will occur again. The most common cause of hemorrhoids is constipation and another common cause is liver problems.

The most useful herb is pilewort (of course)! As well the herbs witch hazel, periwinkle and tormentil may be considered. A herbal infusion of pilewort can be drunk and it can also be made into a soothing ointment which should be applied after each bowel motion. If the cause is constipation then the herbs used for this will also be needed. (see the section on constipation).

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Indigestion

Indigestion can be caused by a number of factors including irregular eating, overeating or eating too quickly, eating the wrong foods and nervous tension.

These factors need to be taken into account and a change in diet and lifestyle may be needed. There are a number of herbs that will speed the healing process. The most important one is meadowsweet, which will settle the stomach and reduce excess acidity. Other herbs that can be of assistance include:

  • golden seal
  • wormwood
  • aniseed
  • balm
  • peppermint
  • bergamot
  • chamomile
  • hops
  • lavender
  • rosemary
  • valerian

Which of these herbs is chosen will depend on the underlying problem.

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Insomnia

At one time or another everyone has a sleepless night. It can be caused by stress during the day or a worry about the next day or some other problem that causes us to be restless and unable to gain a peaceful sleep. When it only occurs occasionally it is nothing to worry about. However it can become a repeated situation and the body is then deprived of the healing and reviving that takes place during sleep. There are many powerful herbal hypnotics that aid a restful nights sleep, but often a gentle relaxation with the help of a nervine relaxant is enough to allow the natural sleep process to take over. The most effective sleep inducers are:

  • Californian poppy
  • hops
  • Jamaican dogwood
  • passion flower
  • valerian (in about 20% of people valerian has a heightened alertness effect - if you find this then use one of the other herbs)

A powerful mixture is as follows:

  • 1 part passion flower
  • 1 part valerian

Combine all the ingredients. Take 1 teaspoon of the herb blend and place into a suitable sized saucepan and add one cup of boiling water. Allow this to stand for 10-15 minutes. Strain out the herbs. Drink 1 cup just before going to bed. The strength will vary from person to person so you may need to experiment.

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References

Duke, J. A. 2000, Anti-aging Prescriptions. Rodale.

Hoffmann, D. 2000, The New Holistic Herbal. Element Pub.

McIntyre, A. 1995, The Complete Women's Herbal. Henry Holt Reference Books

Shaw, N. 2002, Herbalism. Element

Woodward, P. 2003, Grow Your Own Herbal Remedies. Hyland House.

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