First Aid with Herbs: A to C

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Abrasions and minor cuts

  • A couple of drops of Rescue Remedy under the tongue will work well for any minor shock that is associated with the accident.
  • Clean the area with a herbal antiseptic to prevent infection and aid in healing. Use 4-5 drops of tincture of any of the following herbs in a little warm water or a decoction or an infusion of the herb.
    • golden seal
    • calandula
    • St John's wort
    • calandula
    • myrrh
    • witch hazel
  • If it feels very painful bathe it regularly with diluted St John's wort tincture or an infusion of peppermint or lavender.
  • Use a few drops of the following essential oils in water - they are antiseptic, pain relieving and healing:
    • lavender
    • eucalyptus
    • geranium
    • peppermint
    • tea tree
  • The following, used as ointments, are suitable for minor cuts and abrasions:
    • St John's wort
    • calandula
    • comfrey
    • Rescue Remedy cream
  • If the cut is quite deep apply pressure to the area to stop the bleeding. If the sides are apart, bring them together firmly with the thumb and finger. Bind the wound together with a surgical tape and then apply a dressing and bandage. Seek medical attention quickly as a closing of the wound by other means may be necessary and the sooner this is done the better the cosmetic effect. If the cut or abrasion is minor it is best to leave it uncovered.
  • You can use any of the following either as teas to soak a dressing to apply to a wound or to put into creams or poultices:
    • comfrey
    • cabbage
    • plantain leaves
    • slippery elm
    • rosemary
    • elderflowers
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Acne

This is a common problem of adolescence and has two main causes - hormonal and dietary. The following mixture will be of assistance and can be taken for a while:

  • 1 part blue flag
  • 1 part cleavers
  • 1 part echinacea
  • 1 part figwort
  • 1 part poke root

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.

Externally a lotion or infusion of the following herbs will be useful:

  • 1 part marigold
  • 1 part chickweed

Distilled witch hazel will also be useful as will frequent washing with pure non drying soap.

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Anxiety

Normally the feeling of anxiety only lasts for a short time and is caused by some external problem. However for some people it becomes a pattern influencing thoughts and behaviour and becomes persistent. If this is the case seek professional help to resolve some of the issues involved.

All the nervine herbs will ease anxiety and tension, some of the herbs are more effective with one person than another. The ones which are generally most effective are:

  • lady's slipper
  • linden blossom
  • mistletoe
  • skullcap
  • valerian

The following is useful in cases of anxiety where there is also muscle tension:

  • 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 pour over the cup of boiling water. Allow this to stand for 10-15 minutes. Strain out the herbs. Drink 1 cup three times per day when needed. It is considered safe in higher doses for most people so you can take it in doses that is effective for you.

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Bites and stings

Dog bites

  • Treat for shock if necessary using Rescue Remedy.
  • Cleanse the area with clean running water.
  • Apply antiseptic herbs or oils. The following are suitable antiseptic herbs:
    • thyme
    • calandula
    • St John's wort
    • lavender
    • plantain
  • A poultice of fennel seed tea will draw out any toxic material.
  • You can bind cabbage or violet leaves over the bite. Cover with a cotton bandage. Between changes, bathe with a strong solution of rosemary.

NOTE: Dog bites, cat bite and particularly human bites often require antibiotic treatment. Also if the wound is a deep puncture seek health professional advice regarding tetanus.

Insect bites

  • To relieve pain and swelling and to prevent infection and promote healing use any of the following:
    • pulp of raw onion or garlic
    • lavender oil
    • distilled witch hazel
    • crushed basil leaves
    • tea tree oil
    • eucalyptus oil
    • melissa oil
  • The following remedies can be used for bee and wasp stings:
    • lemon juice
    • crushed plantain leaves
    • witch hazel
    • lavender oil
    • cinnamon oil
  • The bites of ants are relieved by applying:
    • garlic
    • raw onion
    • cucumber juice
  • The following will relieve mosquito bites:
    • lavender oil
    • lemon juice
    • witch hazel
    • fennel seed tea crushed basil

If there is rapid swelling that starts to affect the lips, tongue and throat and therefore breathing the person should receive medical assistance immediately. These are indications of an allergic reaction which could be very serious.

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Boils and carbuncles

A boil is an inflammation of the hair root. It is caused by a bacterial infection.

A carbuncle is a hard pus filled painful inflammation. They are similar to boils, but are larger and more deeply rooted and have several openings. They are often a symptom of poor general health.

If you frequently suffer from boils or carbuncles you need a general assessment of your health, lifestyle and diet. You need to look at improving your body's resistance to disease. Make sure that your diet contains plenty of fruit and vegetable and take a vitamin C supplement to assist in fighting the infection. In addition to this you need to:

  • Take plenty of garlic.
  • Herbs that can boost the immune system include:
    • echinacea
    • huang qi
  • Herbs to fight the infection include:
    • myrrh
    • thyme
    • dandelion root
    • burdock
  • The following remedy is considered a specific for boils, as it will aid the lymphatic system:
    • 2 part echinacea
    • 1 part pasque flower
    • 2 part wild indigo
    • 1 part poke root

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.

Externally an ointment or poultice should be used to draw the pus from the boil. A poultice can be made from:

  • marshmallow leaf
  • cabbage leaf

To make the cabbage leaf poultice take a few of the inner leaves of the white cabbage. Wash them well and dry them lightly. The large ribs can be removed and the leaves tapped with a rolling pin to soften them. Place the leaves on the affected area and hold them in place with a loose bandage. Leave for half an hour and then replace the old leaves with new ones.

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Bruises and sprains

Sprains occur when the ligaments around joints are over stretched and sometimes tear. You need to:

  • Support the sprained joint with a bandage.
  • Use ice packs on the affected joint (a packet of frozen peas is ideal).
  • Apply cold compresses using any of the following:
    • distilled witch hazel.
    • comfrey - apply bruised leaves directly to the affected joint.
    • arnica - 2-3 drops of arnica tincture in 1/2 pint of water.
    • hyssop - bruise the leaves until the juice runs and place on the painful part.
    • calandula, yarrow, St John's wort - use 1-2 teaspoonsful of the tincture in a little water and use as a cold compress or apply fresh leaves.
    • cabbage - bind the leaves over the painful part.
  • Useful poultices for bruises and sprains are make from chopped parsley or fresh cranesbill leaves held in place with a loose bandage.

Consult your health professional if the pain has not improved considerably in 24 hours as there may be an underlying broken bone.

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Burns and scalds

These can be treated at home if the area involved is small and the burn only involves the top layer. If you are in doubt consult your health professional. Do not break any blisters and if the burn becomes more painful or infected consult your health professional.

  • Immediately following the burn immerse it under cold water for at least 10 minutes or until the pain subsides.
  • Every 15 minutes apply a remedy to minimise the swelling and prevent infection. Use one of the following:
    • fresh aloe vera juice
    • marigold
    • St John's wort oil
    • comfrey ointment
  • Once the pain has diminished cover the burn with a loose, dry, clean, non stick dressing. It needs to be non stick otherwise damage to the wound will occur when the dressing is being removed. If it does become stuck soak it with a warm golden seal or echinacea infusion.
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Catarrh

Nasal catarrh can be the result of systemic factors and can also involve infections and allergies. Try to deal with the cause. Herbs such as the following bring about specific relief:

  • golden seal
  • elder flower
  • eyebright

Golden seal is generally the most useful, but it should be used cautiously as some people find that too much has a drying effect on the mucous membranes. Catarrh is often accompanied by an infection - so use echinacea, garlic or wild indigo.

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Chilblains

The onset of chilblains is associated with poor circulation particularly to the peripheries. It can be made worse by a poor diet, cold weather, tight shoes and a sedentary occupation. It may help to have plenty of exercise and to wear warm clothing. Chilblains may also indicate a lack of sufficient calcium and silica. Sources of these in the diet are:

  • yoghurt, soybeans, millet, spinach, figs, cheese, almonds, sesame seeds, oats, parsley and all green vegetables.
  • you can also take supplements to assist in getting enough of the nutrients that you need.
  • The following herb mixture will be useful for improving the circulation to the extremities:
    • 3 parts prickly ash bark (or berries)
    • 3 parts hawthorn berries
    • 1 part ginger

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.

  • When unbroken chilblains can be treated by a thin layer of cayenne ointment (apply this very sparingly).
  • Other treatments for chilblains include:
    • rosemary oil
    • lavender oil
    • peppermint oil
    • garlic oil or juice
    • tincture of myrrh
    • nettle juice
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Cold sores

Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus. The first infection may have the symptoms of swollen glands, a general feeling of being unwell and painful mouth ulcers. Subsequent attacks occur mostly when the person is run down and they start with a tingling and itch on an area around the lips and nostrils, then tiny blisters appear. These blister break and weep. They then crust over and gradually disappear. Scratching will spread the virus and it can lead to a bacterial infection. The virus lives permanently in the nerve endings of many adults and children. The following may activate the virus:

  • poor diet
  • dietary triggers such as chocolate and peanuts
  • mental or physical stress
  • rubbing or chafing of the skin
  • menstruation
  • depleted immunity or being 'run down'

When treating cold sores it is important to boost the immune system - thus assisting the body to combat the virus. Make sure that you eat a diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetable and have plenty of garlic and vitamin C (take 3-5 gms daily). Take a good multivitamin and mineral supplement to assist you in getting the nutrients you need. Also be sure that you have plenty of exercise.

The following herbs will support your immune system and should be taken in conjunction with the recommendations above:

  • echinacea
  • golden seal
  • cleavers
  • plantain
  • bayberry
  • burdock
  • huang qi
  • nettle
  • wormwood
  • calandula
  • myrrh
  • poke root
  • dandelion root
  • licorice

The following mix will be most useful:

  • 2 parts cleavers
  • 2 parts echinacea
  • 1 part oats
  • 1 par poke root

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 twice per day.

Externally a lotion of echinacea with or without myrrh will prove useful.

The following can also be applied externally:

  • melissa oil
  • lavender oil
  • calandula tincture
  • myrrh tincture
  • golden seal tincture
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Constipation

Constipation is a symptom of some underlying problem in the digestive system. The problem could be inappropriate diet, a liver problem or even a physical blockage in the system. The cause needs to be identified and treated as the long term use of laxatives can result in loss of bowel tone, worsening the problem, or lead to other problems such as headaches, colic or jaundice.

In most cases of chronic constipation the muscles of the bowel need to be retrained to move the bowel contents. Two things need to be done to retrain the intestines:

  • care must be taken to eat meals regularly (at the same time each day) and
  • small amounts of appropriate herbs should be used to restimulate peristalsis. The herb cascara sagrada could be used.

Another herb that can be of assistance is rhubarb root. While in large doses it is a purgative, taken in small doses it tones and astringes the intestine wall, promotes appetite and disperses any gas present. The following combination of herbs will also be of assistance:

  • 2 parts barberry
  • 2 part boldo
  • 1 part cascara sagrada
  • 1 part licorice
  • 1 part rhubarb root
  • 1 part ginger

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 before going to bed.

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Coughs

Coughs commonly occur with viral infections such as colds and flu. They can be moist and productive or dry and irritating. Coughs can be treated with a number of herbs. Coltsfoot is the best standard remedy but sometimes a mixture can be more effective. A basic remedy with a pleasant taste is as follows:

  • 1 part coltsfoot
  • 1 part mullein
  • 1 part licorice

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.

Another mixture which is effective and tastes delicious is:

  • 1 part marshmallow flowers
  • 1 part mallow flowers
  • 1 part coltsfoot
  • 1 part violet flowers
  • 1 part mullein flowers
  • 1 part red poppy flowers

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.

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Cramps

Everyone experiences cramps from time to time, they are painful but not too much to worry about. However, when they are persistent they need to be treated - not just because the symptoms are stressful, but because the problem is suggestive of circulatory system problems and the subsequent lack of oxygen. It can be treated with the following herbal mixture:

  • 6 parts cramp bark
  • 2 parts prickly ash
  • 1 part ginger

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 for a number of months.

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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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