Friday, August 12, 2011

What to do with a bruise and a cut- first aid part II

On the way home from a trip the aquarium store, I tripped while getting onto the bus. At first, it didn't feel too bad, but as I sat down I looked down at my shin.

 major fail


A giant, blue bruise was forming. There was a long scratch on the front of the bruise. I instantly thought "Where's my arnica?" Luckily, I had some homeopathic tablets in my purse, and so I threw a few under my tongue.

But, oh it hurt. It hurt so much that when I got off the bus, I felt faint. The blood rushed from my head, and I felt weak in my knees from the shock.

I staggered across the street to the nearest bar and babbled nonsense to the host about ice and a bus and fainting. He backed away because he probably thought I was crazy, but went to the back of the restaurant and came back with a plastic bag full of ice. I thanked him and sat under a tree with the ice until I felt ready to stand.

Now, where to find something to put onto my owie?

Whole Foods to the rescue!

Luckily, Whole Foods was across the street, and so I limped to the first aid section of the store. Unfortunately, they did not have as much selection as I would have hoped. They had arnica, but I couldn't put that on my open wound. Muscle rub wouldn't help to disinfect the cut. The only thing I could find was Nelson's Cuts and Scrapes cream with Hypericum and Calendula.

The label claimed to promote rapid healing and help resist infection with help from calendula, and relieve pain specifically from cuts with help from hypericum. I slathered it on my leg and ate a cup of tapioca pudding to strengthen my nerves, and continued on with my day.

A little bit on hypericum. I was unfamiliar with the name until I did some research. Turns out it is just another name for St. John's Wort, and that it noted as one of the finest medicinal oils used for bruises, sprains, burns and other injuries. Way to go, spider-herbal-sense! It is also best known as a remedy for depression and anxiety, and is a valued treatment for damaged nerve endings caused by burns, wounds, and other trauma to the skin.

pretty St. John's Wort flower

Oh, and the flower of the plant is gorgeous. Look at that beautiful plant! It is sometimes used as an ornamental plant, but also grows as a weed in farmland and gardens. It can actually be quite a nuisance on range land, as it can cause problems to the cattle who may accidentally munch on it, causing them to abort their calves. It's a potent, mysterious, and strong plant.

A bottle of St. John's Wort oil, made from infusing virgin olive oil with the leaves and flowers, is a fantastic addition to any first aid kit, according to Rosemary Gladstar as well as other herbalists that I have met. If you can't find the fresh plant, the oil can be found at natural food stores. Just not at Whole Foods, apparently!

 calendula flower

Calendula, also known as marigold, is a plant I have known since childhood. Mom always had a tiny container of calendula salve in the cupboard. It is a powerful yellow flower that helps to promote cell repair and acts as an antiseptic. It's used for bruises, burns, and sores. We would slather it on just about anything.

It can also be used internally for gastrointenstinal problems such as ulcers, cramps, indigestion, and diarrhea, and it also can be used to soothe the skin. The number of pages that this herb appears on in my Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health is pretty impressive. It shows up in salves to treat fungal infections, in tinctures made to treat herpes, in a healing mouthwash used to prevent trips to the dentist, in an astringent used as a hair rinse or aftershave, in an herbal bath for babies, in a tea made to treat chicken pox or measles... ok, I need to stop. This was just a handful of the remedies I've found in my book.

I think you get the picture. Calendula is a MUST for any first aid kit.

Oh, by the way. Just look at my wound HOURS after I hit it on the bus. Do you see a bruise? I don't. It looked like this just 15 minutes after I took my arnica tablets and placed some ice on it. Just another leg saved by arnica.

A small bottle of homeopathic arnica montana is also a must for any herbal first aid. Or, I'd recommend carrying it with you in your purse. You never know when you'll get hit by a bus. Or hit a bus yourself.

As a review, in my first aid kit will go-
1. My calendula and St. John's Wort cream
2. My arnica tablets

In the future, I'll include a tea blend with calendula and other herbs for indigestion. I'll also include St. John's Wort oil or tincture for those injuries that need a little love.

I would say this was a good use of a bad injury. Share your own stories about arnica, calendula, or St. John's Wort by commenting here, or ask me any questions you like! I would love to hear from you.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

herbal first aid kit part 1

I want to begin utilizing my limited knowledge of herbalism, and have been thinking about what herbal product or project I can come up with in order to begin using it practically. After reading the first aid chapter in Rosemary Gladstar's book, I've decided on a project- an herbal first aid kit!

For this particular post, I'll discuss exactly what will go into my kit. This is a large project, especially if I am going to be making the majority of the products contained in the kit by hand, and so this is part one of many parts of my project.

Let's start with the container for this project.

I like the idea of this travel bag first aid kit, presented by Susan Belsinger of The Herb Companion, with its clear pockets. She suggests that everything in your kit be clearly labeled, and finds it helpful to include an instructional sheet for the use of each item.

 A toolbox is always a great idea to hold all of your items. It's durable and easy to organize. I believe that I'll be starting with a toolbox myself, although a smaller one than this. Mine is like a little suitcase that opens on both sides, so that you can see everything : ).

Although, I do like the idea of this pretty wooden sewing box.

There are also some basic first aid items that are important to include in any kind of first aid kit, including but not limited to the following:

• Sterile, nonstick bandages, assorted sizes
• Adhesive bandages, such as Band-Aids, assorted sizes

• Small scissors
• Thermometer
• Tweezers
• Needles/safety pins, assorted sizes
• Matches
• Candles
• Athletic tape
• Ice pack
• Alcohol swabs or small bottle of alcohol and cotton balls
• Toothpicks or natural floss

I've highlighted the things I'm going to include in my own kit, as I'm going to start with a smaller one. If you are going to go for a larger, more extensive kit, there are other  things to consider as well. If I can find the room in my kit, I'll definitely consider some of these items:

• Clean, washed muslin or cotton cheesecloth to use as a compress or for wrapping wounds and poultices.

• Wool socks with the toes cut open or sweater sleeves are perfect for holding poultices or bandages in place without using tape — just slide them over the arm, elbow, ankle, or leg. They also help retain heat on the affected area.
• Sports wrap— this stretchy and flexible wrap sticks to itself, and it is perfect for wrapping wounds or holding poultices.
• Moleskin — a soft fabric with an adhesive backing, ideal for covering tender spots like blisters.

Before I start on any of my own homemade remedies, I'm going to work on stocking my box with these simple items so that I'm ready to stock it with tinctures, liniments, salves, and oils. I also need to stock up on things like tiny jars, bottles, spritzers, and other items to store my remedies, which I hope to find at my local herbal supply store, the Chicago College of Healing Arts.

I'm super excited about starting this project! Check back as things progress, and build your own first aid kit along with me if you are so inspired.

P.S. Here are some other links to get you started, but they are by no means the end all be all:
Year of Nettle- The Herbal First Aid Kit
The Herb Companion- Make a Natural First Aid Kit