by Steven Horne, RH(AHG)
Summer’s here, along with the all the minor injuries that go along with summer fun—sunburns, bug bites, skinned knees, cuts and scratches. Fortunately, our friends in the plant world are active at the same time and ready to come to our aid, providing rapid relief from pain and speed healing. So, to welcome the arrival of summer here are some summer herbal first aid tips.
I don’t know about you, but I sunburn pretty easily if I don’t use sun-block and it seems like every summer I get burned at least once. Fortunately, aloe vera comes to my rescue. Aloe is my favorite herb for sunburn and NSP’s Aloe Vera Gel is the best. I’ve had to try some other aloe products when I got sunburned while traveling and they just didn’t work half as well.
However, what works even better than Aloe Vera Gel is Herbal Trim Skin Conditioner. Simply slather on generous amounts of either product onto the tender, lobster-red areas of your anatomy for instant soothing, cooling relief. Adding a few drops of lavender oil will also help.
The secret is to keep the sunburned areas moist, so as soon as the gel begins to dry out, spray it with some Nature’s Fresh (or a little water). Reapply the gel or Herbal Trim often, too. I’ve had very bad sunburns completely pain free in very short order using this procedure.
And speaking of aloe vera, my big aloe plant sprouted a bunch of babies earlier this year. I gave several to my daughter, Katie, who is raising them on the patio of her dorm room at college, but I still have a dozen left. Anyone care for an aloe vera plant? It’s a handy thing to keep around.
Neutralizing Bites and Stings
Summer brings long sunny days, but it also brings bugs! Bee stings, mosquito bites, spider bites and other hazards of the insect world are ready to interrupt our summer fun.
Fortunately, the plant world has plenty of tools that allow us to reduce the swelling and pain quickly so we can resume the good times without too much delay. In fact, nature provides us with so many remedies in this category that I simply can’t cover them all.
My favorite remedy for bee stings and bug bites is fresh plantain. This stuff grows all over the United States and is usually pretty easy to spot. I simply crush some fresh plantain leaf (my favorite method is to chew it a little with my front teeth) and apply it to the bite or sting. The results are usually pretty amazing.
Many years ago, a neighbor brought his son to me. The child’s arm was swelling up from a bee sting and was getting ready to take him to the hospital emergency room, but wanted to know if I had any suggestions first. I went to my lawn, which wasn’t sprayed by the way, and picked a plantain leaf, chewed it up and applied it to the bite. Fifteen minutes later the swelling was completely gone.
I’ve had similar results with bee stings using fresh yarrow leaves, gum weed leaves and oak leaves. The truth is, just about an astringent herb will do.
Of course, if you don’t know your plants and chewing up leaves isn’t your thing, you can still reach into your herbal first aid kit (you have assembled yours, haven’t you?) and apply any of the following prepared products: Lobelia Essence, Tei Fu oil or Nature’s Fresh. I’ve had good results with lobelia on bug bites. It seems to help counteract the venom. Tei Fu and Nature’s Fresh have also proven effective for many people.
Black cohosh is another great remedy for bites and stings that helps counteract venom. You can apply it topically and take it internally. You could also try Ultimate Echinacea, as echinacea has been used for snake bites and would probably help insect bites, too.
For poisonous spider bites like black widows (which really creep me out!) and brown recluse, I’d rate fresh plantain as my number one choice, followed by black cohosh (which can be applied topically and taken internally). Charcoal poultices, changed every one to two hours, have also been known to help draw out the venom. I would do these treatments on the way to the doctor, as these can be very serious.
To avoid spider bites, I always wear gloves when approaching wood piles, or other piles of debris or cleaning out my storage shed (as these are places these dark black spiders with the red hourglass on their belly love to hide). I wear gloves when working in the garden for the same reason. Prevention is always better than treatment.
Fixing Cuts, Scratches and Scrapes
The best first aid for any bleeding wound is to apply immediate pressure to stop the bleeding, but there are some remedies, known as styptics, that can help as well. My two favorites are capsicum (cayenne or red pepper) and yarrow. I’ve never dumped capsicum powder into an open wound, but I know people who have, and they have reported it stopped the bleeding and helped the wound heal remarkably fast. However, I have given it internally to stop bleeding and find it works very well.
I’ve had more experience using yarrow, which does a wonderful job of helping even deep bleeding cuts that have severed arteries and are spurting blood. Simply apply the crushed fresh leaves or the dried leaf powder directly to the wound and the apply pressure. Both yarrow and capsicum help the wounds to close faster and heal without scaring. They also help reduce pain.
Of course, it goes without saying that wounds should be cleansed with soap and water to avoid infection. You can also squeeze Silver Shield Gel directly into wounds to avoid infection. Tea Tree oil is another remedy I’ve used a lot to prevent infections in wounds. It also speeds healing.
Healing Bumps and Bruises
When it comes to bumps and bruises, nothing heals them faster than simply rubbing them until the pain goes away. The process usually takes five to twenty minutes. When you take the time to do this, you won’t get a bruise and the injury will heal remarkably fast. Try it!
If you want to apply a remedy to speed the process, then my favorite choice her is arnica, found in Healing AC cream. Arnica rapidly reduces swelling and pain in any injury where the skin isn’t broken. This includes not just bumps, but sprains and pulls and even breaks (as long as it’s not a compound fracture).
Other remedies that can be helpful for bumps and bruises include Tei Fu oil, Nature’s Fresh, Tea Tree oil and Distress Remedy. Apply any of these directly to the injury to ease pain and speed healing.