remedy!

06/15/2012

note: this is NOT medical advice. you should do lots of reading about herbs and make educated decisions about how to use them by learning from more experienced herbalists and doing lots of research. have you read these zines? they’re really good places to start, but there’s always more to learn! my housemate/i harvest most of the following herbs from our garden, gardens of friends, and from nearby woods. when i harvest in the woods/forest, i go through a really deliberate and intentional process to make sure we are leaving the eco-system as intact as possible. i highly recommend going on herb walks after storms so you can collect windfall branches. you may not find what you’re looking for, but you will find what the forest wants to share with you and its other visitors. i am grateful for my herbalism mentor, T., for sharing their knowledge and experience (20+ years!) with me. -RD

making a tiny herbal first aid kit for a friend:

  • anti-sangxiety tea (sad-angry-anxiety): lemon balm, oatstraw*, peppermint, chamomile**. useful for replenishing minerals, calmative, anti-insomnia, general nervine. also fucking delicious.
  • devils’ club tincture: mild stimulant/neural adaptagen. also good for regulating blood sugar and stimulating immune function. i like to take this when i’m in stressful situations where i need my wits about me, when i think i’ve been exposed to somebody’s communicable illness (yo, P!).
  • lavender/rosemary/calendula tincture: good for aromatherapy (stress headaches, what!), cleaning yer face/pits/etc with a bandana while travelling, placing on a bandage/piece of gauze and sticking it over a mild burn to aid healing/prevent infection/sooth inflammation. i use it like a commercial hand sanitizer when i have no other access to handwashing facilities, although the alcohol proof in my tinctures isn’t quite strong enough to be as effective as commercial preparations (which are 65% or more, i think)–and of course alcohol sanitizers are not as effective as soap/water/adequate scrubbing, especially when used to prevent spread of things like noro virus (aka “stomach ‘flu'”). this combo-tincture is also useful as a topical anti-fungal. i’ve had good luck using it to rid myself of tinea versicolor, or what i like to call “sweaty bike punk spots”, combined with a similar salve.
  • oregon grape tincture:  contains a number of medicinal compounds that are anti-microbial, antibiotic, and bitter (to me, it tastes a lot like dandelion sap!). used similar to antibiotics/anti-fungals for cold, flu, etc. also good when combined with herbs like fennel for food poisoning. the theory is that the berberine causes the body to produce more of the healthy mucus membranes. cool, eh?!
  • epsom salts: okay, so epsom salts are not an herb, but they are incredibly useful for easing the soreness out of injured/stressed out bodies, and in a small quantity can be an effective remedy for constipation (be careful, tho!).
  • various bandages, gauze, etc. alcohol hand wipes and gloves, too, cos you never know!

other stuff i’d like to include:

  • T.’s miracle salve (calendula, self-heal, sage, beeswax, comfrey, st. johns’ wort, olive oil, etc): useful for burns, scrapes, rashes, closed cuts, bruises, etc. my friend makes this from a meadow that he hikes to every summer or so. it’s the best!
  • milky oat* tincture: nervine tonic. (in my experience) balances the nervous system, making those unnecessary PTSD-induced fight-or-flight days and nights a thing of the past.
  • parrotsbeak tincture: nervine, mild calmative and anti-spasmodic. i’ve used it for easing panic/anxiety attacks (in the moment, vs. long-term) and easing muscle spasms, including menstrual cramps and shoulder/back spasms. hell yeah!
  • cottonwood bud tincture: this stuff is miraculous. anti-inflammatory, soothing anti-microbial. i got to harvest cottonwood bud with T. early this spring. we use it for treating sore throats because it coats the throat with resin! do not mix in water, cos it’s a resin! use a high% of alcohol to extract the orange-y resin from the buds. i’m still getting to know this herb and have heard it is also highly effective in salve form.
  • stinging nettle leaf (dried or in vinegar): nettles are pretty incredible plants, and one of my favorites, in part because they’re so changeable! the medicinal qualities of nettles vary based on their preparation form. some indigenous use (or have used) nettles as a pain remedy by flogging the affected area. hypotheses about how this works vary, but the basic idea is to overwhelm pain receptors in the neural network. cool, right?! nettles are also a neural adaptagen and very high in minerals, making them an ideal partner to herbs like oatstraw and lemon balm. i used to include nettle in the sanger tea, but i don’t have any more in my stock. the young plants are super delicious, whereas the older plants (~ after flowers begin to form) have fibers in the leaves that can upset the urinary tract–so only eat young plants, okay? one of my favorite uses for fresh nettle leaves when i was living next to a wooded area where they grew was to make a hangover tea, or steam them and use the broth as a soup base and eat the steamed greens like kale. yum! i could go on and on about this plant.
  • cayenne: this is an herb i want to get to know better before touting its amazing properties, but some general uses of cayenne are as a warming herb (including sprinkling a little in one’s shoes/mittens to increase circulation during exposure to extreme cold!), an anti-inflammatory, and a styptic. the anti-inflammatory applications i’m familiar with include just ingesting it alongside meals as a pleasant anti-inflammatory addition to the diet. as a styptic, some people apply it topically to stop bleeding and ease pain. i’d like to experiment with this, as well as the warming-the-toes application! whatever the case, cayenne is delicious.

*avena sativa (aka oatraw, milky oat, etc) may be contraindicated for folks with an intolerance to oats/wheat, many oat crops are contaminated with wheat.

*chamomile may be contraindicated for folks who are allergic to ragweed or papaya (they’re related), but i also know folks who drink chamomile tisanes with no issue. i suspect it has to do with how strong your allergy is, so be careful if you or your pal are prone to anaphylaxis! also recently learned it is contraindicated for pregnant folks as it can induce uterine contractions (i.e. miscarriage). lastly, i would not recommend ingesting large doses of chamomile while taking other blood-thinning herbs or medications–during some of my really bad chronic pain/injury-healing time i was taking large doses of ibuprofen/chamomile at the same time and noticed i had started to break capillaries on my thighs really easily, kind of worrisome until i figured out the cause!

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