The first thing in a herbalist's first aid kit should be a selection of dried herbs that can be made into a herbal tincture or decoction. These decoctions can be used as antiseptic rinses with astringent properties, to clean, disinfect and in some cases begin the healing process of topical wounds.
Useful herbs for antiseptic rinses are:
Skin: Myrrh, Goldenseal, Marigold, Thyme, Sage, Spagnum moss and Witch Hazel.
Eyes: Marigold and German Chamomile.
Nose: Yarrow and Eucalpytus Oil.
Throat & Mouth: Goldenseal, Sage and Cinnamon.
Mucous Membranes: Goldenseal, Echinacea and Myrrh.
Next, would be the herbs suitable to create poultices. Firstly, what is the difference between poultices, hot and cold, and compresses.
Poultices: A classic poultice is a soft, moist mass of material, typically plant material, applied topically to a wound to relieve aching, inflammed or pain. Traditionally this is done by preparing an infusion of, either dried or fresh herbs, in hot water, then wrapping them in muslin and applying directly to the skin. Depending on the desired affect, placing the veiny side of the leaves against the skin will draw poison away from the tissue, through osmosis. Whereas placing the soft side of the leaf against the skin will send healing elements downward, and protect the skin.
The choice of whether to apply the poultice hot or cold will depend on the type of wound sustained:
Hot poultices are best for superficial wounds - as the heat helps to draw blood to the surface, open the pores and assist the assimilation of the herbs through the skin.
Cold poultices are best for deep wounds, such as contusions, bruises, fractures etc; the affected area will usually feel 'hot' to touch and so the cold poultice (made either by preparing herbs with cold water, or by cooling a previously prepared one) will act as an analgesic - helping to draw the beneficial effects of the herbs down deep into the tissue.
Whereas, in comparison, a compress: is best described as a cloth soaked in a herbal infusion. The infusion can be hot or cold, and before application the cloth is squeezed fairly dry - they should then be changed frequently to ensure maximum effect. Compresses are best applied to open wounds, specifically where there is a requirement for bandaging or swabbing prior to subsequent treatment - Chamomile, Calendula and Hypericum are all good compress herbs, helping to cleanse and begin the healing process.
Poultice and Paste Herbal Selection
- Arnica - Arnica montana
- Comfrey - Symphytum officinale
- Chamomile - Matricaria recutita
- Chickweed - Stellaria media
- Goldenseal - Hydrastis canandensis
- Hebridean Moss - Chondrus crispus
- Horsetail - Equizetum arvense
- Linseeds (Flax) - Linum usitatissimum
- Marigold - Calendula officinalis
- Marshmallow - Althaea officinalis
- Oats - Avena sativa
- Self-heal - Prunella vulgaris
- Slippery Elm Powder - Ulmus fulva
- St. John's Wort - Hypericum perforatum
- Woundwort - Stachys palustris
- Yarrow - Achillea millefoium
Parts used: Dried Flower Heads
For external use only – some contra-indications when used on broken/bleeding (lacerated) body tissue. An excellent remedy for bruises or contusions (closed wounds only) – A contusion is a bruising formed through relatively a minor haematoma of tissue in which capillaries and sometimes venules are damaged by trauma, allowing blood to seep into the surrounding extracellular space. Bruises can involve capillaries at the level of the cutaneous tissues, subcutaneous tissue, musculature, or bone.
A bruise may be named by the length of its diameter: Ecchymosis (1 to 3cm), Purpura (3mm to 1cm), or Petechia (<3mm) – although these terms can also refer to internal bleeding not caused by trauma.
Protected species – Do Not Collect
Podlech: Externally (though not on broken skin) as antiseptic ointment to discourage infection in wounds and promote healing, to treat torn muscles and bruising and for rheumatic problems. Also used as a gargle to treat inflamed gums and mouth and throat infections. Internally to improve circulation and treat venous disorders. In homeopathy to treat inflamed veins, haemorrhage, weak heartbeat, arteriosclerosis and angina. Also used to treat epilepsy and sea-sickness.
Bartram: Bruises and contusions where skin is unbroken. Severe bruising after surgical operation. Neuralgia, sprains, rheumatic joints, aches and pains after excessive use as in sports and gardening. Combination: 1 part Tincture Arnica to 10 parts Witch Hazel water as a lotion.
Hoffmann: Whilst this herb should not be taken internally as it is potentially toxic, it provides us with one of the best remedies for external local healing and may be considered a specific when it comes to the treatment of bruises and sprains. The homeopathic preparation is entirely safe to take internally, especially when taken according to homeopathic directions. The herb itself, used externally, will help in the relief of rheumatic pain, the pain and inflammation of phlebitis and similar conditions. It may in fact be used wherever there is pain or inflammation on the skin, as long as the skin is not broken.
Bartram: Compress: handful of flowerheads to 1 pint boiling water. Saturate handtowl or suitable material in mixture and apply. Tincture: 1 handful (50g) flowerheads to 1 pint 70 per cent alcohol (say Vodka) in wide-necked bottle. Seal tight. Shake daily for 7 days. Filter. Use as a lotion or compress: 1 part tincture to 20 parts water. Or Weleda Lotion, Nelson’s Arnica cream, ointment and wet dressing.
Hoffmann: You can prepare your own tincture of this herb as follows: pour ½ litre (one pint) of 70% alcohol over 50g (2 ounces) of freshly picked flowers. Seal it tightly in a clear glass container and let it stand for at least a week in the sun or in a warm place. Filter it and it is ready for use. To store it, put the tincture in a sealed container and keep it out of direct sunlight.
Parts used: Root and Leaf.
A rapid wound/connective tissue healer (including bone fractures). Comfrey repairs at cellular level due to the allantoin content. Useful wherever a mucilaginous tissue restorative is required. Demulcent, astringent and haemostatic. Useful poultice combination: Comfrey and Slippery Elm – the latter prevents excessive fluidity.
There are concerns that Comfrey is hepato-toxic (pyrrolizidine alkaloid content) are unsubstantiated by centuries of empirical evidence to the contrary – “attempts to equate the effects of its isolated compounds apart from the whole plant yield conflicting results” (Bartram). No plant restriction has been placed on dried Comfrey leaf as a tea.
Internal use not recommended, as plant may have some carcinogenic effect. Nevertheless, Comfrey is also being investigated for possible anti-tumour activity.
Podlech: In homeopathy for fractures, bruises, painful joints and circulatory problems. Leaf tea used for coughs and digestive ulcers, and a poultice for sprains, burns, sores, cuts and eczema.
Bartram: Ulceration anywhere along the gastro-intestinal tract; colitis, hiatus hernia. Bleeding from stomach, throat, bowel, bladder and lungs (haemoptysis) in which it reduces blood clotting time. Once used extensively for tuberculosis (pulmonary and elsewhere). Irritating cough, ‘dry’ lung complaints; pleurisy. Increases expectoration. Should not be given for oedematous conditions of the lungs. Bones – fractures: to promote formation of a callus; rickets, wasting disease. Skin – varicose ulcers and indolent irritating sores that refuse to heal. Promotes suppuration of boils and gangrene as in diabetes. Bruises. STD skin lesions, internally and externally. Blood sugar control: assists function of the pancreas. Urine: scalding. Rheumatoid arthritis: improvement reported. Malignancy: cases of complete regression of sarcoma and carcinoma recorded. Rodent ulcer, (as a paste).
Hoffmann: The impressive wound-healing properties of Comfrey and partially due to the presence of allantoin. This chemical stimulates cell proliferation and so augments the wound-healing both inside and out. The addition of much demulcent mucilage makes Comfrey a powerful healing agent in gastric and duodenal ulcers, hiatus hernia and ulcerative colitis. It’s astringency will help haemorrhages wherever they occur. It has been used with benefits in cases of bronchitis and irritable cough, where it will soothe and reduce irritation whilst helping expectoration. Comfrey may be used externally to speed wound-healing and guard against scar tissue developing incorrectly. Care should be taken with very deep wounds, however, as the external application of Comfrey can lead to tissue forming over the wound before it its healed deeper down, possibly leading to abscesses. It may be used for any external ulcer, for wounds and fractures as a compress or poultice. It is excellent in chronic varicose ulcers. It has a reputed anti-cancer action.
Podlech: As a poultice. Boil 100g root in 1 litre of water for 10 minutes.
Bartram: Thrice daily. Using the dried herb, one heaped teaspoon to each cup; or 1oz to 1 pint boiling water; infuse for 15 minutes. Dose half-1 cup for no more than 8 weeks. Or a tincture using the leaf or root (separately), a poultice, a compress, an ointment, or an oil.
Hoffmann: Decoction: put 1-3 teaspoonfuls of the dried herb in a cup of water, bring to the boil and let simmer for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.
Parts used: Flowers.
Wild or German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) is the more potent and bitter of the Chamomiles. It is the wild Chamomile that yields that azure blue chamazulenes upon distillation. They are one of nature’s finest anti-inflammatory remedies. The fresh pulped flowers may be used externally as a poultice, or the aqueous extract applied as a compress – Bartram recommends Oil of Chamomile – and excellent remedy for neuralgia. Constituents: volatile oil, flavonoids and tannic acid.
Bartram: Both Chamomiles are relaxants (mild sedatives). Both have a gentle soothing action on the fretful child, relaxing nerve tension without undue sedation and side-effects. The difference between German (wild) and Roman: German is stronger, acting beneficially on mucous surfaces. Roman Chamomile, is less bitter, more soothing to the lungs, and more directly hastens menstrual flow.
Podlech: As appetite stimulant and digestive tonic. A tea from dried flowers relieves nausea and indigestion. On poultice for eczema and wounds.
Bartram: Internal use. Nervous excitability, convulsions, restlessness, hyperactivity in children, insomnia, early stages of fever, measles (warm tea), travel sickness, pin and thread worms, peptic ulcer, gastro-intestinal spasm – calms down digestive system, pre-menstrual tension, hysteria from womb irritation, candida albicans, inflammation of respiratory and gastro-intestinal tracts, sore throat and mouth. Psychosomatic illness. May be used in pregnancy. External use. “Inflammation and irritation of skin and mucosa, including the oral cavity and gums, respiratory tract and anal and genital area”.
Conjunctivitis – cold tea. Gangrene – poultice with a few drops of Myrrh tincture. Combinations: with Valerian, Passion flower and Hops (equal parts) for nervous excitability. With Liquorice 1 and Chamomile 4 for gastric ulcer and chronic dyspepsia. Chamomile works well with Peppermint and Balm; equal parts.
Hoffmann: Chamomile is renowned for its medical and household uses. The apparently endless list of conditions it can help all fall into areas that the relaxing, carminative, and anti-inflammatory actions can aid. It is an excellent, gentle sedative, useful and safe for use with children. It will contribute its relaxing actions in any combination and is thus used in anxiety and insomnia. Indigestion and inflammations such as gastritis are often eased with Chamomile. Similarly, it can be used as a mouth wash for inflammations of the mouth such as gingivitis and for bathing inflamed and sore eyes. As a gargle it will help sore throats. As an inhalation over a steam bath, it will speed recovery from nasal catarrh. Externally it will speed wound healing and reduce the swelling due to inflammation. As a carminative with relaxing properties it will ease flatulence and dyspeptic pain.
Bartram: One teaspoon to each cup boiling water; infuse for 5-10 minutes; one cup freely. Or a powder, a liquid extract, a tincture, the Oil of Chamomile, an essential oil, a compress, a Chamomile bath – add strong infusion to bath water for irritable skin rash, Chamomile enema – 1 tablespoon flowers in 2 litres (3 and a half pints) boiling water; infuse, strain and inject warm.
Hoffmann: Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 2 teaspoonfuls of the dried leaves and let infuse for 5-10 minutes. For digestive problems, this tea should be drunk after meals. A stronger infusion should be used as a mouthwash for conditions such as gingivitis. Half a cup of flowers boiled in two litres (four pints) of water make a steam bath. Tincture: take 2-4ml of the tincture three times a day.
Part used: Complete Herb.
Chickweed (sometimes referred to as Starweed) is a good source of Vitamin C – it is an ancient English remedy for chronic ailments of the cutaneous tissues (e.g. boils, painful eruptions, variscose ulcers). It is one of the most effective antipruritic remedies in our herbal pharmacopoeias. Renown as a cooling refrigerant remedy that will dispel excess heat from the body, soothe and relieve irritation – these properties make Chickweed a valued anti-rheumatic when taken orally).
Most often used in the form of an ointment – Culpepper writes of an ointment made by boiling the herb in “oil of trotters”. Chickweed is still used as an ointment in contemporary herbalism – although not in the same base. A refrigerated Chickweed lotion may also be prepared to cleanse and cool ‘hot’ wounds.
Podlech: In homeopathy for rheumatism, arthritis and bronchitis. Internally for coughs, externally as a wash for wounds, rashes or sores. Infuse 2 teaspoonsful in 250ml boiling hot water for 5-10 minutes. Take 2 cups daily (warm).
Bartram: Ancient English remedy for chronic skin conditions. Boils, painful eruptions, varicose ulcers, abscess, etc. Muscular rheumatism, inflamed gouty joints (ointment or poultice). Takes the heat out of itchy skin.
Hoffmann: Chickweed finds its most common use as an external remedy for cuts, wounds and especially for itching and irritation. If eczema or psoriasis causes this sort of irritation, Chickweed may be used with benefit. Internally it has a reputation as a remedy for rheumatism.
Bartram: Thrice daily. 2 teaspoons dried herb to each cup or, 1oz to 1 pint boiling water; infuse for 15 minutes. Fresh herb, double quantity; simmer for 10 minutes. Dose 1 cup. Or a liquid extract, a tincture, a poultice, a Chickweed ointment – 1 part clean Chickweed to 4 parts fresh salt-free lard and 1 part Vaseline. Place all in a stone jar in a hot oven. Steep 2-3 hours. Strain through a wire mesh strainer or clean cloth into another jar. When cold, ready for use; or a lotion – take a pot or other suitable receptacle, fill with fresh Chickweed well pressed down. Pour on Sunflower seed oil to saturation point. Allow to steep for 2 weeks, strain and bottle. Apply lid or cap and use for eczema and other skin diseases.
Hoffmann: Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 2 teaspoonfuls of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 5 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day. For external use Chickweed may be made into an ointment or can be used as a poultice. To ease itching, a strong infusion of the fresh plant makes a useful addition to bath water.
Parts used: Root and Rhizome.
Antibiotic – topical, the resinous root makes an excellent herbal salve, antiseptic – potent, haemostatic and drying. Bartram recommends: “Lotion: Equal parts, tincture Goldenseal and Glycerine” – may be applied as a herbal ‘paint’ for wounds.
Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis L.) is a highly valued medicinal herb which has been collected from the Eastern forests in North America for hundreds of years – distinguished by its thick, yellow knotted rootstock (the medicinal part used), distinctive flower, and big rounded Ranuculaceae leaf structures. However, now rare in the wild, Goldenseal is listed in the Convention for International Trade on Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an international treaty monitoring trade in threatened and endangered species. Fortunately, cultivation of this herb is fairly easy.
It is often sold as a “Cleanser” or depurative and alterative remedy. It may also boost the effects of other herbs within the body – it is to be noted that Goldenseal is potentially toxic. It is therefore not to be used for more than one week at a time, and then only when prescribed by a Qualified Medical Herbalist.
Do Not Take Hydrastis as a Blood Tonic.
Because Goldenseal contains potentially toxic alkaloid compounds (hydrastine, berberine, canadine) it is not recommended here that it should be taken as a depurative agent.
In high doses, Goldenseal and some of its components can cause fatal respiratory failure. Over a period of time, does of Goldenseal will reduce absorption of B vitamins. Berberine has a stimulant effect on the heart, and it can potentially interefere with the anticoagulant activity of heparin.
Bartram: Mucous membranes generally. Ulceration of mouth, throat, intestines. Heartburn, chronis dyspepsia, gastric and duodenal ulcer, diverticulosis, ulcerative colitis, liver damage. To assist function of old age. Drying to mucous surfaces and therefore indicated in all forms of catarrh (respiratory, vaginal etc.) Proteinura. Painful, excessive menstruation and bleeding from the womb for which the addition of Beth root (equal parts) enhances action. Itching of anus and genitals. Ear infections: internal and topical medication. Prostatitis. Bleeding gums. Tinnitus. Has a long history for use in sexually transmitted diseases. Once used to stimulate contractions of the womb to hasten delivery.
Hoffmann: Goldenseal is one of the most useful herbs available to us. It owes most of its specific uses to the powerful tonic qualities shown towards the mucous membranes of the body. It is thus of service in all digestive problems, for example in gastritis, septic ulceration and colitis. Its bitter stimulation gives it a role in loss of appetite. All catarrhal states benefit from Goldenseal, especially upper respiratory tract catarrh. The tonic and astringency contribute to its use in uterine conditions such as menorrhagia (excessive menstruation) and haemorrhage. With the additional stimulation of involuntary muscles, it is an excellent aid during childbirth, but for just this reason it should be avoided during pregnancy. Externally it is used for the treatment of eczema, ringworm, pruritis (itching), ear ache and conjunctivitis.
As Goldenseal stimulates the involuntary muscles of the uterus, it should be avoided during pregnancy.
Combinations: In stomach conditions it combines well with Meadowsweet and Chamomile. In uterine haemorrhage it is best combined with Beth root. Externally as a wash for irritation and itching it combines well with distilled Witch Hazel. As ear drops it may be combined with Mullein.
Bartram: Standard dose: half-1 gram. Thrice daily. Or a decoction – quarter to half a teaspoon dried rhizome to each cup water simmered gently in a covered vessel 20 minutes, dose: half a cup. Or a liquid extract, a tincture, a powder, a lotion, a solution, an ointment, a mouth wash, or a vaginal douche or enema.
Hoffmann: Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto ½ - 1 teaspoonful of the powdered herb and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day. Tincture: take 2-4ml of the tincture three times a day.
Parts used: Fragments and Fronds – of the whole Seaweed.
Carrageen is one of the Red Seaweeds and a source of the wondrous Seaweed Gum Extract: Carrageenin. It’s polysaccharide content makes it one of the most mucilaginous of the sea botanicals and therefore a fantastic vulnerary agent. Full of trace elements and minerals, such as iodine, iron and bromine. Carrageen is both a nutritive and restorative remedy, but its principal therapeutic properties are as a demulcent and emollient agent.
The extracted gel may be used as a base ingredient for a variety of aqueous infused preparations, e.g. salves and cosmetic creams etc.
Podlech, Bartram and Hoffmann have no noted uses for Hebridean Moss.
Podlech, Bartram and Hoffman have no noted remedy’s for Hebridean Moss.
Parts used: Dried Stems.
A natural source of Silicic Acid that yields 70% of Silica, soluble in water. Silica preserves the elasticity of the connective tissues – it helps to control the absorption of calcium. Horsetail is haemostatic and styptic, it increases the ‘coagulability’ of the blood. Re-mineraliser – silica, selenium and zinc, astringent and white blood cell stimulant – all hastens repair of damaged tissues. Its cleansing properties rapidly remove urates, uric acid and cellulites from the blood.
The heavy mineral content of Horsetail (Pewterwort) requires that oral administration be staggered so as to avoid renal strain.
Podlech: To treat kidney and bladder disorders. Also sometimes used in cases of bed-wetting, and for arthritis, eczema and ulcers.
Bartram: Blood in the urine, prostatitis, bed-wetting, dropsy, chronic bladder infections, incontinence in the aged, catarrh of the urinary organs, gravel, urethritis of sexual transmission with bleeding, stricture, severe pain in the bladder unrelieved by passing water, constant desire to pass water without relief. Carcinoma of the womb: cure reported. Foetid discharges of STD. Arteriosclerosis.
Silica, as in Horsetail, preserves elasticity of connective tissue; controls absorption of calcium and is a necessary ingredient of nails, hair, teeth and the skeleton. Its cleansing properties rapidly remove urates, uric acid and cellulites from the system. Hastens repair of tissue after lung damage of tuberculosis or other diseases.
Combinations: (1) With Shepherd’s Purse for blood in the urine. (2) With Pulsatilla to inhibit growth of uterine fibroid. (3) With Buchu for cystitis. (4) With Oats and Goldenseal for renal exhaustion. “Combines well with Hydrangea for non-malignant prostatitis”
Hoffmann: Horsetail is an excellent astringent for the genito-urinary system, reducing haemorrhage and healing wounds thanks to the high silica content. Whilst it acts as a mild diuretic, its toning and astringent actions make it invaluable in the treatment of incontinence and bed wetting in children. It is considered a specific in cases of inflammation or benign enlargement of the prostate gland. Externally it is a vulnerary (healing wounds). In some cases it has been found to ease the pain of rheumatism and stimulate the healing of chilblains.
Combinations: Horsetail is often combined with Hydrangea in the treatment of prostate troubles.
Bartram: Horsetail has a heavy mineral content (silica, selenium and zinc) therefore treatment is best staggered so as to avoid kidney strain – one month, followed by one week’s break. Average dose: 1 to 4 grams, thrice daily. Tea: half-1 teaspoon to cup water; bring to boil; simmer for 5 minutes; infuse 30 minutes. Dose: half-1 cup, cold. Or a liquid extract, a home tincture, a poultice, an enema or a bath – 9oz leaves, bring to the boil in 1 gallon of water. Simmer for 5 minutes; strain and add to bath water.
Hoffmann: Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 2 teaspoonfuls of the dried plant and let infuse for 15-20 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day. Bath: a useful bath can be made to help in rheumatic pain and chilblains. Allow 100 grams (3 ½ ounces) of the herb to steep in hot water for an hour. Add this to the bath. Tincture: take 2-4ml of the tincture three times a day.
Parts used: Dried Florets.
The perfect cleansing and healing agent for cuts, lacerations and bleeding wounds. Calendula encourages the rapid ‘epithelisation’ if damaged cutaneous tissue – especially in its alcoholic tinctured extract form – encourages rapid wound adhesion and granulation without suppuration (Weleda). May also be applied for chilblains, dry and chapped lips, wind burn and bee stings etc. Constituents: volatile oils, resin and flavonoids – especially vitamin A.
Calendula cream is one of the most useful vulnerary remedies. Calendula lotion may be applied locally as a Simple. Calendula and Witch Hazel water is a synergistic combination.
Podlech: Antiseptic and antifungal. Internally to stimulate the liver. In conventional and homeopathic medicine used externally as a salve to promote healing on cuts, grazes and spots. Also as a gargle for mouth and throat infections. Petals yield soothing eyewash.
Bartram: Internal. A remedy which should follow all surgical operations. Enlarged and inflamed lymphatic glands, gastric and duodenal ulcer, jaundice, gall bladder inflammation, absent or painful menstruation, balanitis, rectum – inflammation of, gum disease, nose-bleeds, sebaceous cysts, measles (cup of tea drunk freely), pneumonia – a cooling drink which is anti-inflammatory. Vaginal thrush.
External. Rapid epithelisation process in damaged skin tissue, especially alcoholic extract; rapid wound adhesion and granulation without suppuration (Weleda). Wounds where the skin has been broken: laceration with bleeding (Arnica for unbroken skin). Sores, leg ulcers, abscess etc. Sore nipples in nursing mothers, varicose veins, nosebleeds, grazed knees in schoolchildren. Bee, wasp and other insect stings. Chilblains, fistula, inflamed nails, whitlow, dry chapped skin and lips, wind burn, air pollution. Dentistry: tooth extractions: rinse mouth with infusion of the florets or much-diluted tincture – 5-10 drops in water. Malignancy: strong tea, 1-2oz to 1 pint boiling water; use as a wash to cleanse exudations. STD purulent discharge: inject douche of strong infusion as above.
Hoffmann: Marigold is one of the best herbs for treating local skin problems. It may be used safely wherever there is an inflammation on the skin, whether due to infection or physical damage. It may be used for any external bleeding or wound, bruising or strains. It will also be of benefit in slow-healing wounds and skin ulcers. It is ideal for first aid treatment of minor burns and scalds. Local treatments may be with a lotion, a poultice or compress, whichever is most appropriate. Internally it acts as a valuable herb for digestive inflammation or ulcers. Thus it may be used in the treatment of gastric and duodenal ulcers. As a cholagogue it will aid in the relief of gall-bladder problems and also through this process help in many of the vague digestive complaints that are called indigestion. Marigold has marked anti-fungal activity and may be used both internally and externally to combat such infections. As an emmenagogue it has a reputation of helping delayed menstruation and painful periods. It is in general a normaliser of the menstrual process.
Combinations: For digestive problems it may be used with Marshmallow Root and American Cranesbill. As an external soothing application it can be used with Slippery Elm and any other relevant remedy. A useful antiseptic lotion will be produced by combining it with Goldenseal and Myrrh.
Bartram: For internal or external use. Average dose, 1-4 grams, or equivalent. Thrice daily. Tea: dried petals/florets. 1-2 teaspoons to each cup of boiling water; infuse for 15 minutes. Drink freely. Or a tincture, a poultice or a lotion.
Hoffmann: Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1-2 teaspoonfuls of the florets and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day. Tincture: take 1-4ml of the tincture three times a day.
Parts used: Leaf and Dried Peeled Root.
Constituents: mucilage – proven to stimulate phagocytosis, the root is an especially abundant source, flavonoids – e.g. kaempferol, quercetin and scopoletin, polyphenolic acids – including salicylic, and tannins.
The whole herb is demulcent and emollient. Marshmallow may be used on open wounds to cleanse and heal (Bartram). A poultice or ointment of the root of Marshmallow combined with Slippery Elm powder may be applied to boils etc, and to old wounds to ‘draw’ them – i.e. encourage effete (worn out and degenerate) matter, to the tissue surfaces, before expulsion from the body.
Podlech: To treat mouth and throat infections and gastric ulcers. Roots and leaves can be used as a poultice.
Bartram: Inflammation of the alimentary canal, kidneys, bladder. Ulceration of stomach and duodenum, hiatus hernia, catarrh of respiratory organs and stomach, dry cough, open wounds – to cleanse and heal, cystitis, diarrhoea, septic conditions of moderate severity. Plant supplies an abundance of mucilage for protection of mucous membranes of the mouth, nose and urinary tract in the presence of stone. A poultice or ointment is applied topically to boils, abscesses, ulcers and old wounds to draw effete matter to the surface before expulsion from the body.
Combinations: With Comfrey and Cranesbill (American) for peptic ulceration. With White Horehound, Liquorice and Coltsfoot for pulmonary disease.
Hoffmann: The high mucilage content of Marshmallow makes it an excellent demulcent that can be used wherever such properties are called for. Whilst having broadly similar effects, the root is used primarily for digestive problems and on the skin, whilst the leaf is used for the lungs and the urinary system. In all inflammations of the digestive tract, such as inflammation of the mouth, gastritis, peptic ulcer, enteritis and colitis, the root is strongly advised. For bronchitis, respiratory catarrh and irritating coughs Marshmallow should be considered. In urethritis and urinary gravel, Marshmallow Leaf is very soothing. In fact this herb is very soothing for any mucous membrane irritations anywhere. Externally, the root is indicated in varicose veins and ulcers as well as abscesses and boils.
Combinations: In ulcerative conditions, internal or external, it may be used with Comfrey. For bronchitis use with Liquorice and White Horehound. It is often mixed with Slippery Elm to make ointments.
Podlech: As gargle for mouth or throat infections. Leave 2 teaspoonsful to stand in 250ml cold water for half an hour. Drink 1-3 cups (warmed up) daily, or use as a gargle.
Bartram: Average dose, 2-5 grams dried root. Thrice daily. For best results plant should not be boiled. Cold decoction: Half-1 teaspoon shredded root or powder to each cup of cold water; stand overnight. Dose: half-1 cup. Also used externally as a douche for inflamed eyes. Or a liquid extract, a tincture, a traditional ‘drawing’ ointment – combining with Slippery Elm, an ointment, or a poultice.
Hoffmann: Decoction: the root should be made into a decoction by putting a teaspoonful of the chopped herb into a cup of water and boiling it gently for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day. Infusion: for an infusion of the leaf, pour boiling water onto 1-2 teaspoonfuls of the dried leaf and let infuse for 10 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day also. Compress: a valuable compress or poultice can be made from this herb. Tincture: take 1-4ml of the tincture three times a day.
St. John’s Wort
Parts used: Whole Herb.
St. John’s Wort, otherwise known as Blood Wort, was traditionally used as a vulnerary herb in the form of a poultice or compress. Oil glands appear as translucent ‘perforations’ (dots) on the leaf surface and also as black dots along the lea margins and yellow flower petals. A ruby red therapeutic oil may be obtained by maceration of the fresh flowers in clear base oil. This herb yields several valuable vulnerary constituents: volatile/essential oils (including pinene), hypericins (a red-coloured anthraquinone-derivative, which, together with hyperforin, is one of the principal active constituents of hypericum – it is believed to act as an antibiotic) and flavonoids. Properties: antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and analgesic (mild).
Podlech: To treat depression, nervous disorders, bed-wetting, and stomach, intestinal and gallbladder problems. Externally for healing wounds, relieving the pain of sprains and bruises, and for rheumatism and lumbago.
Bartram: Neuralgia (facial and intercoastal), sciatica, concussion of the spine, post-operative pain and neuralgia, physical shock. Pain in coccyx, polymyalgia with tingling of fingers or feet, to reduce pain of dental extractions. Injuries to flesh rich in nerves – finger tips or sole of feet. Shooting, stitching pains. Punctured wounds: bites of dogs (rabies), cats, rats where pain shoots up the arm from the wound. Painful piles. Chorea. Tetanus. Temporary relief reported in Parkinsonism. Has been used with some success in relieving cramps of terminal disease. Anxiety, stress, depression. Menopausal nervousness. Menstrual cramps.
Researchers have shown that the herb possesses radioprotective properties.
Hoffmann: Taken internally, St. John’s Wort has a sedative and pain reducing effect, which gives it a place in the treatment of neuralgia, anxiety, tension, and similar problems. It is especially regarded as a herb to use where there are menopausal changes triggering irritability and anxiety. It is recommended, however, that it not be used when there is marked depression. In addition to neuralgic pain, it will ease fibrositis, sciatica and rheumatic pain. Externally it is a valuable healing and anti-inflammatory remedy. As a lotion it will speed the healing of wounds and bruises, varicose veins and mild burns. The oil is especially useful for the healing of sunburn.
Podlech: For depression. Boil 2 teaspoonsful in 250ml water. Drink 1 cup daily. For external use buy Hypericum oil from the chemist.
Bartram: Average dose: 2-4 grams, or equivalent in fluid form. Thrice daily. Tea: 1 heaped teaspoon to each cup of boiling water; infuse for 15 minutes. Dose: half a cup. Or a liquid extract, a tincture, a compress, keymote, the oil, or the flowers: steeped in Olive oil offer a good dressing for burns, sores and stubborn ulcers.
Hoffmann: Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1-2 teaspoonfuls of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day. Tincture: take 1-4ml of the tincture three times a day.
Parts used: Dried Powdered Bark.
One of the most widely used herbal agents (Bartram). Readily yields an abundance of mucilage – mostly in the form of galactose. A soothing demulcent and excellent emollient remedy.
Bartram: Inflammation or ulceration anywhere along the digestive tract. Gastric or duodenal ulcer, acute or chronic dyspepsia and wind, diverticulosis, colitis, before a journey to allay travel sickness, summer diarrhoea in children (also enema), irritable bowel, before festivities to avoid ‘hangover’.
It’s blanketing action protects the gastric mucosa from the erosive effects of too much acid. Gastro-oesophageal reflux is one of the most common causes of dyspepsia; Slippery Elm powder protects the oesophageal mucosa and relieves pain of indigestion. Lasting protection against acid reflux. Suppresses acid production during the night when mucosal damage may occur. Together with carminatives such as Chamomile or Ginger it allays abdominal distension, reflux oesophagitis and hiatus hernia.
Of value during convalescence. Cachexia and wasting diseases to increase body weight. Boils, abscesses or discharging wounds, varicose ulcer (poultice or ointment). Vaginitis (power on tampon).
Hoffmann: Slippery Elm Bark is a soothing nutritive demulcent which is perfectly suited for sensitive or inflamed mucous membrane linings in the digestive system. It may be used in gastritis, gastric or duodenal ulcer, enteritis, colitis, and the like. It is often used as a food during convalescence as it is gentle and easily assimilated. In diarrhoea it will soothe and astringe at the same time. Externally it makes an excellent poultice for use in cases of boils, abscesses or ulcers. Combinations: For digestive problems it may be used with Marshmallow.
Bartram: Powder: Taken as a food (gruel) mixed into a paste before adding boiling water or milk: quarter to half a teaspoon to each cup. Sprinkle powder on porridge or museli. Or a tincture, a poultice, or a traditional English ‘drawing’ ointment.
Hoffmann: Decoction: use 1 part of the powdered bark to 8 parts water. Mix the powder in a little water initially to ensure it will mix. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes. Drink half a cup three times a day. Poultice: mix the coarse powdered bark with enough boiling water to make a paste.
Parts used: Seeds.
Oats are highly mucilaginous and a good source of Vitamin E oil. Used externally they are wonderfully emollient and the colloidal fraction may be used in bath preparations for irritated, tickling or eczema troubled tissues etc.
Podlech: In homeopathy to treat insomnia and nervous fatigue. Oat bran helps reduce cholesterol. A decoction treats colds, depression, menopausal problems, muscular sclerosis and shingles. Fine oatmeal is a soothing wash for dry skin.
Bartram: Benzodiazepine, valium or other drug addiction – with Valerian and Skullcap to assist withdrawl. Alcoholism. Nerve and physical weakness with depression and anxiety. Debility following illness; recovery from surgical operation. Neurasthenia. Tension and irritability through overwork. Headache with pain at back of the neck; sleeplessness, shingles, hyperactivity in children. Nerve tremor in the aged not caused by Parkinson’s or other nerve degenerative diseases. May be taken with benefit for general well-being in chronic nerve dyscrasies but with limited improvement in basic condition. Sometimes proves of benefit for schizophrenic tendency. Sexual weakness with night losses and impotence. Combines well with Saw Palmetto for spermatorrhea. Combines with Valerian and Wood Betony for nerve weakness, to minimise attacks of petit mal, chorea and other convulsive states. Does not combine well with Passion flower or Cypripedium.
Contra-indicated in cases sensitive to gluten.
Hoffmann: Oats is one of the best remedies for ‘feeding’ the nervous system, especially when under stress. It is considered a specific in cases of nervous debility and exhaustion when associated with depression. It may be used with most of the other nerviness, both relaxant and stimulatory, to strengthen the whole of the nervous system. It is also used in general debility. The high levels of silicic acid in the straw will explain its use as a remedy for skin conditions, especially in external applications.
Combinations: For depression it may be used with Skullcap and Lady’s Slipper.
Bartram: Average dose, 1-2 grams or equivalent. Thrice daily. An older generation of herbalists prepared their tinctures and extracts from the green flowering unripe wild Oats as the effective constituent is unstable. Taken hot, effects are more immediate. Tea: oatstraw: 1-2 teaspoons to each cup boiling water; infuse for 15 minutes. Drink freely. Or a tincture, an extract, an Oatstraw bath, a liquid extract, or a traditional combination: equal parts – Oats, Passion flower, Hops and Valerian.
Hoffmann: Oats may most conveniently be taken in the form of porridge or gruel. Fluid extract: in liquid form it is most often given as a fluid extract. Take 3-5ml three times a day. Bath: a soothing bath for use in neuralgia and irritated skin conditions can be made: 500 grams (1 pound) of shredded straw is boiled in 2 litres (2 quarts) of water for half an hour. The liquid is strained and added to the bath.
Parts used: Herb (Leaf and Stem)
Constituents: Vitamins A, B complex, C, K, flavonoids and rutin. Self-heal is antibacterial, astringent and haemostatic.
Bartram: Injuries, wounds with bleeding. Haematuria (blood in the urine). High blood pressure.
Hoffmann: As its name suggests, Self-heal has a long tradition as a wound-healing herb. The fresh leaf may be used or a poultice or compress made to aid in the clean healing of cuts and wounds. As a gentle astringent it is used internally for diarrhoea, haemorrhoids or mild haemorrhages. For sore throats it may be used as a gargle, sweetened with honey. For bleeding piles it may be used as an ointment or lotion. Self-heal may be used as a spring tonic or as a general tonic in convalescence.
Bartram: Tea: 1 teaspoon dried herb, or 2 teaspoons fresh herb to each cup boiling water; infuse for 10 minutes. Dose: 1 cup 2-3 times daily. Professional opinion should be sought for blood in the urine and serious injury. The tea is used also as a gargle and mouth wash for laryngitis. Eyewash: 5-10 drops fresh juice in eyebath half-filled with milk; used as a douche for conjunctivitis or eye injury. Ointment: for bleeding piles. Poultice: pulp of washed fresh leaves for healing of wounds.
Hoffmann: Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1-2 teaspoonfuls of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 10 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day or used as a gargle or lotion. Tincture: take 1-2ml of the tincture three times a day.
Parts used: Seeds and Oil
Constituents: Oils, mucilage, omega-3 fatty acids and protein. Linseed oil is an ingredient of Liniments for Burns and Scalds.
Bartram: Its healing mucilage is beneficial for inflammation of the digestive and respiratory tracts, and of the gall duct. To soothe irritable mucous membranes. Spasmodic cough, bronchial, asthma, bronchitis. To reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and thrombosis. Heart disease. Persistent constipation.
Hoffmann: Flax may be used in all pulmonary infections, especially in bronchitis with much catarrh formed. It is often used as a poultice in pleurisy and other pulmonary conditions. As a poultice it can be used for boils and carbuncles, shingles and psoriasis. As a purgative it relieves constipation.
Combinations: As a poultice for the chest is combines well with Mustard. For boils, swellings and inflammations it combines with Marshmallow Root and Slippery Elm.
Bartram: Average dose: 3-6 grams or equivalent. Thrice daily. Tea: 2-3 teaspoons to cupful boiling water; infuse for 15 minutes. Drink without filtering, with honey for sweetening if necessary. One-third-1 cup. Or a cold tea for stomach disorders, a tincture, a poultice, the linseed oil: an ingredient of liniments for burns and scalds, or linsuit: organically cultivated golden Linseed.
Hoffmann: Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 2-3 teaspoonfuls of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk morning and evening. Or a poultice, or a tincture: take 2-6ml of the tincture three times a day.
Parts used: Herb
This herb contains allantoin, also found in Comfrey. It is an excellent ‘wild herb vulnerary’. It is antiseptic and anti-haemorrhagic. Traditionally it’s been used as a poultice ingredient applied to wounds.
Hoffmann: As its name implies, Woundwort is renowned in folklore as a wound healer. Used as a vulnerary it is an equivalent of Comfrey in its effect on wounds. It may be used directly on the wound or as an ointment or compress. Internally it will ease cramps and some joint pains, and also relieve diarrhoea and dysentery.
Hoffmann: Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1 teaspoonful of the dried herb and let infuse for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day. Tincture: take 1-2ml of the tincture three times a day.
Parts used: Herb
Other common names for this herb include Milfoil and Nosebleed. Constituents: volatile/essential oils – including pinene, salicylic acid, azulenes – organic dark-blue coloured compounds also found in wild Chamomile and with anti-inflammatory properites, flavonoids – e.g. apigenin, an anti-inflammtory, and alkaloids.
Many samples of Yarrow reveal high concentrations of azulenes (up to 50%) including Chamazulene (“achillea azulene”) and although these are now thought to be absent from the true A. millefolium they are present in closely related species.
Azulene has a long history, dating back to the 15th century as the azure-blue chromophore obtained by steam distillation of German Chamomile. The chromophore was discovered in Yarrow and Wormwood and named in 1863 by Septimus Piesse.
Podlech: For loss of appetite and digestive problems; also liver and gall-bladder complaints. In homeopathy to treat internal bleeding. Fresh leaves inhibit bleeding and are useful on a bandage. Flower-oil used to treat colds and flu.
Bartram: Used internally and externally for a wide range of conditions. For temperature reduction in the early stages of fevers, influenza, the common cold. Dry skin and absent perspiration. Measles., chicken pox and feverish children’s complaints. Haemorrhage of mucous surfaces, nosebleed. High blood pressure with thrombosis - cerebral, coronary or other BHP (1983). Biliary colic, diarrhoea, dysentery, stomach cramps (tea, with cold wet packs externally), obstructed menstruation, non-specific vaginal discharge (injection), to cleanse wounds (tea). An ingredient of Maria Treben’s tea. Internal and external bleeding. For toning veins (varicose veins). To prevent blood clots.
Combinations: Nettles and Lime flowers for high blood pressure BHP (1983). With Elderflowers and Peppermint for colds and feverish conditions.
Hoffmann: Yarrow is one of the best diaphoretic herbs and is a standard remedy for aiding the body to deal with fevers. It lowers blood pressure due to a dilation of the peripheral vessels. It stimulates the digestion and tones the blood vessels. As a urinary antiseptic it is indicated in infections such as cystitis. Used externally it will aid in the healing of wounds. It is considered to be a specific in thrombotic conditions associated with high blood pressure.
Combinations: For fevers it will combine well with Elderflower, Peppermint, Boneset and with Cayenne and Ginger. For raised blood pressure it may be used with Hawthorn, Lime Blossom and Mistletoe.
Podlech: As digestive tonic; also externally to wash wounds. Infuse 2 teaspoonsful in 250ml boiling hot water for 15 minutes. Drink 2-3 cups daily.
Bartram: Tea: One heaped teaspoon to each cup of boiling water; infuse for 10 minutes. 1 cup thrice daily (chronic); every 2 hours (acute). Or a liquid extract, a tincture, a poultice, fresh juice from the leaves and flowers – take half-1 teaspoon, or a Yarrow bath: to lessen pain and inflammation. Handful dried or fresh flowers or leaves in 1 pint (500ml) boiling water; infuse for 15 minutes: strain and add to bath water.
Hoffmann: Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1-2 teaspoonfuls of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk hot three times a day. When feverish it should be drunk hourly. Tincture: take 2-4ml of the tincture three times a day.
5 Useful Vulnerary Astringents
- Witch Hazel - Hamamelis virginiana
- Horse Chestnut - Aesculus hippocastanum
- Oak Bark - Quercus robur
- Wild Geranium - Geranium maculatum
- Beth Root - Trillium erectum
During this class we also made an oleowax infusion, using Calendula, Chamomile, Marshmallow and St. John's Wort. Similar to making a wax-based balm. The oleowax infusion was not to be used on open wounds, but those that had already begun to heal - it soothed and increased the speed of the healing process.
Awaiting Image - Gardener's Remedy
- Firstly, place a handful of dried Calendula flowers in 200ml of Sunflower oil and heat slowly in a water bath for 40 minutes.
- Infuse a good handful each of: Chamomile, Chickweed and Marshmallow root in 100mls of hot water.
- Strain the Calendula oil, put into a clean bowl beforing adding 40 grams of beeswax flakes and melt, continuously stirring slowly.
- Remove from the heat and add 2-3 drops of Goldenseal oil.
- Whisk oil together with the strained herbal infusion and jar quickly as the infusion sets quite quickly.
In the afternoon, we spent time with Alan, who had been RBGE's head beekeeper for 36 years. Due to health and safety, beehives are no longer allowed in the main gardens, however, Alan and some of his students keep a hive up at the Nursery.
Hidden in a far corner of the Nursery, in a small garden created for the bee's, stood the lone beehive. Alan regaled us with his stories of beekeeping over the years, from chasing and capturing wandering swarms, to the mystery of bee beards, and the entertaining story of moving the hive - in his own car, on the day of the Nursery sale.
Before accompanying us back to the class room, showing us his own samples of Botanic's honey - a potent mix of botanical's from throughout the garden, and his samples of wax, propolis and dead bees, maggot included!