Ten friendly participants with a vast variety of experience joined Kim and I to gather early-spring herbs, make fire with flint and steel, rock boil in burn bowls, then make tinctures, salves, and washes for our herbal first aid kids. The plan was to start with a moch emergency to see how people would respond, but there were 3 paramedics in the crowd, so I decided to only spend 5 minutes on that, and we launched right into Nettles!
Dietrich photographing Nettles
Sam, without any encouragement, wanted to sting himself with nettles, and another participant suggested he do it on the most tender area of exposed skin - his inner forearm. The result was a nice big stinging rash that he immediately cured with sword fern spores. That eliminated any pain and discomfort, but the rash remained visible for the rest of the morning:)
Sam didn't stop there; he wanted to eat fresh nettle. No problem after folding it correctly!
Not to be outdone, Terry sampled the nettle and agreed that it was like citrusy spinach.
Next, we compared cleavers (hairs pointing down), sweet-scented bedstraw (hairs pointing up and not so cleaving), plus chickweed species, discussing the difference between sandwort/starwort, and cerastium genera.
Next we collected Palmate Coltsfoot which is a nice pot herb for soups, as it contains a high salt content which is important for inland peoples. Our plan was to dry it, crush it up, and use it like Ms. Dash!
Nick is collecting new Elder leaves here, which may not be as potent a medicine as the flowers or berries, but has its own special application for flu and fever symptoms. Again, we planned to dry them and store for future need.
Terry trying some licorice fern root, which we decided had less first-aid applications and more for the treatment of illness, so we deprioritized it for our kits.
Olivia collecting alder bark from one side of a sapling which we felt would be the least likely to survive in competition with surrounding alders. We made a decoction (simmered it in water for a few minutes) to create a sanitary wash, as the tannins in the green-turned-oxidized-red bark are very antiseptic.
Next we collected willow catkins from a tree that fell over in our yard. Since we've only been here for a couple months, we weren't sure which willow it was, although the catkins look most similar to Hooker's Willow.
- Here are Terry and Leslie with willow they gathered, which we then simmered and syphoned into canning jars to use as shots of aspirin when needed. s with any medicine, there are many contrainications. For instance, aspirin is a blood thinner, so it could be fatal for people with certain vascular issues, and of course, many people are allergic to it. Further, gastrointestinal irritation and ulcers are potentially associated with all compounds containing salicylates. Overdoses of willow bark may cause skin rash, stomach inflammation/irritation, nausea, vomiting, kidney inflammation, and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Finally, the dosage is more difficult to control from bark than from the pharmaceutical company’s brewed up standards. However, the benefits are many. If your willow bark reduces pain and fever, the same dose will act to produce the preventive benefits of aspirin which include warding off stroke and heart attack, combating certain types of cancer (digestive tract), preventing migraine headaches, reducing the frequency of internal blood clots, and reducing toothache.
Next we made a couple of tinctures from usnea lichen collected off our apple trees. I've recently blogged about usnea and tinctures, so check out our January entries.
Denton getting our flint and steel fire going, after which we rock boiled nettles in burn bowls!
- Okay, so you’re thinking, how did we get all that done in 5 hours? Well, there were a couple things we didn’t get to, like actually crafting medicine bags and first aid kit holders, but there are some things we did I haven’t mentioned yet. For example:
We harvested Oregon Grape in a sustainable way, by cutting the recumbent stem so that there are true roots still secure in the ground attached to any upright greens.
Here's the Oregon Grape recumbent stem with a really nice true root we got out of the ground. Our plan was to dry it, then grind it into a powder for use just like goldenseal, as it is a very close relative, both containing (along with barberry) just about the highest amounts of berberine, a bitter alkaloid that aids in the secretion of bile and is good for liver problems, acts as a mild purgative, and helps regulate the digestive processes. Oregon Grape Root acts as a tonic on the liver and gall bladder, and can be useful in chronic and scaly skin problems such as psoriasis and eczema. Oregon Grape is also known to be helpful for stomach and gall bladder conditions, especially where there is associated nausea and vomiting.
- Check out our list of WEEKEND WORKSHOPS including the next REPEAT OF THIS HERBAL FIRST AID WORKSHOP ON MARCH 5, 2011.