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Pocket PoulticeFor those of you who enjoy camping, hiking, walking in the woods or just the great outdoors in general, you know that sometimes accidents happen.  I always like to carry along a few first aid items whenever I am “off the grid”.

An application that is often used in first aid situations is called a Poultice.  A Poultice or Cataplasm as it is also referred to is basically a moistened mass of plant or food materials that is applied to various areas of the body in order to impart it’s medicinal benefits and to provide relief.  There are various ways to create a poultice using either fresh or dried herbs.

One of my favorite items to carry along in my first aid pouch is what I like to call the, “Herbal Wound Healing Pocket Poultice”.  If something like this exists on the market, I am not aware of it and so therefore I created my own.  This is great if you are in an area where you are not familiar with the local plants.

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Lemongrass 1Because of our temperate climate here in the Southeast we are fortunate to be able to garden almost year round.  One plant that grows extremely well in the South is Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citrates).  This hardy perennial grass thrives on neglect yet adds beauty and contrast to any garden.

Known mostly as a culinary herb in Asian cooking, Lemongrass is also a wonderful addition to any medicinal herb garden.  If you have ever had the opportunity to smell Lemongrass you will have noticed that it is quite aromatic.  Aromatic herbs get their scent from their high content of volatile oils.  Lemongrass essential oil is derived from the plant by distillation and is used extensively in Aromatherapy.

Aromatic herbs like Lemongrass are warming and dispersive which means they spread out through the system, warming things up and getting things moving.  Because aromatic herbs get things moving they are considered stimulating.  If you think about an area that has been bound up and where very little is moving (stagnation) you can imagine that area will feel tense.  A good example would be in the first stages of a cold when the body is tense.  However, once the tension is dispelled or dispersed the area once again feels relaxed.  Therefore, aromatic herbs are also considered to be relaxing.

When one is suffering with accumulated gas aromatic herbs like Lemongrass help dispel the gas and relax the area; this action which occurs is referred to as Carminative.  Aromatic herbs also help to reduce spasms or are “antispasmodic”.

Aromatic herbs are both antiseptic and antimicrobial (inhibits the growth of organisms such as bacteria and viruses).  Because aromatics contain volatile oils which irritate tissues the body wants to flush them out to prevent further irritation.  This flushing of oils occurs through urination or exhalation making aromatic herbs like Lemongrass extremely beneficial for conditions associated with the respiratory or urinary systems.  Aromatics also tend to draw energy upward and outward which would also explain their affinity for the respiratory system.

Some of the many medicinal benefits of Lemongrass include:

  • Antimicrobial (kills or inhibits microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites)
  • Mildly diuretic
  • Promotes the digestion of fats
  • Effective insect repellent
  • Antioxidant
  • Contains various vitamins and minerals to include Vitamin A and C, Calcium, Potassium and Magnesium
  • Urinary and Respiratory conditions

Spicy Lemongrass Cold and Flu Tea:

COLD AND FLU TEA

16 oz water

1 tbsp dried (2 tbsp fresh) Lemongrass

3 thin slices of fresh ginger

6 cloves

3 pepper corns

6 Cardamom seeds

1 tsp fennel

Honey (optional)

Place the herbs into cool water and bring to a boil.  Turn down the heat and simmer the herbs with the lid on for approximately 20 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by half.  Strain off herbs. Experiment with other herbs and spices such as mint, basil and allspice for variations. Add a smidge of honey, sit back and enjoy.

Note:  If you find this tea a bit drying you can add moistening herbs such as Licorice or Marshmallow Root.

 Storage:

  • May be dried and used later in tea preparations
  • Refrigerated fresh in a sealed container for up to 3 weeks
  • Fresh stalks may be frozen for up to 6 months and then thawed when ready to use

Cooking:   Lemongrass combines well with peaches, pears and other fruits, ginger, chillies, cucumber, cinnamon, other aromatic herbs and coconut milk.

For those of you in the Southeast perhaps consider growing yourself some Lemongrass.  Although we don’t hear or see much on the medicinal benefits of Lemongrass, it is certainly a wonderful addition to your medicine cabinet and herb garden.

© Natalie Vickery 2012

Disclaimer:  In order to continue posting quality content I must rely on your support.  Some of the links found in this post contain affiliate links which I do receive a small compensation for when purchased through my website.

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Medicinecabinet1I must admit that prior to beginning my journey as an herbalist my medicine cabinet was loaded with over the counter and prescription drugs. I did have some herbs, but wasn’t quite sure how and when to use most of them. Over the years I have managed to “weed” out the synthetic drugs and replace them with herbs and remedies that work with the body and have few if any side effects.

As a mother I was and am very concerned about the risks associated with most of the over the counter drugs used for kids. Barring a broken bone or conditions requiring a trip to the emergency room I have a remedy for just about any acute situation that may arise.

When you are first starting to make the transition from synthetics to herbs it never hurts to make a plan. I find that the best way to do this is by making a list of acute illnesses which occur frequently within your household such as colds, ear infections, sore throats, etc. It also never hurts to anticipate injuries from accidents or trauma. For example, here a just a few of the conditions that I have treated within my family:

– Bug bites and stings
– Dog or animal bites
– Puncture wounds
– Headaches
– Sinus infections
– Colds and Flu
– Rashes
– Bumps, bruises, sprains and strains
– Fungal infections
– Constipation
– Urinary and Respiratory tract infections

MAKING YOUR OWN REMEDIES

Initially, it can be a bit expensive to restock your medicine cabinet. However, there are quite a number of remedies that you can make at home that will save you some money. If you are just starting out and you are interested in making your own herbal remedies at home you can check out my book, “Herbal Preparations and Applications”. This book covers just about everything you need to know to make your own herbal remedies, how to use them and includes a number of recipes you can try at home.

FIRST AID FROM THE KITCHEN:

The herbs and spices found in your kitchen are wonderful allies and can be used for numerous acute conditions. Most of these kitchen herbs are antiseptic as well as antimicrobial meaning they have an effect on bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi. Some examples include Thyme, Sage, Oregano, Rosemary, Garlic and Onions. Some examples for using cooking spices in lieu of over the counter drugs include:

GINGER ROOT can be used to quell nausea:

– Add a thumb size piece of ginger root to one quart of water and bring to a boil. Simmer with lid on at low heat for 30 minutes. Let the mixture cool. Strain and drink ½ – 1 cup as desired. You may sweeten this with honey.

PARSLEY can be used as a poultice to help ease the pain of insect bites and stings.

– Simply crush, chop or chew up the leaves and apply them to the affected area.

An herbal infusion made with FENNEL can be used for gas, bloating or intestinal spasms.

– Place 3 tbsp of fennel in a pot and cover it with 3 cups of water.
– Bring the water to a boil and reduce the heat.
– Simmer the mixture until it is reduced by ¼ to ½ .
– Strain out the seeds.
– Drink a 1-3 cups as needed

There are also other items in your kitchen that can be used for acute conditions to include Baking soda, Apple cider vinegar, Honey, Lemons and Salt.

TAKING CHARGE OF YOUR HEALTH:

As a parent I know all too well how helpless we can feel when our kids get sick. Having knowledge is power and enables us to calmly and rationally deal with these acute illnesses when they do arise. In order to help you feel more comfortable in dealing with these conditions I have put together a number of articles in this upcoming series which will include various conditions we might encounter and natural ways of treating them at home. Hopefully this information will allow you to eventually “Weed” out those over the counter drugs and replace them with safe and effective remedies that you can make at home.

GETTING STARTED:

Before we talk about gathering your supplies let me introduce you to Hydrotherapy. Hydrotherapy is a traditional technique which uses water applications to help restore vitality and remedy pain. Most traditional cultures use some form of hydrotherapy when treating disease.

Cold and/or warm water can be applied in such a way as to stimulate or sedate, reduce inflammation, ease pain and expedite healing. The only thing required to use hydrotherapy at home is water which most of us have available to us. Some of the ways that you can use Hydrotherapy at home include:
Bruises – Run a cloth under cold tap water, wring it out and apply it to the bruised area. Apply a dry towel or wool scarf over the wet cloth. Allow the cloths to stay in place until they become warm and then repeat the procedure several times per day.

Cuts and Scrapes – Allow the area to bleed briefly which will flush out and cleanse the wound. The area should then be run under cold water for approximately two minutes and then apply a compress. Once the compress is in place follow the same procedures as with bruising.

Burns – To help remove the heat and pain associated with a mild burn run the area under cold water for approximately ten minutes. Apply a compress as mentioned above, but do not allow it to dry out. If the compress does dry out do not try to remove it but instead soak the area in cold water.

Bleeding – Apply a cold compress as close to the area or organ as possible to stop bleeding. According to herbalist James Green a cold compress may be applied to the upper portion of the back to stop a nose bleed or relieve nasal congestion.

Strep/Sore throat, swollen lymph nodes or Cough – Apply a cold compress around the neck. Make sure that the compress does not lie directly on the back of the neck but closer to the hair line. Wrap the compress in a wool cloth or scarf and leave in place until it is warm or dry. Repeat this procedure several times a day.

Nervousness, Agitation and Depression – Soak in a neutral or warm bath (96 – 98 deg F) for approximately 30 – 60 minutes

If you are interested in learning more about Hydrotherapy check out my book entitled, “Hydrotherapy: Reference Guide to Using Water Therapy”. This book discusses all the various applications and includes over 55 remedies you can use at home.

WANT TO LEARN MORE:

In my next article we will begin to gather up our supplies and learn several more techniques for dealing with acute conditions. If you just can’t stand to wait for the next article to come out you can find all of this information and more HERE or subscribe to my blog or newsletter to get a copy hot off of the press.

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Despite the bad press that coconut oil has gotten over the years it turns out that it has numerous health benefits.

Coconut oil is a saturated fat.  People have been indoctrinated to believe that saturated fats are bad for us and will lead to heart disease. 

However, as I pointed out in a previous article on “Fats”, research has concluded that there is no evidence to support the theory that saturated fats cause an increase risk for heart disease. (1) 

Initial studies conducted  on coconut oil used hydrogenated fats which created an essential fatty acid deficiency which in turn caused serum cholesterol levels to rise.  These hydrogenated fats were contributing to an increase risk of heart disease. (2)

However, when various groups were studied who had a traditional diet including unprocessed coconut oil they found that vascular diseases which were associated with hydrogenated oils did not exist with the saturated fat from coconut oil. 

Benefits associated with Coconut Oil include:

Increased Metabolism

  • Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides which the body uses as an immediate source of fuel.  This consumption increases metabolism and helps you to lose weight.  Fat also helps you feel fuller and keeps you satiated longer so you are less hungry.

Immune System:

  • As I mentioned before, Coconut oil contains high levels of medium-chain fatty acids (known as MCFA). These fatty acids are the same substances produced by mothers milk which helps protect infants from infectious illnesses.  These medium-chain fatty acids have strong anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-protozoal properties.

Acne

  • The lauric acid contained in coconut oil has anti-microbial activity which may be beneficial in the treatment of Acne vulgaris. (3)

Skin Conditions

  • Not only does coconut oil contain essential fatty acids which help to reduce the effect of oxidation, but they may also be beneficial in the treatment of various forms of atopic dermatitis. (4)

Colitis

  • May be a potential therapeutic treatment to help reduce inflammation and decrease the incidence of colitis. (5)

The list of benefits of coconut oil go on and on.  What I really love about coconut oil is that if you are cooking with it and get some on your hands you can use that excess as a skin moisturizer.  That’s right, just rub it right it in to your hands and your hands will be nice and smooth.  Coconut oil can be used as a base for lotions or salves and can be used in lieu of conventional cooking oils. 

These are just some of the reasons I’m “Cuckoo for Coconut”!

References:

(1)  Am J Clin Nutr (January 13, 2010). doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.27725.,   Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease1,2,3,4,5., Patty W Siri-Tarino, Qi Sun, Frank B Hu and Ronald M Krauss http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/ajcn.2009.27725v1

(2)  Nutr Clin Pract. 2006 Oct;21(5):505-12.Trans fatty acids and coronary heart disease. Zaloga GP, Harvey KA, Stillwell W, Siddiqui R.Clintec Nutrition, One Baxter Parkway, Deerfield, IL 60015, USA. gary_zaloga@baxter.com

(3) Biomaterials. 2009 Oct;30(30):6035-40. Epub 2009 Aug 8.  The antimicrobial activity of liposomal lauric acids against Propionibacterium acnes.  Yang D, Pornpattananangkul D, Nakatsuji T, Chan M, Carson D, Huang CM, Zhang L. Department of Nanoengineering, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA.

(4)  Dermatitis. 2008 Nov-Dec;19(6):308-15. Novel antibacterial and emollient effects of coconut and virgin olive oils in adult atopic dermatitis.  Verallo-Rowell VM, Dillague KM, Syah-Tjundawan BS.  Skin and Cancer Foundation, Pasig, Philippines. vmvrmd@gmail.com

(5)  J Nutr. 2009 Mar;139(3):603-10. Epub 2009 Jan 6.  Partial replacement of dietary (n-6) fatty acids with medium-chain triglycerides decreases the incidence of spontaneous colitis in interleukin-10-deficient mice.  Mañé J, Pedrosa E, Lorén V, Ojanguren I, Fluvià L, Cabré E, Rogler G, Gassull MA. Health Sciences Research Institute, University Hospital Germans Trias i Pujol, 08916 Badalona, Spain.

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GarlicToday there is a bit of a chill in the air and I’m thinking about soups and stews.  One thing I love to put into my soups and stews is Garlic.  What a phenominal herb it is.  Not only does Garlic add a wonderful flavor to hundreds of dishes, but it also has a list of health benefits and uses that is almost endless.  Garlic is best eaten raw, but still contains some beneficial properties when lightly cooked.

Sometimes refered to as Poor Man’s Penicillin, Garlic is a premiere substitute for antibotics without the harsh side effects.  When my son was really young and it was apparent he was coming down with something I would mash up several cloves of garlic and pour enough olive oil over the cloves to cover them.  I would then let the mixture sit for as long as I could, at least 30 mins or more, and then I would strain it.  I would then take the olive oil and apply it to the bottom of his feet and put him on a pair of socks.  Off to bed he would go and in the morning you would never know he had been sick.  The fever would be gone and he would be feeling fine.

Garlic is a mild blood thinner, can help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol and increase circulation.  Some research indicates that Garlic may help to lower blood sugar levels in some people making it beneficial for diabetics.  Because of Garlics antimicrobial,  and anti-bacterial properties it may be beneficial with any number of infections and may help to rid the body of parasites.  Garlic is also a wonder antifungal and may be used both internally or applied externally for conditions such as nail fungus and athletes foot.

So when dinner rolls around tonight don’t forget the Garlic.  Bon appetit!

P.S…another bonus to eating a lot of garlic is that it will not only keep people away such as salesmen, but you won’t have to worry about those pesky vampires this Halloween.

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