This is the second part of our Natural First Aid series dealing with wounds.
In the first part on this topic I wrote about the herbs I used for a puncture wound that was caused by stepping on a rusty nail.
In this second half I will be writing about herbs I employed to stop the bleeding from a laceration caused by a professionally sharp chisel.
Although both herbs pictured at the side of this page were used in this example, it is the Yarrow (Achillea millefolium...seen in the lower picture) that we are mostly interested in for our Natural First Aid Box.
The Doctrine of Signatures is very prevalent in Yarrow, particularly in its feathery leaf.
When I do herb walks I suggest to those attending that if you take the "Y" off Yarrow, you get Arrow. It is the feathery leaf that suggests the fletching on an arrow and, by association, its connection to wounds. Even its botanical name plays into this suggestion with the reference to Achilles (Achillea)...himself being dispatched by an arrow to the back of the leg.
The leaf offers a further connection to wounds, and the bleeding they cause, through its fine structures suggesting the vessels of the circulatory system, branching out from the main arteries, through the arterioles, down to the fine capillaries. Given this visual hint, it is not surprising that Yarrow is used in many cases associated with the blood and the circulatory system.
Like many herbs, Yarrow exhibits a duality in its growing environment that is reflected in its function in the body. Yarrow will tolerate quite dry conditions...but it also thrives where there is regular moisture, as long as it is well drained.
Likewise, Yarrow can bring on the loss of fluid in the body ( by promoting sweating or through the onset of bleeding in the menstruation). Yet, it can also be employed to stop the loss of fluid through its haemostatic action on wounds. This service is further complemented, in the treatment of wounds, by its anti-inflammatory and anti-septic action.
Because Yarrow will serve other functions in our Natural First Aid Box I would suggest that the leaf is harvested, just before the herb is in full flower, dried, and kept in a plastic bag. The fresh herb can be crushed and applied as a poultice to a wound...but dried herb can also be ground into a powder and sprinkled onto a cut. In this form it serves to stop the bleeding, act as an anti-septic, and can be left on to act as a natural scab that will grow out as new tissue forms.
In the story I am about to relate to you, I only had access to Yarrow in the field.
I used to belong to a Celtic re-enactment group, for whom I played the role of the Druid.
We had an authentic village up in the mountains in Austria where the public could come out and witness many events, including celebrations of the changing year,as well as demonstrations of crafts and skills.
On this particular occasion we had several guest craftsmen putting on various demonstrations. One of them was working wood inside a small wattle hut. He was using a very sharp chisel and a wooden mallet to cut out a large serving bow from a single piece of wood. l was outside when I heard the yelp of pain and the carver emerged from the shed clutching his hand. I looked at the nasty wound that was losing a good deal of blood. I turned to a nearby field where I quickly gathered Yarrow as well as Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris....as pictured at the top of the page). Interestingly, where Yarrow is used to prompt a stuck menstruation, Alchemilla is used in opposition to stop it when excessive). Lady's Mantle is high in tannin and therefore works as a powerful binding styptic. Tannin is reported to have an anti-bacterial effect, which accounts for its use in cases of diarrhoea...serving more to kill off the microbes responsible rather than drying us out, as is often thought.
Traditionally, these herbs would be chewed and placed on the wound. In this case I cut them on a clean cutting board, with a knife, to release the active juices of the plant. The wood-carver held it in place over his wound....and within a minute, to his amazement, the bleeding had stopped. Further applications were made. His wound was bound, and he was able to continue with his work.
If you are going to invite herbs in to be a part of your daily life it is wise to get to know the area around you....Not just the fields, but the woods and wet places. When I first joined the Celtic village I spoke of, I spent many hours roaming in the fields and surrounding woods observing what was at hand. This helps you to know what and where the herbs you need can be gathered...and that can be vital in an emergency!
So, we have now added Yarrow to our Natural First Aid box...and later on I will demonstrate its power and versatility when we use it again to treat other ailments.
Health and Happiness
The Green Man