Generally when we think of first aid we think of cuts, scrapes, and bruises. While it can get much more complicated than that, using herbs for first aid does not have to be challenging.
NOTE: If you are serious about learning first aid I highly recommend starting with a class at a community college. Many offer CPR, AED, and First Aid certification courses that can be invaluable to knowing what to do in the case of a more serious emergency. They can also help you identify what is beyond your ability and to know when to call for additional help from paramedics. Never feel that you need to do it yourself. Stay safe and be prepared. The best herbalists know when to call for an ambulance.
In less serious situations herbs can easily be helpful. Some of my favorites that are often growing around me are plantain, yarrow, and mullein. I often will also use calendula and comfrey as first aid herbs as I usually have them with me in some form.
Plantain is easy to identify. It looks similar to spinach and has parallel leaf veins. It is commonly used as a spit poultice for all sorts of skin maladies in acute situations. Simply take a few leaves, chew them in your mouth and apply them to the injured area. This technique can be used on cuts, splinters, bruises, but and small animal bites (while seeking out additional attention), burns, and allergic reactions on the skin.
If there is bleeding, I will usually first look for yarrow. It is a classic styptic and astringent herb that easily stops bleeding. Just taking the leaves that are growing fresh and putting them on the small wound or cut can quickly stop bleeding. If the bleeding persists I will also take the larger mullein leaves and wrap them around the area to more easily hold the yarrow there. The combination can be even more effective than yarrow alone. Mullein leaves by them selves can also make great stand in cloths to protect injured skin while additional attention is sought. Caution: Yarrow and wild carrot leaves are often mistaken for each other. While wild carrot is no problem, hemlock leaves do look similar as well and can be dangerous to use. If you are new to plant identification be sure you have the right plant before using it.
I often end up using calendula and comfrey when individuals come over to me and have had their issue for longer: broken bones, long term inflammation of a joint, scars or bruises that wont heal, or any number of skin rashes. Both calendula and comfrey help to heal the skin but they do it a bit differently than each other. Calendula is an anti-inflammatory, calming the immune response, and helps to bind skin cells back together. It can be used when there is inflammation and damage to tendons that are close to the skin surface but it does not get very deep into the body with topical use.
Comfrey is often mentioned as being used to heal bones. Oh it was great at this…when applied directly to the bone during surgery. We do not do this anymore. Comfrey works great where is is applied to stimulate new tissue growth but it does not really support cellular growth beyond it’s local exposure It will not help broken bones the way we use it now. Comfrey however is great if you have weak skin and are easily susceptible to bruises. I find that it does a spot on job at supporting healing the capillary damage of bruises as well as quickly healing scrapes and cuts. Comfrey can heal so quickly there is however the caution that it may seal an infection inside so it is best to not use on open wounds.
Thank you for joining us for this part of our Customer Appreciation Month. I hope you will continue to enjoy our other special posts for November as well as our free classes for the month. Also use code FAS35 for 35% off our First Aid Salve which contains plantain, calendula, and comfrey for all of your first aid needs. (only 5 available!)
Jillian Carnrick, founder and manager of The Dancing Herbalist, has a Masters of Science Degree in Herbal Medicine, practices as a nutritionist, and is a Certified Personal Trainer and Exercise Is Medicine Professional through the American College of Sports Medicine. Join her for live classes and The Dancing Herbalist’s home herbalist courses online for more learning opportunities.