Anyway, it's very easy for us to take it for granted that our cuts and scrapes are just minor inconveniences, and not the major health threat they can morph into under less than sanitary conditions!
In a bad situation, even a tiny cut can lead to dangerous infections if it comes into contact with another person's blood or body fluids, animal saliva, fecal matter, germs from the soil, or in germs in untreated lake, river or well water. Germs that enter through a cut can cause all sorts of complications in an extreme setting: tetanus, rabies, gangrene, systemic infections that lead to organ failure and death. . . Yeah, none of that sounds fun. I think I'll pass, thanks.
So, keep those cuts clean and dry, and seek medical attention at the first sign that things might be going south! Stay healthy and keep those immune systems up to speed, too.
In a less than ideal situation, or one with limited access to medical care, here's what to remember:
- Keep it clean and dry.
- Only use water that has been sanitized.
- Keep it covered to keep stuff out.
- Respect the scab: it's there for a reason.
For more technical information on how to keep cuts and scrapes thoroughly clean, take a look at a good first aid manual; for now, let's focus on how to use herbs once the basic first aid is out of the way.
One of the easiest ways to use herbs to help care for cuts and scrapes is as a wash or compress: make an herbal tea and allow it to cool, then apply with gauze or a clean cloth to the desired area. Allow to air dry. Another great way is as a salve that can be applied after the area is cleaned. Here's a quick list of five herbs that may be growing in your yard or garden that can be used either as washes or as salves, and one herb that can be used as an extract or powder:
Bee Balm: the leaves and flowers were used in the past as a wound wash, especially if the area was red and hot to the touch (in modern parlance, we know that this indicates that an infections may be setting in) but leaves aren't generally available at the stores, so that only helps if you are growing your own.
Rose petals: also make a good wound wash, or ingredient in salves. The petals can be used fresh or dried, so it's all the more reason to keep some of this wonderfully scented herb on hand.
Plantain and Chickweed: two common yard weeds, these plants make really great salves for cuts and scrapes-especially when made with the fresh herbs. I like to juice both when I harvest in the spring, and freeze in ice cube trays for later use.
Elder: the flowers and leaves of elder both have traditional skin care applications. They can be used as a wash, or made into a salve. Elder was believed to promote fast healing. In addition, elder flowers are often enjoyed as a tea for respiratory ills, but the leaves are for external use only.
Yarrow: was traditionally used help stop bleeding, and an alcohol extract has the added benefit of containing, well, alcohol! Some herbalists use it as a styptic in its dried, powdered form.