THE READER
June
2004

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Nature's Medicine for Summer Fun

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Nature’s Medicine for Summer Fun
Sheila F. Weidendorf
Health and Bodycare Manager
Mississippi Market; St. Paul, MN


Herbal medicine, often referred to within the general category of “alternative” or “complementary” medicine, has been around for thousands of years. Many of the synthetic pharmaceuticals we are familiar with today were first originated from natural plant sources.

Herbal medicine covers a wide array of health products and approaches to good health. Herbal medicine can be as simple as a hot cup of chamomile tea or as complex as a centuries-old 25-herb blend of Chinese herbs. Some commonly used forms of herbal medicine include:

• Herbal teas (infusions and decoctions)
• Herbal tinctures or extracts
• Encapsulated herbs, made from dried and ground herbs
• “Super green foods,” such as wheat grass, barley grass, alfalfa, and liquid chlorophyll
• Herbal poultices, salves, and liniments
• Homeopathic preparations (which are also made from animal and mineral sources)
• Traditional Chinese medicinal herbal formulas
• Ancient Ayurvedic formulas
• Aromatherapy, or essential oils
• Flower essences


Some time, research, effort, good faith, and consultation with a naturopath, herbalist, aromatherapist, or other “natural” practitioner can get you well on your way to understanding your body and your health (including your options for greater well-being) from an herbal perspective. Here are a few favorites to help ease the bumps, scrapes, and burns that go hand in hand with summer fun:


Bumps, Bruises, & Sprains
There’s nothing like arnica to stop swelling and heal a bruise. Take it internally in a homeopathic preparation, and use a cream or gel topically on strained or bruised areas. Never apply a topical arnica product on an open wound!


Burns & Scrapes

Calendula, comfrey root, plantain leaf (known as the “Band-Aid plant”) and lavender are among Mother Nature’s best offerings for healing wounds, growing new skin cells, and reducing scarring. Use them in an infused oil or in a prepared ointment. Calendula in a salve, rinse, or oil is wonderful for mildly disinfecting wounds and for aiding in basal cell regeneration. Comfrey root can be made into a healing rinse and mixed with honey to apply as a pack. If you suffer a surprise cut or sting while camping or hiking without a first-aid kit handy, chew up one plantain leaf (it grows everywhere!) and apply directly on the wound; place a second, whole leaf on top and hold in place. Essential oil of lavender can be used directly on a wound to disinfect and help heal the burn, blister, sting, or abrasion.


Poison Ivy
An infusion made from the bark of the red oak Quercus robur (the oak with the pointed, rather than rounded, leaf lobes) is the best remedy around for poison ivy. Soak twigs and already fallen-off bark (never peel a tree!) in a pot of cold water overnight. In the morning, bring the water slowly up to a boil. Boil until the water is reduced by 1/3 to 1/2. Pack infected areas with rags soaked in the decoction and expect quick relief!


Heat
When heat threatens to ruin your day and sap your energy, nothing beats a tall, cold glass of homemade lemonade enlivened with a spring of mint picked from your garden.


A bad case of Garden Feet or Hands
If digging around the garden and running barefoot in the backyard have ravaged your extremities, try soaking them in warm water laced with olive oil. Then, rub olive oil over your hands and feet before bed, cover with cotton socks and gloves, and wake up to softened, happier skin.


Sunburn
If you’ve spent too much time in the sun, end your day with a tepid bath infused with baking soda and oatmeal. Wrap a heaping helping of raw oats in cheesecloth and toss in your bath as you fill it. While you soak, dab your tender skin with the cheesecloth-oat ball. When you get out, gently pat your skin dry, and apply essential oil of lavender to help the healing along. You can also put the lavender in a mister bottle and spritz the affected areas as needed for soothing relief.