Apr 222008

So you know that case I talked about the other day? Well, it got worse again the next day. In fact, it got downright scary again, the swelling didn’t reoccur much but the red rash (cellulitis) started to spread up the ankle. And then I smacked myself in the head in disbelief at my own stupidity. I know this (I’ve even seen it before) and you should know this: do NOT, do NOT put salves (especially those that contain beeswax in any amount) even if they are extremely antibacterial on suspected staph, strep or other such infections on the skin. It holds the bacteria in and keeps the area too moist, allowing the infection to rapidly spread. The reason the foot got worse is because the client and I were so incredibly diligent about keeping the salve on the wounds, and it didn’t get a chance to dry out enough. The salve might have even been ok in less frequent, or less copious applications, but I chose to eliminate it completely to help get things under control quicker.

The good news is that as soon as we removed the salve from the regimen it started to improve. Also, I began using some slightly diluted Alder/Rose tincture topically too right away to help dry things out and get a head start on the bacteria. Switched the foot wash back to a very antibacterial formula of Rose, Alder, Calendula and Plantain. Current tincture regimen is 2 parts Alder, 2 parts Usnea, 1 part Oregon Grape Root and 1 part Redroot. It’s getting better by the hour, at least 70% better than 24 hours ago, and 90% better than 42 hours ago. Thank goodness. An antibacterial powdered herb like Usnea would certainly be appropriate, but is unlikely to work in this particular case thanks to limited compliance.

And if I had to do this again, and I could only use two herbs to work with for it, they would be Alder and Usnea. Maybe especially the Alder, amazing stuff.

I tend not to use fancy medical jargon but cellulitis is a useful word to know. Basically, it’s an infection of the skin and soft tissue that occurs when bacteria (usually staph or strep critters) invade broken skin. These bacterias can be carried around on normal, healthy skin and only be a problem when they get into an untreated wound, as in this case. Anyhow, these bacteria cause lots of unpleasant infection and inflammation, and if untreated can spread like wildfire, sometimes all the way into the blood etc. People with compromised immune systems, as in Diabetes, are far more vulnerable. An herb teacher of mine, Chuck Garcia, taught me to use Usnea first and foremost for any outbreak of staph or similar. As a diabetic with frequent outbreaks himself as well as treating others he has successfully subdued many outbreaks. Usnea’s not very water soluble, so he always uses the tincture/liniment externally, which is what I do as well, in addition to internal doses and the Alder. The Alder IS quite water soluble, as is Rose and both are hightly antibacterial, astringent and healing to the skin.

With all the alcohol and water on the skin, the area has got quite dried out and uncomfortable, so I’ve been using sparing applications of a light herbal lotion twice a day to moisturize without creating dampness, and that seem ok. Client wants to scratch his foot off, but the lotion helps a bit.

Here’s some less than pleasant pictures to illustrate my point, if you look up cellulitis in google images you’ll get even stranger images. And dammit, I wish I’d been taking pictures all along, it would have made my posts a bit unattractive, but perhaps more informative.

Also, be sure to check out Susan’s great cellulitis regimen in the comments to the original post, as well as Lisa’s interesting comments and questions as well.

Whew, what a week, at least all the other cases are healing or healed without complication, and I just treated a bad burn with super results (for another post) and have had some great success lately with a few of my ongoing chronic cases. Oh, and I made this amazing (to me) dietary discovery that has enabled me to digest fats and proteins efficiently for the first time in year, yippee, I can eat sardines again! More about all that later, I have curriculum and emails to write for now.

  11 Responses to “Cellulitis from Hell: Foot Infection Update”

  1. […] If you read this post, please be sure to read the followup post as well which give further important information on the treatment of cellulitis and other infections […]

  2. When I worked at the hospital I saw a lot of cellulitis, mostly in diabetic or pre-diabetic patients. Good foot care is a key component to diabetes treatments.

  3. Wow Kiva. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. What a help!


  4. You’re welcome Kristena! Good news is that it is SOO much better today, still stiff but the redness has faded to pinkness and seems to be improving on the hour.

    And btw, this client is not diabetic and is in fact in generally good health…. There was something really nasty about the metal that made the cut. I had the wonderful opportunity to get scratched by it myself and the VERY small wound immediately became swollen, purple and itchy even with immediate treatment. It’s all better now but it was a strong reaction for me, usually my body deals with such things nearly instantly.

    In diabetes, I would also be recommending huge amounts of antioxidants etc to help retain the integrity of the vasculature (is that a word? LOL) of the extremities on a long term basis. And yeah, really good foot hygiene.

  5. so glad that the situation is improving. you get so much acute work out there… i hardly ever see such things…. i feel a bit fumbly when it comes to acute situations.

    i love reading your case histories though, so i know what to do just in case!

  6. Hey Darcey!

    Yeah, I think that probably most people don’t think to come into an herbal clinic for acute stuff but living a village with such limited medical care combined with the rather rough terrain, it seems like every time I go to the village for groceries people are bringing me little kids with concussions and husbands with busted up hands. It’s kind of stressful sometimes but definitely good experience. And of course, being IN the canyon where it can be hard to get out sometimes also brings up some interesting situations. Wait til you’re here for a month later this summer, you’ll see what I mean.

    Case histories are fun, I really like doing them…. It’s what I love about talking to other herbalists as well, seems like the best way to learn in many cases.


  7. I’m a new subscriber and must say that your posts are extremely informative and refreshingly honest. The way you have described this case is almost as educational as if we were there with you. I’m from the interior of British Columbia so don’t have a few of the herbs you list but have others that are very available. Your case reminds me of a problem I attempted to treat years ago. I had learned about the habit of certain infections and their habit of getting away on you if you used salves. My step-daughter was especially sensitive to skin treatments. I wish I would have been able to refer her mother to your website then. It would have helped us all along and saved our little ward alot of trouble!

  8. Hey, good work on that one. I’ve gotta admit, things are SO humid down here in subtropical Florida that I hardly ever use salve on anything anymore. I didn’t really think about it much, although I know it can hold infections in. I just tend to move toward tea/compress or tincture wash with any broken skin. Wounds just tend to get very weepy and oozy in this climate. Of course, we still use salve when our lips get chapped…you know, like when the humidity dips to 50%. We are such wet wimps down here. Teehee.

    By the way, if anyone out there is interested, David Winston is doing a teleconference on MRSA (methycillin resistant staph) and other bacterial skin infections on Thursday May 1st. You can go to his website to register. It is $65…maybe a bit much, but I’m just not traveling to conferences any more, so this kind of distance training is nice. I have no commercial interest in David’s business, but I think the world of him as an herbalist.

    Green blessings!

  9. […] the Cellulitis from hell post? You probably thought that was long since resolved, right? […]

  10. When you state you used Alder, I wonder which one? We have several species here in New England and I would like to know if one is better than the other.

  11. I used Alnus oblongifolia, but from hearing others’ recent experiences I think that it’s worthwhile to try any of them. You might try smelling the bark and leaves of each species and seeing which smells strongest to you.

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