It’s been a little while since my last post, mostly due to an ongoing series of illnesses here at home. They haven’t been too much fun for me (except that weird thrill some herbalists get at the opportunity to experiment on themselves and their loved ones), but I thought they might be helpful to readers.
First, my daughter broke out in welts and blisters all over her shoulders that rapidly spread down her torso. It looked a great deal like poison ivy to me, but was actually an allergic reaction to the juniper bark and sawdust (or some bacteria contained therein) she was working with. The rash was radiating huge amounts of heat so we did repeated applications of diluted Rose petal vinegar, and she kept a cloth soaked in it on her shoulders whenever she was outside, and slept with the cloth near her so she could reapply if she woke up itchy or hurting. This stopped the spreading of the rash and immediately relieved a lot of the pain and terrible itching she was experiencing (diluted Mugwort tincture is also great that kind of thing). She also experiences lots of constitutional heat that is especially affected by spicy or warming food, so eliminated all heating foods from her diet and focused on neutral nourishing foods like brown rice and added quite a bit of fresh fruit as well. As the blistering receded, I coated her in a paste made with marshmallow, rose petals, elder flowers, plantain, honey and aloe… it was sticky but very healing. She also took Rose/Mallow tincture internally and ate a paste made of unrefined coconut oil, Marshmallow, Rose petal and honey. I also rubbed small amounts of a soothing cream containing Blue Chamomile and Neroli (thank you, Ananda) onto her shoulders and chest to moisturize the area without holding the heat in. I do think that the diluted Rose petal vinegar played the biggest part in stopping the spread of the rash and soothing it… We’re continuing to maintain a neutral/cooling diet and integrate some cooling/moistening herbs into her food/drinks, though you can’t even see any remains of the rash at this point.
Next, it’s Juniper pollen season here in NM, which many folks have serious allergies too… you can’t walk through the village without seeing many distressed and red faced sneezing people every time the wind blows. I’ve been treating two ongoing cases typified by congested sinuses, sneezing, coughing, itching skin, burning eyes and the dizziness and disorientation that often accompanies respiratory distress. Both individuals are dry, one is hot and one is cold in constitution. For both I recommend facial steams with Monarda and Sage, which eases symptoms immediately if temporarily. I also recommend a Neti pot with salt and a Calendula/Plantain infusion as well as copious amounts of Nettle leaf infusion (with Licorice added for the dry individual. For the cold, dry individual I gave Osha ten drops at a time for when her allergies get really out of hand and the inflammatory response takes over, this seems to help a lot and will sometimes help to clear the sinuses as well. She also takes a strong Fire Cider concoction (Horseradish, Ginger, Garlic, raw Honey and Onion in apple cider vinegar) which symptomatically clears the sinuses. She takes an Ambrosia/Elderflower/Mullein leaf tincture for her burning eyes, dry coughing and general allergy symptoms. She also uses Rose petal infusion as eyedrops which soothes the burning (though the Neti pot is much better at actually clearing the burning from the eyes for a period of time.) The hot individual I give infusions of Mugwort/Dandelion/Lavender/Burdock/Calendula/Nettle and a tincture of Milk Thistle/Dandelion/Rose/Goldenrod because his allergies are directly liver related (well, I think everyone’s is essentially, but he has Hep C with accompanying inflammation and hyperimmune response). I won’t say these treatments resolve severe allergies, because they unfortunately don’t. But they do provide symptomatic relief and often lessen the allergic response significantly. Oh, I also use a nose spray with with Elderflower/Ambrosia/Goldenrod and others depending on the individual. For my own (much lighter) allergies which involve a stuffy nose and burning eyes I use a tincture of Goldenrod/Elderberry/Nettle, this clears me up completely. For a really good treatment of allergies, it’s necessary to look at (and if possible, adjust) the big picture of stress, food allergies, genetics and other concerns. I’ll do a longer, more in-depth post on that in the future, for now, go read Jim McDonald’s excellent article on Sinusitis.
Then I got an abscessed tooth, and of course there’s no dentist in the village right now… so I took copious amounts of Usnea/Oregon Grape root which got rid of swelling and pain, but I still had sensitivity in that area, very swollen lymph nodes and pain that kind of moved around my jaw and head with no direct focus. I then switched to a tincture of Red Root (large amounts, about a teaspoon four times a day), Balsamroot (half a dropperfull four times a day) and Alder (1/3 of a dropperfull four times a day) which took down the lymph swelling and seems to have resolved the remaining infection and sensitivity. It’s only been a week though, so it’s a bit early to tell.
Next I got the single worst bladder infections I’ve ever had, and I’ve had kidney infections and numerous forms of UTIs, but this was truly hellish, with severe stabbing pains in my bladder and urethra, that terrible urgency, burning, scanty urine.… all that, times twenty. Went from feeling fine to being unable to speak because of the pain in six hours. Still not sure what triggered it, but immediately began downing cranberry pills and juice and a tincture of Echinacea/Goldenrod/Yarrow/Monarda, taking two dropperfulls every hour as well as drinking large amounts of water. I also took a dropperfull of Elderberry tincture to support my immune system every hour as well. The pain begin to recede after about three hours but I had still was in enough pain at bedtime to take about twenty drops of Skullcap in order to sleep peacefully (I usually only need 1-5 drops to get to sleep when I’m bothered by anxiety or pain). Three days later, I’m still taking the tinctures (though I’m taking less with more time between) and Cranberry and am nearly symptom free. We’ll see though, these things love to hang on. You may be wondering why I didn’t utilize Uva-Ursi (or its local equivalent, Manzanita), and that’s because (as Henriette so helpfully reminded me), Uva-Ursi works when the urine is alkaline, and Cranberry works when it’s acid…. In retrospect, Mallow probably would have helped enormously, and I definitely recommend it for UTIs.
On a brighter note, I gathered Corydalis aurea today, using the whole flowering plant to make a tincture… I’ve harvested it before, but haven’t worked with it much. Michael Moore says that it’s safer and more effective used in combination than singly so will be trying it alongside Skullcap and Mexican Poppy this year for pain, nervousness, trembling etc this year. I also wrote a chapter on Bioregional Herbalism for my book, I’ll post an abbreviated version here sometime soon.
And it’s RAINING!!!! I can’t tell you how excited I am for this sprinkle we’re getting.… the flowers are going to be so happy. In fact, if I stick my head out the door I think I can hear them singing a hallelujah chorus. Big dark clouds so hopefully it will last for a day or two.… Happy Spring Equinox!