For external use, much of Larrea’s exceptional healing properties can be extracted into a fragrant infused oil. I use the standard fresh plant oil proportions of one part fresh plant (twigs, leaves and flowers if in season) to two parts oil. Actually, I usually just fill a jar with plant bits and fill again with the oil, stir out the air bubbles and let sit in a warm spot (top of the fridge if you have one, wood stove warmer if you have one, sunny spot etc) for a few weeks. A waterbath would work fine too. A lovely aspect of Larrea oil is that it’s so packed with antioxidants that it essentially never goes bad. In fact, I add a few dropperfulls of Larrea oil to other herbal oils that might go off much in the same way that many people add Vitamin E.
It’s hard to give a full report for the full range of uses of Larrea simply because there are so very many. As noted in my recent post on treating insect bites and stings, I would not want to be without it EVER if simply for these amazing properties. I’ve seen it repeatedly almost instantly eradicate pain from nasty ant bites. Quite a feat considering the instant swelling, searing pain and redness associated with these critters. I’ve also seen it rapidly reverse the swelling, hardness and heat of many different kind of spider bites as well as the effects of scorpion stings, caterpillar hairs and cone-nosed kissing beetles.
It’s very effective at preventing or treating infection, reducing inflammation and promoting rapid healing of almost any injury, from serious wounds to contusions to large scale bruising and abrasions. Beyond it’s basic wound care capabilities it can also lessen pain and dramatically reduce bleeding. My basic all-purpose salve combines Larrea, Plantain, Cottonwood, Wild Sage and Western Mugwort (and maybe some Yarrow or Elder Leaf depending on the season). My favorite muscle rub is a combo of Larrea, Cottonwood, Western Mugwort and Goldenrod, with or without Ginger added for extra warmth. A diluted tincture of Larrea or softened animal product based salve is great for burns. And by animal product based salved I mean lanolin, lard or even clarified butter. These animal fats absorb into human skin much better than vegetable based oils and are less likely to hold in dangerous amounts of heat the way the vegetable oils can. I find them to be much better for all salves in general.
Loba recently nearly cut the end of her thumb off (she was chopping squash), cutting halfway through her nail and uncomfortably close to the bone. She probably could have used stitches, but at seven pm here we’d have to drive two and a half hours to get them. After her thumb had bled enough to clean the wound but the bleeding was becoming excessive I poured a cap full of Larrea oil over the wound, the bleeding stopped nearly instantly and the throbbing subsided pretty quickly too. We kept it bandaged except for airing it out twice a day and redressing it each time. It healed in about a week with almost no scar, despite the fact that she managed to re-injure it at least once bad enough to initiate bleeding and some tissue loss. It’s nice that my family provides me with constant training and testing.
Another traditional and effective use of Larrea oil externally, is on sore or arthritic joints. It can be as a rub in a hot bath. This is especially effective where the arthritis is hot, inflamed and swollen. Steams made with Larrea are a common usage for asthma, lung congestion, headaches and sinus troubles. Poultices of the plant were used on the body for all sorts of pain. Infusions were also used locally, and held in the mouth for tooth pain.
I’ve met many local Hispanic, Native and Gringos who all swear that this plant can cure anything from advanced heart disease to gangrene to broken bones. Although I take these recommendations with a grain of salt, I can’t help but love working with a plant of such fascinating and extensive history and mythology. More on the somewhat contreversial internal usage of Larrea coming soon.