A few days ago I was cutting back some of the saw-sedges that grow on the property—pulling on the leaves while simultaneously cutting the bases with a serrated sickle. They’re not called saw-sedges for nothing—the edges are razor-sharp. Of course, gloves are a necessity, but dum-dum that I am sometimes, the pair I was using had a significant-sized hole in one finger.
So of course, the inevitable happened—that finger was cut into by a sharp stem.
There was a lot of blood and a lot of swearing as I headed for the bathroom. It was a deep cut. I washed it, dunked it in some antiseptic and tried to apply a bandaid. But it wouldn’t stop bleeding. The bathroom basin was getting redder & redder.
Then I remembered yarrow. I have it growing down in the food forest as a groundcover. It’s known to be anti-haemorragic, in other words it stops bleeding. Isabell Shippard in her excellent book, How Can I Use Herbs in my Daily Life, mentions that Achilles used it during the Trojan Wars to stop the bleeding of his soldier’s wounds, and goes on to say, “during the first world war it was used to treat wounded soldiers”. Its botanical name is Achillea millefolium, in memory of Achilles and some of its common names are ‘staunchweed’ & ‘soldier’s woundwort’.
So I headed down the back and picked a few feathery stems, took them back to the house, washed them, chewed them into a paste and stuffed it into the cut. After 10 minutes, holding it there tightly, I took a look. There was a slight oozing of blood but no gushing like it had been. I put a bandaid around the finger, holding the paste there and waited half an hour, then took it off and washed the cut again. There was no bleeding. Of course, I knew it would work as I’d done it before!
Here’s yarrow in flower in the garden. Very pretty, but I have to put wire around it as the rabbits love the flower stems and flowers. They don’t worry about it when it’s not in flower. Perverse creatures:
That’s not the end of the story. Being a deep cut, it was going to take some time for new skin to grow and heal over. That’s where comfrey comes in.
In this case I didn’t go out to the garden, pick some comfrey and chew it into a paste. I’ve tried that; it’s yuk! Some years ago, being aware of comfrey’s healing powers, I bought a jar of comfrey ointment in a health food shop. Much cleaner and nicer to use:
I knew it would work too, because I once used it to clear up a nasty ulcer on my husband’s leg. I smeared some into the cut and put a bandaid on it. Changed the bandaid twice a day with more ointment. The rate of healing has been amazing! The deep cut has rapidly become shallower as new skin filled it in. No photos of the finger, I’m afraid—this post didn’t occur to me until much later and anyway, it would have been hard to take photos initially without getting blood on the camera!
So there you go! A collection of medicinal herbs growing in the garden could be a very valuable asset to have in a medically-uncertain, peak-oil future.