Herbal remedies

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.

I won’t waste time raving about the healing powers of comfrey here. Go to Isabell Shippard’s website and read her article about it.

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.


5 Responses to “Herbal remedies”

  1. notsomethingelse Says:

    Ouch, but well done and good thinking, I too love and highly regard Isabell Shipard’s books. A ‘must have’ for effective future-proofing.

    Yarrow is also growing in my garden, though I can’t take credit for that as It was already there when I moved in. I also have a single Comfrey plant, purchased as a seedling. I have tried to grow comfrey several times from seed, but without success and am therefore hoping for great things from my one plant.


    • foodnstuff Says:

      Comfrey propagates easily from root cuttings. Just dig up a piece of the clump and pot up until it starts to grow then plant it out, or alternatively, just plant the piece.


  2. narf77 Says:

    You never cease to amaze me with the wealth of information that you deliver in your posts Bev. I am in the process of getting Steve to help me build some vertical herb spirals (in the vain hope that the herbs on the top might escape the wallabies…) and was thinking about planting out yarrow. The feral cats here eat the rabbits but the wallabies are a bit big for them to tackle (worse luck!) so they do their thang and are starting to ringbark some of the unprotected plants that we have recently planted on Serendipity Farm. Herbs are amazing. My gran grew them way back when I was a little tacker and I learned about their amazing properties at her knee. She was growing herbs before they were trendy to grow and actively used them for all sorts of things. I plan on stuffing Serendipity Farm to the back gills with edible and medicinal annuals and perennials for the future. Cheers for another wonderful post Bev and heres to many more (minus the finger cutting event that spawned it though 😉 )


    • foodnstuff Says:

      Thanks for the comments Fran, & happy herb growing.

      (Posting a parcel to you tomorrow)


      • narf77 Says:

        I am excited now! 🙂 I have been talking to a Dutch lady who is going to help me set up a seed swap event. I am hoping to make it a more regular thing than “once”. She and other international people have a seedy penpal relationship thingo going where they share the love around. I know that we have problems with sharing here in Australia (aside from foxes that appear to be shared equally between The Mainland and Tasmania if our Fox Taskforce is to be believed 😉 ) and the logistics of importing seeds make it impossible for me to join in on their seedy penpal events BUT I figured if you can’t beat them… start your own! I will let you know when I get it started and maybe you could join in? I know that we have problems in Tasmania with some veggie and other seeds BUT we can get around that 🙂 Let me know what you think of the idea.


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