Monday, July 23, 2012

Making Medicine for Burns...

This month's herbal medicine share includes a salve I formulated specifically for burns. I have wanted to create a burn salve ever since hearing Lancaster herbalist Rachel Weaver speak last year about how to treat burns naturally to speed the healing process and minimize the pain and discomfort of the victim (more about the burn treatment protocol I learned from Rachel here).

St. John's Wort

This salve includes lots of herbs that are great for burn treatments, including St. John's wort (specific for burns), comfrey (speeds healing), marshmallow (soothing and cooling), plantain (healing, soothing, and cooling), wormwood (antiseptic and pain relieving), and burdock (great for burns and pain relieving).


I also wanted to include honey in my burn salve, as it is great for healing bones all by itself (as long as it is pure and raw). But I decided to infuse my local wildflower honey with monarda flowers first. I mentioned monarda flower honey in my honey medicine post. I've been making this Kiva Rose inspired medicine for a few years now and it is great burn medicine in itself, but I wanted to add it to Burn Balm for a truly fantastic combination. I can't say I'm waiting for a chance to try out this newly created salve, burns are no fun and I try to avoid them at all costs. But the key to effective burn treatment is being prepared, so now I have a great salve to turn to in times of need.

Another great recipe for burns is one of the first herbal home preparations I ever did, and I've been making it every year since. This simple spray involves filling a 2 ounce bottle with aloe juice, adding lavender essential oil and a splash of vitamin E oil. Add a sprayer cap and store it in the refrigerator and it is ready to grab for instant relief for sunburn and kitchen burns. We also use it as a cooling spray on hot summer days. Spraying the forehead and back of the neck always elicits expressions of "Ahhh." From sweaty children. Lavender is a fabulous burn remedy, and almost everyone thinks of aloe for burns. The combination is perfect, and this bottle goes with me on day trips hiking or swimming in the sun.

The exact recipe for the herbal burn spray, along with dozens other great herbal recipes can be found in Kathi Keville's fantastic tome of an herbal, Herb's for Health and Healing.

Summer is a celebration of heat, but is great to have cooling recipes for when the heat is just too much.

Happy medicine making!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Honey Medicine

Pure, raw, local honey is good medicine all by itself. It is anti-bacterial, soothing and healing, great for use all by itself on wounds, infection, ulcers and burns, as well as many internal conditions. Combining honey with healing herbs makes for a lovely combination of sweet medicine and the possibilities are endless. Every year I make a few herbal elixirs, using honey and alcohol as my menstruum to extract herbs for a sweet and effective remedy. These are especially helpful for treating children. But I also extract herbs directly into honey. Who can resist when your medicine is a teaspoon of herbal honey?

This year the flowering thyme just seemed to be calling out to me to infuse it in honey. Thyme is wonderful for digestive complaints, as well as colds and flu.

To make an infused honey, harvest your herbs at the peak of vibrancy. You can chop them up or, if the parts are relatively small, you can leave them whole. Fill a jar, but do not pack, with the plant material. Then pour your pure, raw honey over the herbs. I like to use a chopstick to stir the honey into the herbs and make sure they are completely saturated. Top the jar off with honey and cap and label. Allow the herbal honey to infuse for six weeks or more. If you want to strain it at this point, you can heat the honey gently so that it strains easily (careful not to cook your honey). I tend to not strain most often. The plants are fine in there, if you don't mind eating plant bits.

As the honey infused the will tend to rise to the top of the jar (as shown by the monarda honey on the right). Just give the jar some gentle shakes to move things around every now and then.

I have been so inspired by other honey medicine posts over the years, but there are two that stand out as my favorites. The first is Kiva Rose's post about Monarda Honey, where she describes how wonderful this preparation is for the treatment of burns, among other things. I make monarda honey every year. Whatever is not used as medicine is eaten on toast or just off the spoon. Yum!

The second is Susan Hess's post about herbal electuaries. Here the dried herbs are often ground up to a powder and warmed in the honey over a double boiler. It is a little more work, but yields a more concentrated medicine. Two years ago I followed Susan's recipe, though I failed to strain it out. The result was a very thick, dark and spicy paste that I occasionally used in a cup of black tea for an instant chai. The rest of the time it sat on a shelf in the pantry. Last week, however, I received complaints of belly aches from two different boys on two different nights. I grabbed my warming electuary and offered a teaspoonful each time. Twenty minutes later, no complaints.

I also like to tell the boys that their medicine was even used in ancient Egypt. I love how our homemade medicine connects us to the earth and to historical cultural traditions.

Happy medicine making!