Practical Magic

So, I'm trying to include more practical herbal articles in the blog, but I've been busy and distracted lately. Anyway, yesterday I noticed that a cut on my thumb was mightily infected. My first thought? I should totally blog about this. (I know. Gross, right?). Seriously, though, this is a perfect opportunity to share with you the absolute wonder and magic of herbal medicine.

Comfrey root (Symphytum officinale) is an amazing herb for healing wounds quickly. I always use this externally only, as there is some speculation about comfrey and liver toxicity. Also, since comfrey heals skin so incredibly quickly, it's best to use this herb once healing has started. If your cut is infected, like mine was, then pairing comfrey with antibiotic herbs is crucial, otherwise the skin can heal around the infection, sending it deeper. Yikes.

So, to avoid that nasty possibility, I paired comfrey with calendula flowers (Calendula officinalis), also known as your garden-variety marigold (check the Latin name first, though, before you go ingesting the marigolds in your front yard). Calendula can be used internally or externally for disinfecting cuts, especially when they are slow to heal or if you have a compromised immune system. Since calendula stimulates collagen, it can reduce scarring (you can also brew calendula tea for heartburn, treating ulcers, or using it as a gargle for healing sore throats).

I also added a few drops of lavender and tea tree essential oils. Both are antiseptic and antibiotic, cleaning and treating the infection at the same time.

Okay. Wicked. Now you just have to create your poultice, slap it on your cut, and keep it warm. Easy. Below are step by step instructions, along with my amazingly healed thumb (after just one application). I neglected to take a photo of the nastily oozing pre-poulticed cut... I probably should have so you could see the before and after. Ah, well. Next time.


Lavender and Tea Tree essential oils










Comfrey root powder and calendula flowers










Create a dry mix of powder and petals (oh, and btw, I get most of my herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs):

dry mix









Add a little warm water and a few drops of each of your essential oils. Mix this. Only add as much water as you need to form a paste. Oh, and use your (clean!) hands to mix (this stuff is so sticky that it will just adhere to any spoon). Keep them wet so that the poultice doesn't just end up all over your fingers (think kneading bread dough):

wet mix









Use your wet fingers and form this into a ball. You'll notice a slimy, mucilaginous quality to the poultice. Slimy=pain relieving and awesome. You'll also notice that the mixture becomes quite springy and irresistibly squish-able. This is what you'll form around your wound. Cover with plastic wrap and a cloth soaked in hot water. Cover all of this with a small towel. Keep the poultice warm by replacing the dampened cloth as it cools. Go for 15 minutes, twice a day (or more as needed):

formed poultice









And, voila! Healed (seriously, this "after" picture is so amazingly different from the gross, weepy, infected cut of 24 hours ago):


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