January/February 2017 Issue
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5 Herbs for Healing
This article was written by Ellen Evert Hopman
posted under Herbalism
Within the text of my book, The Druid Isle, various healing herbs are used by Druid healers. Here are five wound-healing plants that were once used by the ancient Celts.
Parts used: root and leaf
Latin: Symphytum tuberosum
A paste of ground comfrey root and leaf can be spread on broken or fractured bones. The powdered root and leaf may be used externally to stop bleeding and to poultice insect bites and stings. Cook the roots and leaves until soft and apply as a poultice to pulled and inflamed tendons, and to the chest for bronchitis and other coughs. Alternatively, chop the roots and stir with hot water to make a paste, spread on a cloth, and apply for an hour; discard after use. Repeat every two-four hours. Another method is to blend the leaves with water until liquid and add powdered slippery elm bark (Ulmus fulva) a bit at a time until a pie dough consistency is achieved. (In winter the dried leaves can be reconstituted by adding just enough freshly boiled water to soften them and then adding slippery elm bark a handful at a time until you achieve a pie dough consistency.) Roll with a rolling pin onto a clean cloth and apply to burns, wounds, sores, ulcers, bruises, swellings, cuts, surgical incisions, and fractures. Leave on for one hour and then discard the poultice. Comfrey leaves are a powerful addition to healing salves of all kinds.
Comfrey salve: simmer in enough cold pressed olive oil to barely cover the leaves. Melt beeswax in a separate pot. When both are simmering, add three-four tablespoons hot beeswax for every cup of oil used. (Never add cold beeswax to hot oil or cold oil to hot wax. If you do the salve will not gel.) Stir, cover with a tight lid, and simmer (do not boil) for twenty minutes. Strain into very clean glass jars. Apply to burns, chafing, dry skin, diaper rash, sun burn, and dry flaky eczema. Add other herbs such as calendula and lavender flowers, young oak and maple leaves, Saint Johnswort leaves and flowers, elecampane roots, plantain, etc. Caution: the roots and young leaves should not be taken internally due to a high content of carcinogenic pyrrolizidine alkaloids.
Parts used: the whole herb
Latin: Plantago major, P. lanceolata
Fresh plantain leaves are chewed or ground to poultice bites, wounds, skin problems, hemorrhoids, and are steeped to make a douche for leucorrhea. The ground or chewed leaves are styptic for wounds. Caution: in general it is best to soak fresh wild plants in water to which a few tablespoons of vinegar or sea salt have been added for twenty minutes to remove parasites before chewing or ingesting. Chew the fresh leaves and pack them around infected teeth and gums to pull out pus and suppuration. Plantain can be added to healing salves and poultices. For tonsillitis, apply a plantain poultice to the neck. Plantain is soothing to insect stings. The upper side of the leaf is laid on a sore, the lower side of the leaf is said to draw out infection. For a wound with embedded glass, dirt, sand, etc., try placing a plantain poultice with a little cayenne pepper in it on the would for an hour. For diarrhea, vomiting, profuse menstruation, or any other acute discharges, simmer the leaves in water into which a piece of red-hot quartz has been dropped. In a burn salve use a mixture of plantain leaf, black currant leaf (Ribes nigrum), elder buds (Sambucus nigra), angelica (Angelica archangelica) root, and parsley (Carum petroselinum).
For a healing salve combine plantain, celandine (Chelidonium majus), elder buds and young leaves (Sambucus nigra), and houseleek (Sempervivum tectorum). The tea benefits diarrhea, piles, coughs, mucus congestion, gastro-intestinal problems, worms, bladder problems, and stomach ulcers. Chew the roots to temporarily relieve toothache (be sure to steep the root in salted or vinegar water for twenty minutes before chewing). You can eat the very young leaves in salads (avoid the older leaves as they may cause constipation).
Plantain Tea: Steep one teaspoon of leaves per cup of water for twenty minutes and take one cup, four times a day.
Seeds: For thrush, simmer one ounce of the seeds per pint of water until one pint remains. Add honey and feed in tablespoon doses, four times a day.
Juice: Five teaspoons a day of the fresh juice is taken in milk or soup for lung conditions, bowel and digestive problems, worms, bladder complaints, stomach ulcers.
Parts used: the herb
Latin: Scrofularia nodosa
Figwort leaves are used to poultice wounds and bruises, piles, sprains, abscesses, swellings, gangrene, eczema, scabies, tumors, eruptions, and rashes. The root poultice is applied to tumors and sores. A tea of the leaf helps scrofula and is diuretic.
Gather the leaves in early summer and use the fresh leaves in salves and fomentations for bruises and minor wounds.
Figwort Tea: Steep one teaspoon plant per one cup of water. Take up to two cups a day, in one-cup doses.
- Garlic (Wild), Bear’s Garlic, Ramsons
Parts used: the herb
Latin: Allium ursinum
Widely used in poultices for wounds and infections, the herb is anti-viral and antibacterial. Garlic helps remove plaque from the arteries, purifies the liver, and strengthens the immune system. It aids in the removal of pinworms and benefits diarrhea, constipation, colic, emphysema, bronchitis, and fever. It lowers blood pressure when used over time. It is most effective when taken fresh (the root can be dried for later use). It can be eaten in salads, as a cooked vegetable, and in soups. Please use only natural, stinky garlic. De-scented or odorless garlic has very few healing virtues!
Parts used: the bark, acorns, leaves, and galls
Latin: Quercus robur
A tea is made from the decocted inner bark or young leaves (the leaves must be gathered before Summer Solstice; after that they will contain too many alkaloids, or natural plant poisons, developed by plants to repel insects). When gathering the bark, always scrape the bark off of a twig and never from the trunk of a tree, as this may kill the tree.
Oak is helpful for sore throats and chest congestion, intermittent fever, internal bleeding, and as a wound wash. The tea is also helpful for diarrhea, dysentery, and makes a gargle for bleeding gums and sore throat. It makes a douche for leucorrhea and a wash or compress for piles. For fever, mix the spring-gathered leaves or inner bark with chamomile flowers (Anthemis nobilis). Oak galls (the round excrescences produced by insects) are even more astringent and can be made into a tea for dysentery, diarrhea, and cholera, to stop bleeding, and to bathe hemorrhoids. Dry and powder the acorns to dust old ulcers and infected wounds.
To make an oak bath: Simmer eight ounces of the bark in seven pints of water for twenty minutes and add to the bath water.
Oak tea: Simmer one teaspoon of inner bark per cup of water for twenty minutes. Take one cup, four times a day.
To make a wound wash: Simmer one-two pounds of inner bark in two quarts of water until the liquid is halved.
- Beith, Mary, Healing Threads, Polygon, Edinburgh, 1995
- Hopman, Ellen Evert, A Druids Herbal: For the Sacred Earth Year, Destiny Books, Rochester, VT, 1995
- Hopman, Ellen Evert, A Druid’s Herbal of Sacred Tree Medicine, Destiny Books, Rochester, VT, 2008
- Hopman, Ellen Evert, Tree Medicine-Tree Magic, Phoenix Publishing Inc., Custer, WA, 1991
- Livingstone, Sheila, Scottish Customs, Barnes and Noble Books, New York, 1997
- Lust, John, The Herb Book, Bantam Books, New York, 1974
- McNeill, F. Marian,The Silver Bough Vol. I, MacLellan, Glasgow, 1977
|Ellen Evert Hopman|
Ellen Evert Hopman (Massachusetts) has contributed to several Pagan journals and is a popular author of Druidry-related titles. A former teacher at the Grey School of Wizardry, Hopman has been active in American Druidism since 1984. She is a member of the... Read more
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