It has been my experience that whenever a person is walking through the wilderness, minor cuts, scrapes and abrasions are a matter of time. In fact, they tend to appear so frequently that we don’t even notice them.
But while such minor injuries may go noticed, the infections that they incur can be far from minor. In fact, even relatively minor cuts and scrapes can easily become infected in the wilderness, leading to serious infections which, in turn, can lead to gangrene. Consequently, even the most macho of us could benefit from knowing a little bit about natural, herbal antiseptics and immune system boosters.
First off, what is an antiseptic? Antiseptics are substances that cleanse wounds and kill the germs and bacteria that like to invade and infect open wounds. Thus, they are an absolutely indispensable part of any herbal first-aid kit — and they are readily available in nature if you know what you’re doing.
Also, they can be applied as either an expressed juice where the plant is simply crushed and the resulting juice is applied directly to the wound, or as a poultice for injuries that are already showing signs of infection. They also can be distilled into either a tisane (herbal tea), a tincture or an extract.
Following are three of the more popular natural antiseptics, as well as an immune system booster:
1. Wild garlic. This (Allium vineale) is found throughout much of North America and it prefers to grow mainly in fallow fields, but can also be found growing alongside roads, ditches and most any other place where flowering plants and weeds are able to grow. The root bulbs of wild garlic plants contain both a powerful antiseptic and an antibiotic compound. Therefore, the bulbs are usually crushed and applied externally as an expressed juice for cleansing wounds. But, they can also be ingested orally for treatment of colds, sinus congestion, earaches, stomach aches and headaches, as well as for reducing fevers and coughs.
2. Great and common burdock. Both Great Burdock (Arctium lappa) and Common Burdock (Arctium minus) are found throughout the entire temperate zone of North America and they grow mainly in fallow fields but can also be found growing alongside roads, ditches and most any other place that flowering plants and weeds are able to grow. The roots, flowers and leaves of the great burdock plant as well as the common burdock plant contain several antibacterial compounds (most notably artiocpicrin). The leaves, stems and flowers are usually prepared as a poultice and used to treat abrasions, cuts, sores, ulcers, insect bites and snake bites.
3. Witch hazel. Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) prefers shaded, hardwood forests, and ranges from Canada to Florida, east of the Mississippi River. It is an astringent, hemostatic and an antioxidant and has historically been one of the most important American medicinal plants and is still so today.
Due to the tannins contained in the leaves and bark of this plant, the leaves are usually prepared as a poultice and applied externally to treat abrasions and minor cuts; as a tisane or a tincture and applied externally to relieve itching, skin irritations and minor pain as well as hemorrhoids; and as a tisane ingested internally to treat sore throat, fevers and colds.
And an immune booster:
Echinacea. Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia) consists of three different species: the purple coneflower, the pale purple coneflower, and the narrow-leaved purple coneflower. All three species are considered to be a non-specific immune system booster. It is used similar to an antibiotic to help heal both external and internal infections. It can be used topically as either a poultice, a tincture or a salve to aid in healing cuts and abrasions, wounds and burns, and can be taken internally as either a tisane, a tincture or a dried extract to treat internal infection, colds and flu. In fact, clinical studies have shown that ingesting this plant can significantly reduce both the severity and duration of both cold and flu symptoms. Lastly, it has traditionally been used as a treatment for both spider and snake bites to help alleviate the tissue and nerve damage caused by the poison that these creatures inject.
Therefore, due to the tendency of minor cuts and abrasions to become infected in the wilderness, often without our notice until pain brings them to our attention, it is a wise idea to learn all about herbal antiseptics: where to find them, how to identify them and how to apply them. Doing so can prevent relatively minor injuries from becoming serious infections.
What advice would you add on natural antiseptics? What would you add to the list? Share your thoughts in the section below: