In a world without clinics, emergency rooms or even doctors, how would you take care of yourself or a loved one who had a chronic illness like diabetes? Or deal with an injury that started to become infected?
I started my journey into medicine as a U.S. Special Forces Medic (a.k.a. Green Beret Medic) and have been using plant medicine for over 20 years for myself, clients and family, for many health issues that people normally go to an emergency room or go to a clinic for. I have also had several doctors approach me over the years wanting to work more with herbs because they are tired of dealing with a pharmaceutical-driven health care system that is broken in many ways.
To not do so is the equivalent of packing a bug-out bag or a first-aid kit and storing it away, to never even look at it again until an emergency happens and you actually need it. At that point you can no longer remember what's in your bag or kit, or how to use it, and half the items are likely too old to use.
Herbal medicine is a skill, not an object. To learn a skill you must both study and work with that skill constantly. Studying, learning and using herbal medicine for your own personal health needs is the fastest way to become slowly acquainted with medicinal plants and how they work.
Let's talk specifically about different types of herbal medicine in a post-disaster, remote or even post-apocalyptic environment. To organize the discussion, let's start with acute medical emergencies and then move into health conditions that are usually considered chronic. Please note that this article is in no way meant to be a substitution for care from a licensed doctor or health care professional.
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Acute Trauma Phase
|Coagulation - Herbs to help stop the bleeding.||Shepherd's Purse leaves and flowers, Oak bark, Wild Geranium root, Bilberry, Yarrow leaf and flower, Raspberry/Blackberry leaf, Chaparral leaf|
|Inflammation - Herbs to help the tissue recover from inflammation, swelling and pain||Willow, Meadowsweet, Chaparral, Aloe, Lobelia, Self-heal, Comfrey, Devil's Claw, Birch, Alder, Aspen, Poplar, Plantain|
|Proliferative - Herbs to help the tissue regrow. If this is an open wound, take care that you are not helping the tissue regrow on top of infection, or you will end up with a very dangerous infection under the skin.||Chaparral, Comfrey, Horsetail (connective tissue and bone), Plantain, Calendula, Aloe Vera|
|Remodeling - Herbs to help get rid of scar tissue after the wound has healed||Comfrey, Vitamin E, Horsetail, Calendula, Aloe Vera|
|Anti-pathogenic - Herbs to help fight wound infection||Chaparral, Acacia, Raw Honey, Aloe Vera, Echinacea, Baptisia, Goldenseal, Sida|
|Lymph and Immunity - Herbs to help stimulate the immune system during an infection||Poke root, Blue Flag, Echinacea, Red Root, Boneset, Cleavers|
Even when we're using herbs, it can be very important to identify the pathogen. For example: Is it a viral infection? Or a bacterial one?
In general, we classify pathogens as follows:
|Virus -||Boneset: muscle aches and pains, "sweating out" the virus, immune & lymph stimulant|
Butterbur: Cold and Flu bugs, runny nose, sinus congestion
Echinacea: Immune and lymph stimulant and support
Elder Flower: Cold and Flu, "sweating out" the virus
Chaparral: Herpes family viruses (HSV 1 & 2, Chickenpox, Shingles, etc.)
Yarrow: Cold and Flu, muscle aches, "sweating out" the virus
|Bacteria -||Elecampane: Staph, Strep, TB|
Oak: Staph, Strep (Esp. External)
Sida: Broad spectrum antibacterial
Goldenseal or Algerita: E.Coli, Typhus, Salmonella, Cholera
Usnea (Old Man's Beard): Staph, Strep, Tuberculosis
Boneset: Similar immune and lymph stimulant to Echinacea
Echinacea: Immune and Lymph stimulant
Green chirayta: Spirochete forms
Spilanthes: Immune and Lymph stimulant, mild broad spectrum anti-bacterial
Myrrh: Broad spectrum anti-bacterial
|Protozoans -||Goldenseal, Algerita, Oregon Grape, Green chirayta, Sida, Black Walnut, Valerian|
|Helminthes -||Wormwood, Black Walnut, Areca palm, Ginger, Elecampane, Garlic|
There are other ways of helping the body heal through tissue and nutritive support. For instance if you have strep throat, while you would want to take certain anti-microbial herbs, your body would also obtain great assistance from herbs that support the mucosal and sub-mucosal layers of the throat that are being attacked.
There are certain herbs that have more of an affinity for this type of tissue than other herbs do.
Here is a chart showing several medicinal plants that are very useful for different organ systems and areas of the body, as well as the disease processes that we commonly find in those respective areas:
Organ System/ Disease Process
|Lower Respiratory System (bronchitis, pleuritis, COPD, coughs, irritation)||Pleurisy root, Antelope Horns, Elecampane, Horehound, Mullein, Juniper, Garlic|
|Urinary Tract (Urinary Tract Infections and discomfort)||Uva Ursi, Pipsissewa, Juniper, Horsetail, Cornsilk, Joe Pye Weed|
|Liver (Protein and fat digestive issues, viral infections, food poisoning)||Milk Thistle, Burdock, Dandelion root, Oregon Grape root|
|Throat and Upper Respiratory (Sinus infections - viral and bacterial, throat infections)||Sage, Beebalm, Spilanthes, Prickly Ash, Echinacea, Elecampane, Marshmallow root|
|GI Tract (Infections)||Goldenseal root, Algerita root, Coptis, Sida|
|Stomach (Ulcers, GERD, Dyspepsia, Nausea)||Oregon Grape, Marshmallow root, Licorice root, Ginger root, Algerita leaf|
While there is obviously no way to address full herbal and natural treatment of a chronic condition within the limitations of an article this size, or even any article (as opposed to in-person consultation), I can at least point you in the right direction in regards to some of the most chronic and problematic illnesses in a post-disaster situation.
In the chart below, there are a list of general chronic conditions and the herbs that may be effective in helping your body deal with those conditions. Please bear in mind that there is a lot more to treatment of a chronic disease than just taking one or more of the herbs in the table. This list is a general list, and the manner in which herbs are taken, as well as the use of other herbs, exercise and nutrition not stated in the list, will likely apply to any chronic condition.
Again, herbalism is not western pharmaceutical medicine. We don't just eat a plant in the same way that pharmaceutical medicine has conditioned us to "pop a pill" and forget about any and all other aspects of our health. Especially in the realm of chronic conditions, there often has to be a complete lifestyle change and a change in your own level of awareness and responsibility toward your own body and understanding what it needs to slowly balance itself into better health.
All chronic conditions have underlying causes that are often not addressed by pharmaceutical medicine, and have to be addressed when using herbal or natural medicine. This also includes many energetic concepts that need to be taken into account, dosage concerns over a long period of time, etc. However, this list is at least a very basic starting point.
|Type 2 Diabetes||Gymnema, Esperanza, Prickly Pear Cactus or any plant high in inulin such as Burdock root, etc.|
|Epilepsy||European Mistletoe, Passionflower, White Peony, Black Cohosh|
|High Blood Pressure||For anxiety-related hypertension, nerviness like Skullcap, Passionflower and Wood Betony can be helpful. Otherwise Bugleweed (also for hyperthyroidism, so use caution if there is hypothyroidism present), European Mistletoe, Hawthorne Berry, Motherwort|
|Heart Disease||Garlic, Hawthorne Berry, Gingko, Motherwort, Angelica, White Horehound, Cayenne, Astragalus|
|Asthma and COPD||Again, asthma and COPD can stem from so many possible causes that it is not possible to begin to address here in any kind of depth. However as a general direction to look for herbs that help with broncho dilation and respiratory issues: White Horehound, Grindelia, Pleurisy root, Lobelia, Mullein leaf|
|Depression and Anxiety||Gotu Kola, St. John's Wort (use with caution in cases of severe depression), Bacopa, Ashwaghanda, Skullcap, Siberian Ginseng|
At The Human Path herbal medic courses, we learn how to make a huge variety of herbal preparations in hands-on classes. Preparations like tinctures, glycerites, salves, oils, liniments, cough syrups, capsules, baths, poultices, plasters, suppositories, steam inhalations, eye washes, throat sprays, teas (infusions), decoctions, and more. We also have an online herbology course that covers the same fundamental material and skills.
Knowing how to make and use all of the various preparation methods of herbs is as important as knowing the herb itself. Usually, direct application of the herb (or solution containing as much of the herb as possible) to the part of the body that needs it, means a much more effective pathway to help the body heal.