Many SurvivalBlog contributors have discussed storable foods, nutrition, First Aid, health care supplies, supplements, aromatherapy and herbs over the years I’ve been reading SurvivalBlog. But, what will you do if obtaining vitamins and common first-aid ointments will be difficult or extremely expensive? (Think Weimar Germany) So you may have Echinacea growing in your yard. Do you know how to prepare it for use effectively? What is a common source of vitamin C to prevent the debilitating disease of Scurvy and how do you use it? In the middle of winter it will be difficult to find Plantain leaves to put on your scratches when they are buried under 2 feet of snow and dormant in the soil. What will you use if Neosporin is unavailable? How can you stop a dangerous bout with diarrhea that may be of a parasitic nature? These are just a few conditions that if left untreated in the early stages can become life-and-death situations very quickly. The old adage: ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’, should be in every prepared mind.
Disease prevention is easy and very essential in desperate times. Good nutrition and cleanliness, especially in Winter, are essential to ward off most illnesses. A small scratch or bite on the hand, or soreness in the teeth can quickly escalate to a life threatening situation that will require skills that not every person has. What’s worse is that you may not even know someone who has those needed skills and knowledge to help you or your loved one. So, this is another ‘plug’ for you to get to know your neighbors and community. Fill your brain with fresh learning. We don’t live long enough to accumulate all the knowledge there is for everything that can be encountered. Surround yourself with intelligent and industrious people who can help and support each other in times of need.
Dr. Chuck Fenwick said in the Medical Corps class that I took, “Wash every wound!” Using clean, fresh water is better than not cleaning a wound at all. Infection can start very quickly in a dirty wound. This is very important to remember.
Onward to addressing the ‘how-to’s of basic self care without a drugstore or internet clearinghouse to fulfill your needs.
The Disclaimer: The following is not to be considered “Medical Advice”. The author is NOT a “Medical Doctor” or “Health Care Professional”. Any use of this information is solely the responsibility of the Reader. [words in quotations owned by U.S. Federal Government.])
Regarding the use of Herbs: more is not better! Always use the recommended dosages and directed amounts from materials authored by qualified practitioners. These are already proven safe over many generations. Do not experiment unless you have studied herbalism.
Vitamins are a great stop-gap to slow down and turn around the effects of poor nutrition. But, they are very expensive and generally require extra resources from the body to digest- making absorption 50% or less and there are many manufacturers that use poor quality ingredients making many vitamins virtually indigestible. So, do your research and find supplements that are plant based which are what your body is designed to use. Pills are convenient, but liquids and water soluble powders are easier to digest making them about 90% absorbable.
This is where the knowledge of plants comes in. Winter is the most nutritionally stressful time of the year, so give special attention to nutrition to avoid disease.
Next summer when you are out in the wilds, collect the following herbs for a nutritional herbal brew you can make while you are sleeping.
Herbal Nutritional Brew:
Dried Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica); These provide minerals, proteins and amino acids essential for body functions. These must be picked before flowering and dried as the juice is very irritating. This is irritation avoided when they are dried because the irritating compounds are broken down when the water has evaporated. Use tools or gloves for picking. Rinse off any debris or dirt and dry in a dehydrator or warm dark place.
Fresh or Dried Red Clover (Trifolium pretense); These provide proteins, vitamins and balancing nutrients for proper endocrine functions. Pick while in full flower. The flowers are tastiest but the whole plant can be used. Clean off any dirt before drying.
Fresh preferred, or dried Pine needles (Pinus); provide more ‘Vitamin C’ than any citrus. This is one way Native Americans survived the winters without getting Scurvy. Pine needles grow 2-5 needles per ‘hole’ on the branches. If the needles are 1 per hole, that’s NOT Pine. This is important! “Fir” needles can cause miscarriage and cause upset stomach; they also suppress the desire for food. Know your Evergreens!
Dried or fresh Rose hips or leaves (Rosa); This is another option for Vitamin C. You can combine with Pine needles or use them separately. The hips are the fruiting bodies that turn red after First Frost, they have lots of seeds and some varieties have minimal flesh and many have a light fruity flavor. The flesh is where the Vitamin C is held and some varieties have very little. That’s why my first option is Pine needles. Much easier to find and no thorns. J
Dried or fresh Flowering Oat tops; (Avena sativa)This is for digestive strength, cooling irritated tissues in the gut and nourishing nerve tissues. You can grow a clump of these from seed or ask a local farmer if you can pick a few handfuls from the edge of his field. Don’t do roadsides, plants absorb the chemicals from motor traffic. Go down the field’s access road to pick; please don’t forget to ask the farmer first.
FOR THE BREW:
4 quarts water heated to a gentle boil, 4 quart canning jars with lids:
Put a Tablespoon of each herb in each jar. Pour the boiling water over the herbs. Cap them tightly and leave for several hours or overnight. In the morning pour the brew into a pan, straining out the plant material. Heat just until steamy, pour back into rinsed jars, cap tightly and allow to cool. When completely cooled, store in the refrigerator, basement or cellar.
Dosages: Adults and children 12 yrs and over- ½ to 1 Cup daily, children 5 to 12 yrs old- 1 Tablespoon to ¼ Cup Daily, Children 2 to 5 years old- 1-2 teaspoons daily. 12 months to 2 year old- ¼ to ½ teaspoon Daily. Do NOT give to infants. Safe for pregnant and nursing mothers. SEE NOTE on FIR above.
LABEL THE JARS: put the ingredients, date made and dosages. This is good for 4 weeks, unopened in the refrigerator, Once opened, use within a week.
Believe me, you WILL forget some or all of that information when you go reach for those jars. Put all of it on there so there’s no guessing.
Cold and Flu support tonic:
This is used when you suspect that you are coming down with a cold or the flu. This will support the immune system without stress. I also recommend using the herbal brew for nutritional support when feeling under-the-weather.
Gather “Heal-All” herb (Prunella vulgaris) This is an anti-viral.
Any kind of Mint for calming the digestive system and nerves.
Burdock (Arctium minus) seeds or dried root, This is an immune stimulant, anti-biotic, tonic and anti-inflammatory, High in minerals and vitamins. NOTE :Pregnant women should not use this plant as a tea until last trimester.
Elder flowers (Sambucus Canadensis) This nourishes the immune system, helps circulation and oxygen flow
Oregano (Oreganum vulgaris) leaves This is an anti-fungal anti-biotic, helps lung function and digestive weakness, ( Note: Don’t use an Oregano you bought in the baking section at the local grocery. These are often a form of Marjoram because it’s cheaper and easier to grow.) NOTE: Pregnant women should this plant as a tea. It can cause contractions.
Boil 1 ½ pints water. Remove from heat and add 1 heaping Tablespoon of each herb. Stir and allow to simmer for 30 minutes with a lid on LOW HEAT. Allow to cool overnight with lid on. Gently bring to a low boil again and remove from the heat immediately. Allow to cool till luke-warm. Strain into glass jars and add honey to taste. (You may add 1 to 1 ½ teaspoon unrefined salt, such as Himalayan or Redmond’s Real salt, for assisting the body in making its fluids)
Dosage: Adults and children 12 years and over- 2 Tablespoons 1-3 times daily. Children 5 to 12 years1 to 2 teaspoons 1-3 times daily. Children 2 to 5 years old, ½ teaspoon 1-3 times daily. Use within 1 week. Safe for nursing mothers, Pregnant mothers do not add Burdock and see NOTE on Burdock above.
Herbal Wound Ointment for minor scratches, cuts and rashes:
Next summer pick several handfuls of the following herbs to make an all-purpose wound ointment to have all year round:
“Common Plantain” or the Native favorite, “Long Leaf Plantain”(Plantago); This is a fabulous wound herb. It disinfects, cleanses and encourages closure of the wound. This can be used in the ointment fresh or dried.
Flowering “Yarrow”(Achillea), This has been known as ‘warriors wound wort’. It is best used dried. This helps the body nourish and close the wound. It is also anti-biotic. NOTE: Pregnant women should not use this plant as a tea until last trimester.
The ointment will be sufficient with these two herbs but I encourage you to grow some Basil for kitchen use and for medicine.
Dried or fresh Basil ( Basilicum); This common kitchen herb is originally from southern Asia, it encourages blood circulation, is high in minerals and vitamins and is anti-fungal. NOTE: Pregnant women should not use this plant as a tea, can cause miscarriage and bleeding. But is helpful to expel a stubborn “afterbirth”.
1 cup natural food oil such as-coconut, palm oil, olive oil, sunflower oil, sesame oil
-warm the oil in a double boiler or a metal bowl over a pot of steaming water and Very Low Heat
1 Tablespoon each of Plantain, Yarrow and Basil added to the warm oil
Allow to simmer in warm oil for 3-6 hours. Prepare a wide mouthed jar and lid by sterilizing it as you would for canning purposes. . (1 Tablespoon of bees wax can be added to make the ointment thicker)
When ready, pour the warm oil into the jar using a wire mesh sieve or tea strainer to remove plant material. A little plant “dust” will not affect the successful use of this ointment so don’t worry about getting out the minutia.
Label and store in a cool dark place. Use as you would any store-bought minor wound ointment. Warning: This is NOT for deep cuts which may require stitches. It will be good for one year from date of production if kept in a cool dark place.
So, what do you do with that Echinacea? A Tea is okay, but you will get the most benefit by making an alcohol extract of the roots. For those who wish to avoid alcohol, you can use edible vegetable glycerine available from the drugstore or online.
In early Spring when just beginning to grow or late Fall when the plant goes dormant but the dry stalk is still visible, dig up the roots. Rinse in cold water to remove as much dirt as possible. (It doesn’t need to be perfectly clean, the rest will be processed out)
Remove any ugly debris from the roots, then chop into small pieces or shred with any kitchen appliance.
Echinacea Extract: (roots of “Black Eyed Susan” a.k.a. Rudbekia can be used in the same way)
Sterilize a glass jar or bottle and lid, preferably a dark colored one (blue, green or brown)
Place the chopped root in the jar and cover completely with Vodka or Glycerine.
This is your “herbal maceration”. Seal the jar and label contents and date, put in a warm dark place for 3 weeks to 3 months (longer is better). It can be used in 3 weeks if needed. Occasionally shake the jar to stir its contents.
When the macerating time is complete, prepare a clean, dark bottle and lid by rinsing with Vodka. Using a funnel and tea strainer or coffee filter, pour the extract into the new bottle. LABEL BOTTLE with ingredients/date/dosages. Extracts have an indefinite shelf-life if tightly sealed and kept clean of contaminates.
Dosages: Adults and children 12 years and older-1/2 to 1 teaspoon 1-3 times Daily, Children 5 to 12 years old, ¼ to ½ teaspoon 1-3 times Daily. Do NOT give to children under 5 years old. Use the brews above instead. Safe for Nursing mothers. Pregnant mothers take dosage for “5-12 years old”, although some herbalists would tell you not to take it at all. Make an informed choice and do research.
Finally, a brief instruction on what is a “medicinal tea”; these should not to be confused with common recreational tea beverages. A medicinal tea is brewed 15 to 30 minutes. Longer is better but then the dosages change, so we will keep it simple. The herbs mentioned in the recipes above can be used as a tea too.
Herbs For Diarrhea: Dried Nettles) (Urtica dioica, dried Mullein root (Verbascum Thapsus), dried Staghorn/Smooth Sumac root (Rhus typhina, or glabra, or integrifolia), dried Raspberry (black or red) root (Rubus), Dried Alder bark (Alnus); just to name a few. A pinch of dried/ powdered Black Walnut: Green Hulls (Juglans nigra) can be added if parasites are suspected. NOTE: Pregnant women should not use Black Walnut which can cause uterine contractions and other problems.
Boil water, use 1 heaping teaspoon herb per cup of water. Steep 15 to 30 mins and drink 1-3 times Daily until relieved.
Natural hard-wood charcoal powder can be added a pinch at a time up to 1 teaspoon when Diarrhea is very severe.
Note: When drying your herbs, store the finished products in glass or ceramic jars with tight lids. Label and date when the herb was stored. Upper parts of the plants can be kept for 6 months in a kitchen cupboard or to 1 year in a cool dark place. Dried roots and barks can be stored 1 year in the cupboard or to 2 years in a cool dark place. When the herb no longer has a strong scent when opened, compost it and get a new batch.
This has been intended to give you natural, less costly options to enable you to begin practicing daily support for your health and nutrition; and to nurture creativity, independence and self-sufficiency. I hope you will be inspired to continue learning about the treasures of the plant kingdom that our Creator has provided for our use (Genesis 1:29).
Tamra Carlsen, a Christian herbalist from Minnesota said:, “Herbs are God’s little packets of super nutrition.”
Dr. David W. Christopher director of “The School of Natural Healing” in Utah said: “I truly believe that we need an Herbalist in every home and a Master Herbalist in every community.”
Further Reading and Education:
Books with recipes:
Health Through God’s Pharmacy: Advice and Proven Cures with Medicinal Herbs by Maria Treben
Holistic Herbal 4th Edition: A Safe and Practical Guide to Making and Using Herbal Remedies by David Hoffman
Growing 101 Herbs That Heal: Gardening Techniques, Recipes, and Remedies by Tammi Hartung,
A Modern Herbal (in two volumes): The Medicinal, Culinary, Cosmetic and Economic Properties, Cultivation and Folk-Lore of Herbs, Grasses, Fungi, Shrubs & Trees with Their Modern Scientific Uses by Maude Grieve
The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable by Juliette de Bairacli Levy
Healing Wise (Wise Woman Herbal Series) by Susun Weed