Further Adventures with Healing Herbs
Further Adventures with Healing Herbs
from a life lived next to Mama Earth
THE ANCIENT ART OF POULTICING
Focus on Chickweed
Bringing up six children, as well as keeping goats, dogs and horses, there were endless opportunities to learn and witness the power of herbs and natural remedies to heal.
Today I will focus on the use of the humble little wild herb known as chickweed, in poultices.
Poulticing means the application of heated or crushed herbs, spread on cloth over the skin to treat an aching, infected, inflamed or painful parts of the body.
Many people regard this little herb as an annoying weed, but it is one of our great medicinal herbs. Luckily it is not difficult to find, and can usually be discovered in fields, gardens, neglected plant pots, on paths, in both sunny and shady places all over the UK.
Chickweed applied as a poultice can draw poisons out of the body in cases of infected wounds, blood poisoning, or tetanus.
A friend turned up in my kitchen years ago with a big dirty bandage around her index finger.
“What’s happened there?” I asked her. “I cut my finger on barbed wire the other day,” she said. “It is so sore I can’t use my hand.”
My friend works with horses, and spends a lot of time on horse-back, or else shovelling manure, fixing fences, carrying water etc.
She let me take off the bandage. Under the bandage was a plaster, and under the plaster was a deep cut, red and swollen around the edges, with a nasty looking yellowy pus oozing out of it. It smelled very bad.
I told her she needed to go to A&E straight away in case gangrene was setting in.
“I’ll go tomorrow,” she said.
Deciding we had better do something in the meantime, I sat my friend down at the table with her hand in a bowl of warm water with cider vinegar in it, while I went outside and got a handful of chickweed. After washing the chickweed, and pounding it in the pestle and mortar til green juice was coming out, I laid the soggy green mass onto a piece of clean white muslin folded it over, and then wrapped the poultice all around my friend’s wounded finger, then wrapped it all up with wide brown parcel tape, as an ordinary plaster wasn’t big enough.
The next morning my friend came by, very pleased and happy, to show me her finger. The wound was completely clean, all redness had disappeared as well as the pus and the bad smell.
I made her another chickweed poultice to make sure all of the poison would be drawn out. We had another look that evening and the wound looked clean, with no sign of redness or swelling, and much less pain.
“Okay good!” I said. “So now we need to heal it up.”
I made her a poultice of plantain leaves following the same protocol as with the chickweed.
When I saw her a few days later the finger was as good as new.
Chickweed draws and cleanses, plantain heals and closes.
Chickweed is also edible and can be used as a replacement for herbs in herb butter or pesto. It is delicious in salad or even a green chickweed smoothie. It is mostly eaten raw but also is nice steamed as a substitute for spinach. This green plant is packed with essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, potassium, phosphorus, copper, and silicic acid. On top of that, chickweed is very rich in Vitamin C with just 50g of chickweed covering a person’s entire daily requirement. Chickweed also contains the ingredient aucubin, which is said to have a positive effect on the immune system and slows down the ageing process.
Chickweed has other medicinal uses too.
An ointment or poultice made from chickweed works well for skin irritations, especially on itches and rashes. It is also useful for varicose veins, hives, dermatitis and eczema. You can add the decoction to your bath if the affected area is larger.
A tea or tincture made from this herb is used as a remedy for arthritis. It relives the inflammation and pain of rheumatoid arthritis. Also try adding a strong tea to a warm bath and soaking to relieve pain, especially on the knees and feet.
Children and adults suffering from roseola are plagued by an itchy rash. Use a poultice of moistened crushed chickweed leaves applied to the rash for relief of pain and itching. Adding a strong tea to the bathwater also helps.
Chickweed tea treats constipation. Be careful not to overdo it with the decoction; it has a strong purgative action.
LOVE AND GRATITUDE TO CHICKWEED