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HERBS FOR ALL
Home: In Case Of Emergency
In Case of Emergency
I have never considered myself a survivalist and I'll bet most of the battered folks displaced by the
violent destruction of hurricane Katrina had not previously thought of
themselves as survivalists either. Now they do. They have earned that badge of
distinction not by barricading themselves in remote locations with guns and
ammo, but by living through the hurricane only to be faced with the ordeal of
staying alive for days without food, clean water, sanitation, shelter, medicine,
safety or information that could give them hope that help was on its way.
As if the initial shock of the tragedy, harm, devastation and
loss of life were not enough, a couple of days after the disaster, reports began
to circulate that the death toll would rise significantly because of problems
that result when help can't arrive. Injuries fester, bodies weaken from
dehydration and lack of nourishment, susceptibility to disease increases as
pollution rises and lack of shelters make protection from the elements
impossible. Add despair to this toxic mix and recovery hardly seems possible.
The victims cannot very well help themselves. Or can they?
could all find ourselves in circumstances this desperate if the big earthquake
happens in Utah as predicted. In imagining what help there might be until the
well-trained, well-equipped, life-flight variety can arrive on the scene, it
occurred to me that we are surrounded by plants of great medicinal value. Your
medicine cabinet may be buried in the rubble. But plants growing within walking
distance of your house can kill bacteria to keep wounds from becoming infected,
reduce pain, knock down a fever, heal cuts, scrapes and severe bruising, get out
splinters, calm nerves, feed us and even snap someone out of hysteria. The trick
is to know what plant does what. Many herbs have water soluable constituents and
don't require heat to process.
Everyone has Oregon grape
(Mahonia) close by, and if it is not in your yard it grows in abundance in the
foothills. The roots of this plant will not only kill germs on the outside, but
also the inside. When combined with the bark of scrub oak, it will relieve
dysentery brought on by bad water or food. I would use it to help kill germs in
If you cut yourself: Pine sap stops bleeding.
Willows grow near moist areas and a tea of its bark will reduce
pain because it contains salicylic acid which is what aspirin is made out of.
Arnica grows in the mountains. Arnica preparations can be made
from leaves, flowers and roots. It can be used topically on sprains and bruises
to reduce swelling and pain. Yarrow and plantain, used topically, will heal
wounds and decrease the itching of insect bites.
(gardeners often call it purple coneflower) is a famous healer. You can nibble
fresh flowers in the summer or use leaves flower and root to make a "whole
In cases of smoke or toxic fumes inhalation,
mullein leaf and native mallow roots will sooth sore throats.
Elder flower and balsam root should be used if people start
getting colds and flu.
Dandelion leaves and roots can be eaten
and are super nutritious so will help restore lost nutrients.
Know where your plants are! For instance, if you have echinacea
in the garden, you can dig up the root even in the winter and chop it up, then
soak it in water for a few hours. Or you could chew on a cleaned root. You can
also dig up and eat roots and bulbs of plants like garlic, chives and parsley.
My wake-up call to begin thinking about this seriously came
when my family lost power for four days during the coldest part of winter two
years ago. After the tsunami, I could see the coastal regions were demolished,
but I knew higher up there were certainly plants in gardens and in the wild that
could be useful to the people. I hoped that those who knew how to use them were
able to help. I know the same is true in the Gulf Coast region now.
Understanding what great potential there is in plants to help
manage and relieve such a threatening situation, I enrolled in the Community
Emergency Response Team (CERT) training which teaches people how to be first
responders in their neighborhoods. I think it should be taught in schools. It
offers basic information on how to go about taking care of yourself, your family
and your community in an organized way that will assist the professionals once
they can get there. This is good information to have. In addition, knowing how
to use the healing plants in our own back yards could be our saving grace in
such a catastrophe.
Merry Harrison, RH(AHG) is a clinical herbalist, teacher, author and wildcrafter.
For class schedule and to ask questions: www.millcreekherbs.com