When TEOTWAWKI comes, there isn't going to be a CVS or Walgreen's pharmacy open and stocked for very long afterward. So, what to do when you get a nasty cut, burn or some other infection? First, as common sense tells us, wash it off with soap and water or use some stashed vodka to kill any possible germs or even the old time remedy of kerosene. The kerosene was also an old time remedy to keep fleas off your dogs, just pour a thin line of it down their backs like you do with modern flea drops. Just remember to keep your dog away from open flames for a while.
The following suggestions are all assuming that the plants you are using are not from along side a road and contaminated by vehicle exhaust or they were not sprayed with any weed killer or any chemicals at all. All the washing in the world won't get that poison off of the plants.
One major source of infections that can become a problem post SHTF are bug bites. Right now, they are just a pain in the butt and a irritation, but when you start to scratch a bug bite with dirty finger nails, then things change. We already know, that keeping clean is going to be hard after the SHTF, but I wonder how many have thought about just what that truly means? Just a scratch from dirty finger nails or a scratch on a dirty arm can lead to potentially life threatening infections. The best defense against bug bites, like mosquitoes or gnats will be prevention. Bees, wasps and hornets are a different matter I'll address later. To keep mosquitoes away, I've found a mixture of pennyroyal, peppermint and lavender to be very helpful. Do not, I repeat, do not use pennyroyal any where near a pregnant woman as it will cause miscarriage. You can grow the herbs yourself and make either real strong teas or tinctures. Mix them in equal parts in a spray bottle and spray yourself frequently as the mixture will sweat off easily. This mixture can be played around with to find the right mix for you and if you have any pure vanilla extract you feel you can spare, you can add that to the mixture also. The dried herbs can be spread around any area you want to keep bugs out of. But I can't emphasize enough the importance of keeping pennyroyal away from pregnant women. Any herbal remedy should be used with caution with pregnant women and the only one I feel comfortable suggesting she use would be peppermint for morning sickness. There is an herb you can grow around your home called Bee Balm that is reported to keep bees away from your house and the leaves made into a tea will help soothe a bee sting. Me, I am deathly allergic to bees, wasps and hornets so I try my best to just not be where they are. Post-SHTF, I am going to have to be doubly careful, since there won't be any Epi-Pens available and I don't know of any herbal remedy for anaphylactic shock.
You'll need to make a poultice if the cut or burn is bad enough and all you'll need for that is a piece of clean cloth and what is growing right outside your backdoor; good old Plantain. The usual method of making the poultice was to chew the leaves, put them on the injury and tie the clean cloth around it. Sad to say, but when TSHTF, many mouths may not be as germ free as they should be, so just place the washed leaves in between two pieces of clean cloth and grind them with a rock, you don't have to totally destroy them, just grind them up enough so the juice is released. Tie this over the wound and change it out every day. In some cases, you'll be surprised at how fast the wound will heal.
Another useful “weed” growing in your yard is the dandelion. The leaves are edible in the spring and the sap from the stems is a wonder drug for blisters. When the SHTF many of us will be using a lot more hand-tools and blisters are going to be a problem. They are an excellent opening for an infection unless they can be treated right away. Just pick a dandelion, squeeze the milky juice from the stem on the blister and cover lightly. I've had blisters end up gone by the next day using this method, it just depends on how bad the blister is. Best defense against blisters would be good sturdy work gloves, but those aren't always handy when you need to “just make a quick fix” on something.
Something else growing in your yard that will help stop bleeding is Shepherd's Purse, again, wash the plant, grind it between two piece of cloth and apply it to the wound. You may have to change it out several times before the bleeding stops. At the same time, if possible, make some into a tea and drink it to help stop the bleeding attacking the bleeding from inside and outside. It can help with heavy periods, too.
A very, very old remedy for holding cuts closed is spider webs, but it takes a lot and there is no real safe way to ensure they are sterile, but it is just some information I thought I'd throw out there; if someone is desperate and has nothing else handy, they'll do in a pinch. Just keep a real close eye out for infection and make sure the spiders aren't still in the webs.
Infections of any kind are going to be a problem WTSHTF, one way to avoid any infection is to keep your immune system strong. Vitamin C may become very hard to come by if things have gone bad for a long time. There are several alternatives, besides oranges to get extra vitamin c. The pods left after a rose has boomed are called “rose hips” and they contain more vitamin c than an orange, you can eat them or make a tea out of them. Most people have a fantastic immune booster growing in their gardens because it is such a beautiful flower. I am talking about Purple Coneflowers, otherwise known as Echinacea. You need to make sure you have an heirloom variety and not one of the hybrids, the variety should be echinacea angustifolia. The roots can be made into a tincture and the leaves and stems can be made into a tea. Drink a cup daily for a month on and a month off, for just normal immune support; or in the case of an injury where infection is present, drink two cups daily till the infection is gone then stop for a month. You don't want to keep your immune system over stimulated all the time or it will get “bored” and start attacking your body; this leads to what are called auto-immune diseases like Multiple Scoliosis or Rheumatoid Arthritis. Our immune systems now have very little to fight off, so they are either getting weak or are attacking our bodies. The best thing you can do for your immune system now is to let it do it's job. If you catch a cold, just treat the symptoms, let your immune system fight it off. Of course if you get seriously sick, like with bronchitis, then see the doctor, but you have to let your immune system work. Like a muscle, it needs to be worked in order to stay strong. I, personally, don't get a flu shot every year, I let my immune system fight for me. I've never had a case of the flu in years. Colds, yes, flu, no. When I do get a cold I take echinacea and vitamin c to help my immune system fight off anything worse. Bronchitis is an opportunistic illness that moves in when your immune system is busy fighting a cold, so I make sure to give my immune system plenty of support while I am sick.
Teas and tinctures can be used both on the wound and taken internally to fight infections from both outside and inside.
Tinctures are the best way to use roots and barks, unless you want to boil them. Tincturing is easy to do and also allows the remedy to be kept for a lot longer than either a tea or just the dried plant material. Fill a sterile jar about half full of the plant material, then add 1 part water to 5 parts vodka, rum or whiskey. Store in a cool dark place and shake daily. After a month strain the mixture into an other sterile dark colored jar; write a label with plant name and date and store in a cool dark place. A well made tincture can last for up to five years, but it has to be made right, so practice now and like everything else you are stocking now, rotate it out. Either use it, donate it or throw it out and make an other batch, but practice tincturing now and you'll save yourself problems later on. When taking a tincture internally, you only need a small amount since it is so highly concentrated. Use no more than twenty drops in a small glass of water and take up to three times a day. I am not going to prescribe how you should use any tea or tincture, I can only offer some guidelines and leave the rest up to your judgment. Just remember, these are not just “twigs and leaves” and need to be treated as you would any medicine you'd get from the doctor or drug store.
To make a tea, use 1-2 teaspoons of the fresh or dried herb into a pan of boiling water, remove from heat, let it steep for about 5-10 minutes, strain it into a cup and drink. You can add some honey to sweeten it.
For roots, barks and seeds you'll need to either make a tincture or a decoction. To do this, chop the bark or root into smallish pieces, place into a pan, add cold water, bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 15 minutes, then strain and drink. The amounts are the same as with a tea, 1-2 teaspoons per cup of water.
The advice I give the most often is to grow your own herbs and make your own remedies. It isn't hard and it is much more satisfying knowing you did it and you get the piece of mind of knowing how the plants were grown.
There are a number of web sites, as most of you well know, that sell heirloom seeds. If you can choose your own herb seeds, the ones I'd suggest would be: echinacea, mullein, horehound, peppermint, thyme, yarrow, vervain, and feverfew; these are all excellent remedies for coughs, colds and flu. Lavender, chamomile, catnip(good luck keeping cats out of it), and hops are good for calming frazzled nerves. Blessed thistle, parsley, red clover, and yarrow are reported to help cleanse the blood, which will be helpful in the event of any infection. I have seen thyme stop an asthma attack in it's tracks. Boil a small pan of water, put in a tablespoon of thyme, take it off the heat and make a tent over the pan with a towel, with your head under it and just breath in the steam. Make sure you close your eyes because the natural oils in thyme will irritate the hell out of them. A very useful plant after TSHTF will be yucca, since it's roots can be made into soap. The Indians in the southwest also used it as a poultice for arthritis and sprains. For migraine suffers, start taking feverfew now. I used to have awful migraines and starting taking feverfew when I got them; the feverfew stopped the migraines so fast I jumped the first couple times, it startled me because it happened so fast. I started drinking a cup a day of feverfew tea and in about a year, the migraines stopped. The only migraines I have now are allergic reactions to certain foods or maybe just a random one maybe once a year. I still carry a bottle of feverfew in my purse just in case I eat something that triggers one, since I never know until I eat it that it will trigger the migraine. Then I add it to the list of “Do not eat again”.
An excellent book for beginning herbalist's is Today's Herbal Health: The Essential Reference Guide by Louise Tenney, my copy of her book is falling apart I use it so much. She also has a book on just children's remedies,too. The Herb Book by John Lust or Jude's Herbal Home Remedies by Jude C. Williams are also excellent choices. There are also some excellent books by Wildman Steve Brill, such as: Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places
What grows wild here in the mid-west, won't grow wild in the southern states and so on. I titled this “wild-crafting”, but have ended up talking more about growing your own. For those of you who don't know what wild-crafting is, I'll explain. It means going out into the woods or fields and finding your own herbs, picking them and using them. This is where Steve Brill's books or John Lust's books will be vital because they have pictures of the plants. You have to know what you are picking. Many safe plants will have poisonous look-a-likes and unless you are totally sure of your skills at telling them apart, grow your own.
One “plant” that is easy to recognize in the wild is the White Willow and the bark of this tree is very similar to aspirin. Don't strip the tree of all it's bark because it needs it for protection, think of it as the tree's clothes. Peel off only what little you need [on just one side, being careful not to "girdle" the trunk] and either make a tincture or make a decoction. Wild Cherry bark has been used for coughs for centuries, too. Just make sure you have the right tree before you start to harvest any bark from it and please make sure there are no parasites, molds or mosses growing on the bark when you harvest it.
These suggestions are for informational purposes only, they are in no way an attempt to diagnose, prescribe or even recommend. Any serious health issues should be treated by a doctor before TSHTF.