The Pharmacy is Closed
It’s an unfortunate fact should you become involved in a crisis situation you will, if not immediately, eventually incur some sort of injury. Without treatment any wound, trivial or not, can become infected, but assuming you will be dirty and unable to properly sanitize yourself, the risk of serious infections skyrockets.
Suddenly feel like you should be leaning on your musket wearing a coon skin cap?
Best not to count on Walgreen or CVC being open for business as usual and hospitals, if available could either be inundated with injuries, or depending on the crisis … quarantined. You’re going to have to fend for yourself.
For a true survivalist the issue of possible injuries has been recognized and plans prepared, to the best of their ability anyway. But to a rookie or a recent convert to the situation … the fear experienced by realizing they don’t even have a bottle of aspirin, could be paralyzing.
Stop! Take a deep breath and think. Our ancestors dealt with the same problems. Ever visit a replica of a colonial town? The pharmacy had 5 or 6 bottles of powder on the shelf and a few mixing tools. In other words, for the most part pioneers handled their own medical treatment. You can do the same.
The same herbs, grasses, roots etc etc they used to treat minor ailments are most likely still growing right around you. You just have to know what you are looking for and what to do with it when you find it. Let’s begin.
Pain is nature’s way of notifying you something is wrong. Most of the time the degree of sustained pain equals the seriousness of the ailment, but not always. Now that we have acknowledged natures calling card … we’d sure like to do away with the pain, as no matter how small … it’s irritating.
Wild Lettuce and Prickly Lettuce aka Opium lettuces are excellent painkillers, which people have used for centuries to relieve pain. Those people didn’t care, but for your personal info, the medicine is non-additive and a great alternative to opioids. Although not native to North America, brought over from Europe, India & Pakistan, the lettuce pretty well grows everywhere in the continental USA.
Wild Lettuce grows to 3 – 4 feet tall and produces small yellow buds and has a bitter milky sap inside the leaves. This milky substance is known as Lactucarium, which affects the Central Nervous System, thus reducing and/or eliminating the pain, again non habit forming and risk of poisoning is zero.
There are three common methods to extract the medicine:
A. Pick a handful of leaves from the plant, cut them into small pieces, place them in a pot and pour just enough water in to entirely cover the leaves. Heat the pot, but be careful NOT to let the water begin to boil, that will compromise the medicinal value. Strain the leaves from the water, let pot continue to heat until the remaining liquid becomes syrupy. Drink after cooling.
B. Pick a handful of leaves. Allow them to dry, then grind them into a powder, make a herbal tea and drink it.
C. Dry the leaves and smoke them like a cigarette.
(Nymphaea alba) AKA Diareha-water lily is an aquatic plant that has many medical benefits for gastrointestinal conditions.
You will be digesting safe, yet abnormal foods, and your body may rebel until it becomes more accustom to the menu change. To treat this rebellion use the water lily.
The water lily is a perennial plant which grows in wet environments. The leaves and pads appear to float by themselves, but are actually attached to a flexible stalk which derives from the root (rhizomes). The leaves are nearly round, 7 to 12 inches across and have a slit which makes the plant appear to be a Pac-man character. The large white flowers with yellow centers have their own stalks, 25 or more petals which emit a strong fragrance when open in the daylight hours.
The rhizome (root) portion of the plant is where the medicinal value comes from, as it is an astringent. To make the medicine, use a non-aluminum pot, this is very important because aluminum alters the chemical structure of the plant. Fill it with about a pint of water. Note: Do not crush the rhizome until ready to place into water. Place a handful of crushed root, slowly heat to a simmer, do not boil. Allow about a ¼ of the water to boil off, cool, strain the solid particles from the liquid and drink.
The medicine is very good at treating diarrhea and dysentery.
Surviving in the wild, no matter where you are, except maybe Antarctica, you will have to deal with insects, which can make life a living hell. They are natures way of laughing at our agony, but as with most things in nature, there is a solution. Today’s modern bug repellents consists of Deet, which is not available naturally.
However, the Beauty Berry Bush (Callicarpa Americana) a deciduous shrub or bush, which grows in the Southeastern United States, contains a natural insect repellent which rivals Deet in effectiveness. This is not an old legend, this is based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture findings.
Crush leaves and wipe them over your entire body and clothing. This will take time and will have to be repeated every few hours, depending on how much you sweat, but the relief will be worth it.
If you are lucky enough to have a few supplies. Crush the leaves and place them in a jar, pour rubbing alcohol into the jar until full, then secure cap. Allow this to sit for a few hours totally extracting the contents of the leaves into the alcohol. Remove as much of the leaves as possible and use the liquid to rub on the body and clothes.
Honey is not only a great food source, delightfully sweet and packed with energy, it is also a medicine. Use honey to treat a cough or raspy throat. It is also an antiseptic that can be smeared on cuts and burns. Be aware of getting honey in the wild, don’t tangle with African-i zed bees as they will ruin your day.
For general knowledge here are additional uses for honey.
Acne can be treated with honey. Thoroughly clean the face, apply raw honey to the area, allow to set for 30 minutes then wash off. The honey contains anti-bacterial properties and helps the skin stay moist.
Arthritis is basically the inflammation of the joint. Honey has anti-inflammatory properties which will reduce pain and swelling.
Believe it or not locally produced honey can help reduce allergies. Allergies are the result of a negative reaction to pollen. Honey is produced by using this local pollen. Repeated eating of the honey will result in the body building an immunity to the negative effects of the pollen. This is not an overnight cure, but it will work.
Red Alder Tree
If you have never experienced the itchy agony of having poison ivy or poison oak, count your blessings. The red rash and bumps contact with the plants cause are miserable, especially if you have no treatment available to curb the spread and lessen the itching.
Luckily the Red Alder tree (Alnus rubra) is native to North America. The tree is hard to miss as it can grow to over a 100 feet tall. The bark is a mottled light gray and is relatively smooth to the touch. The leaves are ovate, 4-5 inches long with a serrated edge.
Pick a large handful of green leaves, Not dead leaves, crush them into a powder, place them into a container of water and bring to a simmer. Let the leaves to set in the water allowing its chemical properties to leech into the water. Once cooled use a rag or cloth, saturated with the broth and wipe all over the effected area. Continue this treatment until the rash is completely gone.
A sore throat, besides being painful and aggravating, is a sign of inflammation caused by an infection. Left untreated the infection could morph into a serious disease, such as strep throat. Native Americans would take pieces of the Hack-berry tree bark, crush it into a powder and make a tea of it. Repeat this treatment until the soreness is gone.
The Zanthoxylum clava-herculis tree is a two edged sword. It is an excellent pain reliever, but only grows in the Southeastern United States. It’s commonly known as The Toothache Tree because chewing on its leaves or bark causes the mouth, tongue, lips and teeth to go numb.
Identification is quite simple because the bark appears to have little pyramids growing out it. Not easily ignored.
I considered making this a post of its own, but we are talking about making brews to drink, rubbing leaves on ourselves and smoking leaves. So I thought it may be prudent to continue the lesson with the direct opposite of medicine … poison.
A person can become poisoned by ingestion (eating), contact (physically touching) or inhalation (breathing it in)
What are the effects of accidentally becoming poisoned? It can range from a mild skin irritation to death. Some people ask “How poisonous is such and such plant?” This question is nearly impossible to answer definitively because:
Some plants require you to come into contact with a large amount of its leaves or bark, while others will cause death with only minute contact.
Every plant, possibly growing in the same area, will contain various amounts of the toxins depending on soil content. A plant that comes into water runoff containing Miracle Grow will produce more toxins than a water starved plant.
Every person has a different level of resistance to toxic substances. Most people happily eat peanut butter, while that same substance is a deadly poison to others.
When dealing with a possible life or death situation, its imperative we dispel misconceptions, or “I heard” logic. For instance, Watch what animals eat, it won’t be poisonous. Most of the time this is true, but not always. A honey badger can withstand numerous strikes from a cobra, which is on their menu, not so a human.
If you boil the plant in water all the poison will be removed. Again, not true in all cases. Just like boiling water removes enough bacteria to make the water safe to drink, it does not destroy everything the water contains. The same with all red plants are poisonous. Not always true, Nature has a habit of making red and/or bright colors as a warning, but cherries are red and chocolate covered cherries are a delight.
The bottom line is…. there is no one set rule or guideline to identifying poisonous plants. Only education, learning the native poisonous plants will totally protect you. If in doubt … don’t eat it.
Beware plants are great impersonators, as many poisonous plants look exactly like another edible plant. At a causal glance Poison hemlock appears very similar to a wild carrot. Possibly worse yet, some plants are safe to eat in certain seasons or stages of growth, but not in others. A Poke weed is safe to eat when it first starts to grow, but becomes poisonous as it ages. A May-apple is edible, but ONLY the ripe fruit, the green parts are poisonous. Did you know potatoes and tomatoes are perfectly safe to eat (obviously) but their green parts are poisonous.
To repeat: Unless your are absolutely sure of what the plant is and the possible danger … do not eat it!
Mushrooms are extremely difficult to identify and unless precise … could be deadly. Mushrooms attack the gastrointestinal and central nervous system, some causing death very quickly, quicker than a poisonous snake bite, and some deadly mushrooms have no known anti-dote.
In addition to eating harmful plants, poisoning by contact is the most common method of contamination. Common plants like poison ivy excretes an oil which gets on the skin during contact, which can cause persistent and irritating itching, and scratching the area can cause it to spread. This oil can also be spread person to person. A person has the oil on his hands, grabs the steering wheel of the tractor, and the next person grabbing the steering wheel contracts the poison.
You will rarely, if ever, see a rancher or farmer burning brush without a mask of some sort covering his mouth and nose. The smoke created when burning poisonous plants can be just as dangerous as the plant, if fact possibly much worse because you inhale the poison into your respiratory system.
Points to remember: If you do eat any plants, keep a log and a sample of it. If accidental poisoning occurs the medical personnel can quickly tell which plant caused the illness.
Signs of possible poisoning are: nausea, vomiting, abdominal pains, diarrhea, depressed/slowed heartbeat and breathing, headaches, hallucinations, a dry mouth, falling unconscious. Coma and death can quickly follow these symptoms so don’t brush them off as no big deal.