However, there are several ways herbs can be utilized as whole body support after emergency medical care has been given. Before we get started on the herbal side of things, let’s take a look at standard fracture first aid as a refresher.
Fracture First Aid
Always keep up to date on your first aid certifications with an organization like the Red Cross, when possible. It gives you hands on training that will be helpful in this type of emergency. Another great idea is to keep a first aid handbook easily accessible, so that you have a checklist to follow as you wait for professionals to arrive. Still, fracture first aid is usually straight forward.
- Stop any bleeding
- Apply ice
- Be careful of shock
- Try to push any protruding bones back in if they have broken the skin
- Try to straighten a crooked limb.
- Move the person at all if the injury affects the back or neck. Instead, wait for help to arrive and keep the injured person still.
Once a doctor takes care of the fractures, herbs can be used for after-care as an adjunct to your doctor’s instructions. Be sure to get the all clear first, and then herbs traditionally used for pain, healing, and providing extra minerals for the diet can all be incorporated.
Bone healing is an inherently inflammatory process. In this case, inflammation is a good thing. NSAID drugs (like over the counter pain relievers) actually inhibit the exact processes the body is trying to use to repair bone. This means that they may help with pain, but using them may extend the overall healing time.
Some traditional herbal alternatives include St. John’s Wort, Jamaican Dogwood, California Poppy, and Valerian. Extract form is often the best form these herbs, rather than a tea. The extract is more convenient and can be taken in a little juice or other beverage to disguise the strong, unpleasant tastes of these herbs. Poppy and Valerian both also offer the advantage of being nervine herbs traditionally used to settle the nerves and promote sleep.
Don’t use St. John’s Wort if you are taking prescription drugs. This herb is notorious for interfering with medications.
Healing a fracture requires good nutrition. Not only does healing utilize more calories than normal, the body will also need extra protein. Bone is around 70% minerals in total composition, so making sure to get enough calcium and other minerals is another big nutritional factor.
Herbs for Minerals:
These herbs can be prepared as teas and steeped overnight to be extra strong. In this case, sipping on them over the course of the day is a better approach than drinking them all in one go.
Comfrey is another herb traditionally used for healing fractures. There is a modern debate about whether or not comfrey should be used internally, but it can still be used topically.
If the fracture requires a cast, it’s best to wait until the cast comes off before beginning to apply a comfrey compress or poultice. A simple compress can be made by preparing a strong tea of comfrey leaves, soaking a clean flannel cloth in the tea, and then applying the cloth to the affected area. Once the cloth cools, it can either be dipped into the tea and reapplied or washed to use again later.
Poultices work in much the same way, but the fresh or dried leaves are mashed with just enough water to form a paste, spread directly onto the skin, and held in place with a cloth. Poultices are usually changed out every four hours.
Wilderness First Aid
If you like to hike or camp, live remotely, or are otherwise often not near medical help, you might want to consider taking Wilderness First Aid. If you can’t find a provider with a quick Google search, you might contact the local Boy Scout Council (even if you aren’t even remotely affiliated). They should be able to help you find a good resource for it because they require leaders trained in it for certain types of outings.
Wilderness First Aid is, among other things, one of if not the only place a person who is NOT an EMT or medical professional can receive training so that they can determine if a person with a back or neck injury can be moved. They also train you in how to splint a broken bone with whatever you have on hand, and how to transport people who are injured. All of that might be very handy if you are with someone who falls and fractures an arm or leg a mile from the trailhead, at the bottom of the great sledding hill everyone loves (the one with no cell service), or when a car slides on the ice or an oil slick and goes into a ditch.
Even if you prefer an herbal approach to managing your health, it’s important to realize that herbs cannot miraculously set a fracture- it’s important to have the break seen by a medical professional who can realign the bones and set the stage for the body to do it’s thing!