The Homestead Medicine Chest

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When accidents happen, how do you keep the homestead running? For minor injuries, it helps to have some remedies on hand.

I stubbed my toe a week before Easter and ended up not being able to walk. When I did manage to start hobbling, I did so with the aid of a walking stick. Crutches would have come in very handy that first day. The toe is still puffy a month later, but I am getting around quite well now, and I give some of the credit to the remedies I keep on hand, and eventually gathered the wits to apply to myself.

My first course of action, after calming my own hysterics (amazing how much pain a li’l ole toe can sustain), was to ask my young son to get the ice pack from the freezer, and to drag myself to the recliner and put my foot up. I pulled off my thick, woolen sock and inspected the damage. At first I could not move my toe and so could not tell if it was broken or dislocated. My optimistic mind opted for a bad sprain. I applied the soft rice filled cold pack and waited. I took a dose of anica montana 30c and slathered lavender essential oil over the injury. After 20 minutes and very little swelling and redness, I was able to flex all my toes except the injured one. I continued to alternately apply lavender essential oil and the ice pack. I took the arnica every 20 minutes for a couple hours. At feeding time I could only hop on one foot, but with the help of the boy, and the jeep, all the critters got fed.

At this same time, the wind was blowing lots of pollen around, and our hay fever started acting up. Because our climate is so dry, I started boiling water in the morning and evening to add a little humidity. I ran the air cleaner a couple of hours on bad days. With the onset of sniffles and headaches comes the application of camphor rub (Vicks, etc.) to the soles of the feet, protected by clean socks. If you smirk at the effectiveness of using oils or ointments on the bottoms of your feet, try this experiment: peel a couple cloves of garlic and put one in each of two socks, put the socks on your feet. Make sure the garlic is touching the soles of your feet. See how long it takes for you to taste the garlic in your mouth. That is how long it takes for the garlic on the bottoms of your feet to pass through your bloodstream, emitting their healing properties along the way up to your taste buds. In fact, the garlic is an excellent remedy, if you can stand it! Unsophisticated as it sounds, the camphor/menthol rub actually acts as a decongestant and cough suppressant. And the dollar store brand works great. It also seems to help block the histamines that irritate so much with hay fever. At least that’s my experience.

Though I had most of my supplies readily available, I discovered a few that I plan on acquiring for future needs, such as crutches, and maybe a wheelchair, to scoot around the property if I can’t walk. A grabber would help too, if it’s too hard to bend over to pick something up. All these items tend to turn up at garage sales and thrift stores now and then.

In short, if you decide to live in the boonies (or even if you just want to save on doctor visits), it’s a good idea to keep some basic remedies in stock in addition to the standard first aid kit (keeping in mind that none of these suggestions have been evaluated or endorsed by the FDA and are only based on personal experience – okay, got that outta the way):

  • crutches, canes and/or walking sticks – for leg and foot injuries, to assist you in getting around/balance
  • ibuprofen – pain/swelling relief, but only take if you’re going to be resting because it numbs the pain receptors in your brain and you’ll be tempted to overdo and injure yourself further
  • arnica montana 30c – homeopathic remedy for bruising/muscle trauma
  • lavender essential oil – immune support, allergy relief, burn relief, muscle trauma, bruising
  • tea tree essential oil – antifungal, antibacterial, antiseptic, good for stings and bites
  • apis mellifica 30c – homeopathic remedy for bee stings and bug bites
  • rice bags of various sizes – small ones can be frozen for cold packs, large ones can be microwaved a couple of minutes for hot packs (see below for simple directions to make your own)
  • calendula ointment – diaper rash, contact dermatitis (recipe below)
  • camphor ointment (vicks) – coughs, cold, congestion, hay fever

These are not expensive investments either. Look for canes, crutches and walking sticks at garage sales and thrift stores. The Dollar Tree and other dollar stores carry off brands of ibuprofen and Vicks. Arnica montana, apis mellifica, lavender and tea tree essential oils are available and inexpensive at natural food stores, and a little goes a long way!

Calendula ointment is easy to make: Take a handful of calendula marigold flower heads and cover with melted lard, shortening, shea butter or other solid fat of your choice. Throw in a handful of beeswax if desired, for more stability in the resulting ointment. Bake at 200 degrees Farenheit for a few hours, do not burn! Let cool slightly, strain into glass jars and seal.

Rice bags are also easy to make: Fill a sock or fabric bag of desired size with rice or dried corn (not popcorn!) and sew closed. DO NOT WASH!! You can make a removable, washable cover for the bag if desired. For cold pack put in freezer. For hot pack or heating pad, heat on high in microwave 1-3 minutes.

And do not overlook the advantages of having a 6 year old boy or girl to run around for you, then snuggle up and give you toys to play with so you feel better.