A graphic making its way through social media sites has a message with which I have some sympathy: There are alternatives to the manufactured health products upon which we have come to rely. Yet, there are some elements of the “Field Bandage – Cut finger? Oh no!” message that go a bit far even for me.
I love the idea that we might be able to use fresh herbs, rather than sterile plastic band aids, but when I look at the details communicated in this graphic, I wince in anticipation of an amputated finger.
1. The Cut
With a cut the size of the one shown in this graphic, there’s a sizeable chunk of flesh missing, much more than just a simple slice of the skin. It might go all the way to the bone, by the looks of it. I’m no medical professional, but it looks to me like that wound might need some stiches. It needs to be looked at by a medical professional pronto. Frilly leaves and flower petals aren’t enough. Heck, a band aid probably won’t suffice.
2. The Dirt
An essential piece of advice that’s missing from this herb garden infographic: Wash the dirt out of the wound! If you’re the kind of person who has fresh herbs readily available in the event of accidental lacerations, the chances are good that you’ve received a cut while working with dirty hands out in the garden. Are there anthrax spores out in that soil? Have neighborhood cats used it as a litter box? Did an animal die of a flesh-eating disease where you just planted the dahlias?
The graphic advises us to “apply the leaves and/or flowers to your cut”, but doesn’t advise how this application should take place. Does it matter whether there are flowers or not? What about flower buds that are on the verge of opening, or old flower heads that have finished blooming and are becoming brittle? As its species name implies, Achillea millefolium has many little leaves, and its flowers are quite small as well. What do we do if the leaves and/or flowers adhere to the wound, so that we cannot remove them without vigorous washing? Anyone who is familiar with Achillea millefolium knows that the leaves and flowers come on long, stiff stems. What do we do with the stems? Do we leave the leaves and/or flowers attached, or break the stems?
4. The Mythical Cities of Yarrow
The wild yarrow to be applied to our bloody wounds is, according to this graphic, “a common weed you can find in many cities growing in direct sunlight”. I know what Achillea millefolium looks like, and I’ve been to many cities on different continents, but never have I seen this plant growing wild in any urban environment. In what cities, in what kinds of locations, can wild yarrow actually be found? How long should we wander around a city, bleeding, looking for volunteer plants of this species, before we give up and go to a pharmacy?
5. A Rose Is a Rose Is a Rose?
Scientific studies have found that rose petals can have some mild-to-moderate antibacterial properties – depending on the variety of rose being used, and depending on the way in which the rose petals were processed. Currently available research studies alcoholic or petroleum-based extracts of rose petals, however, not the direct application of rose petals to open, bleeding wounds, as this graphic advises. Which kinds of roses should wounded people take petals from, and how should those rose petals be prepared?
6. Extract of Plantain
Plantago major, unlike Achillea millefolium, actually is a common weed in urban areas. As with rose petals, however, studies of the healing properties of plantain leaves have used extracts, rather than direct applications of entire leaves. Also, the FDA has discovered that herbal packages sold as “plantain” have, in the past, contained foxglove leaves. Foxglove has strong cardiovascular effects that can lead to heart attacks in some people when taken in poorly controlled doses.
7. Feeling Handy?
In the scenario proposed in this graphic, people who have at least one bleeding cut on a finger are supposed to hunt around their backyard gardens or urban landscape, searching for plants to contribute to an herbal remedy for their wound. They are supposed to pick leaves and flowers, and gather these ingredients together, then assemble them, one by one, without any adhesive or wrapping, and then tie them all down in a secure fashion on a finger using the stem of the plantain flower.
Plantains flower only during the late summer and early autumn months in many places in the United States, but even if these flowering plantains can be found, how can a person with one wounded hand securely tie a knot over a three-layer herbal bandage onto one of their fingers?
8. Red Snows
What is a wounded person supposed to do in wintertime, when all the plants listed here are dormant, without fresh leaves or flower petals? Are they advised to walk south until they reach Florida, or just sit tight and hope for the best? Should we keep indoor gardens going, under artificial lights, just in case?