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2/16/2012
First Aid From the Garden
First Aid From the Garden

A walk through a garden reveals nature’s secrets.  Tiny mushrooms peep out from piles of leaves, while jewel-like flowers beckon with their fragrances. Our ancestors, in their curiosity about the natural world, discovered that certain plants have healing qualities. They learned, for instance, that fresh juices from calendula and chamomile flowers could be used to heal skin irritations. They realized that the herb arnica was effective at soothing muscle aches and pains and that echinacea could keep the sniffles at bay.

Today, Weleda makes a variety of homeopathic and anthroposophic medicines using many of the same ingredients our ancestors relied on. “A lot of what we do is grounded in ancient herbal traditions,” says Petra Augenstein, who compounds plants into medicines in her role as chief pharmacist at the Weleda headquarters in New York. “The natural ingredients we employ have been used for hundreds of years in healing and skin care.”

Natural forms of self-healing are becoming increasingly popular, as science backs up the efficacy of these plant ingredients and as we learn to embrace the wisdom of old family remedies. The latest study from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine indicates that $14.8 billion was spent on natural products in 2007. “Homeopathic medicines offer fewer side effects than conventional products, which often merely mask symptoms,” says Augenstein. “Our approach is to support the body’s own healing abilities.”

Weleda has four over-the-counter ointments that are a must in any homeopathic, at-home first-aid kit: Arnica Ointment, Burn Care, Calendula Ointment and Wound Care. They work with our body’s natural healing abilities, are free of petroleum and mineral oils and are the perfect complement to a healthy, natural lifestyle. These products are safe for use by adults and children. Read on to discover the benefits and uses of these four over-the-counter Weleda ointments and why they should be a staple in any medicine cabinet.

Arnica to the Rescue

Arnica is an herb that has become increasingly popular lately for its ability to soothe sore muscles and reduce pain. It has been used in traditional remedies for centuries. Dr. Lynn Madsen, a physician practicing traditional and anthroposophic medicine at Grace Cottage Hospital in Vermont, recommends arnica to alleviate bruising. Arnica’s proven track record of effectiveness may even be enough to convince a skeptical friend that natural products really do work. A study published in the journal Rheumatology International in 2004 looked at 204 people with osteoarthritis in their hands and found that an arnica gel preparation worked just as well as daily ibuprofen, and with minimal side effects. The arnica Weleda uses is made with wild-harvested arnica, grown sustainably in Romania.

Burn Be Gone

Weleda Burn-Care is made using the homeopathic principle of “like cures like.” Tiny amounts of natural ingredients, which in large quantities would cause a symptom, are used to trigger a healing response in the body. For example, Burn-Care is made with stinging nettle, an herb with tiny hairs on its leaves and stems that sting the skin when touched. But when diluted with alcohol and combined with arnica extract for use in Burn-Care, stinging nettle actually helps soothe the stings of minor burns and ease the itch of insect bites. With Burn-Care, the whole family can seek relief from sun-soaked summer days, buggy nights camping, or a burn from making breakfast. Keep the tube in the refrigerator to enhance the cooling effect.

Calming Calendula

For irritated skin and rashes, Dr. Madsen recommends calendula. This bright, orange herb is found in Weleda Calendula Ointment. Weleda grows the calendula in the company’s Biodynamic® Medicinal Plant Gardens in Germany. Biodynamic® farming places great emphasis on healthy, life-giving soil, so that the plants it produces are extremely vital and nutrient-rich. Combined in a base of beeswax and organic sesame seed oil, the healing, anti-inflammatory calendula extract soaks in deep to soothe red, irritated skin. Calendula Ointment is ideal for all sorts of skin irritations and can be useful for mosquito bites and even acne.

Wound TLC

Calendula is also found in Weleda Wound-Care, along with Peruvian balsam and Mercurialis perennis, herbs that have skin-healing and antibacterial properties. Cleanse the wound gently with soap and water, then apply Wound-Care followed by a bandage to help speed the healing of cuts, skin abrasions and wounds.

Outside in the natural world and even in the comfort of home, there is always the possibility of a cut, bump or bug bite. A doctor should always be consulted for serious conditions, but treating the small stuff at home with healing natural ingredients allows you to take care of your loved ones without unwanted side effects. The gifts of the garden can help heal the whole family. —Dena Moskowitz

Make a Homemade Poultice

Old-time remedies called poultices consist of a soft mass of healing herbs spread on a cloth and applied to the skin to treat everything from bruises to swelling, depending on the type of plant used. Follow these steps to make a homemade calendula poultice that will help treat bruising, sores and skin conditions such as rashes and dermatitis.

  1. Crush fresh calendula flowers and a few drops of water or almond oil into a pulp using a pestle and mortar.
  2. Apply a bit of the pulp directly to the affected area and cover with a band aid. If the wound or rash is large, place the pulp material onto a sterile bandage and then apply it directly to the affected area.
  3. Secure the bandage with adhesive tape and leave on for a sufficient amount of time while the herbs release their healing properties.
  4. You can also use dried calendula flowers. Just mix warm water and equal amounts of the herb and bran to make a paste. Place the paste between two pieces of thin cloth and apply it to the skin while it’s still warm.