years ago, I was talking to a family member about herbs which help with
bruising when my husband’s nephew interjected, “Why do you bother, the body
deals with bruising all by itself.”
nephew is a doctor and not interested in herbs. I’d forgotten he was nearby
when I began the conversation but his question made me stop and think. Why
would we intervene in a situation which will resolve itself given enough time?
happen. When we knock against something, fall over, damage to our skin or
underlying tissue results in two major actions within the body. The damaged
cells are removed and new cells are created to take their place. We can see
this as the damaged area changes colour, becomes inflamed, maybe hot to the
touch and/or swollen and we feel pain if we try to touch the damaged area.
the trauma causes damage to underlying structures, not just soft tissue.
Cartilage may be torn, ligaments damaged, bones broken or fractured or blood
vessels severed. In such cases, trips to A&E are always advised to diagnose
through x-ray, CT scan or MRI exactly what has occurred. Similarly, if there is
any hint of abuse, professional help must be sought so accurate records and
evidence can be acquired and the victim offered safety.
neck and back injuries, especially those where spinal damage is suspected are
other areas where expert advice must be sought since the first hour post event
is the most crucial in preventing life-changing effects. The patient must not
be moved except by experts.
said all this, bruises remain and there are several plants which can provide
help and support to the body to assist in the healing process.
are two herbs which stay at the top of my first aid provisions. Yarrow (achillea
millefolium), because of its anti-inflammatory properties and, as Jim
Macdonald said, “yarrow knows what to do with blood.” My other go-to is
plantain, both narrow leaf and greater (plantago lanceolata and p. major).
It’s drawing properties help to ensure the damaged area doesn’t have any
foreign objects, it helps with cell production and has the ability to retain
moisture in dry tissues.
two herbs are usually given as a poultice or salve and also internally as part
of a tincture or tea, depending on whether the patient can tolerate alcohol.
third herb I use externally is comfrey. It’s speedy cell-rejuvenation means
this is not one to be applied within the first 24-36 hours, as it can regrow
skin cells over dirt or fuse bone before it has been correctly set. After that
time, it is really useful.
three herbs form my “old wound” salve because they will also deal with bruises
which refuse to heal or leave unwelcomed scars. Their power has also been
proved on the energetic level as one of my apprentices uses them as a tea and a
smudge to help resolve/come to terms with emotional scars left from childhood
abuse, especially when the abuser is no longer alive. She has also used them as
a tea with hawthorn and linden when setting up or strengthening boundaries.
the bruise is involved with connective tissue, Solomon seal (polygonatum
multiflorum) is another herb to add to the mix. American herbalists David
Winston, Matthew Wood and Jim MacDonald have written at length how helpful
Solomon Seal can be with rejuvenating joints, cartilage, connective tissue and
tendons in conjunction with agrimony. Agrimony (agrimonia eupatorium) is
there not only because it has styptic qualities like yarrow, but also helps
with pain due to constriction.
Warren-Davies, writing as “A Welsh Herbal” on Facebook says “Solomons Seal is
traditionally ruled by Saturn, which like comfrey, makes the herb valuable in
treating musculoskeletal injuries. In combination with other Saturnine herbs
like horsetail and mullein root as an infusion it can speed recovery of
sprains, strains and broken bones. It also has been used to apply topically to
I thought this use of
Solomon seal was relatively recent, so it came as quite a shock to read J
Arthur Gibbs describing a visit to an old gentleman in his “A Cotswold Village”
who reeled off a list of herbs for different ailments including “Solomon seal
for bruising”. The book was published in 1898, it’s thirty year old author
dying the next year following an unsuccessful hernia operation complicated by
an undiagnosed heart condition.
Given that Solomon seal
is a North American native, it made me wonder whether its properties were
introduced to the UK along with other Thomsonian doctrines, but the UK usage
was well-known to both Culpepper and Parkinson so would have been embedded in
village herbal lore. Bruton-Seal also notes Gerard’s misogynistic comment that
it was useful for bruising “from fals or women’s wilfulness in stumbling on
their hastie husband’s fists”!
The other herb
well-known for bruises is elder leaves (Sambucus niger) but I have been
using the infused bark oil for the same purpose with very good results. This
came about because I needed something for bruising in the middle of winter when
no leaves of any plant were visible. It worked for me, so I added it to the apprentice
tasks and they all reported how quickly the bark oil reduced bruising.
of the forgotten herbs which I have been adding to my bruise and joint
tinctures is bugle (Ajuga reptens). In Culpepper’s day it was well known for falls
and inward bruises for dissolving congealed blood. Parkinson recommended it for
broken bones and dislocated joints but by the late 19th century it
had fallen out of favour.
knowledge and use came from Julie Bruton Seal and Mathew Seal in their book,
“Wayside Herbs”. I happened to be walking into the Birmingham Botanical Gardens
for a Herbal History Society seminar some years ago and met Julie in the car
park. She was telling me enthusiastically about bugle when we met up with one
of the speakers, Christina Stapley.
was in such pain from her shoulder that she didn’t think she would be able to
deliver her presentation. Julie had a bottle of bugle tincture in her handbag
and persuaded Christina to let her rub it on the affected area. Twenty minutes later,
the pain was gone and Christina’s session was by far the best one of the whole
made my first tincture that year from bugle harvested from Buckland churchyard,
next to the manor house where my great-grandmother was brought up. The plant
then emerged at the Sanctuary and has grown there energetically ever since.
Julie notes its use for realigning joints, especially the spine and releasing
trapped nerves. I’ve been adding it to all my joint tinctures and have noticed
it has very positive effects in reducing “bile dumps”, which is an added
bruising is extensive and long-lasting, it is time to consider other plants to
throw into the mix. Chilli, cayenne (capsicum sp.) gets blood moving at
all levels. It can be very effective where bruising is deep down and can act to
transport the active ingredients of other bruise herbs to help resolve the
chilli tincture is easy to make, but care must be taken to have the room well
ventilated and wear gloves if possible. I made my tincture from Scotch Bonnets,
chopping them in the processor before adding the vodka. When the top of the
processor was removed, the airborne particle affected my eyes so badly, I had
to open the kitchen window and then lie down for half an hour before I could
I was treating my husband for extensive bruising and a swollen knee after an
altercation with a ball during Walking Football, I only had chili in tincture
form, so that went into his thrice daily medicine and ginger oil was added to
his bruise salve.
very effective herb for use with children and vulnerable elders is daisy. The
flowers and leaves combine to make a double infused oil which can be made into
a salve on its own or mixed with self-heal (prunella vulgaris) or
mugwort (artemisia vulgaris).
people rely on homeopathic arnica for bruising. It is very effective and easily
available from all chemists. You can make your own tincture if you have access
to the arnica plant but remember it is poisonous and should only be applied
externally in drop doses rubbed into the skin.
conclusion, the body will heal any bruises it sustains but there are a number
of plants which can help support and speed up the process.
J and Seal, M The Herbalist’s Bible Merlin Unwin Books 2014
J and Seal, M Wayside Medicine Merlin Unwin Books 2017
J. A A Cotswold Village Nonsuch
D ‘Reflections on Solomon Seal’ from A Welsh Herbal | Facebook