Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Herbs for Broken/Fractured Bones

About a month ago, our friend and neighbor Fred fell and hurt his arm and ribs while we were at the Amish farm. Fred is 80, and getting fragile. He's a health nut, so he eats well and takes (probably too many) supplements--but he IS healthy. He holds the same opinion of modern mainstream American medicine as we do (scary and nearly worthless when it comes to actual health, drug purveyors for Big Pharma, etc.) and has stayed away from doctors most of his life. He has an advanced case of rheumatoid arthritis which has nearly crippled his hands, but he is still in better shape than most 80 year olds.

We were just leaving the Amish farm and were out on the porch. We turned to watch an older Amish man back up a team of horses and a wagon. It's an interesting sight, watching how he got these huge draft horses to back up. Unfortunately, Fred didn't watch his step because of the distraction and he took a fall against the porch. Well, that time, he badly bruised his arm and his ribs hurt, but he thought he was OK. Home we went and I brought him over some comfrey tea and calendula salve for his arm.

Last Saturday, coming back from the Amish farm again, we stopped at the Fayetteville store (a little grocery/convenience store with a gas station) on our way home. Fred fell again, he tripped over a parking curb. This time he really smashed his arm and his hip. I dropped what I was carrying to grab him, hoping to stop his fall, but I missed and down he went. A couple of guys filling their trucks with gas came over to help. After checking him to see that he hadn't banged his head or broken his neck, we gently raised him to a sitting position, then stood him up. He thought he was badly bruised, but nothing broken, and he didn't want to go to the Emergency room. So home we went and I got him safely into his house and set him up for the rest of the afternoon. We buy eggs for lots of people from the Amish and Fred delivers them on Saturday afternoon. I offered to do it, but no, he wanted to. OK. And he did deliver them, thinking he was alright.

Turns out, though, that we had to take him to Emergency the next day. His leg was going out on him and he thought he might have broken his hip. At the Emergency room, they did Xrays and found that he hadn't broken his hip, but that his right elbow had a compound fracture with a fancy name I can't recall. Sigh. They would need to operate on it to fix the elbow.

This is terrible news to a guy with no health insurance and no extra cash lying around. I don't know how much the emergency room visit cost, but the orthopedic surgeon visit yesterday costs him 700+ dollars. And that's just for casting his arm. Decided not to operate (Fred doesn't have much use of that arm anyway with the RA), and cast it instead. And he must get a platform thing for his walker so he can lean his casted arm on the walker and take the weight off his hip, which might have a fracture in it. He will have the cast and have to use the walker for at least 6 weeks.

So, I've started doing what I can to help him out. I go over and make him breakfast and get him settled for the day. Ditto with dinner. I can do any of the cleaning and errand running that might need to be done. Other ladies here have already joined in cooking for him (I think the problem will be too much food, not too little!)

What herbs can be used for this? For broken bones? Well, the good news there are some very good herbs for this kind of thing. Horsetail is one of them. Here's what Heinerman's Encyclopedia of Healing Herbs and Spices has to say:

No other herb in the entire plant kingdom is so rich in silicon as is horsetail. This trace element really helps to find protein molecules together in the blood vessels and connective tissues. Silison is the material of which collagen is made. Collagen is the "body glue" that holds our skin and muscle tissues together. Silicon also promotes the growth and stability of the skeletal structure.

A few European clinical studies have determined that fractured bones heal much more quickly when horsetail is taken. The incidence of osteoporosis is, likewise, more greatly reduced when some horsetail is added to the diet. A few folk healers I'm aware of have recommended this herb to athletes who've suffered sprains, dislocated joints, pulled hamstrings or torn ligaments.

He also recommends cactus, marshmallow, tumeric and wormwood. I don't have cactus or marshmallow on hand, but I do have tumeric and wormwood.


Tumeric has manifested remarkable anti-inflammatory properties by inhibiting induced edema and subacute arthritis in rats and mice. These positive results are comparable to the same effects achieved by popular anti-inflammatory drugs like hydrocortisone acetate and phenylbutazone. Two half teaspoonfuls taken morning and evening in juice can help somewhat.

Additional relief may be obtained for this disease, contusions, sprains and fractures by mixing together 2 tbsp. tumeric with 1 tbsp. lime juice and just enough boiling water to make a nice, smooth, warm paste. This can then be applied directly to the area of swelling and pain, and then covered with some plastic food wrap to retain the heat and moisture longer. The consistency of the paste should be similar to that of creamy peanut butter so that it can be spread on the skin easily.

Hmmmm. Well, that won't work in this case, since his arm is now in a cast. However he can take the tumeric in juice and let it work that way. And I'll make a tincture of the wormwood with some vodka and he can use that as a pain-reliever when he runs out of the strong stuff the docs have him on now. Meanwhile, I'll see if anyone has some marshmallow. It grows around here, but this is the wrong time of year to go hunting it. I'll also make him some comfrey tea. Of course, I'll do a little more research to check for contraindications or drug/herb interactions, but I think these additions to his treatment with help his body with healing the broken bones and torn muscles.

As Fred says, getting older is a bitch. Well, better than the alternative in most cases, sez me. :)




Stephanie_in_ar said...

How would you use the horsetail? - (to get it inside of him)

Patricia said...

Horsetail actually makes a nice tea, easily drinkable without any sweetener. I don't use sweeteners of any kind, except honey very rarely, and I liked the taste of the tea. If you have horsetail on hand, chop it up finely and it's about 1 tsp to a pint of water. Boil the water, add the herb, let it steep for a few minutes. The tea doesn't need to be strong, weak is actually better.

If there's no cast, you can also soak a towel in the tea and use that as a poultice on the arm or ankle or whatever.

The main thing with horsetail is the mineral salts--I think they will help Fred with healing here.
Thanks, Stephanie.

Stephanie in AR said...

Thanks. Many years ago a college botany prof. required us to recognize & latin name 50 plants. Horestail was one of the first ones. I had always thought it was rare & common only during pioneer times but it is very common. I can see it in ditches while driving down the road. Once you really see a plant it is very difficult to *not see* it again. lol I had only ever heard it called scouring rush and used for cleaning. Glad it has better uses.

Patricia said...

Hey Stephanie,

Since you can find it and recognize it, just harvest a bunch of it next spring when it is green, dry it on trays or screens in the sun, and next time someone you know fractures a bone, brew him up some weak tea. It's wonderful that God has provided for us so richly! Horsetail won't cure a broken bone, of course, but it will help the healing process.

Susie Cook said...

I have a ton of horsetail. Any chances of freezing it without losing any medicinal properties? Looking forward to your reply.

Be well,

Anonymous said...

I have a neighbour that owns a small colt and its leg got broken.
Do you think any herb could help with the healing cause they do not want to put it down.

D'vawn Williams said...


rachel said...

To everyone using Horsetail, be sure it is growing in a clean environment and not downstream from any pollutants or near water hemlock(deadly) or poison hemlock(deadly). Just as it cleanses heavy metals out of our blood, it also pulls up all toxins and heavy metals from the soil and surrounding posionous plants. Such a beautiful ancient plant! It was around when dinosaurs roamed!

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