Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fred's Foot Infection

Fred, our 81 year-old friend, had a sore on his foot that became infected about 3 weeks ago. That's where this saga begins. His foot was slightly swollen, with what looked like an infected corn that had been aggravated by being rubbed against with his shoe. First step, change the shoe so the corn is no longer aggravated.

Second, clean the infected area really well. He used hydrogen peroxide. Then Fred spread moistened clay on the sore, hoping the clay would pull out the infected matter and then it would heal.

He called me a few days later. He was keeping the clay on his foot at all times. His foot was now swollen, toes swollen, hot, and very tender to the touch. Now, I'm not a doctor, or trained nurse, or trained anything but a wild food forager who has read a lot about herbal and alternative medicines. I didn't have any suggestions, really, but it seemed to me that the clay treatment wasn't doing much for him. I suggested letting the clay dry out a bit, see if that changed things.

Fred then decided to try using activated charcoal on the sore. Activated charcoal can be used as a compress on wounds, so it seemed a worthy idea to me. And the foot seemed a bit better, but not really healing. I brought over plantain tincture to see if that would help. So Fred used a few drops of the plantain tincture with the charcoal. The foot started looking worse.

Oh dear. In fact, the next day, his foot looked so bad I told him to call a doctor or that I'd take him to emergency or the walk-in clinic. I told him it was far out of my ken or abilities at this point. But Fred is very stubborn and dislikes the allopathic medical system as much as I do. Besides, the medicos charge an arm and a leg for those without insurance. We joked that at this point, Fred might well lose a foot to them. Hah. As much as I dislike the system, I argued with Fred that he needed some professional help at this point. I said I'd settle for him calling Anna, a nurse who lives in the valley. And I said that if a red line started up his leg from the sore on his foot he was in big trouble and then must go to a doctor.

I called Anna. She went over that night and also told him to get to a doctor or the clinic, but that she didn't think the infection was systemic or in the blood (yet). Fred still refused to go to a doctor. She told him to keep his foot elevated, so he did.

Next day I went and gathered plantain leaves. We soaked his foot in Epsom salts, then put on a plantain leaf poultice, and stopped with the charcoal, clay, and plantain tincture. Finally, his foot swelling went down, the foot became less red and hot and Fred became a bit more comfortable. But the sore still wouldn't heal. In the midst of all this, regular life went on of course. I had lots of home and garden chores, food preservation to accomplish, meals to cook, rooms to clean, work to do. Anna also came by a few times and said she thought Fred's foot was getting better.

But I kept fretting about it. I remembered reading somewhere that raw honey was effective on wounds of all kinds as an antibiotic dressing. I quickly did a bit of research, and then Fred and I put a small amount of pure raw honey on the sore. Fred said that at first it stings, then it feels better. He still would get shooting pains from the foot occasionally, but the honey was helping the sore to heal.

And that's where we were yesterday when we went to the Amish as we normally do on Saturdays for our "pet food," and other produce. While there, we asked Lydia if she could think of anything else we could try. Lydia's niece and nephew were visiting and helping out because Joaz had been ill. Lydia's niece (also named Lydia) said to try the tonic bitters that her parents make. She said it can heal sores and is very useful in any number of ways. This tonic bitters is made by the recipe for Swedish Bitters. So Lydia gave us about an ounce of what she had and we made arrangements to purchase some from the niece next week. I've also found the recipe at the link above, but it would take time to gather the herbs and other ingredients.

So we get Fred home and soaked a gauze pad with some of the bitters and put that on the sore. By this time, with the plantain leaves and the raw honey, Fred's foot was looking almost better, but still a bit swollen and warm to the touch. Fred agreed that he'd alternate using the raw honey and the bitters and see what that does. He had the bitters as a dressing last night and reported that his foot hurt all night. I suggested he use the honey at night instead, as the honey helps with the pain.

So, what's with this long, drawn-out story, HM? I've told you all these details to show a picture of what many of us might have to deal with IF there is no medical system for us to rely on (and complain about or avoid). There will be many people dealing with situations outside of their limited medical experience in a time of chaos or disruption of normal life. This somewhat confusing story presents some ideas you might find useful in the future. This saga of Fred's foot isn't over yet, but I think we're past the danger point. It'll heal, if slowly. There are no miracle herbs or tonics--although at times some herbs and tonics can seem a miracle.

So far, the raw honey has worked the best. In this case, I don't think the clay or activated charcoal helped much, although both are excellent treatments for other situations. Here you have two people basically stumbling around trying to figure out what to do, what might work. And both Fred and I have read extensively about alternative health treatments and medicine. We have ideas of what might work, not what WILL work. And that's not bad, at least since this situation wasn't life-threatening. We came up with other ideas, a garlic foot bath, for instance. (Before I googled it, I didn't know that bit about a garlic foot bath helping the lungs clear from mucus!)

I'm sure this post doesn't show me in the best light--but that's good. It is TOO easy to think that someone is an "expert" because they are a bit knowledgable about a subject. I've always said in this blog that I'm a beginner, an amateur, more a forager than an herbalist. In the future, however, I expect that many of us will be called upon to stretch our skills and learning, and by stretching, to become more skilled. The doctors I have respected most are those who still consider themselves students, that is, they are still learning.

Who was it who said that the more you learn, the more you learn that there is ALWAYS more to learn?

I'd love to hear from any of you who have dealt with stubborn infections, especially in the elderly. Thanks for tuning in...


Anonymous said...

I have no experience with stubborn infections in the elderly, but I do have experience with bitters. The mother of my best friend was a strong proponent of bitters. She would apply them, externally, as a poultice or soak, for everything from sores to sprains to colds. If you didn't respond in a few days, she would start to administer it orally. (And yes, this was back in the day when mothers would do things like this to other people's children as a matter of course).
Usually one dose orally was enough to clear the issue, and the next 2 or 3 illnesses - your mind didn't want that taste ever again, and would "heal" you miraculously just to avoid another dose!

Chiot's Run said...

I had a terribly infected boil on my back that I couldn't get rid of (about the size of a quarter). Finally I started having my husband put peroxide on it twice a day and then tea tree oil after it dried. It cleared up in a week or so after I started that treatment.

Anonymous said...

Try mixing sugar and Povidone-Iodine solution (betadine)together to make "sugardine" and apply to wound. Cover and change it a couple of times a day. I took a combat medicine coarse and the instructor was a Corpman in Nam. He worked in the trauma unit where amputees, etc. were healing. This is how they treated those soldiers.

I have sugar packets and Betadine in all first aid kits. Buy it at a feed stores and you can get 10% much cheaper. Maybe it will help!

Mel in TX

Anonymous said...

Clarification - 10% is the strength of the Povidone-Iodine solution. Feed stores might not have it unless they carry vet supplies.


Anonymous said...

The betadine/sugar remedy works on bedsores, too. In fact, it works on many skin irritations.

To get rid of a boil - crush a regualr aspirin (not coated) in Vaseline. Apply a liberal amount and cover with a bandage. Change daily. Usually works to draw and dry in about 3 days.

Anonymous said...

I had a round with a clot going up the large vein in my leg, where I got all them varicose veins. It was getting red and hot and moving up my leg. I called the old lady up on the mountain and she said heat some vinegar and soak a towel in it and put my leg up in the air and put the hot, wet vinegar soaked towel on it. 2 days later the red and heat was gone. when I get a problem with sinus infection, same thing, heat vinegar on the stove and breath the steam....does the trick every time. My house smells terrible but everything is working now.....

Patricia said...

Basinah: Hah! I tasted the bitters from the Amish, and the stuff is very bitter--although not as bitter as my goldenseal/echincea rt. tincture. One dose of that for my husband and he refuses to get sick after that. Bad-tasting medicine leads to health. :)

Chiot: H202 is great stuff. Tree tea oil is too. These are among the essential meds in Dr. Cass Ingram's Natural Medicine for Disasters book.

Anon: I have not heard of the 10% Providine/sugar treatment. Would bentadine work with honey as well? I'll try it with the sugar. Thanks for that tip.

Charli: Apple Cider Vinegar is a MUST for the emergency medical bag of tricks. Glad to hear it worked on your varicose veins as well.

Thanks for your comments, everyone.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't told in class to use Honey as a substitute, but I use honey in lieu of sugar in cooking - so,I don't see why not! I pick up those little sugar packets when I'm at restaurants and put them in my BOB and First Aid kits along with Betadine in a plastic bottle. 1 or 2 pks mixed is usually what you need for wound and using the packets also helps keep a larger supply from getting contaminated. (a tip from class).


laurie said...

Well you posted this a while ago and I hope Fred's foot is healing! One more thing to add to your bag of things to try: coconut oil.

My 10 year old was diagnosed as being "severly infected with MRSA" this summer and had several horrible boil/wounds. Well, after the first 24 hours on major antibiotics/antibiotic creams he was getting much worse. I asked on my blog for suggestions and while I received several one well informed reader INSISTED I try coconut oil. It was by far the easiest remedy to try so I put it on him at bedtime and bandaged him up. The next morning I couldn't believe what I saw, it looked 1.000 times better!!! I continued to apply the coconut oil instead of the prescription cream and a few days later when we went in for a follow up appointment, the Dr. was shocked! He said "I can't believe you beat it!"

So, something else to try on your next patient!