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Herbal healing techniques (this page has pictures that follow, so have patience as it loads)
*The following demonstrates the history of a technique and how to apply it even in modern use.*
Poultices have long been used, from the very beginning of documented history, for drawing from wounds, whether they be to extract the irritant in an insect bite, or to draw poison from the wound of an orc arrow, and to provide an aid for healing (such as with deep cuts and wounds) when applied continuously to the injured area. They are not, however, always capable of treating for wounds beneath the nearly unbroken skin, in which cases one should use a warm compress to the painful area (often the technique used in reducing swelling). Many herbs for poultices are strictly topical, though others can be ingested, such as basil. Be sure to know which herbs are safe for ingesting if applying to children. Cut and crush fresh herbs or procure dried herbs such as morneg, laugralas, or athelas and boil them for a brief time in a small amount of water, no longer than it should take to assemble the rest of anything needed. Use clean cloth and apply enough of the herb to cover the injured or infected area, then wrap a clean bandage over both and secure firmly.
For insect bites, the method is the same, only one may use smaller strips of cloth, and less of the herb. Replace poultices as needed. Often the leaves will blacken and a sharp smell will follow. If a foul odor at all begins to come from the bandage, clean the wound thoroughly at once and re-apply. It is often recommended that bandages be changed every few hours for more serious injuries.
A technique Men used was a counting by the Sun's position in increments, known to them as hours. For the Eldar, an alternate timing system involved the various periods of the day (see the document on Eldarin time) as a reference of when to check on a patient. Many Healers found it rarely necessary to replace a poultice more than three to four times a day, unless the wound contained a more deadly poison.
Common herbs Men used for healing are basil, and grains such as oats - an herb used on sores and as a nerve tonic. Allergic reactions were, however, another concern to beware of poisoned wounds such as some berry poisons used in the orcs arrows found on one side of Eryn Galen and in some insect or spider bites. Care was and is needed when applying an herb in special cases, for that same reason - before applying, the Healer needed to be sure the patient is not allergic to the plant.
The compress is used in a very similar manner as the poultice. Used to reduce swelling, its purpose has existed perhaps as long as the poultice. In some cases, a compress is more useful for reducing basic swelling, but remains a strictly mild form of remedy (such as to reduce the pain of tension headaches) as a warm compress. A cold compress is useful for a topical help during fever, or to reduce inflammation, often a technique used with the accompaniment of an herbal tea during a fever. A cold compress is also used to treat burn injuries, and to reduce swelling from sprains and broken bones. Boil fresh or dried leaves such as laugralas or brethil in hot water or use an oil from an herb, also in warm water or mingled with a form of alcohol (used by Men only) , then soak a clean cloth in the liquid and lay the cloth gently on the swollen area. Keep bathing the area until the swelling goes down. A recommended time wearing a compress is an evening's or afternoon's length by Eldarin Healers, 2 hours or so by reckoning of Men.
For tension headaches, rest the compress on the back of the neck. This method was marked by healers more useful also when coupled with some sort of aromatherapy.
One of the most effective and most common forms of remedies at the time of the First Age through Third Age. This was used also frequently in the Fourth Age, though at the advent of the Fifth Age, traditional medicines such as teas were abandoned in most cases for the more common drugs and antibiotics of modern medicine. Teas, known also my Men later as 'herbal infusions', are used in quite an opposite manner to the poultice and compress, but often used with compresses during high fevers to fight an infection in the body from within, to strengthen an immune system in Men, or to quiet an inflammation or upset stomach or other abdominal organs. Versatile, Infusions work to cure within the body physically unmarred. However, in most cases, they serve as a mild treatment, and a more concentrated form of the herb should be given in acute circumstances, whether by chewing a leaf or by taking an herbal paste across the tongue. Care must be taken, though, in the choice of herbs, and in the dosage, for with many herbs taking too much will cause stomach sickness, and, in a few rare cases such as with dúwath, death by poisoning. Herbs for strictly topical use must be noted. A useful way to seperate these is to simply set them on another shelf. Shelves were often labeled, especially for Eldarin healers, who labeled many things in order that young apprentices would have access to those shelves.
An infusion is appropriate for most minor ailments where a wound is not involved. Chop fresh leaves or gather an appropriate amount of dried herbs and boil them in clean water, best in a closed kettle. Boil them no longer than when you begin to smell them and they color the water. Boiling too long will add a bad flavor and destroy many of the essential elements in the leaves. In many cases, fewer dried herbs will be needed than fresh, and though it is not as immediate, the same principle applies. Men have reckoned a good time for boiling is between ten and twenty minutes. When the tea can begin to be smelled clearly at its most pungent moment, remove the kettle or pot from the heat. Strain the herbs from the water, and pour the tea into a cup for the patient.
When mixing herbs for teas, it is best to avoid mixing too many, or herbs that contradict one another, or herbs that do not mix well such as seregrîf and lupelin. Good herbs for teas are those that settle the stomach, calm the mind, warm the body, or ease cramps, fairly mild herbs such as mint.
Another common method used since olden days from nearly the beginning of time is the herbal ointment. Among Men, often times teas and chewed or mashed leaves were used in cuts when a poultice was not appropriate. The use of herbal ointments was more commonplace among the Eldar. Ointments are more versatile than poultices, performing similar function, primarily to aid in healing of wounds and cuts, also to sterilize the wounds and prevent infection. When traveling, Eldarin healers often carried a pack of jars containing herbal ointments. In emergencies, such supplies are the most practical, though they cannot aid in sicknesses. In surgeries, ointments are used to soothe the pain of a cut and to clean the open skin. Ointments also lay well on the skin - they are ideal for skin problems.
There are various methods of creating ointments, but the eldest and most traditional will be discussed here. Cut and crush fresh herbs or procure dried herbs. Heat oil over a flame, usually a plant oil as animal oils will go rancid, then stir in the herbs and cook slowly for a longer time, about two hours by reckoning of Men, or until the herbs are crisp. Strain it then with clean cloth and squeeze the cloth to press out all smooth parts of the mixtures into clean jars, while the mixture is yet warm. Then set the ointments to cool.
Herbs good for ointments are those used topically, though some herbs such as basil can also be ingested. If purified, animal oils can also used, when no other oils can be procured, but the ointment must be used within four days.
Perhaps considered by the Fifth Age by many to be more of a source of pleasure than medicinal, the use of scents to heal the presence of mind was long used to calm the mind as well as to ease tension and congestion during cold-like conditions. Though it was never marked to have true healing properties, the usage of aromatherapy was considered to be a valuable tool for soothing a troubled mind and body, and was cherished as an art among Eldarin healers. Often the sweet flowers of special herbs and some meadow flowers were the materials used. Men discovered then the usage of bark, leaves, and grains for other scents having alternate properties.
Aromatherapy was and can be used in a variety of manners, in balms and lotions, cleansing soaps for baths, or teas. A favorite method among the Eldarin healers by the Third Age was a use of thin oil (plant derived oils, lest the oil become rancid) infused with the scent of a plant. This method of aromatherapy coordinated closely with the use of tactile therapy, whether in massage to loosen muscle, or gentle smoothing over the skin. The scents would then aid in either a calming or invigorating effect, such as that of the herb rosemary. Aromatherapy was discovered by healers of Men to also help ease muscle strains and joint problems such as rheumatism with warm oil in massage. This skill was later documented, spread, and perfected by Eldarin healers who also associated with men, such as those of Imladris.
For aromatherapy, use with some form of heat or touch therapy. Use the scents and herbs lightly, to assure no problems with strong odors, and be sure never to use anything that will irritate the skin, eyes, or nose such as certain types of bark like young willow. Care must also be taken, as with any herbal therapy, to avoid allergic reaction to a specific scent.
When the usage of dried or fresh herbs was inappropriate, and neither were available, healers of Men often prepared herbs in oil (to be continued...)