As some of you know, I fell from my bike in November and was out of action for quite some time. In short, I broke my cheek bone in several places, took quite a hit on my bum and was rather shaken up. Illness is one of the greatest teachers so naturally lessons were learned. I wrote a few of them down as the weeks went by and thought I’d emerge from hibernation today, to share some of the ways I used herbs and other things to aid recovery. I have tried to relate the story to the Wise Woman system of healing, just as I ask my apprentices to relate a health incident they have been through to the system.
For the first week I did nothing but allow my body to quietly sort itself out. The cut over my eye was quickly glued together in hospital as this was clearly necessary but the rest was left to calm down, in readiness for a facial reconstruction operation. No herbal ointments, no supplements, no infusions, nothing. The body’s powers of repair and regeneration are amazing. Stores of nutrients from deep within the body are called upon to fight the cause. There was clearly nothing to do except rest and sup on water, chicken soup, pumpkin soup and all manner of smoothies. The nutrients which are taken from the storehouses of the tissues must be replaced. Adding anything extra to my diet felt wrong at this point, even dangerous so I stayed away from everything other than plain food. My mental taste-buds were my guide.
Step One – Collect information
I wanted to know several things:
1. How the accident had happened. It was a mystery and this was not helping me. It took three weeks to find out that a stone or similar must have wedged between the front wheel and mudguard, stopping the bike very suddenly. Knowing helped in some ways. Knowing that I am not able to prevent this happening again didn’t help. So I researched bike helmets. That helped. More people should wear one.
2. I wanted to know about the imminent operation. Without it my sight could be lost, with it I should look normal again. Risks of anesthetic, risks of not operating. Knowing helped.
3. I believe nothing happens by chance. Why did this happen at that moment? I searched, through dreamwork and visioning. I found answers. The answers are for me. That helped. I act on my findings.
4. Shaking, why did my body persist in shaking? Shaking is a natural response to trauma and I needed to welcome it. Whole schools of therapy revolve around it. This is an interesting field!
Step Two – Energy medicine
The energetic body is an incredible part of us. It is us. When it disappears we disappear. To feel the flow of Nwyfre / prana / chi (whatever you want to name it) through a major chakra almost disappear and not return for weeks is a terrifying thing, speaking personally anyway! I was unable to correct this easily so a dear friend helped. Being aware that the energy body is out of balance is important. Knowing how to track it’s state and assist it’s return to balance is important.
Step Three – Nourishment
Let food be thy medicine. After the operation I incorporated Oatstraw infusion into my daily diet. One liter a day. This helped to soothe my nerves (they were rather frazzled). Motherwort tincture helped in this way also. Ten drops as and when needed to bring things into perspective again. I keep a green ointment in stock here at home for all manner of skin ailments. This was very helpful after the operation. I kept it away from the broken skin and used it with intention to seep into the skin and speed the bone and flesh healing. Comfrey within the ointment came into its own as I have never felt before. So soothing, healing, scar reducing and welcome. I trusted my thoughts on when to begin using it – not before the bone setting operation, not before the skin had stopped it’s healing fluid oozing. All had calmed before I used it. I did not wash my face for three weeks and then moved onto a regime of plain tepid water, then a little ointment here and there above the breaks plus the SJW oil mentioned below. My face was cut and grazed from my eyebrow to my collarbone. All marks went quickly, except for the super glued cut (which is not surprising). What money we waste on skin care preparations!
Another thing that nourished me was friends. They helped nourish me with food, books, cards and they nourished me by making contact in whatever way felt best. Nourishment on all levels! I must nourish my friends.
Step Four – Stimulate / Sedate
When the cheekbone breaks the supplying nerve tends to be constricted and stops working so that side of the face becomes numb. This can remain permanently in some people, due to the way the bones heal, degree of nerve damage during the trauma etc. I was keen to avoid permanent nerve damage so as the bones began to feel more fixed I turned to St John’s Wort oil. This herb has an affinity to nerves and it was all I wanted on my skin other than the green ointment. Soon after I began working with the oil the nerve began to return to action. It was completely back to normal after 6 weeks.
Step Five – Supplements and Drugs
Paracetamol seemed inescapable for me in the first weeks after the accident. I took paracetamol and codeine erratically. I don’t touch them usually but I wanted help. They certainly helped with pain but it was quickly clear that they could not remove the cause of the pain. This may sound obvious and of no consequence but for me it was something of an issue. When I took the pills I could sleep but it was not very restful sleep. It made me feel out of control, detached from myself and although it stopped my shaking, it didn’t stop the cause so when they wore off, the shaking and fear returned with a vengeance. I found other ways to deal with the worry and shaking eventually (Motherwort and Oatstraw) but if I had not realized that these would help, I imagine I would still have been taking the drugs. That’s not a comforting thought as most people don’t know about those simple herbs. It was also a learning experience in that by simply removing the worry, I could remove the pain.
We went on holiday three weeks after the accident, to Bali, not exactly a hardship and certainly an opportunity for herbal learning. I learned all I could about Jamu – traditional Indonesian medicine. During my quest I met Lilir, a generous herbalist at Nadi Herbal in Ubud. A bug bite on my calf had grown to the size of a tennisball overnight and I needed local herb advice. Lilir calmly applied a hot herb tea compress, applied some herbal antiseptic spray, advised me that Patchouli essential oil is a useful first aid antiseptic in the tropics, and then taught me about Sambiloto. I began a course there and then. What an amazing herb! Sambiloto or King of Bitters (Andrographis paniculata) is a herb competing (and combining) with Sweet Annie from the Artemisia family in the fight against Malaria and Dengue Fever. Get to know it. It could really help you out. I used it to make me less appetizing to the bugs. It is really incredibly bitter so Lilir recommends it in pill form and not at a high dose. I began with one pill a day for 14 days and then down to two pills a week.
Another Jamu which I fell in love with is Kunyit Asam. I have learned how to make this at home and am trying to make a litre bottle of the orange wonder each week. It is a potent concoction of Turmeric, Tamarind, Galangal (or Ginger) and sweetened water. It has many useful properties and I treat it as a supplement to reduce inflammation and stimulate digestion. It is to be respected and should not be used by certain groups of people. Interestingly, powdered versions are available in Balinese supermarkets and chemist shops. I bought a few packets but find them super sweet and poor immitations of the freshly made potion. But it is good to see that there is demand for such a mass produced Jamu product. An interesting read if you want to know more about Jamu was written quite recently by Susan-Jane Beers.
Since returning to Amsterdam I have found a great source of fresh Turmeric rhizome and have been experimenting with homemade Mead, infused with Turmeric, Ginger and Lemon. So far so good!
Whilst I was researching various nasties which can be transmitted via tropical insect bites, I learned about natural ways to treat Dengue Fever. Fresh Papaya leaf appears to be a very promising remedy. Here is some interesting reading about it. In learning about that, I found out about how fresh Papaya fruit can help keep various intestinal bugs at bay. So Papaya also became part of my daily regime.
Step Six – Break and Enter
An operation was necessary in my case. It went very well and was less intrusive than it could have been but all operations are a shock to the system. Returning from the anesthetic was an unexpectedly “interesting” experience. Chanting a deeply ingrained Sanskrit mantra from the Upanishads on and on and on, whilst drinking in delicious oxygen did the trick – after a while. Mantras are very powerful, whatever they are and wherever they are from. Choose a powerful one and a positive one and one for which you know the words well. It helped me to focus and to shut out worrying thoughts. It brought me back down to Earth and made me breathe slowly and steadily. Thank you Ranju for teaching it to me all those years ago!
Arnica gel was also a useful remedy at this stage. I rubbed a little on my temples to lessen the shock to the body. Here in Amsterdam I buy a homeopathic Arnica gel called Eerste Hulp Gel. It is a combination, containing also Calendula and I find it very useful for shock.
So that’s my Wise Woman style summary of my recent healing experience. Now my biggest issue is recounting the events each time I meet friends for the the first time in a while. They want to know and I want to tell but looking back is not always beneficial. My new response is simply to be – I am healing well.
Now that’s a nice mantra!