Herbal Cures: Bruises

Bruises are the black-and-blue splotches that form when a bump or scrape ruptures capillaries just beneath the skin, leaking blood into the surrounding tissues and causing swelling. A normal bruise will fade away without any treatment within 10 to 14 days. A bruise that won't go away or reappears, however, should be checked out by a doctor: It may be a symptom of a bleeding disorder.

Early Americans had the right idea when they relied on medicated compresses to treat a bruise. They dipped rags into a cool herbal infusion or decoction and used them to cover the affected area. The herbs used for compresses, including arnica, yar row, and chamomile, contained one or more compounds with modest antiseptic, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory properties.

Before applying a compress to a bruise, first check to see if the skin is broken. If so, gently cleanse it with soap and water or an antiseptic, such as hydrogen peroxide, to remove debris, which could lead to infection. To make the compress, dip a clean dish towel or washcloth in an herbal infusion or decoction, wring it out, fold it , and place it over the bruise. Then secure the compress with a surgical bandage and change it every few hours.

Herbal Remedies

Calendula Even though the active principles of calendula, or pot marigold, have not been identified, preparations containing the herb have been shown to inhibit inflammation and help promote wound healing. The plant was used during the Civil War to treat wounds and is a common ingredient in commercial skin preparations. To make a compress for a bruise, pour 1 cup boiling water over 1 to 2 teaspoons of the chopped dried flower heads. Soak a cloth with the cooled liquid, wring it out, fold, and apply to the bruise. Change the compress several times a day. Allergic reactions, although rare, may occur in some people.

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