I recently finished my first formal education in medicinal herbalism. I have had a working knowledge of herbs and home remedies for a long time. Mother had a big interest in herbs when she was about the age I am now; and I can remember learning a lot form her and her books at that time. A few years ago, I decided I would not vaccinate my kids for the swine, bird, monkey, or salamander flu, but I felt nervous, and I wanted some confidence around illness and home medical care in general.
The first thing I did was sign up for a No Fear Flu workshop from Blazing Star Herbal School. And later I did a long-distance apprenticeship with the same teacher. After that time I became more able and informed about what to use and how to make herbal fixes, I planted herbs, dried, them tinctured them, and made oils. I went to the International Herbal Symposium two years ago hoping to find a mentor. I had a great time but no luck with the mentor. I began to really want more a "formal" education. I felt like I understood what the plants did, and vaguely what the body did, but that I was missing some kind of....framework. So I signed up for my first nine-month-long-hours-counted class at CommonWealth Center for Herbal Medicine in Brookline, MA and got the (beginning) of the information I was searching for. There is an infinite amount of knowledge to learn, and it's my understanding that no herbalist ever claims to have learned all of what plants and our bodies can do together.
We use herbs daily for general well-being, but I am always surprised that they work. I once brought my pet duck back from the brink of death after she had a big chunk of her body eaten by a dog--with herbs!! I was amazed! Nothing so serious as half-eaten ducks this time around, just a urinary tract infection. I don't get UTI's very often, I think the last one was about 7 years ago, but it is pretty common and if left untreated you can wind up with a kidney infection which is horrible and get you put on antibiotics, which I avoid at all costs. I heard once, "Antibiotics are miracle drugs. and they should be reserved for miracles." (Just keep in mind I'm just one Wild Woman and not a doctor).
So I started out with a blueberry cranberry juice (as unsweetened as I could find). I made a tea with plantain, red raspberry leaf, violet leaves, calendula and gotu kola. Later I put in some elder flowers. I drank about 4 cups of tea. Later that night my husband asked if I had taken any tinctures, which I hadn't. I opened up my cabinet and found that I had tinctures of some great UTI herbs I had forgotten about! I made a mix of yarrow, cleavers, and dandelion leaf tinctures in a big glass of water and drank that up twice. Total it was probably an 1/8 of a cup of tinctures all around. That might be excessive (excessive is a bit of my rep at this point) but I was in incredible pain--having a hard time moving around or sitting, my lower back (kidneys) were hurting a lot and peeing was...not as fun as it usually is? I was concerned that it would spread and so I acted fast and furiously. And 'lo! this morning I feel considerably better, not 100% , but 90% better than I felt yesterday. They worked! Again!
Here are the herbs I used for my Urinary Tract infection.
There are many and some better equipped for the job, like Uva Ursi, but this is what I had on hand and it seemed to be a good solution.
Violet Leaves (as a demulcent to sooth and coat inflamed tissue)
Plantain (as a wound healer and urinary support)
Elder Flowers (for urinary support
Calendula (another wound healer)
Gotu Kola (as a cell regenratior and anti inflamatory)
Red Raspberry Leaf (as a nutrient and ant-spasmodic)
This is a bit of a muddy formula, but it tasted pretty good.
1 tsp each n a large cup of water:
Dandelion leaves (as a diuretic and nutrient)
Yarrow (for urinary support)
Cleavers (for ridding the kidneys of toxins, cleavers is also indicated for UTI's in general).
Ok, so that's what I wrote the morning after I drank up all that magic medicine. And it was true, at the time, but as the day went on I felt worse, and then as the week went on I felt the infection move into my kidneys, then seem to come back down into my urinary tract and so on...for weeks. At some point the nagging feeling that there should be something dawning on me about the use of tinctures was confirmed by my mentor telling me tinctures would be directing the medicine more to my liver (because of the alcohol) and not to my bladder where it was needed. She said to keep it in tea form except for the Uva Ursi tincture. So I drank a gallon of an overnight infusion of nettle and raspberry leaf. I rested as best I could. I drank water like it was my job. Drank teas like it was the ob i was moonlighting at, and after three weeks it appears to be gone for good.
It took a total of three weeks to get better, and it did feel better everyday, which is why I never sought out any serious medicine. But I was considering going to get antibiotics just to have on hand in case I spiked a fever in the middle of the night. I should say again, I'm just a lady messing around with her own body that she's very comfortable with and not a doctor, and a kidney infection is a serious thing. And you should see a doctor if you think you have one. That said, it taught me a nice lesson about trusting myself and listening to my own body the way a mother listens for her sleeping child's breathing--alert, hopeful, and a tiny bit panicked. It was a good lesson for me, I could use a college-level course load in trusting myself. I even though it was an uncomfortable three weeks in many varied and exciting ways, I'm glad I'm ok, and i'm glad i was able to get ok myself.