It’s pretty hard to get through childhood without bumps and bruises. Keeping our children healthy and comfortable is a top priority especially in the summer months, when outside adventures can lead to many more mishaps.
But did you know that herbs provide perfect first aid for life’s adventures?
We’re taking a look at the best herbal remedies for bruising. Keep these in mind or in your natural first aid kit so you’re prepared.
What is a bruise?
WebMD says a bruise is “a common skin injury that results in a discoloration of the skin. Blood from damaged blood cell deep beneath the skin collects near the surface of the skin, resulting in what we think of as a black and blue mark.” (source)
In most cases bruises happen when we bump into something or are hit by something. Some people bruise so easily that they may not even remember what happened or when they acquired the bruise. They can be quite painful depending on the severity of the bruise or size of the area that experienced the initial trauma.
If you or your child have a bruise that doesn’t improve within a few days or causes severe pain, seek medical attention to rule out a hematoma or other serious injury. Hematomas are more serious bruises that require medical treatment. They can be deeper, larger, and can cause more swelling than a regular bruise.
How long will it take for a bruise to go away?
Depending on the size and severity of a bruise it normally takes between 1 and 3 weeks for a bruise to go away. However, pain at the bruise site should not last more than 5 days.
In order for the bruise to truly, “go away” the body will need to reabsorb the trapped blood that has pooled beneath the skin. This is why the color of the bruise will change and gradually lessen over time. This reabsorption process is very important to total healing.
This article includes several ways to speed the healing process.
Herbal Remedies for Bruises
While most of us consider bruises benign, Herbalist Matthew Wood in his book Medical Herbalism recommends taking them seriously. Whenever there is a wound, even one below the surface, there is the potential for scar tissues.
When those blood vessels rupture deep within our body and the blood comes to the surface, causing the discoloration we think of as a bruise, that blood will need to be reincorporated back into the body. While healing is something that our bodies are designed to do, we should support our body in its efforts.
Luckily nature has provided us with many herbal remedies for bruising.
Arnica (Arnica montana)
Arnica is one of the best herbs for local healing and bruises. A British Journal of Dermatology study showed how a topical treatment containing 20 percent arnica was able to speed up bruise healing better than placebo or a low level vitamin K topical treatment. (source)
While there is a homeopathic remedy that I also recommend for aches and pains associated with physical exertion, the plant Arnica is toxic if taken internally. Therefore, this remedy is best used topically. You can find topical Arnica ointment in salve, gel, or cream form, and a very high quality and effective one can be made at home (see recipe below).
The best results will be achieved when the salve/cream is applied within minutes of the initial trauma. Since using arnica salve I have had tremendous results with avoiding bruises completely. But you must apply the salve right away.
If you are outside working and have a bump, stop and go apply the arnica ointment. Don’t wait until later and expect similar results.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
Calendula is a robust plant has a long history of use in European folk medicine. This herb can be taken internally though is most often used as an external therapy. One folk name for this herb, Pot Marigold, goes back to its traditional use as an addition to winter soups and stews.
According to Hoffmann, Calendula has an impressive list of uses and specialities including strengthening the lymphatic system, strengthening veins, and providing anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties.
Calendula is more suited for long term pain and treatment.
Hoffmann says, “Calendula may be used safely whenever there is inflammation on the skin, whether due to infection or physical damage. It may be applied for any external bleeding or wound, bruising, or strains. The herb is also of benefit for slow-healing wounds and skin ulcers, and ideal for first-aid treatment of minor burns and scalds.”
A salve may be made with the plant parts, but fresh or dried plant material may also be used as a poultice or compress. Whereas bruises are notoriously long in healing, regularly applying Calendula can help with lingering pain and tenderness and to make sure the wound heals fully.
Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)
You might not even realize that the bottle of Witch Hazel that you have in your cupboard is an herbal remedy, but it is a very effective herbal astringent. The over-the-counter preparation of Witch Hazel is definitely not for internal use. As an astringent it tightens tissue and is great whenever there is bleeding internally or externally.
Remember our definition of a bruise as blood pooling under the skin? Well, this is when Witch Hazel can really help. Sometimes there is swelling associated with bruising. In this case I highly recommend Witch Hazel. Apply a small amount to a clean cloth and hold it over the wound.
Witch Hazel is also a phenomenal natural remedy for hemorrhoids.
St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)
St. John’s Wort is rich in tannins which can shrink tissue and control capillary bleeding. It is one of those plants that has a myriad of uses and an extremely long history of use in European folk medicine.
While it has many uses for mental and emotional health it is also great for physical pain. Hoffmann says when, “applied in lotion form, it speeds the healing of wounds and painful bruises, varicose veins and mild burns.”
Because it is so great for our emotional and mental health it can be advantageous to add St. John’s Wort to our salve or take as a flower essence as we heal.
Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)
Hyssop may be a little harder to find and use. It is most often known for its unique licorice taste. However, King’s Dispensatory (a very old herbal handbook from the 1800s) says that Hyssop, “leaves applied to bruises, speedily relieve the pain and disperse every spot or mark from the affected parts.”
Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)
Comfrey roots and leaves contain anti-inflammatory properties and allantoin, a substance that helps new skin cells grow. In herbal medicine, comfrey has even been used to heal broken bones. (source)
You can apply premade comfrey cream or make a compress using dried comfrey leaves. Steep the leaves in boiling water for 10 minutes. Strain away the liquid and apply the leaves to the bruised area with an elastic bandage to keep it in place longer.
Essential oils are a powerful form of herbal medicine and have been used as natural remedies for ages. It’s important to dilute them with a carrier oil (fractionated coconut oil or olive oil) before applying directly to the skin. Some of the best essential oils to used on a bruised area are:
Foods to Help Bruises Heal Faster
In addition to herbal topical treatments, proper nutrition can not only help your body speed the process of wound healing, it can help some people become less likely to bruise easily overall. Some of these foods are:
Green leafy vegetables
Spinach, kale, and other greens provide vitamin K, which is important for blood clotting. People with severe vitamin K deficiency have been found more susceptible to bruising and bleeding problems.
Citrus fruits (and naturally colorful foods like peppers) provide vitamin C and bioflavonoids that help with wound healing.
Pineapple is one of the best (and most delicious) sources of bromelain, an enzyme that helps break down proteins to clear up bruising faster. Eating pineapple has shown to be a more effective to absorb the enzymes than taking bromelain supplements.
High-quality, lean protein is helpful for strengthening blood vessels and encouraging their repair after a bruise-causing injury. Try to eat at least four to five ounces of protein per meal daily.
The chemical reactions necessary to promote wound healing require zinc. To increase your intake of zinc, add high zinc foods to your diet, like grass-fed beef, pumpkin seeds, and spinach.
Herbal First Aid Kit Items
Here is a list of helpful items for your herbal first aid kit
- Arnica Gel or Salve (see recipe)
- Arnica Montana homeopathic recipe
- Calendula lotion or dried plant material
- Small bottle of distilled Witch Hazel
- St. John’s Wort lotion
Additional First Aid for Bruises
Pain management is an important part of bruise care. Alternating hot (heating pad) and cold (ice pack) treatment can help. Or just use whichever feels most comfortable and soothing for you.
Compression may also help, especially if the bruise is in an area that can be wrapped.
Red light therapy promotes wound healing at the cellular level and allows healing nutrients to enter the blood, aiding in restoration and creation of new capillaries.
An additional treatment is rest and elevation. This can be incredibly difficult with children, but cuddles can help them slow down.
Homemade Arnica Salve Recipe
Start with dried Arnica Flowers from a reputable source like Mountain Rose Herbs. You can grow arnica and some people recommend using fresh over dried, but I prefer dried. When using dried there is automatically less moisture that could turn the oil rancid.
Loosely filled a 1/2 pint jar with the flowers and then cover with a high quality olive oil. Cover and let infuse for 5 weeks.
An alternative would be to use a heat method. Fill the jar the same way but then put it in a crock pot about 1/2 filled with water. Set it for low and cook for 8 hours.
Strain the oil through a cheese cloth.
To create the salve measure out the infused oil. If it is room temperature place in a double boiler. A makeshift double boiler can be made with a pyrex measuring cup placed in a pan of water.
Then grate or shave the beeswax and weigh it out. You’ll need a kitchen scale for this. Then measure and weigh the shea butter.
Put the shea butter and beeswax in the oil and heat until they are just melted. Pour into containers (4 oz mason jars or 1 oz metal tins). When the salve has cooled, place the cap on.
- 3/4 cup Arnica infused olive oil (see note)
- 1/2 ounce shredded beeswax
- 1 ounce shea butter
- Measure out the oil. If it is room temperature place in a double boiler. A makeshift double boiler can be made with a pyrex measuring cup placed in a pan of water.
- Grate and weigh the beeswax. A kitchen scale is necessary for this step.
- Weigh the shea butter, see above.
- Put the shea butter and beeswax in the oil and heat until they are just melted. Pour into containers. I like 4 oz mason jars or 1 oz metal tins. Be aware that if you are carrying a metal tin in your purse on a hot day it will leak. When the salve has cooled cap.
To create the infused oil you will need dried Arnica flowers. Loosely pack a 1/2 pint jar with dried flowers. Cover flowers with olive oil. Cover. Allow to infuse for 5 weeks, shaking daily or place in a crock pot with a hot water bath. Place on the low setting for 8 hours. Strain with cheesecloth when complete.
Frequently Asked Questions About Bruises
Vaseline is a petroleum product (Petroleum jelly). It has a long history of use in the United States and many fans. Healthline says that Vaseline helps create a protective barrier to keep bacteria out of wounds. A homemade Arnica salve would have similar properties with the healing power of herbs as well. (source)
Of the remedies mentioned above, Arnica and heat treatment are the best options. Arnica works best when applied as quickly as possible. A warm compress promotes blood circulation. Movement can also help move blood around. Walking frequently (as long as it doesn’t aggravate the affected area) can help blood flow through the body.
People who bruise easily often lack vitamins K and B12. As mentioned above, include more leafy greens for vitamin K. Vitamin B12 is found in meat, eggs, and other animal based foods. If you don’t eat meat, you can add nutritional yeast, certain mushrooms, and some forms of algae to increase your vitamin B12.
To treat the scrapes and scratches that often accompany bruises, try this simple homemade first aid ointment.
Have you tried any natural or herbal remedies for bruising? Let us know what worked best for your family.