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General characteristics

General characteristics

A wound could be described as any break in the normal protective surface of skin, tissue or organ by being torn, cut or broken in some way. Types of wound include cuts, gashes, puncture wounds, scrapes, grazes, ulcers etc.

A wound stimulates a cascade of reactions within the body in response to the damage. The first response to a wound is called the haemostatic or inflammatory stage....bleeding is slowed as the body produces clotting agents and closes down the ruptured ends of blood vessels. Granulation tissue then forms and dries out the wound, allowing the next stage of healing to occur under the scab. Blood vessels then dilate to flood the wounded area with blood cells and nutrients and to carry waste away from the area. This is accompanied with redness, swelling and pain (i.e. inflammation).

The next response is called the destructive phase....white blood cells and those cells responsible for fighting infection and clearing away waste, migrate to the wounded area in a bid to kill any bacteria present. If the area is overwhelmed with infection, inflammation, redness and pain may increase indicating a need for additional help from agents such as antibacterial herbs.

The next stage is called the proliferative phase.... new cells are formed to repair ruptured vessels and make new ones as needed, collagen and other tissue cells are also created to patch up the hole with the appropriate new tissue.

The next stage is called the maturation rebuilding of tissue continues and eventually any hair, sweat or other glands form and healing is complete.


Certain factors such as diabetes, old age, sepsis (infection), decreased mobility, constant pressure on the wound, ulceration, poor blood flow (and therefore lack of oxygen and nutrients), severe inflammation, obesity, malnutrition, certain medications (eg. steroids, anti-clotting medicines), stress and depression, chemotherapy, dehydration, alcohol consumption, organ failure, vascular disease and malignancy can all impact on the efficiency and speed of wound healing.

From the above list we can see that certain factors such as improvement of blood circulation, fighting infection, improving nutrition and reassurance can all help to benefit wound healing.


The basic principles of wound healing are to let the body do its thing wherever possible but to assist its efforts when needed. Different types of wounds require different treatments and common sense and caution should always be applied.

If the wound is a shallow graze and not particularly deep, then herbs such as comfrey leaf or marigold can be applied to help speed up the formation of new cells and scar formation.

If the wound is deep, don't apply herbs to close it over before healing of the deeper tissues is complete. This can lead to infection becoming trapped in the deeper tissues and lead to abscess formation or even tetanus. Apply an antibacterial agent and keep a close eye on how the wound is healing. Deep wounds could be lightly sprinkled with a herbal powder such as a mixture of marshmallow root or slippery elm powder and goldenseal powder. This combination provides anti-infection protection, provides moisture and protection to the exposed tissues yet also absorbs any pus or fluids coming from the tissues.



Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

Key nutrients involved in effective wound healing include vitamins A, C,D and E, essential fatty acids, zinc, iron, protein and magnesium. A deficiency in any of these nutrients can hinder wound healing significantly so be sure to include plenty of foods rich in these in your diet.

Make sure you are well hydrated by drinking plain water, herb teas and freshly prepared juices.

Foods that can help wound healing include papaya, honey, flax seeds, onions and garlic, broccoli, sesame seeds, buckwheat, turmeric, grapes, pomegranate, pumpkin seeds and oily fish.

Avoid processed and refined foods , carbohydrates and high suger foods. All can delay healing.

Useful herbs

Useful herbs

There are hundreds if not thousands of herbs that help with wound repair when applied directly to the wound. The most commonly available being comfrey root and leaf (increases cell proliferation), burdock root, yarrow, sage, lady's mantle, agrimony (stops bleeding), plantain leaf stops infection from spreading from the wound through the blood and speeds healing), marigold, gotu kola, fenugreek seeds, aloe vera gel or powder, goldenseal (strongly antibiotic), lemon balm, cornsilksbirch bark, oak bark (antiseptic and stops bleeding), st johns wort, chamomile, neem leaves, pau d'arco, cleavers, ground ivy, slippery elm and chickweed. Use the fresh or dried herbs as poultices when needed. Figwort can be used intrenally to help heal infected wounds.

Cayenne or chilli can be applied directly to a bleeding wound to stop the bleeding in seconds. Use powder or tincture externally or add a teaspoon of powder to a glass of warm water and drink. Cayenne has helped many over the years with seriuos wounds, even gunshot wounds by stopping the bleeding promptly.

Antiseptic herbs include myrhh, centaury, goldenseal root, barberry, turmeric root, garlic, tea tree, buchu, oregano, thyme and lavender essential oils, juniper berries, black pepper, cascara bark and echinacea.

Herbs can also be taken internally to provide nutrition and to help speed up healing. These include nettle, raspberry leaf, plantain, holy thistle, marshmallow root or leaf and horsetail.

Natural healing

Natural healing

Apply light but firm and constant pressure (using a clean cloth for example) to a bleeding wound to allow the body time to form clotting agents which will naturally slow and stop the flow of blood from the wound.

Iodine tincture (available from chemists) is very useful to have in the first aid box. Apply to the wound as soon as possible for its potent antibcaterial action but be careful as it stains everything, including skin.

Never pick at scabs during the healing process. The only exception being if a thick scab has formed and there is obvious infection and pus underneath. This should be undertaken by a qualified health practitioner.

Honey (especially manuka) and bee propolis are both strongly antibacterial and can be applied to wounds.

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