Imagine you are out alone in the wilderness, spending some pleasant time and enjoying nature. You have your gear, consisting of a tent or a tarp, survival kit, fire kit, first aid kit, cutting tools, navigation devices, sleeping gear. You have plenty of food too.
You spend the first night wrapped into your comfortable sleeping bag, but you reckon you forget your beanie at home. You start to experience some headaches due to the chilling temperatures.
You usually get an aspirin with a lot of water to fix the situation. You definitely hate to feel that way: distraught, lacking energy and concentration. An aspirin will actually come in handy right about now if you want to keep enjoying your time outside.
You grab your first kit, but there are no traces of aspirin in it. You forgot to refill it, and now, you’re left without.
Your head starts pulsating. You have no chance of resting where you are, and you’re abandoning the idea to continue your hike or whatever.
You still have hope to find a package of aspirin stuffed somewhere in the car, but you are far away from it.
The unexpected increase in headaches doesn’t give you a moment of peace all day. The rest of your adventure is compromised.
Or is it?
You still have the chance to solve the situation by resorting to what you may recognize and use from the wilderness.
“..seen from above, landscapes are made up of mountains and watercourses. Just as a transparent model of the human body consists of a framework of bone and a network of arteries, the earth’s crust is structured in mountain ridges, river, creeks, and gullies.”
― Reinhold Messner
When there are no other human beings within a day’s walk of your camping spot, or when you have no cell signal at all, you have no possibilities to ask for help. Nonetheless, with some knowledge, patience, and skills, you can still get out of a bad situation.
Unexpected situations like minor diseases, in fact, can be faced only if you are capable of getting rid of panic and remaining focused on your previously gained knowledge on what you really need to do.
It goes without saying that if a situation tends to get worse, the most suitable option is to abort your plans and get back to your car or look for help.
In this article, we will learn how to find a natural remedy for migraine and headaches in the woods, starting from salicin and from a particular tree that has high amounts of it: Salix.
Get medicine from the woods
“After every few steps, we huddle over our ice axes mouths agape, struggling for sufficient breath to keep our muscles going…. at a height of 8800 metres, we can no longer keep on our feet while we rest. We crumple to our knees, clutching our axes…. Every ten or fifteen steps we collapse into the snow to rest, then crawl on again.”
― Reinhold Messner
The woods can actually provide us with all the tools and remedies we might need to face quite every potential misery.
Understanding that is not rocket science. History, in fact, has handed down centuries of studies, researches and examples of how our ancestors were able to take care of themselves and the people of their communities just by using what Mother Nature had to offer.
Even if some recent studies enlighten the fact that some plants aren’t 100% safe to use as natural remedies (especially if we abuse them), the woods can still be considered a huge and endless (if we harvest responsibly) drugstore we can resort to.
However, just playing herbalist doesn’t work, and it’s probably the worst thing we can do.
Reading a book or watching some videos on YouTube doesn’t make us experts. As I often suggest in my articles, let me advise you again about the importance of attending serious classes and workshops run by true professionals.
Some plants and trees can easily mislead you into thinking you found what you were looking for. And in some cases, you may end up paying with your life after tasting or using the wrong plant.
For this reason, the journey of plant identification is a long, often uneasy, but surely a fascinating one.
The more you learn about the essence of nature, the more you will discover about her rhythms and benefits. In terms of natural remedies, you will surely see this as a tremendous benefit.
Some minor diseases, like migraine, can be quickly fixed by knowing what compounds the plant needs to have, like the ones contained in the most common meds you usually take and learning how to obtain them.
This is exactly the case with aspirin. Worldwide used and often abused, it happens to be one the most popular remedy to fix a minor disease in no time.
But how much do we know about it?
How to get natural aspirin in the wilderness
“I came to realize that my path to knowledge would not lead me to libraries, professors, universities, and studies. My path to knowledge was through living life and experiencing reality. I could learn plenty secondhand, but nothing was ever to surpass the experiences I had in the wilderness. All my knowledge of social, scentific, and religious issues has been acquired through personal experience.”
― Reinhold Messner
There is one specific tree you need to look for: Willow. It is also known as “osier” and “sallow.”
This tree is part of the Salix species, which counts around thirty different species. Due to the easiness, Salix managed to mingle with other plants, a lot of hybrids came to life during the centuries. They are around 400 hundred varieties. It usually grows in partially or completely shaded areas and near streams.
Assyria, Egypt, Sumerian ancient texts, in fact, reported the use of willow bark and leaves for different types of aches and fever. In the 5th Century BC, Hippocrates wrote extensively on its medicinal properties.
In traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine, willow bark is also employed as a herbal tea or even as a topical ointment. It is known as “Liu shu pi.”
Native American communities used it as a remedy for temporary pain relief too.
Only in 1763, a French pharmacist named Henri Leroux isolated salicin to crystalline form. In 1897, an employer of Bayern AF, Felix Hoffmann, created a new drug out of acetylsalicylic acid, and he named it aspirin.
Where you can find salicylic acid
“[…] Aspirin is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), which means that it works to decrease inflammation, but is not a steroid. There are other medications that are considered NSAIDs, though these work in a slightly different way from aspirin. The use of aspirin in history goes back to the early 1800s, when a compound in willow bark, termed salicin, was found to reduce pain.[…]” (extract from “Very well health“).
It is believed that quite all the species related to the Salix genus do contain salicin, which is an active extract of the willow bark.
Extensive research proved that salicin can cure many other symptoms like rheumatoid arthritis, low back pain, knee pain, osteoarthritis, and it can also provide some help in weight loss.
How to do it
In order to get salicin, you should look out for shady areas and consider trees like the weeping willow, purple willow, crack willows, black willow, bigtooth aspens. Once again, pick the tree to use only if you are 100% sure it’s the right one.
Start scraping the bark and process it into tiny strips. You will be more successful harvesting the bark during the spring and summer. Your goal is to obtain the internal bark, which is what you actually need. By working with the sharp edge of a knife, you will do it faster and more precisely.
The next step is to simmer at least two teaspoons you obtain out of the internal bark in a cup of water and boil the inner bark for ten minutes. Let the tea cool and strain before drinking it.
If you don’t have water or you lack time to make tea, you can chew on the bark to obtain that needed salicin.
There are no guidelines about the appropriate use of willow bark. However, from a general perspective, oral doses, which consist of 400 mg per day, are considered safe, especially to treat joint pain and headaches.
Abusing salicin may be extremely dangerous for your health, so be careful not to exceed the proper dosage of medication.
Kyt Lyn Walken has written this article for Prepper’s Will.