In the quest for good health and relief from illnesses, man has traditionally turned to his surroundings in search of remedies to his many afflictions. Rock medicine is not a new concept, and what you will learn from this article was used for centuries by people all over the world.
In fact, modern medicine has assimilated some of the knowledge drawn from rock medicine in order to produce the current pills and tablets you find in the pharmacy.
Mother Nature’s Medicine Chest
Wild plants, insects, rocks, minerals, clays, mud, water, sunshine, snow, ice, and various animal products were once used to soothe all manner of maladies. They are the basis of modern medicine, especially in today’s antibiotic therapy and chemotherapeutic practices. After research unlocked their mysteries, many of the magical cures of ancient times are now the miracle drugs of the present.
We live in an age of space discovery and amazing scientific accomplishments, yet much of the health care we have come to expect remains in the Dark Ages. The problem lies in the distribution of life-giving medicines. Any major disaster could disrupt the vital flow of necessary medications to the public and cause needless loss of lives.
To hedge against an uncertain future, part of your budget should include the purchase of first aid materials, “how-to” medical books, prescription drugs, soaps, and disinfectants. A well-planned stockpile of health aids is a good way to insulate yourself from possible tragedy.
However, no matter how prepared a family may be, their stocks will eventually be used up, damaged, lost, or worse, confiscated by the surviving authorities following a cataclysmic event. It seems those who prepare for disaster are usually persecuted by the people who do not.
In a survival situation, a first aid kit is limited to the boundaries set by its contents. Any extension beyond its scope means improvisation with what is at hand. Supplements will have to be added to the medical supply.
An awareness of what the natural environment has to offer is a helpful key in the dilemma of what to use and whatnot. A quick check-in in your own backyard can reveal a wide variety of medical sources. Fortunately, most patented or over the counter medicines have their local equivalents in the rocks and minerals that exist with us.
The study of rock medicine is a simplified task as rocks and minerals have a worldwide distribution, are available year-round, can be gathered in huge quantities, easy to store, have a low cost of preparation, and preservation is indefinite.
An added factor is the unlikelihood of theft, as who would suspect your rock garden or that pile of rocks behind the garage is actually an emergency store of medicines.
Tools needed for rock medicine
Only a few aids and tools are needed to collect medicinal rocks and minerals. A survey kit composed of a rock hammer, pick, chisels, 2-10x magnifying lens, plastic or cloth tote bags, description name tags, and topographic or county road maps to record the locale for future reference. A sling pack to carry the stones is a must-have piece of equipment.
At the campsite or at home, an analysis kit is essential to study the special characteristics of each specimen. In the kit are three units: the acid test (two glass eyedroppers and two separate vials of nitric and hydrochloric acids), the streak test (porcelain tile plates), and the hardness test (1-10, talc to diamond).
These are used to determine if a rock or mineral will bubble or dissovle on contact with the acids, to check its color when rubbed on a tile, and to find its position on the hardness scale. Always keep complete records of your finds and their test data for comparison with a reference book or this brief article.
Learning about rock medicine
Rock shops, lapidaries, and gem-making businesses have the survey tools, analysis, and test kits, reference books, and are a handy source of comparison specimens. A visit to a museum, library, university, or public school’s science department to view their rock and mineral displays is an educational experience.
Your chamber of commerce can assist in contacting rock-collecting clubs and associate organizations. Seek out expert rock hounds, mineralogists, and geologists to help guide the development of your own rock and mineral collection. Their personal knowledge of where to collect in your home territory will save both time and effort.
Turning minerals into medicine
To prepare a rock or a mineral into medicine, first shave off the oxidized outer crust and unwanted debris with a small hammer, chisel, and wire brush. Each specimen must be reduced to fine dust similar in consistency to powdered sugar.
The safest method is to put the rock inside a canvas bag, or a roll approximately one size larger, and tie closed the loose end. Place the bag on a solid surface, such as a cement slab, and smash with a 3-5 pound sledgehammer. Use short, well con-trolled strokes to thoroughly crush the specimen.
Next, pour the powder onto a mesh screen or sifter over a collecting plate to sieve out any uncrushed fragments from the finer grains. Sift through the filtered powder with a long non-ferrous needle or tweezers to detect and remove any crystals, splinters, or hard granules for further reduction in a mortar and pestle.
During this phase of the operation, wear protective eyewear, dust filter mask, and plastic gloves as some mineral dusts can irritate the eyes, cause bronchial and respiratory illness, or blister the skin with a burning rash.
Finally, transfer the powder into glass storage jars with a plastic spoon. Select jars with tightly sealed plastic tops to prevent contact with moisture, heat, and metals that may contaminate the end product. For long-term storage, use plastic wrap or wax as lid liners and put the properly labeled jars in a cool dark place or bury in a cache.
Rock medicine uses
All minor wounds and major injuries are dangerous sites for infection and must be treated aseptically to prevent serious complications. Most medicinal powders are applied to wounds as dusting powders, pastes, or as ointments.
Some can be ingested in gelatin capsules or as infusions for dietary supplements and to treat gastrointestinal ailments.
For external application as a dusting powder: fill a clean sock one-half full of selected powder, shaking it down towards the sock’s toe, and tie a knot above it. Lightly pat to permeate the powder through the loose weave of the fabric. Use like a powder puff to sprinkle a thin film of medicinal dust upon the wound.
A paste is a thick mix of powder and water and is painted directly onto the wound. In many cases, an ointment is better as a protective emollient to keep the wound moist and supple as it heals. It permits the injury to be moved without more damage to the underlying tissues.
Related reading: Making A Wild Herb Poultice And A Few Useful Recipes
To make an ointment, mix the powder with an equal amount of purified lard or vegetable oil in a glass or ceramic container. Heat the mass over a low flame and stir with a wooden splint to evenly distribute the ingredients. After 20-30 minutes, set aside to cool before applying the ointment. Another way is to mix the powder with dry clay dust until uniform and stir in hot vegetable oil to form a plaster.
How Rock Medicine Works
Rarely in nature are rocks and minerals collected in a chemically pure state, but even with impurities, their value as a medicine must not be underestimated. How they work is best explained by investigating their elementary compositions and by studying their effects upon infections.
Minerals are the constituents of rocks. It takes an aggregation of two or more to make a single rock. They are basically composed of atoms, molecules, and solidified gases attracted and bonded together by weak electrical charges or electrons.
Each mineral type is packed densely into a liquid or semi-solid solution and has distinctive characteristics relative to its environment during formation. All mineralization occurs deep within the earth in the magma zone. Just below the earth’s crust, intense heat and immense pressure molds the liquid minerals into their final shape and coupled with infinite time, into their solid chemical forms.
As magma cools, the minerals begin to crystallize at different temperature ranges. Some attain forms as granular masses, crusts, crystals, or as fine grains. Others will occur as veins or as gigantic rivers in massive blocks of rocks.
When reduced to a powder, the individual particles of rock or mineral are tiny storehouses of potential energy lying in a dormant state. Applied as medicine, they react with water or wound secretions to create heat and complex chemical reactions.
New compounds are released upon the infected wound or injury site. In turn, these compounds alter the ideal environment in which infectious invader-germs thrive and multiply, causing a great decline in their populations. The injured person’s hard-pressed immunity system enjoy the respite and soon rebounds to take control of the infection.
Research has shown many rocks and mineral powders to be antiseptic, antibacterial, disinfectant, and effective in stimulating cellular regeneration essential to the healing of injured, diseased, or damaged tissues.
Applied to infected wounds and injuries, they become a primitive sulfa drug, cheap and easy to make. Recovery time is reduced, and many lives can be saved with their use.
Rock medicine can be made in the field without elaborate equipment and extends the survivalist’s ability to treat all kinds of injury. In an emergency, a knowledge of rock medicine could very well mean the difference between life and death.
Rock Medicine – ANTIBACTERIALS (for surface wounds, infections, cuts, sores)
- Hematite (Iron oxide), mineral in sedimentary and metamorphic rocks. Tubular crystals, fibrous masses, ocherous or oolitic. Commonly mixed in sands and clays. Red to yellow or black color. Streak same. Metallic taste. Opaque luster. Powder hydrochloric acid-soluble. Brittle. Hardness 5-6.
- Pyrite (Iron sulfide), mineral in all kinds of rocks, fossils, and in veins. Cubic to granular radiating masses. Pale brass to brown color. Streak brownish-black. Metallic taste. Metallic luster. Powder nitric and acid-soluble. Brittle. Sparks easily. Hardness 6-6.5.
- Malachite (Copper carbonate), mineral in oxidized copper veins, or with copper-bearing minerals. Slender needle crystals to massive crusts. Green to pale blue color. Streak blue. Metallic taste. Shiny to dull luster. Powder acid-soluble. Hardness 3.5-4.
- Cerussite (Lead carbonate), mineral in veins of lead deposits. Aggregate crusts to hexagonal-twinned crystals. White to yellow color. Streak white. Bitter metallic taste. Glassy luster. Powder acid-soluble. Hardness 3.5.4.
- Smithsonite (Zinc carbonate), mineral in crusts, veins, and in extensive beds of lead-zinc deposits. Bubbly crystalline masses. White to gray or greenish-brown to blue color. Streak gray. No taste. Dull to waxy luster, Powder acid-soluble. Hardness 5.5.
Rock Medicine – ANTISEPTIC/DISINFECTANTS (for surface wounds, swellings, sores)
- Halite (Sodium chloride), salt in sedimentary rocks, and domes. Cubic crystals to crystalline masses. White to gray or blue color, streak white. Salty taste. Watery luster. Powder water-soluble. Brittle. Hardness 2. Sore throat gargle.
- Sylvite (Potassium chloride), salt in halite deposits. Cubic crystals to granular masses. White to bluish-gray or red to yellow color. Steak white. Bitter taste. Waxy luster. Powder water-soluble. Brittle. Hardness 2. Eczema.
- Niter (Potassium nitrate), chalky deposits in limestone caves, bat or bird guano, and as surface layer of dry lakes. Needle crystals to massive crusts. White to gray color. Streak gray. Bitter taste. Watery luster. Powder water-soluble. Brittle. Hardness 2.
Rock Medicine – ANTI-IRRITANTS (skin infections, painful skin rash, swellings)
- Sulfur, a nonmetal mineral in volcanoes and with salt domes. Crystalline to granular masses or as a crust. Yellow to brown or gray color. Streak brown. Burnt match smell. Dull to resinous luster. Powder acid-soluble. Brittle. Hardness 1.5-2.5.
- Zincite (Zinc oxide), mineral with calcite in zinc deposits. Pyramidal crystals to granular masses. Yellow to orange color. Streak same. Bitter taste. Glassy luster. Hardness 4.
- Epsomite (Hydrous magnesium sulfate), as ooze on walls of caves and mines, in salt lake deposits, and mineral springs. Split crystals, granular crusts, or fibrous masses. White to gray color. Streak white. Soapy taste. Watery to waxy luster. Powder water-soluble. Hardness 2. Mild laxative.
- Kalinite (Potassium sulfate), natural alum in volcanic deposits, and in hot spring areas. Cubic crystals to aggregate crusts. White to gray color. Streak gray. Bitter, astringent taste. Waxy to glassy luster. Powder water-soluble. Hardness 2.5-3. Bleeding wounds. Foot powder.
Rock Medicine – ANTACIDS (stomach upsets, peptic ulcers, gastrointestinal ills)
- Calcite (Calcium carbonate), mineral in limestone, chalk, fossils, marble, and in caves. Crystals to granular masses. White to gray or various tints. Streak white to gray. Bland taste. Waxy luster. Powder bubbles in hydrochloric acid. Hardness 3. Sores, swellings, insect bites. Antidiarrheal. Talc substitute. Dietary supplement.
- Dolomite (Calcium magnesium carbonate), mineral in sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks. Crystalline masses. Red to white or black color. Streak white to gray. No taste. Glassy to pearly luster. Powder hydrochloric acid-soluble. Hardness 3-3.5.
- Magnesite (Magnesium carbonate) with dolomite in veins of sedimentary and metamorphic rocks. Fine-grain to massive crystalline form. White to brownish-yellow color. Streak gray. No taste. Dull to glassy luster. Powder bubbles in hot hydrochloric acid. Hard-ness 3.54.
Rock Medicine – ANTIDIARRHEALS (for control of diarrhea and dysentery)
- Die (Hydrous magnesium silicate), in metamorphic rocks of silicate-based dolomite terrain. Tabular crystals to foliated compact masses. Splits easily. White to green or blue to brown color. No streak. Tasteless. Feels greasy. Waxy luster. Acid-resistant. Crumbly. Hardness 1. Foot powder. Lubricant.
- Fuller’s Earth, an impure talc in clay-like deposits. White to gray color. Wounds and blisters. Soap.
- Kaolinite (Hydrous aluminum silicate) in beds of pure clay, weathered feldspar deposits, and near hot springs. Small tabular crystals to clay masses. White to red color. Streak white. Dry clay taste. Opaque luster. Feels greasy. Powder water absorbent. Hardness 2-2.5. Sores, blisters. Antacid.
Rock medicine is not a new concept, and it’s something that was used long before modern medicine was invented. It is one of the forgotten skills of healing that few people know about, and although it has become the basis for modern medicine, this legacy is not being given the proper merit.
To learn more about minerals, I suggest the following readings:
- Stone Medicine: A Chinese Medical Guide to Healing with Gems and Minerals
- The Manual of Mineral Science
- ROCKS HEAL!: The Science of Rock-Medicine
This article has been written by James H. Redford MD for Prepper’s Will.
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