While out on a weekend excursion I was taking photographs of some of the plants that were in the area. One of the plants that I was photographing was Carrizo Cane. This is a really useful plant that is in the same family as bamboo tree. The uses are limited only by your imagination. I have used it for projects like shelter material, cane fishing poles, arrow shafts, atlatl darts, medicine vials, etc. One characteristic of this plant is that the splinters are very sharp. It will break and split in such a way that the edges can become as sharp as knives. In fact, the edge can be used to gut fish.
One of my goals for the weekend was to get a photo of a young shoot of Carrizo cane for a project that I am working on. I had to cut a tunnel in the large stand of this cane and crawl around in the debris on the ground in order to find one. Carefully moving the cut pieces out of the way and digging in the leaf litter I was able to find a small specimen that I was able to get a snapshot of. As I was clearing an area I felt a sharp sting on the palm of my hand near my thumb. It wasn’t too big of an issue just a slight irritation. I took out my bandanna and applied a little pressure and went on clearing the area. This is where my son is telling me I should have worn gloves. While this is true I find it very clumsy and awkward to take photos with gloves on. The button on my camera is small enough with out adding the extra thickness of my gloves into the mix. Also it is nearly impossible to set the focus and manage other settings so I left them at camp.
By this time, it was rapidly approaching noon, which is a terrible time to be taking photos, so I hurried up and got everything set up to get the picture I was after. For many, understanding that light, angles, position, and focus are very crucial to capture a good image. Without observing these details many images will not come to fruition. In a lot of cases I will use my hand as a focal point so the subject I am shooting will be clear. In a lot of cases I will simply place my finger on the subject until I can focus the camera on smaller targets so the subject is clear and the background is blurry, then remove my finger from the shot.
In the photo at right you can see the light on my hand and fingers, this is called bleaching. This is when the sun is too harsh for taking photos; this will destroy your pictures. I placed my hand behind the Carrizo sprout to help focus the image and shade the subject, besides if I have to I can always crop into the photo later.
Looking at the photo you can see the small cut on my hand. This at the time wasn’t a huge deal and would have most likely healed quickly with no issues by just simply washing it out. What turned this issue into a problem was while I was crawling out. I placed my hand on a pile of Javelina droppings. It just so happened to be right where the cut was. I thought to myself this is all I need, to get a serious infection from a tiny cut. I find that in a lot of cases even the tiniest of cuts and abrasions need to be looked after. While in the field these can become infected causing a whole new set of issues.
While thinking in terms of antiseptic most of us will probably carry some in our first aid kits. Sometimes you may not have access to it because you were being human, you wondered off and you forgot it. You may also realize just how far you have wondered. This is one of the reasons I like to know what plants are available to me should something like this happen. Also keep in mind that not all over the counter antiseptics are going to kill the things that are found in excrement.
Meet my friend the Grease Wood, Creosote Bush, or Larrea tridentate. This bush can be found all over the desert to altitudes of around 5,500 feet. This bush can also be found year round. There are literally hundreds of uses for this shrub but I will be focusing on the antibacterial and antiseptic properties this plant has to offer. I will get to the antifungal, the misconception of drinking the tea, and why it should not be taken internally at a later time. To my knowledge this is one of the strongest antiseptics known to man. This plant is well known for its ability to not only inhibit bacterial growth but to also kill it. When used topically as an infusion or tea it will kill any infection that is found in wounds. This plant is so effective that even if a wound is already infected it will kill the infection and shorten the healing time.
I used this plant by grabbing a handful of the leaves and bruising them on a large rock. This was done to expose the antiseptic juices inside the leaves and stems. At this point it can be applied directly to the wound or soaked for a short amount of time to allow more juices to flow.
In this case, after bruising the leaves I allowed them to soak for a short time and placed them on my bandanna. I then wrapped it around my hand and applied a little pressure. I could feel the slight burn of the plant working. I left this on for about an hour then removed the bandanna. I had successfully treated my cut with no ill effects. I do know a few people that are allergic this plant. The oils that are on it cause them to break out in a painful rash. This is rare, but if you have never had contact with this plant find out in a controlled environment instead of when you need to use it. This way you can quickly wash the exposed area with an oil cutting soap. This will keep the issue from becoming any worse.
These photos show the progression of treatment. From bruising the leaves and small stems, wetting them to allow the juices to flow and wrapping my hand with the plant in a bandanna to hold in place while it works its magic. The final photo shows the cut cleaned out after treatment. Once it was all said and done I returned to finish photographing the plants in the area. After an entire weekend there were no issues with the cut healing and infection was never an issue. I strongly suggest getting proper training in this field should you attempt any first aid using plants.
I assume no responsibility for any use or misuse of information in any of my plant articles. They are meant for information purposes only.