Friday, August 12, 2022

Look to the Garden for a Remedy

"Nature itself is the best physician." - Hippocrates

Sun Rising
Sun rising on a recent hike in the mountains.

It was a crisp, cool summer Saturday morning at the beginning of August.  The gentle morning rays of sun were just peaking their heads over the horizon and streaming through the tree leaves.  Each breeze brought a pleasant puff of the summer flower fragrance.  The urban farm was buzzing to life with goldfinches sitting on top of sunflowers, garter snakes slowly slithering on the ground and countless amounts of bees collecting pollen as quickly as they could.

I was quickly moving from task to task trying to hurriedly check items off my endless to-do list while also fully enjoying and appreciating the bountiful beauty that only the early morning on a mid-summers day brings.  I briefly stopped to appreciate the amazing diversity of all of the different types of bees that were present on the newly flowered mountain mint plants.  The vast majority of bees I had never laid my eyes upon before as I puzzled over what types of bees they all were.

I continued strolling through the flowers to make it to my next task since the day was not getting any younger or cooler.  As I reached my shed to get a few tools there was sharp pinch on my forearm as my arm swung by my shirt.  My head snapped down to the sight of a bumble bee tangled in my shirt with its wings flapping as furiously as they possibly could making a very audible buzzing sound that must have been able to have been heard from 10 feet away.

My eyes darted from the helpless bumble bee to my forearm back to the bee, back to my forearm.  Damnit, I got stung by a bumble bee I said as a smirk emerged on my face and gentle laughter emerged.  It had been less than a week since I had been pondering what it must be like to be stung by a bumble bee vs. a normal bee.  I had never been stung by a bumble bee so my imagination ran wild as it imagined different scenarios that may occur when one is stung by a bumble bee.  I really should be more careful about what I focus my mind on and imagine happening I mused.  The universe always seems to conspire to give you exactly what your mind thinks about and wants, one way or another.

I snapped my minds attention back to the increasingly agitated bumble bee that was not having luck of getting itself free as I tried to avoid getting stung again.  I snapped the portion of my shirt it was stuck on a few times, hoping that would dislodge the bee, to no avail and only resulted in the bumble bee buzzing even louder which was beginning to sound reminiscent of standing directly next to a jet engine.  As a last resort I gave the bee a gentle yet firm flick of my index finger on its noggin causing it to break free from the grip of my shirt as I watched it fly off to a nearby grouping of flowers where it sat for a bit and appeared to be pretty peeved at me, as far as I could tell anyway.

I put my attention back to my forearm where there was now a big mark where I had just been stung along with a red rash that had seemed to appear instantly and was already itching.  Great, this is just great, I have a giant to-do list, the day is just getting started and I've already been stung by a bumble bee.

Upon closer examination, there were not any remnants of the bumble bee's stinger stuck in my arm so I had that going for me.  I gazed around my garden as I dwelled upon my options.  1) Do nothing, deal with it and carry on.  Or 2) Run to the store and get something for a bee sting, perhaps meat tenderizer... if the quickly growing welt gets painful enough.

Neither option seemed great with my mind settling almost instantly on option 1, making a special trip to the store just for a bee sting seemed pretty ridiculous.  Suddenly a 3rd option popped into my mind as my eyes grazed across the sea of vegetables, herbs, flowers, and weeds which when combined, make up the urban farm.  I literally grow a ridiculous amount of plants, including lots of herbs, that indigenous cultures have deemed to be medicine and there's probably a good reason for that.  My mind thought this musing thru as the neurons in my brain started firing more and more.

My eyes darted to the honey bees as I rifled through the filing cabinets contained in my head searching  through the thousands of bee facts that I had attempted to file away as I read book after book about bees.  Honey is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory I recalled, this bumble bee sting is looking pretty inflamed to me, I bet if I put honey on it that'll help.  I whip out my phone and ask professor Google what other herbs are good to put on a bee sting.  There were quite a few results with several separate (and not so scientific) articles mentioning that lavender is good to put on bee stings with the authors vouching for the authenticity of that remedy.  The only result mentioned more than lavender, was honey!  Excellent, I have both lavender AND honey, let's do this!

I quickly grabbed several lavender leaves and a lavender flower, threw them in the mortar and pestle to grind them up, releasing the lavender oils.  Then placed the ground up lavender on the bee sting followed by cementing the lavender in place with a small dollop of honey.  Smooshing the two together with a band-aid, causing a sticky lavender goo to seep out from under the bandage onto my forearm.

Looking at the sticky lavender goo that was now seeping out from under the bandage and coating a not so small portion of my forearm I couldn't help but laugh at the absurdity of what I was trying, seeing if honey and lavender will help my extremely minimal injury of a bumble bee sting in any way, shape or form.  At the very least, my forearm smells fantastic right now, my mind cackled, causing me to shake my head as more laughs escaped.

Within two minutes the pain had stopped and the itching was gone...  NO... FREAKING... WAY... I exclaimed to myself while poking the band-aid to see if I could coax some pain out of the fresh wound.  There was nothing... no pain whatsoever.  Alright, so far this is awesome, we'll see what happens when I take off the honey lavender band-aid though and if the pain comes right back.  I can't imagine I'll be able to keep this band-aid on for long with everything I have to do today, my mind exclaimed as it seemed to mock my very efforts.  I had already found myself needing to re-stick the band-aid several times as the honey was wreaking havoc on the band-aid adhesive.  Lucky enough, honey is an adhesive itself and they seemed to work together to stay put.

30 minutes later, sick of dealing with a semi-flapping band-aid and honey slowly drizzling down my arm in the quickly heating up sauna of a summer morning, I took the band-aid off and washed my forearm.  To my amazement the welt was noticeably smaller and the rash had stopped spreading plus the pain was still nowhere to be found.  We'll see what happens in time though which will be the true test of all this madness, my mind exclaimed to itself.  At the very least, my forearm still smells fantastic!

As I went about my tasks a laugh of amazement left my mouth each time I glanced at my forearm, both the welt and the rash were only getting smaller.  There was still no pain and no itching.  Two hours later, the only sign of the bumble-bee sting on my forearm was the entry wound where the stinger had struck me.  The welt, rash, pain and itching were no where to be found to my joyful amazement.

As I continued to go about my day, everyone I encountered, whether they wanted to hear it or not, was bombarded with the tale of the bumble-bee sting and the honey / lavender concoction that had cured it almost instantly while I thrust my forearm in their face, "See, there's nothing there!  How amazing is that?!"  Most seemed amused only by my enthusiasm for what they were not sure was an actual, true story or just an eccentric tale that had been made up and perhaps they were on one of those weird, oddball, reality tv shows.

This minor bumble bee sting led to a major revelation that a garden can be much more than just a source of food.  I had already known that the urban farm could be medicine in the form of therapy, a teacher in the form of the plants and animals that reside in it, a source of humbleness with all that it makes you realize you do not yet know, but I hadn't yet realized nor even entertained the thought that it could be a true source of medicine.  Not just in the sense of healthy food can be medicine (which is very true) but in the sense that you can grow literal, actual medicine.  The majority of the medicines that we have in our modern day society were derived from nature in some way, shape or form, with quite a lot coming from plants.  If you have a garden, not only can you keep yourself healthy with healthy food, you can also have your very own source of medicine for when your errant thoughts seem to invite the universe to have a bumble bee sting you at the exact right moment in your life that you needed to be stung.  A minor setback can cause a very progressive lurch forward on many fronts.

Perhaps next time you find yourself stung by a bee or some other minor ailment you'll look to your very own garden for a remedy.  Perhaps in addition to helping your ailment, the remedy will spur additional wonder, amazement and an ever increasing yearning for learning as much as you possibly can about anything and everything on this wonderous planet that we inhabit and call Earth.

Fun Note:  If you want to have your mind blown then perhaps you should listen to this Radio Lab podcast episode about the vital part that Horseshoe crabs play in modern medicine (no, that's not a joke)!

Bumble Bee Sting
Bumble bee sting just a few minutes after being stung, swelling up rapidly.

Bee Sting Site
Bumble bee sting 2 hours later - 90 mins after applying the honey and lavender.  No swelling, no redness, just the mark at the site of the sting.

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