Darcy and Alder to the Rescue

I’ve had these owie’s on my foot for a while. They’re way down there on my foot, out of visual range yanno, so I hadn’t paid much attention to them. My shoes broke a few weeks ago and I haven’t been wearing any (it’s crazy, I keep thinking people will notice, but they don’t), so I figured they had something to do with that, or with river adventures, or no-see-ums (these bugs that have special bites). Except for scratching them down in my sleeping bag at night, I hadn’t really thought about them at all.

Until last night when my friend asked what happened to my foot. I dunno, I said. Probably a side effect of living.

Looks like a burn, she said. Then she looked closer and pronounced that it was a spider bite and my skin was dying and I better go to the emergency room immediately to avoid losing my leg.

I looked closer, and it was hard to tell but it definitely seemed like she could be right. It was open in the middle, black around that, and red around that. I don’t go to doctors. Not that I never would. If my liver were punctured or my brain bleeding, I’d definitely do it. But for 4am spider bites, I text messaged Darcy Blue: “Spider bite. Infected. Maybe eroding. What to do?”

Darcy always knows what to do, and I feel so lucky to know her. Not only does she know what to do, in detail with consideration for influence I don’t even know about, but she woke up in the middle of the night and answered my text saying to use plaintain in and out, honey, and an immune herb. Then, apparently remembering my recent aldering: “Alder! Poultice and tea!”

I imagine Darcy rolling over in bed, opening one eye in the dark, and text messaging her wisdom to me all the way from the desert.

Wisdom transmitted, I walk (barefoot, of course), out into the four am rainy darkness and pick some Alder leaves and Plantain. “What the hell are you doing?” my friend asks.

“Picking plantain,” I tell her.

I chew up both plants and spit them on the bites, cover the whole thing with an alder leaf, and tape it down. Then I used my friends kitchen to boil up a strong tea with the alder and plantain. I like the way alder tastes. Strong, like a cross between wintergreen and yarrow.

When I wake up eight hours later, the main bite is red in the middle with a big soft grey area around it. Uh oh. I call Darcy and she says to add yarrow to the poultice and tea. I open the door and pick some, because life is that beautiful and medicine follows me.

New poultice, new tea. A few hours later I take a bath, and when I get out I put a couple drops of yarrow and rose tinctures on it and smear some honey over that.

And now it is almost all better. Just a pink area with a little scab in the middle, thanks to Darcy and the alder trees.


  1. I hope that you will engage a physician if this gets worse. Having had my share of black widow and other bites, the poison can stay in the tissue for a long time with quite bad effects. Pay attention for the month, no joke. Been there done that when I worked at a wilderness camp

  2. Wow, that would have freaked me out so badly. I think I would have panicked and immediately gone to the ER if someone had said: you should go to the hospital for this.
    I’m glad to hear you got a grip on it though. Phooey. I agree with Kim however, be wary of it for the next month: poisonous bites can be tricky and sneaky.

    Cheers 🙂

  3. Have you ever thought about writing a book about your first hand experiences using herbs? There are lots of good folks out there writing good herb books, but I find so many of them have little in the way of first-hand accounts of usage and I think that’s what makes the difference in people’s minds – makes them want to try – first hand accounts. The way you write – it would be a marvelous tome!!!

  4. Are there poisonous spiders in Alaska? I agree keep your eyes on those bites for a while, and I’d keep tending them with poultices and teas and soaks for a couple of weeks at least. Improvement is huge! Persistance is key!
    So glad your feets is feeling better! Not sure if your text was better or worse than the cockroach in the bed the night before….:P
    Long live barefooted babes!!

  5. One of the things I love about your herb posts is how you describe the time it takes for the reaction (plant magic) and the specific changes of your wound/ailment. That’s the information that turns the ethereal seeming plant magic into something more concrete for me to allow into practical living and responses.

  6. ohmigod!

    i swear there is a rash of potential-amputation-inducing spider bites afflicting the legs of sex workers these days. what do the spiders have against us?!

    i hope your leg heals up good and easy!

  7. “I don’t go to doctors. Not that I never would. If my liver were punctured or my brain bleeding, I’d definitely do it.”

    me too, girlfriend, me too

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