One of the questions I’ve been asked a lot recently is what herbs can be used help to heal the body after surgery so I thought I would write this post. Surgery is different for everyone; our bodies react differently to the healing process, and our energetics are different but there are several plant allies we can turn to help ensure a speedy recovery. Read on to find out more!
Food & Nutrient-Rich Herbs
Nutrients are key in ensuring optimal healing after surgery and deficiencies in nutrients such as vitamins A, C and zinc, amongst others, can result in an increase in healing time. Nutrient-rich foods such as bone broth, as well as fermented foods and beverages such as kombucha, can help to nourish the body and replace any probiotics in the digestive system that have been lost due to use of antibiotics. Eating foods packed with nutrients and cutting back on sugar and processed foods are an easy way to help the body recuperate from illness or surgery.
Nourishing herbal infusions are an excellent way to ensure your body is getting the nutrients it needs, even if your appetite has taken a hit after surgery. Some of my favourite nutrient rich herbs include Nettles, Oatstraw and Raspberry Leaf. They contain good amounts of vitamins A, C, K, and E, and key minerals such as magnesium, iron, silica and zinc. Nettles and Raspberry Leaf in particular can be rather drying if your energetics lean that way so always include a demulcent such as marshmallow root in your recipe, or try mine below!
Nourishing Herbal Infusion
- 2 parts Nettles
- 2 parts Oatstraw
- 1 part Rosehips
- 1 part Raspberry Leaf
- 1/2 part Marshmallow Root
- 1/2 part Peppermint
Add your herbs to a large mason jar, carefully pour over hot water.
Cover and leave to steep for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
Strain and sip, adding honey or maple syrup if desired
I like to make a large batch and leave in the fridge and drink cold throughout the day.
An inflammatory response post-surgery is the body’s natural self-protection response, designed to bring about healing in the body. It provides protection from infection, encourages the body to rebuild damaged tissue, and is an important part of the healing process. The use of anti-inflammatories can help mask pain and reduce tissue damage, allowing for light exercise and movement which can improve healing time. Extreme inflammation can prevent healing, however, reducing inflammation too much can actually slow down and lead to ineffective healing. The key is keeping acute inflammation under control while not completely eliminating it. We can lessen inflammation in the body and reduce pain by utilizing anti-inflammatory herbs such as Meadowsweet and Turmeric internally either as a tea or tincture.
Immune Support herbs
Giving the immune system a boost post-surgery can help reduce the chance of infection and speed up the healing process by stimulating phagocytosis, which is essentially the body cleaning up and removing dead or damage tissue, which in turn encourages new tissue to form. Some of my favourite herbs for stimulating the immune system include Echinacea, Elderberry and Spilanthes, all of which can be taken effectively as a tincture. Calendula is another anti-viral and anti-microbial herb that stimulates the lymphatic system making it an excellent ally for supporting the healing process.
Vulneraries & other Topical Herbs
Vulneraries are excellent herbs to apply topically to any incisions once stitches have been removed to help heal the skin tissue, prevent infection and minimize scarring. Before any stitches are removed, infused oils and salves are not recommended as they can potentially trap bacteria and provide the perfect conditions that lead to infection. However, soaks, poultices and compresses can help in this instance. Infused oils and salves can be helpful if there are no signs of infection present to relieve any itching as the skin is healing. Herbs that I like to use to help heal skin tissue include Gotu kola, Comfrey, Calendula and Arnica. Vulnerary herbs can also be taken internally to help promote healing, although note that Comfrey and Arnica should not be used internally unless under the supervision of an experienced herbalist.
Prepare a strong tea of equal parts Comfrey, Calendula, Yarrow
Strain and add to basin to soak the affected area or strain and soak a clean washcloth for a compress.
- 2 parts Gotu kola infused oil
- 1 part Calendula infused oil
- 1 part Yarrow infused oil
- 1 part Plantain infused oil
Combine infused oils and use or add beeswax and heat gently to turn into a salve.
Other helpful herbs
Gentle laxatives such as Dandelion root and Yellow dock can help offset any constipation brought on by use of strong pain relievers post-surgery as well as help support the liver metabolize pharmaceuticals. Adaptogens such as Tulsi and Reishi can be added into formulas to provide support and balance to the body and mind.