How to: Treat a Snakebite with Herbs!

How to: Treat a Rattlesnake Bite with Herbs!

Image by Wikipedia

Image by Wikipedia

Oregon has 15 species of native snakes, and fortunately only one of those is venomous: That would be the Western Rattlesnake, Croatus viridus. According to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, they are found in southwestern Oregon, the mid- to southern Willamette Valley, the Columbia Plateau and south central and southeastern Oregon. They average 1.5 to 4 feet in length and are most commonly seen near their dens, typically rock crevices near sunshine. They are most likely to be seen during the spring and fall when moving to and from hibernation sites. They only attack if threatened, but if they do, their venom can be lethal.

What should you do in the unlikely event that you or a companion gets bit while hiking? I turned to Sam Coffman‘s book, “The Herbal Medic,” to find out. Sam is a former Special Forces Green Beret medic who is now a world-renowned herbalist known for flying into disaster areas and third-world countries to provide natural medical care. And he’s coming to teach a three-day camping intensive for First Ways on Wilderness First Aid next month, where he’ll be covering snake bites among other injuries and issues in this awesome course.

instructor-samThe good news, Sam writes, is that 20% of rattlesnake bites are “dry” bites that don’t contain venom. Another 30 to 40% are only mildly venomous because the snake decided it didn’t want to go full-throttle and empty its poison stores. That means we have a 50 to 60% chance that we’re going to be just fine. But what do we do if we’re unlucky?

Here’s what NOT to do:
* Do not physically try to suck the venom out with your mouth or even a suction machine. It doesn’t work and could create an infection.
* And don’t ice it — that may exacerbate tissue damage.

So what does work, other than hospital-administered anti-venom (which costs $10,000!)? Herbs!

During the first hour, you can try topically applying (poultice) plant medicines known for a drawing-out action, ideally activated charcoal or plantain leaf (Plantago spp). Since venom gets into the blood stream quickly, if you have access, you’ll want to take plant medicines known to neutralize or reverse tissue damage caused by snake venom:
Echinacea angustifolia root (internally and externally on the bite)
– Turmeric
– Sarsparilla (Hemidesmus indicus)
– Bilberry (Vaccinum myrtillus)
Fleabane (Pluchea sp.)
– Self-heal (Prunella vulgaris)

Later, consider taking charcoal internally once per day to absorb and remove venom remnants in the GI tract, as well as herbs to support the liver such as milk thistle and nettle every 2 to 3 hours and nettle. You would want to stagger these with the charcoal since charcoal would absorb/neutralize herbs.

Sam writes much more in-depth about how to use these herbs in his book, which you will get for free included in your tuition when you join him for his Wilderness First Aid course next month.

If you are a hiker, this invaluable course will give you the skills to help in a backcountry emergency, whether snakebite, injury or illness. Join me in registering for this three-day camping intensive in Klickitat, WA, on May, 13, 14, 15 here:

Then tell your friends and make sure they don’t miss out. Deadline to sign up is April 27. See you there!

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