Herbal first aid: Treat acute injuries with natural medicine
Herbal first aid: Treat acute injuries with natural medicine

By Sina McCullough

My first experience with people’s paste was when a mountain lion bit my dog. The bite punctured through the ear, as well as the skin on his head, exposing the bone.

I immediately applied compresses, but the bleeding persisted. Suddenly, I remembered a friend had previously given me an herbal remedy designed to stop bleeding. I found the remedy and packed it into both wounds. The bleeding stopped within seconds!

Over the next few days, I continued to reapply the remedy as needed. Within a few weeks, the wounds had completely healed. No antibiotics or stitches had been required. Even the veterinarian was dumbfounded that an herbal remedy could be so powerful.

Since that moment, I have been hooked on people’s paste!

What Is People’s Paste?

People’s paste is a combination of herbs that were used by ancient cultures to stop bleeding, disinfect wounds, and heal cuts and punctures. In an emergency, it can take the place of stitches.

While several recipes for people’s paste exist, my favorite herbal combination includes goldenseal, slippery elm bark, comfrey, and myrrh gum.


Wild Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis). (Dan4Earth/Shutterstock)

Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) has been used for centuries in traditional medicine to treat skin infections. Native Americans have used goldenseal for healing wounds, as well as ulcers, digestive disorders, skin and eye ailments, and cancer.

Goldenseal contains berberine, which is used in modern medicine to combat infections. Berberine has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties, making goldenseal a great choice for healing cuts and other skin wounds.

Slippery Elm Bark

Leaf of the Slippery elm tree. (ManeeshUpadhyay/Shutterstock)

Slippery elm (Ulmus rubra) is a tree native to North America. The inner bark has been used in traditional medicine as a remedy for wounds, as well as fever, cough, sore throat, hemorrhoids, and digestive disorders.

Native Americans would mix the inner bark from twigs and branches with water to create a sticky material known as mucilage, which was used topically to treat inflammatory and traumatic skin conditions, such as cuts and wounds.

During the American Revolution, surgeons used slippery elm bark to heal gunshot wounds.

Slippery elm bark contains antioxidant and antibiotic properties. A 2019 study concluded that slippery elm bark was an effective antibacterial against streptococcus, a major bacterial cause of pharyngitis (sore throat).

The mucilage in slippery elm provides a natural protective layer that guards the wound against infection or irritants.

Due to the combined antibacterial, antioxidant and protective properties of slippery elm bark, it’s a great remedy for wounds and inflammatory skin conditions, such as psoriasis and burns.


Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) (Orest lyzhechka/Shutterstock)

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) is reportedly an effective topical treatment for pain, swelling, inflammation, sprains, contusions, and strains, as well as blunt trauma and skin wounds.

A 2012 study published in the German journal Pharmazie reported that comfrey repaired damaged tissue in rats by decreasing inflammation as well as depositing new collagen.

“This work clearly demonstrates that comfrey leaves have a wound healing activity,” the authors concluded.

Comfrey has been reported to be safe for treating both intact and broken skin.

Myrrh Gum

Myrrh gum (vainillaychile/Shutterstock)

Myrrh was one of three gifts that the wise men gave to Jesus at his birth, indicating reverence for this plant.

The use of myrrh gum (Commiphora guidottii or Commiphora myrrha) in traditional medicine to treat skin wounds is well documented. Recently, science has provided evidence to substantiate that claim.

Myrrh contains anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, which can help reduce swelling and pain.

A 1992 study concluded that myrrh has antibacterial effects against Staphylococcus aureus, which is one of the most common bacterial wound pathogens.

Myrrh healed wounds in mice faster than it took untreated mice to heal, according to a 2015 study published in BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies. The researchers declared myrrh a “good candidate for the preparation of natural therapeutic agents for wound management, supporting its traditional use as a remedy for wounds.”

Additionally, the antibacterial and antifungal activities of myrrh were declared “comparable with the standard antibiotics ciprofloxacin and griseofulvin, respectively.”

As a plant-based remedy with rare side effects, myrrh may be a better alternative than ciprofloxacin, which can cause sudden kidney infections, as well as joint and muscle pain. Griseofulvin‘s potential side effects include tiredness, weakness, joint and muscle pain, diarrhea, fever, and confusion.

When to Use People’s Paste

You can avoid man-made chemicals and still experience relief from skin issues by using people’s paste.

People’s paste can be used for these acute situations: minor cuts, minor burns, skin punctures, bruises, boils, rashes, and itching from insect bites.

Different Forms to Choose From

People’s paste powder can be purchased online or made in your kitchen. My favorite recipe is included below.

A Word on Quality

Whether purchasing or making your own people’s paste, choose ingredients that are organic or haven’t been sprayed by pesticides or herbicides.

My People’s Paste Recipe

Makes 8 tablespoons


2 tablespoons goldenseal powder

2 tablespoons slippery elm bark powder

2 tablespoons comfrey powder

2 tablespoons myrrh gum resin, blended into a powder


Mix all ingredients in a glass bowl until thoroughly combined.

Store in an airtight glass container.


FOR EXTERNAL USE ONLY. Apply directly to skin.

If possible, clean wound first using soap and water.

To use dry: Apply dry powder directly to cut or wound, making sure to gently pack the powder into the wound. Apply pressure if needed.

To use wet: Add raw honey, warm water, or oil to dry powder until a paste forms. Apply to cut or wound (apply pressure if needed). Let dry to create a “scar.”

Once people’s paste is applied to the wound, cover with gauze or a band-aid, if desired. If people’s paste falls off or rubs off, gently reapply.

Leave the wound alone until it fully heals, and don’t get it wet; people’s paste forms a natural band-aid or “scar” over the wound, so don’t pick at it.

Precautions and Possible Interactions

While not common, skin reactions have occurred. Therefore, when using for the first time, apply a small amount to the skin. If no irritation or negative reaction occurs, apply liberally as needed.

Consult with a health care provider before using people’s paste if you’re pregnant or nursing. If sensitive or allergic to any of the ingredients, don’t use.

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