If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time you may have noticed that I tend to write about whatever is on my mind or what I’m doing in the garden or maybe I’ll tell you about the happenings in my kitchen…basically I share my everyday life with you.
So this past weekend when I was hiking in Sedona, AZ — and taking a break to walk barefoot in the river — silly me slipped on a rock and jammed my toe into the much bigger rock in front of it. I instantly knew that I had broken my toe!
Is it sad that my very next thought was, “I have to blog about this!”
Being the nurse that I am…I knew that going to the ER was pointless for this type of thing. Important to note: I am not recommending that YOU forgo the wisdom of conventional medicine. And by all means please go see the professionals for treatment of any suspected fracture. It could be worse than you think! I’m just a little crazy.
Help Your Body Heal Itself
After hiking the 5 miles back to my car, and driving 2 hours home, my toe was throbbing and about triple in size. I had to have help to get out of the car and into the house because I couldn’t put pressure on the thing!
I knew I had to have a two step approach to treatment. Here’s what I’ve been doing:
- Ice pack. To reduce swelling, place some sort of barrier (i.e. small cloth towel) between the ice and the skin to prevent frostbite — leave the ice pack on for 15 minutes, then remove it for 15 minutes. Repeat.
- Comfrey tincture. Thanks to a sweet friend — who shared with me a vial of her homemade, home-grown comfrey tincture — I had this one on hand and ready to go! After applying it as needed that evening — between ice packs — I must say this tincture relieved my pain almost instantly. Learn how to make your own herbal tincture by reading my step-by-step instructions here…
- Comfrey, St. John’s wort, and Wormwood Salve. After making this burn and wound salve, thankfully I had each of these dried herbs in my herbal cabinet. Mixing equal parts together (to total one ounce) and pouring 8 ounces of olive oil over them, I set the mixture to infuse using the quick steep method. The properties of this salve include: anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antiseptic — I have been applying it as needed. Click here to learn more about my method for making a medicinal salve…
- Stabilization and elevation. One of the most important things to do for a broken toe is to stay off of it and keep it elevated! Easier said than done with little ones running around and a home to keep, right 🙂 For stabilization, be sure to secure the broken toe to it’s non-broken toe neighbor. I used some coban, cotton between the toes, and a popsicle stick. This I release and re-wrap daily.
- Valerian Tincture. One of the benefits of thinking ahead and having herbal preparations on hand is that they are available to you whenever you need them! Valerian is well known for it’s ability to induce sleep; however, it is an excellent nerve tonic and mild sedative…perfect for reducing pain. And boy does this stuff work! Learn how to make your own…
- Comfrey, Horsetail, and Oatstaw herbal tea. The day of the break, and the day after, I drank a tea made of comfrey, horsetail, and oatstraw. Comfrey — a miracle herb in my opinion — contains many vitamins and nutrients vital to healing such as: vitamin B12, A, and C, potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, selenium, iron, and mucilaginous compounds. Bonus…it’s an excellent source of protein. It assists in healing broken bones by helping to increase cell re-growth. Horsetail is high in silica — which works to restore bone tissue — and helps the body better absorb calcium. Oatstaw’s also silica-rich and is known to be a mild relaxant. I only drank 3 cups of this tea over the span of a 24 hour period…my toe stopped hurting. Here’s an article explaining how I make my own teas at home. Note: Never give this herbal tea blend to pregnant or nursing mothers. It’s no good for young children either. And in case your interested, I get my herbs for tea-making here.
- Eat lots of calcium rich foods. Ever since the fracture I’ve been eating lots of kale, spinach, and greens from the garden. I’m putting them in smoothies, sautes, and simply eating raw. I’ve also stepped up my consumption of plain yogurt and kefir. If I had some sea veggies — like any of this stuff — that would be great too.
Check your facts: There is a lot of controversy over the use of comfrey after a recent FDA study that showed the ingestion of pyrrolizidine alkaloids in comfrey can cause liver damage. As always, I strongly encourage you to do.your.own.research. Personally I feel confident in the fact that comfrey has been used for 1,000’s of years without ill effect. I wouldn’t take the tea longer than a few days (honestly because after only a day of drinking it my toe stopped hurting). And I figure comfrey can’t hurt my liver any worse than toxic, pharaceutical pain-killers and acetaminophen for goodness sake 🙂 But again, don’t listen to me!
Amazing! After 3 days of this treatment plan I am able to walk somewhat normally. There are still times when I have some discomfort, but nothing the comfrey tincture can’t manage 🙂 The swelling is down, but the bruising is still really awful. I’ll continue with the Comfrey, St. John’s wort, and Wormwood salve.
Hopefully the toe will be mostly healed within a couple of weeks…we have plans to hike the canyon and forage for wild horehound 🙂
-Worried about the warnings of ingesting comfrey? Substitute Nettle leaf instead!
-To learn more about making your own tinctures and salves, I highly recommend you read:
- Our Creating a Kitchen Pharmacy Series
- Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide — great information on dosages here
- Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health: 175 Teas, Tonics, Oils, Salves, Tinctures, and Other Natural Remedies for the Entire Family
-Mountain Rose Herbs and/or the Bulk Herb Store are my go-to companies for all my homemade herbal remedy needs!
Now it’s your turn! Share with me your suggestions…is there anything else you recommend I do to treat my poor toe?
My 9 year old daughter broke her toe last summer and all they did at the ER was take an x-ray to confirm that it was broken and tape her toes together so that the broken one would heal straight. They sent us home with a walking shoe and she took Motrin and used an ice pack.
I think if you tape it that helps. She was up and walking around almost normally in two days.
Bosnian girl says
wow.. just few days I had the same issue.. wish i had this post..
but I applied arnica oil immediately to it, as well as homeopathic arnica internally for next 24 hours.. mine was little worse with black nail as well… I had heard about comfry and completely agree with you regardless of toxicity of it… just one Advil makes more strain on liver than drop of comfry..:) thanks for the post!
Angelia Thomas says
I have to tell you, I am hopelessly addicted to your website/blog! I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this site and all of the information that you provide for us!!
I am hoping to utilize several things I’ve learned from here in the near future!
Thank you for all you do!!
Onion poultice overnight never failed me.
Ouch, ouch, ouch! Great post, but I’m sorry for what you had to go through to give it to us!
If you had it handy, you could also have included boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum). In one of Matthew Wood’s books, he states that boneset will help bring back the broken bones together, even if not set properly. Comfrey helps mend them but doesn’t have that “drawing together” action.
I broke my middle toe last week. I wish I had this info then. I slipped in the kitchen and actually kicked myself and broke my toe. How ridiculous is that?!! Chasing my three kids did not let me rest it much. I did a LOT of hopping for days, but much better now.
Bee Girl says
Ouch! That looks painful! Good job taking care of it, though!
I couldn’t agree with you more about the whole herbal remedies vs. nasty pharmaceuticals debate. I think there is a lot of knowledge that needs to be remembered/learned and one must be careful…but when we’re talking about 1000s of years of wisdom vs. manufactured scariness, I’ll vote for the wisdom any day!
You’re so cute Andrea, but I think the same way about interesting “events”! It sounds like you have a good system going for you, but one thing you may want to try if you have fresh or dried comfrey is to make an infusion and pour it over maxim pads and freeze. These homemade ice packs have worked miracles for me on all sorts of injuries! Hope you feel better soon!
Ouch! I hope you are back to hiking soon. 🙂
Ouch! I had a similar incident in college – we were camping and the day that we left, we decided to go hiking by the river. I was standing on a huge wet rock while barefoot and just as I thought, “Hmmm, maybe I should not be standing here,” my feet slipped out from under me and I landed on my face. We had to go to three different ERs before someone was willing to stitch me up because I didn’t have my insurance card with me. Just goes to show you can never be too careful even when you’re out hiking. I hope your toe heals quickly and that it doesn’t hurt too much!
We too, use comfrey for instant relief from bruises, etc. I’ve used it on a broken pinkie toe – the result of catching said toe on the leveling leg of the washing machine. After we pulled it back into place from the 45 degree angle it was at – we went out for the evening to friends for a BBQ. Got home, foot was swollen, leg black & blue 1/2 way up calf – pain INTENSE. Put on comfrey poultice and within 5 minutes – almost no pain.
Last year, our grandson wiped out on his dirt bike. They did the traditional x-ray, etc. and were sent home with rx pain relievers and his arm in a sling. He wanted to come home with us as had been the earlier plan. We made a comfrey poultice and put it on his arm. He took no more pain relievers, and the next day went swimming – all the pain and swelling were gone! His parents could not believe it and cancelled his next dr’s appt.
There’s a reason the Native Americans called it ‘bone knit’.
We bring a comfrey plant in each fall just in case we need it over the winter. One of our cats eats it to the base every chance she gets – and she’s the healthiest of our 3 cats – beautiful coat!
Vicky Carlson says
I recently stubbed my toe on some free weights and it looked just like yours. It throbbed all night long. I put Arnicare gel on it the next day, (wish I had earlier) and it cleared up and stopped hurting unless I actually wiggled it. The bruising went away in a day and a half. It wasn’t broken apparently but I thought it was. I love herbs and natural sources for healing, and would love to know all about each one. There is so much to know!
I hope you are healing well, and thank you for sharing your treatment.
Well, there’s no harm in that. Actually, if you break a finger or toe, they’ll just take an x-ray to confirm if its broken and then tape it to the next digit over or splint it. I wouldn’t go to the doctor for that either!
Don’t forget to eat lots and lots of bone broth to help with the healing!
Teresa R. says
Andrea, So sorry to hear about your toe! Hope it is healing quickly 🙂 I just had to say thank you for the recipe for Cayenne Pepper Hot Sauce. My neighbor and her daughter have a ton of pepper plants and they sell the peppers for extra money so I knew I must try this recipe as she loves to share them with me! And between my husband , my son and myself, well, we go through hot sauce pretty quick around here! My neighbor was doubtful about the lack of ingredients but I knew it was gonna be good. The results are in and that stuff is a hit around here…everytime my husband would have some he would ask when I would be making more. I just made 4 more jars….yahoo! Thanks again…Enjoy reading your blog! Keep up the good work! Teresa
Thank you for this wonderful article. We have followed similar protocol and had great results too!
I have had a broken ankle for 8 weeks. I have another X-ray in another week. If it still doesn’t show any signs of healing, then I will have to have surgery. It’s in a cast so I can’t do anything externally, but I have some comfrey, maybe I will get the other two and drink it every day. I really need some help with this one. I have also been taking a good calcium suppliment.
Hi Andrea! Great, informative post. 🙂 Just a note on the comfrey, the bonesetter. It’s fine for external application on a bone break but if there is a deep cut involved as well, readers should not use it because it tends to heal the surface way before the internal injury is healed. In this way, infection can result.
However, closed breaks and minor surface wounds benefit greatly from it.
Love your posts!
Melissa in GA says
Hi! I have always taped my toes as well and my husband’s (I stepped on his twice and broke them- oops). I tape them loosely and once used a broken popsicle stick because I had broken a pinky toe – it healed up very straight. I also use arnica and lots of ice while I pop my foot up on the ottoman. I love your suggestions- the salve & tincture especially. Love your website- I’ve tried several of your remedies in the past month:) Thanks!
We have grown comfrey for years (since the 70s when I found out about it. Mom had a lot of arthritis and drank one cup of comfrey tea a day for 30 years (till she died at 84 from breast cancer) to help keep the symptoms of her arthritis down. Said if she skipped a day or two she could really tell it. I make a comfrey and calendula salve that I love. Didn’t think of doing a tincture (do a lavendar tincture), will have to do one.
Love this! Thank you so much for your blog posts. I really enjoy them.
My four children have each broken a bone.. I immediately gave arnica, they always run an immediate fever and fall asleep…weird, I know. After they awaken, we go to the ER only to have the physician tell me it is just a sprain. I have to PUSH an x-ray that did show a break but with little swelling and no bruising. I carry arnica with me always just for these little emergencies. The docs always shake their heads in disbelief. : )
Marna Woo says
I live in Sedona and just broke my toe over the weekend! My first broken bone and I knew it the second I pulled my foot out of the icy creek water. I had stepped where I thought a supportive rock was and instead my foot slammed into a deep crevasse. All my toes had been over extended back towards the foot but my 4th toe sort of resembled a loose tooth. i had just gotten to a special swimming hole, taken a few plunges, and then misstepped. I stayed put for an hour and soaked my foot in that icy spring water and we watched green and purple bruiseses subside within that time. When it was time to leave I hobbled most of the way before my friend carried me out. OUCH- the pain was sharp. So I make Monsoon Nectars Skin Care and once we were back to the car I slathered my Green Tea Body Balm all over it. Comfrey leaf is a big component along with helichrysum- which I have learned is good for broken bones. I love you post because I have everything you have recommended and am off for a hit of valerian tincture right now. Hopefully the Red Rocks were worth your trouble!
I just broke my little toe few hours ago.. I’m in a massive huge PAAAAIIN right now and i don’t know what to do, it really hurts and i can’t go to a doctor at the moment.. It’s getting worse by time and aaaah i feel like dying.
Everything I’ve read about breaking toes always says mild things like little toe is broken and to tape it to the one next to it and that there’s no point in going to a doctor……well 12 weeks ago i tripped over my long pj pants and fell hard breaking and dislocating my big toe on my right foot. I drove myself to the nearest doctor because the toe was completely dislocated and looked wrong. The pain was intense when I did it and I remember holding onto the door handle and everything shook and I had to fight to not pass out as I was on my own.
So without insurance they didn’t give me anesthetic and yanked my toe back in place and gave me a flat soled boot to wear. They didn’t tape my big toe to the toe next to it as it was huge and swollen and the air being near the skin was horrifically painful. I had to stay off it for four weeks with my foot up on pillows on a bed. Walking was excruciating. I used comfrey tincture for pain relief as well as hoping it would help repair the damage. I also used arnica externally and internally which helped a lot. But you know what, when you break a big toe, its the part of the foot that takes the most weight so it takes longer than six weeks to heal.
I spent a fair bit of time on crutches which hurt my elbows and back the most and since about the seventh week I’ve been walking crutch-free but just with my boot because I still can’t walk normally in a normal shoe or barefoot. If I try to walk with socks on or just barefoot then I create pain elsewhere like the other joints in my foot or my hip or knee which have had to bend in odd ways to accommodate the injury.
& the bruising was intense the first few weeks and looked terrible but something else no one mentions in online articles is that big toes that were broken and dislocated will have deep bruises that last for months and you’ll see your injured foot being a darker color than your healthy foot and then there’s the swelling which goes down after about four weeks but if you stand or walk for too long then its right back again and throbs painfully to let you know you over did it!
Seriously breaking a big toe is significantly more trouble than breaking a little toe. I’m in my 12th week since the break and still I’m wearing the stiff boot and have the deep bruising and can’t bend my broken toe or walk without the boot.
Unlike many people in America I don’t have any health insurance and spent everything in my bank account when I initially broke it just so I could have an xray and doctors attention but since then I can’t afford a check up so I just use homeopathic remedies and I call a homeopathic doctor who lets me ask advice over the phone.
Another thing no one mentions about broken toes especially broken big toes is that you will feel the cold more severely in the area of the break and it will be hard to warm up once you’re cold. & the cold hurts deep inside the break.
I like what you said about the remedies because they helped me in the beginning when I first did this break but god I wish I’d broken a finger or a little toe instead of the big toe as this is the longest recovery I’ve ever had for a broken bone!