While working in the woodshop this past week, I had a strange allergic reaction to something I came in contact with. The skin around my joints and on my torso became inflamed and and swollen—like a really bad sunburn. It’s difficult to determine the exact cause of this reaction because there are a few variables at play, like the foods I ate and the materials I was working with, but I suspect it may have been a result of working with MDF (medium density fiberboard) to build a jig to cut some mortises. It hadn’t occurred to me that the binder used in most MDF is a formaldehyde resin.
It took me a couple of days to identify the MDF as a possible cause and then limit my exposure to it. Meanwhile I looked for ways to ease my discomfort without using oral or topical medication. Besides the obvious concerns about packaging waste and further exposure to chemicals my body has long gone without, sedative antihistamines and power tools don’t mix well. I mentioned my condition to my teacher Tim at lunch and he asked me if I was aware of the botanical farm just up the road from the school. What? I’ve been here this whole month—how did I miss that one? I headed straight to Avena Botanicals at the top of a steep hill exactly one mile from my classroom.
When I entered the main visitor building, a young woman named Jill appeared from the back to greet me. I introduced myself and explained my predicament. She asked me some questions about my symptoms, recent activities and food intake and then suggested that I start a nettle tea regiment to flush my system of toxins. Nettle tea is also known to be a calming agent for inflamed skin. She also recommended turmeric and ginger root for their anti-inflammatory properties.
I didn’t have a container or produce sack with me so I purchased a brown paper bag full of dried nettles. The bag is labeled with a company sticker that also indicates the contents. I sipped the tea throughout the days and evenings this week and it really helped to sooth the burn. I’ve also been using a salve purchased in a small tin that contains calendula, lavender, and beeswax. I am through the reaction at this point and my skin is healing.