Whether Home or Away: Herbal First Aid Kit by Angela Holly Penn (c) July 2012

A great first aid kit should handle more than just cuts and scrapes.  I have tried to include all-natural, herbs that are potent and easy for one to purchase or make whether one is home or away.   Most, if not the majority of these remedies have been handed down to me from my family or have been tried and true in my personal experience.  You will notice several of my favourite herbal oils are repeated to include their many usages such as: Chamomile tea, (Japanese Mint, Lavender, Eucalyptus and Tea Tree oils).

The most common culprits whether at home or away:

Cuts, scrapes and Burns

Insect Bites

General skin rashes

Upset stomach & Diarrhea

Sunburn

Muscular Aches & Pains (Including arthritic)

Bleeding and Bruising

Poison Ivy rash

Sore throat, colds, upper respiratory problems

Sinus Congestion

Menstrual Cramps

Insomnia

Headaches

***I recommend talking to a herbalist or naturopath about the use of any of these herbs if you are uncertain about them or are taking any medications that might interfere with their use.  Always read the labels on any herbal products you buy before using them and while preparing your first aid kit.

 

Cuts, Scrapes & Burns:

A comfrey based salve, including herbs such as plantain, St. John’s wort, calendula and echinacea, will soothe, accelerate healing, and disinfect.  Essential oils such as lavender and rosemary strengthen these effects.  An echinacea tincture acts as an anti-infection agent and Echinacea extracts have also been used as a general immune system enhancer. ( 1)  If you have access to an aloe vera plant, break off an aloe leaf and scrape the gel and apply directly to minor burns, scalds, and sunburns.

Echinacea

Insect Bites:

Witch hazel, grindelia, comfrey and St. John’s Wort all provide relief from insect bites and general itching.  Tinctured combinations of these seem to work best; they can be applied directly to the skin.  Tea Tree Oil can also be applied topically to minor cuts, insect bites and stings.

 

General Skin Rashes:

Lavender essential oil may be applied directly to the skin, which works well.  Tea Tree Oil can be applied to skin irritations such as pimples, prepare the area by cleaning the site and keeping it dry for proper application.  Chamomile tea when applied externally soothes irritations on the skin.

Chamomile

 

Upset stomach & Diarrhea:

I strongly suggest ginger capsules.  Ginger has been known to be an effective remedy for stomach upset, motion sickness, morning sickness and excess gas.  Other alternatives: fennel and peppermint teas.

Helpful herbs include blackberry root or leaf (root is preferred for its greater astringency: simmer root for 20-40 minutes or steep leaf for tea for 10-30 minutes).  Similarly, use wild strawberry root or leaf.  Raspberry leaf provides a very mild remedy for diarrhea.  Blackberry and strawberry root and leaf will also reduce internal hemorrhaging. (1)

 

Lavender

Sunburn: 

Spray pure Lavender Mist – Hydrosol directly onto the skin or add 8 drops of lavender oil and 4 drops of peppermint oil to a teaspoon of jojoba oil.  Pour it into a cool-to-lukewarm bath and soak for 10 minutes. (3)  (Also see Cuts, Scrapes and Burns regarding Aloe Vera)

 

Muscular Aches and Pains:

Japanese mint oil and witch hazel tinctures in combination or combined with essential oils of camphor or eucalyptus, are all excellent choices.  A combination of Epsom salts and a few drops of lavender oil added to bath water should relieve muscular tension in the body. (3)

Japanese mint oil is useful for rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis when applied directly to the area: i.e. knee, hands and elbows.

Meadowsweet tea works well in the treatment of arthritis pain and inflammation.  It is strongly advised that children should not drink the tea and people that cannot take aspirin, as meadowsweet is one of the ingredients in aspirin.  A few drops of meadowsweet oil under the tongue are yet another way to administer this herb.

 

Bleeding and Bruising:

Cayenne is a proven styptic and can be used in capsule form to apply to bleeding.  Styptic: causing contraction of the blood vessels and thereby stopping bleeding. (4)  Open and apply externally to stop bleeding. (It may burn, but it works).  It will also warm cold feet, sprinkled inside your boots. Alternative styptics: comfrey and yarrow.

I think of bruising as wounds where the skin is unbroken, often accompanied by discoloration. Useful herbs, applied topically in tincture form are prickly ash bark, cayenne, comfrey and arnica.

I remember having a rash when I was younger from Poison Ivy and Japanese mint oil was very useful in the elimination of itching.  The mint oil can also be applied directly on the skin for hives.  However, since then I have discovered something far faster acting and that is Calamine lotion which consists of zinc oxide with a small amount of ferric oxide.  If you are out camping with the kids and they get a bad bout with poison ivy I recommend the Calamine lotion as one of the essentials in your first aid kit.

 

Sore throat, Colds & Upper respiratory problems:

Two drops of thyme oil in 4 ounces of water can be used as a mouthwash, for a toothache or sore throat.  Three drops of eucalyptus oil in a bowl of hot water, which is inhaled has been a proven remedy in the treatment of bronchial conditions.  Tea tree oil can be used as a chest rub for head and chest colds as it has heating and penetrating effects.

 

Sinus Congestion:

Both the eucalyptus oil and the Japanese mint oil are known to relieve sinus congestion.  Use a few drops of one of these in a bowl of hot water and inhale for long-term relief.

 

Menstrual cramps:

Massage a few drops of lavender oil into your lower abdomen or apply a hot compress which contains a few drops of lavender oil in it. (3)

 

 Insomnia:

Lavender oil sprinkled on the underside of one’s pillowcase has been effective in the treatment of insomnia on occasion for me.  When one is travelling lavender oil can certainly come in handy staying in strange or new places, in particular for those long road trips.

Chamomile tea has been said to send many to a quiet slumber.  Chamomile is supposed to have a magical ability to attract money!  Old time gamblers used to wash their hands in chamomile tea before they played cards or threw the dice.  Sure can’t hurt to carry some with you!

 

Headaches:

My husband has been a chronic headache sufferer for many years until he started using the herbal teas recommended in this article.  He tried OTC pain medications and prescribed medications from his physician without success.

Relaxation Herbs: Chamomile, Rosemary and Mint.  These herbs can be helpful for easing headaches as well as associated symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety and stress.  They tend to have a very calming effect and chamomile in particular is widely available in herbal tea formulations.  It’s convenient and helpful to enjoy a cup of herbal tea if a headache hits and you require immediate relief.

Rub a few drops of tea tree oil on the area of your head that hurts.

 

Additional materials:  Band Aids, Bandages, 1/2 inch surgical tape, tweezers, small scissors, single edged razor blade, cold pack (cools on impact), several bandages of various sizes, gauze, a bandana. Eye cup (or shot glass), a carrying case (soft sided & waterproof) for the contents of the first aid kit.

 

Images: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

Sources:

  1. Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives site © 2012.
  2. Assembling An Herbal First Aid Kit, Source: Susan W. Kramer, PhD, Esq.
  3. 20 Reasons to use Lavender Essential Oil   http://www.netherfield.co.nz/reasons-use-lavender.php).
  4. Terry Willard Ph.D. Textbook of Modern Herbology 2nd Revised Edition © 1993.  Wild Rose College of Natural Healing.

Angela Holly Penn (c)   July 2012

Angela is a free-lance writer and herbalist student in Canada.   She is also working on a book that will utilize her educational background in psychology, journalism and herbology

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