The Herbal First Aid Kit
Cilantro-removes heavy metals from the body via oral chelation.
Carob powder– The pectin and lignin in carob not only regulate digestion, they combine with harmful elements (even radioactive fallout) in digested food and carry them safely out of the body. Carob is an incredibly rich food source, and it perhaps the ideal “survival food” since it lasts a long time, requires no special storage conditions, and can be eaten with no preparations.
Aloe vera gel: Cooling and healing, aloe vera soothes the inflammation of sunburn and common kitchen scalds and burns.
Arnica gel or cream: Arnica flowers have anti-inflammatory and circulation-stimulating properties; the gel or cream is excellent for sore muscles, sprains, strains and bruises. Do not apply arnica to broken skin.
Calendula-comfrey salve: The bright yellow-orange blossoms of calendula have astringent, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory and wound-healing properties. Comfrey contains allantoin, a compound that stimulates the growth of new tissue and helps heal wounds.
Chamomile tea bags: With its delicious distinctive flavor, chamomile makes a tasty tea. Gentle enough for children, chamomile has mild sedative, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It promotes relaxation, relieves indigestion and, when applied topically, soothes skin irritations.
Citronella-based insect repellant: Most herbal repellants contain citronella, a pungent citrus-scented essential oil distilled from an aromatic grass that grows in southern Asia. Herbal insect repellants work well, as long as they’re applied liberally and frequently (as often as every two hours).
Echinacea liquid extract: Rich in immune-stimulating chemicals, Echinacea can be used for any type of infection. Liquid extracts are the most versatile because they can be used both internally and externally.
Elderberry capsules or liquid extract: Elderberry is essential for stopping a cold or flu from ruining your vacation. The berries contain compounds that prevent cold and flu viruses from invading and infecting cells. If you’re flying or otherwise potentially exposed to viruses, taking elderberry is a good preventive. If you do come down with a cold or flu, taking elderberry can hasten your recovery time.
Eleuthero standardized extract: An excellent adaptogen, eleuthero can help prevent jet lag; it was even used by Soviet cosmonauts to help them adjust to space travel. Standardized extracts guarantee that you’re getting sufficient amounts of eleutherosides, which herbalists consider to be the herb’s active compounds.
Eucalyptus essential oil: A potent antibiotic and antiviral, eucalyptus is excellent for treating colds, flus and sinus infections when used as a steam inhalation. Dilute with oil or witch hazel extract before applying to the skin, and do not take internally.
Ginger capsules, tea bags and crystallized ginger: The antispasmodic and gas-relieving properties of ginger soothe digestive upsets. Ginger also has been proven to relieve motion sickness better than Dramamine, the conventional drug treatment.
Goldenseal capsules or powder: A powerful antimicrobial, goldenseal is effective against a variety of microorganisms that cause traveler’s diarrhea. The powder has antiseptic properties and can be sprinkled onto cuts or wounds to stop bleeding. Do not take goldenseal internally during pregnancy.
Grindelia poison oak/ivy tincture or spray: Grindelia, also known as gumweed, contains resins and tannins that help to relieve the pain and itching of plant rashes. It’s available as a tincture and also as a spray specifically for treating poison oak/poison ivy rashes.
Lavender essential oil: Virtually an all-purpose remedy, lavender has sedative, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. It’s helpful for anxiety, insomnia, headaches, wounds and burns. For most people, lavender essential oil can be applied directly to the skin. Do not take more than 1 to 2 drops internally.
Laxative herbal tea bags: constipation is a common complaint. Most herbal laxative teas rely on senna, which contains compounds called anthraquinones that stimulate intestinal activity. Because senna has a bitter, unpleasant flavor, it’s often combined with tasty herbs such as cinnamon, fennel, licorice and ginger.
Peppermint essential oil and tea bags: With its high concentration of menthol, peppermint soothes an upset stomach, clears sinuses and curbs itching from insect bites. If you have sensitive skin, dilute peppermint oil before applying. Taken internally, peppermint may aggravate heartburn.
Valerian tincture: The sedative properties of valerian make it useful for relieving anxiety, insomnia and tension; it’s also a mild pain reliever.
Witch hazel extract: Distilled witch hazel has mild astringent, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, making it useful for insect bites and skin irritations. It’s also an excellent base for diluting essential oils for a variety of simple, topical herbal first-aid remedies. Do not take it internally.
Dandelion Extract: Dandelion is a rich source of vitamins A, B complex, C, and D, as well as minerals such as iron, potassium, and zinc. To treat kidney disease, swelling, skin problems, heartburn, and stomach upset. Chinese medicinal practitioners traditionally used dandelion to treat digestive disorders, appendicitis, and breast problems (such as inflammation or lack of milk flow). In Europe, herbalists incorporated it into remedies for fever, boils, eye problems, diabetes, and diarrhea. Dandelion may be used for a wide range of conditions requiring mild diuretic treatment, such as poor digestion, liver disorders, and high blood pressure. Dandelion is a source of potassium, a nutrient often lost through the use of other natural and synthetic diuretics. dandelion may help normalize blood sugar levels and improve lipid profiles lowering total cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing HDL, “good,” cholesterol
Additional First-Aid Essentials
Butterfly closure bandages.
Alcohol: Small plastic bottle for removing poison oak/ivy oils from the skin.
Bandage materials: Sterile gauze pads, a roll of gauze, adhesive bandage tape.
Cosmetic clay: With drying and drawing properties, clay is useful for healing skin rashes and insect bites. Store in a small plastic container. Bentonite Clay can absorb any toxic substances imaginable: impurities, harmful bacteria, poisons, pesticides, pathogens, parasites, etc. It does this without posing any nasty side effects in us, because as mentioned before, it can’t be absorbed by us. Binds toxins and expels them from the body.
Elastic bandage: For sprains or strains.
Moleskin: Blister treatment.
Scissors: Small pair for cutting bandages, adhesive tape, moleskin.
Thermometer: Instant-read type.
Tweezers: For removing ticks and splinters.
Waterless hand sanitizer: Travel-size bottle.
Cayenne. Five to ten drops diluted in two ounces of water can be used internally for frostbite and hypothermia. It moves the blood from the center of the body to the peripheral areas, warming hands and feet. A couple drops under the tongue will help to revive someone in shock or trauma. Used externally for heavily bleeding lacerations, it will coagulate the blood to stanch the flow (though it stings a mite).
Valerian. As an antispasmodic and painkiller, this herb relieves intestinal and menstrual cramps, headaches and general aches or pains. As a nervine, it will bring sleep to an exhausted person. The dosage range is 30 to 60 drops.
Echinacea. Besides possessing the ability to increase the supply of white blood cells to an infected area, thus boosting the immune system, echinacea is also antibiotic and antibacterial to gram positive bacteria such as strep or staph. It’s helpful with fevers, poisoning, or any type of internal infection and has reportedly been used for poisonous insect and snake bites by many native Plains tribes. Echinacea is a good preventative and supportive herb for the onset of the flu or common cold. The dosage ranges from 30 to 60 drops, the higher ranges used for fevers and acute situations. For toothaches, it can be massaged into the surrounding gums and teeth. For poisonous bites, 60 drops every 15 minutes is appropriate.
Grindelia. As an external remedy, grindelia cools and soothes hot, irritated skin rashes, sunburns, itchy insect bites and poison ivy. When taken internally, it helps expel mucus obstruction in the bronchioles and may be useful for some types of asthma and respiratory congestion.
Milk thistle combination.This can include milk thistle, burdock and kelp in equal parts. An alternative to chaparral that acts to leach heavy metals and radiation toxicity from the thyroid, blood, and liver as well as protects the liver against further damage. Good to take before and after dental x-rays and after taking Tylenol or Advil.
Quassia. As an antimicrobial, this herb is traditionally used for bacterial diarrhea, dysentery, and giardia — a lower gastrointestinal complaint contracted by drinking contaminated water. The standard dose is three to five droppersful every six hours. To treat suspected bad water, add 30 drops to each quart of water.
Syrup of Ipecac. This standard remedy promotes vomiting and should only be used in certain types of poisoning.
Extracts will keep their potency for several years if stored in a dark and cool place.
Slippery elm capsules. Used for food poisoning, this powder combines and buffers poisons in the stomach and bowels to decrease toxic absorption. It can soothe mucous membranes and settle an upset stomach.
Ginger root capsules. Use two caps for motion and morning sickness. It’s also effective for nausea caused by flu or bad food.
Marshmallow-peppermint oil capsules. This is an easy-to-make combination of four parts marshmallow powder to one part peppermint oil. The powder in this formula is basically a vehicle for the peppermint oil to reach the small intestines without dissolving in the stomach. The capsules reduce intestinal cramping that can accompany any gastrointestinal tract infection.
For children not able to swallow capsules, you can dissolve the contents in four cups of juice or sweetened water.
Poultice combination powder. This should consist of at least one antibacterial herb, one antifungal, an emollient, and an astringent. A possible combination can contain equal parts gentian, myrrh gum, goldenseal, and marshmallow. This powder can be stored in a zip-lock plastic bag and makes a nice dust for sore feet, lacerations (it will stop excess bleeding), diaper rash, infections, insect bites, or inflamed eyes (it is cooling and soothing). A tea of these herbs can be used externally as a wash. For foreign objects in the eye, make a paste by adding water to the mix and bandage it over the closed eyelid to draw the object out and soothe the eye simultaneously.
Peppermint. A little on the temples can help you stay awake and a few drops in water will settle an upset stomach.
Tea tree oil. Called a “first aid kit in a bottle,” tea tree (Melaleuca leucadendron) oil has strong antifungal and antibiotic properties with antiseptic abilities. It can be used for fungal infections, pus-filled wounds or burns, cold sores, and herpes lesions. For use with earaches and on sensitive skin, dilute with equal parts olive oil. Use sparingly — tea tree oil goes a long way.
A good all purpose salve is essential. You want one that will draw and shrink swollen tissues, fight bacteria, and soothe compromised tissues. Here is a list of common herbs that fall in each category:
Emollients –– marshmallow, slippery elm, plantain, comfrey, and mullein;
Antimicrobials –– echinacea, goldenseal, yerba mansa, Oregon grape, osha, propolis, myrrh gum, garlic, calendula, chamomile, chaparral, gentian, and usnea;
Astringents –– horsetail, bistort, geranium, rose, alum, yarrow, witch hazel, yellow dock, and St. John’s wort.
A combination of one herb from each category is a good disinfectant for anaerobic bacteria and is soothing to epithelial cells. The mixture will also cut down on bleeding and slow the scarring process. It will speed up the healing time and can be used anywhere a salve is needed to coat and protect.
Antimicrobial healing salve. 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 the effects. Use for any breaks in the skin and for burns. (Do not use initially on puncture wounds, use an antiseptic such as echinacea tincture instead)
Insect repellant. Essential oils (lavender, citronella, eucalyptus, cedarwood, lemon grass, pennyroyal) suspended in a base of water and alcohol, are pleasant smelling to humans and noxious to bugs. The combinations work better than the single oils. Make your own or use the all-natural commercial preparations. Note that eating sugar and sweets increases your attractiveness to many insects! (Caution: Although pennyroyal essential oil is widely used for insect repellants, I recommend against this use. It can be toxic even in moderate doses and is specifically contraindicated for so many people – especially pregnant women. It is powerful and can effect people and pets in the vicinity of the user.)
Muscle aches and pains liniment for external use: Arnica, witch hazel and St. John’s Wort tinctures in combination and essential oils of camphor, eucalyptus, rosemary and clove bud are all excellent. Note that some people are sensitive to arnica: STOP if adverse symptoms result. Do not use arnica on broken skin.
Poison Ivy and Poison Oak liniment for external use.
Jewelweed (impatiens) specifically neutralizes the Rhus toxin and works well. Use fresh or tinctured, but jewelweed can be hard to find. Other remedies include grindelia, combined with echinacea, calendula and white oak bark.
Echinacea tincture. Don’t leave home without it. Internal and external antibiotic, provides temporary boost to the immune system. Good in case a cold threatens. Antidotes poison.
Ginger capsules. Great remedy for tummy upsets, including motion sickness, morning sickness and gas. Helpful for menstrual cramps. Alternatives: fennel and peppermint.
Bentonite clay or charcoal tablets, for diarrhea. These are to assist with detoxification, in case of poisoning. (Of charcoal, take 4 every hour, of bentonite clay, take 1 teaspoon in water, 3-4 times per day). Drink a lot of water. 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. Slippery elm tea also provides a fine remedy (but is still an endangered plant!). Blackberry and strawberry root and leaf also will reduce internal hemorrhaging. Cooked white rice works wonders at reducing diarrhea.
Meadowsweet tincture or aspirin. Fast acting, anti-inflammatory, pain-killers. Willow bark tea works well.
Thyme essential oil. A “must bring” for camping. Two drops in 4 ounces of water for mouthwash for toothache or sore throat. Same recipe used externally for crabs, lice, and all external parasites. Two drops placed in recently boiled water, inhale the steam for cold, flu, or bronchitis.
Cayenne capsules. Proven styptic. Open and apply externally to stop bleeding. (Yes, it does burn, but it works). It will also warm cold feet, sprinkled inside your boots. Alternative styptics: comfrey and yarrow. Comfrey is perhaps the finest internal anti-hemorrhage we have and is great externally as well, but it recently has come under FDA criticism (read some good herbal texts and decide for yourself. Me, I think it’s a great herb).
Bug bite and itch relief. Witch hazel, plantain, grindelia, comfrey and St. John’s Wort all provide relief from insect bites and general itching. Tinctured combinations of these seem to work best and are applied directly to the skin. Juice from the plantain is mildly effective and it grows throughout this region (just crumple the leaves and rub onto the skin). Lavender essential oil may be applied directly to the skin and works well. It enhances any tincture combination.
Relief from bruises. I think of these as wounds where the skin is unbroken, often accompanied by discoloration. Useful herbs, typically applied topically in tincture form, include ginseng, hyssop, myrrh gum, prickly ash bark, cayenne, calendula, comfrey and arnica. Do not use these remedies on the eyes or mucous membranes and wash thoroughly after use.
This is not a complete list, but it is a very good start! Please feel free to add to it!