First Aid Kits with Herbal Medicines
Most store-bought first aid kits provide basic instructions and hardware for broken bones, lacerations, shock, bleeding, and sprains, but overlook other health problems. Here is a list of herbs that will help round out emergency treatment that MY family keeps close for those emergencies that we hope we never have to use. But, somehow we know that at least once in our lives we’ll need to use basic first aid techniques. If you go hiking or backpacking, cycling or any other outdoor activity, the odds that you’ll encounter an emergency health problem go way up. Despite those sobering odds, too few people keep first aid kits handy or know how to use them. While this article is for information purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always see the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical conditions. This article will provide basic information about what herbs to use for emergencies. Being knowledgeable and prepared dispels anxiety and allows you to think clearly when an emergency situation arises and you are the caregiver.
The Basics – Your kit should include scissors, tweezers, mirror, thermometer, gauze, cloth tape, sterile pads, band-aids, butterfly-type bandages, ace bandages. CPR and choking instructions. A more elaborate kit can include a flashlight, flares, ice and heat packs, a suture kit, and a knife. We pack pain killers for both adults and children. Now lets include our Herbal Extracts…
Herbal tinctures and extracts are the preferred form of medicine as they are assimilated quickly and administered easily. Tincturing also extracts valuable constituents not found in teas since certain active plant properties are only soluble in alcohol. If you dislike the alcohol, you can reduce its presence somewhat by placing the drops in a half cup of hot, boiled water and allowing it to sit for 15 minutes. You can mix the extract with juice to disguise the taste. Let’s keep things in perspective it has been said there’s more alcohol in a ripe banana than in the suggested dosage of herbal extracts.
- Arnica – This external remedy makes a great massage liniment for sore and cramped muscles. It will decrease pain and prevent swelling and bruising associated with torn ligaments, sprains, crushed fingers and toes, and broken bones – provided the skin is not broken. Arnica works best if applied immediately after an injury and continues every couple hours for the first day.
- 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 the hands and feet. T couple drops under the tongue will help to revive someone in shock or trauma. Used externally for heavy bleeding lacerations, it will coagulate the blood to stanch the flow (it will sting).
- 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 ban 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 Indian tribes. Echinacea is a good preventative and supportive herb the onset of the flu, CV-19, or the 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 bust 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 and 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 3 to 5 dropper fulls 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. I also carry charcoal for stomach poisoning.
- Flower rescue remedy – Used for emotional trauma for all ages, flower essences work quickly and effectively on symptoms ranging from hyperventilation to neurosis. Rubbing the drops on the temples and wrists of hysterical children unable to take anything orally will have an immediate calming influence. Extracts will keep their potency for several years if stored in a dark and cool place. Wild orange, lemon, lime, citrus scents, lavender, cedarwood, ylang-ylang, and peppermint to name a few.
Keep all your powders in the freezer until you are ready to use them. The shelf life for optimal herbal strength and effectiveness is about 3 to 6 months; after that the powders should be replaced. Slippery elm and marshmallow are exceptions – they will last forever — even without refrigeration.
- Slippery elm capsules – Used for food poisoning, this powder combines and buffers poison in the stomach and bowels to decrease toxic absorption. It can soothe mucous membranes and settle and upset stomach.
- Ginger root capsules – Use 2 caps for motion and morning sickness. It’s also effective for nausea caused by fly or bad food.
- Marshmallow – peppermint oil capsules – This is an easy-to-make combination of 4 parts marshmallow powder to 1 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 of 1 capsule in 4 cups of juice or sweetened water. Sipping is better.
- Poultice combination powder – This should consist of at least one antibacterial herb, one anti-fungal, 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, inset 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 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.
- Tree Tree Oil – Called a “first aid kit in a bottle,” tea tree (Melaleuca leucadendron) oil has strong anti-fungal and antibiotic abilities. It can be used for fungal infections, puss-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.
- Recipe for Headache Oil:
- 10 drops Lavender Essential Oil
- 10 drops Peppermint Essential Oil
- 10 drops Marjoram Essential Oil
- 1 teaspoon alvacado oil or coconut oil
Add essential oils to 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil such as olive, almond or jojoba oil. Rub on temples, forehead and back of neck. Avoid the eye area.
- Recipe for Burn Rescue:
- 5 ml Lavender Essential Oil
- 1 ml Helichrysum Essential Oil
- 5 drops Rescue Remedy
- 1 ounce pure Aloe Vera Gel
- 1 ounce Witch Hazel extract (optional)
Mix ingredients together and apply topically to burns, sunburns and wind burns. This cooling and healing formula will reduce pain, inflammation and scarring. Add the Witch Hazel if you would like to apply the formula as a spray.
A good all purpose salve is essential. You want one that will draw and shrink swollen tissues, fight bacteria, and soothe compromised tissues. This is a list of the most 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. Johnswort.
- Aloe Vera Salve/Gels- Cooling and healing, soothes the inflammation of sunburns and common kitchen burns and scalds.
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.
USING & COLLECTING WILD PLANTS
Using wild plants is especially useful when hiking or backpacking. Some common wild foods include Nettles, Red Clover, Plantain, Dandelion, Burdock and Chickweed. These are often eaten lightly steamed or cooked although some can be eaten raw. A few useful medicinal plants that grow in the Rocky Mountains include Yarrow, Mullein, Aspen, Arnica, Thuja and Uva Ursi. When using wild plants for food and medicine, it is essential to make a proper identification of the plant being used and be aware of the poisonous plants that grow in the area. It is helpful to go on an herb walk, take a wild foods class, and use reference herb books including Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West by Michael Moore, Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Rocky Mountains by Terry Willard, Discovering Wild Plants by Janice Schofield, and Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West by Greg Tilford. It is extremely important to remember to harvest with care and respect, impacting the environment of the area as little as possible. My rule of thumb is to take only what is needed and only when the plants themselves can spare it.
All of the herbal products mentioned are available at most health food stores or by ail order herb businesses. Being knowledgeable and prepared dispels anxiety and allows you to think clearly when and emergency arises. All of the hardware can be found at your local pharmacy. If you are making your own extracts, start with either fresh or whole plants and but to near powder yourself. The herb will be more potent. If you are buying your extracts and bulk herbs, look to see that they are either organically grown or ethically wild harvested, which means they were gathered in a conservative, sustainable manner that does no harm to the full survival of the plat species. If this is not written on the label ask your retailer to provide you with documentation as this information should always be available to the customer. Be sure to include dosage information on the bottles as well as the instruction booklet, or 3×5 cards that you can cover with see through packing tape to waterproof and keep clean. I have bought different first aid kits from Dollar Stores and repacked them to fit the occasion. Smaller ones kept in all our cars and larger ones that we take camping and into the outdoors. The smaller padded lunch boxes work well too. The actual kit can be made out of many different things, a cigar box, a gutted case, or something you make out of a durable canvas material with a Velcro closure. Keep your first aid case compact and organized with dividers or see through nylon mesh so everything can be found quickly.
Using herbal remedies, wither those you prepare yourself or ones that are made by environmentally responsible companies, is self empowering. It’s rewarding to know you had a hand in the healing process.
Thank you everyone for coming to our home. Please stay healthy and safe.
We want to thank our resources for sharing with us and our family and friends.
We love these references for our articles:
“The Herb Quarterly”
“The Herb Companion”
“Mother Earth News”