Every home should have a first aid kit. Accidents happen, especially when children are involved, and it pays to be prepared for such incidents. There are many traditional first aid kits available on the market, which will contain the standard Band-Aids, sterile wipes, and bandages. However, an herbal first aid kit can provide remedies for a whole range of common ailments and injuries.
Before creating a first aid kit, it is worth considering what kinds of injuries and ailments may need to be treated, which will depend upon its intended usage. Problems that people frequently encounter include:
For scrapes and scratches that are not bleeding, you can aid the healing with a tincture made from Echinacea or a comfrey based salve. Such tinctures may include plantain, calendula, Oregon grape root, and St John’s Wort, and are mixed with an olive oil base and beeswax. Adding the beeswax causes the mixture to set, meaning that it can be stored and applied easily. However, comfrey should not be used on open wounds.
Any injury that breaks the skin needs to be cleaned to prevent infection, and there are a number of natural antimicrobial products available. Lavender oil is both antibacterial and antiseptic, and can be used undiluted or mixed with a little olive or vegetable oil for more sensitive skin. To prevent bleeding, dried and powdered wild geranium or bistort root, horsetail, goldenseal, yarrow leaf or flower can also be applied either dry or they can be made into a paste with a small amount of water.
If it seems that a cut may scar, vitamin E oil can be applied to the area once the wound has completely healed (using it before it has healed can prevent the wound scabbing over, leaving it more susceptible to infection). The oil should be applied to the site two or three times a day, then covered with an adhesive bandage, for up to two months as required.
Children often fall or bump into things, and getting bruises can be painful. The pain may be reduced through the application of warm sage or chamomile tea bags, or using aloe vera leaves.
For swelling, arnica is a common treatment, which comes in cream, gel and tablet form, dependent on its purpose. It is well known for its ability to bring out bruising and reduce swelling. In addition, it may also be taken for several days prior to, and following, surgery to aid healing in the same way.
As well as being used for scrapes and scratches, comfrey can also help reduce swelling from bruising. Witch hazel, either applied directly or used in a warm bath, can help improve blood flow to the area.
Prevention is always better than cure. If an area is known for its high population of biting insects, a number of natural remedies are known to help prevent being bitten. Essential oils such as lavender, citronella, clove, lemongrass, rosemary, tea tree, or eucalyptus can be mixed with a base of water and witch hazel to create a spray that smells pleasant to humans, but offensive to insects.
In the event of insect bites, they can be treated with a number of natural remedies, some of which have already been mentioned above. Aloe vera in gel form or juice form will ease the itching and swelling, as will a thick paste of baking soda and water, or even a standard teabag that has been brewed and left to cool. If there are a large number of bites, Bragg’s apple cider vinegar added to a hot bath can help reduce the irritation.
Whether they have been caused by the sun or from carelessly touching a hot item, burns are usually extremely painful.
When the burn is caused by contact with heat, aloe vera and lavender oil, with their soothing and antibiotic properties, are recommended. In addition, calendula has anti-inflammatory properties, and gotu kola extract aids healing. Both of the latter two can be used in gel form or as a compress.
Tannin, which is soothing and contains antioxidants to reduce inflammation, is a useful treatment for sunburn. This ingredient is found in black or green tea, and a cool, damp teabag can be applied either as a compress, or added to the bath. Witch hazel also contains tannin, and it can be sprayed on or gently applied to the affected area with a cotton wool ball.
Whether it’s upset stomach or constipation, there are several natural remedies that can help resolve the problem.
For nausea and general stomach problems, or morning sickness in pregnant women, ginger is a commonly used remedy. It can be taken in capsule form, or made into an infusion by adding a piece of fresh ginger to hot water. Peppermint is also an effective treatment for indigestion or nausea, whether used as an herb, an oil, or a tea. Chamomile tea is known for its antispasmodic properties.
For cases of diarrhea which may have been caused by something consumed, charcoal can help. Charcoal is activated via heat, which causes spaces—or pores—to develop inside it. These pores allow the charcoal to adsorb (bind to) the problem bacteria and microbes, enabling the body to excrete them. In addition to relieving nausea and diarrhea, it also helps to reduce the build-up of intestinal gas, which can be extremely uncomfortable. When using activated charcoal, it is important to drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration.
As demonstrated here, it’s relatively simple to create an herbal first aid kit that can cope with a wide range of common situations and ailments. It just requires a little planning to ensure that the necessary herbs and oils are readily at hand, should they be needed. Lavender, calendula, aloe vera and chamomile are the most useful ingredients.