HERBAL FIRST AID KIT: BUG BITES:
Insect repellant: essential oils of lavender, citronella, eucalyptus, cedarwood, camphor, tea tree, rosemary, cypress, peppermint, and lemon grass suspended in a base of water and alcohol, are pleasant smelling to humans and noxious to bugs. Essential Oil combinations work better than single oils.
Bug bite and itch relief: witch hazel, plantain, 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. Crumple the leaves and rub onto the skin. Lavender essential oil may be applied directly to the skin, and it enhances any tincture combination.
Note that eating sugar and sweets increases attractiveness to many insects!
Plantain Leaf: (Plantago lanceolata): is a demulcent herb that contains complex polysaccharides that have a soothing effect on a variety of conditions. Plantain leaf has been documented to help people with chronic bronchitis.
Other demulcents traditionally used for people with bronchitis include mullein, marshmallow, and slippery elm. Because demulcents can provoke production of more mucus in the lungs, they tend to be used more often in people with dry coughs.
St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum): a pretty little shrub with cheery yellow flowers that have a burst of long, showy stamen in the center, the blossoms of St. John’s Wort last from midsummer until fall, and they are followed by colorful berries. St. John’s wort grows well in sand, clay, rocky soil or loam, and tolerates acidic to slightly alkaline ph. St. John’s wort adapts to both moist and dry soil, and even tolerates occasional flooding. It also withstands drought but grows best with irrigation during prolonged dry spells. Plant in a location with bright morning sunlight and a little shade in the hottest part of the afternoon. Water slowly and deeply after planting and keep the soil moist until the transplants are well-established.
St. John's wort boosts mood and relieves symptoms of depression, calms anxiety, eases menopause-related symptoms and PMS, and helps with seasonal affective disorder, and smoking cessation. An oil made from St. John’s wort has also been used topically for wound healing and a variety of other skin conditions such as eczema and hemorrhoids.
Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana): a tree-like plant indigenous to North America and parts of Asia. Products that offer benefits from witch hazel generally contain witch hazel extract derived from either the bark or leaves of the plant. Once it’s harvested, the bark and leaves are distilled to bring out the active chemical compounds.
Witch Hazel is a natural disinfectant for cuts and scrapes. Its antiseptic properties can be used topically to cleanse and soothe minor skin irritations without over-drying or aggravating the wound. It relieves irritation from minor burns, and soothe itch, redness, and irritation from bug bites and poison ivy.
HERBAL FIRST AID KIT: BURNS, CUTS, & SCRAPES:
Antimicrobial healing salve: a comfrey-based salve that includes herbs such as plantain, St. John’s wort, calendula, aloe, gotu kola, 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.
Muscle aches and pains liniment for external use: contains arnica, witch hazel and St. John’s Wort tinctures in combination, and essential oils of camphor, eucalyptus, rosemary and clove bud. Do not use arnica on broken skin.
Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis): one of the most commonly used herbs in alternative medicine, aloe is a thick, short-stemmed plant that stores water in its leaves. It is identified by its thick, pointed and fleshy green leaves, which can grow to about 12-19 inches in length. Each leaf is full of a slimy gel that stores water and makes the leaves thick. The gel contains most of the bioactive compounds in the plant, including vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants.
The Aloe Vera plant has anti-inflammatory properties, which make it effective to treat muscle and joint pain for people with osteoarthritis, old injuries, surgeries, rheumatic and muscular pains, and discomfort. These benefits are helpful for sprains, disc hernias, lumbago, and rheumatism. The pulp of Aloe Vera contains an anti-inflammatory effect and minimizes pain related to joints and muscles by alleviating swelling of tissues and releasing muscle tension. It also has vasodilator power, effective to encourage the regeneration of inflammations, which is beneficial for contusions and rheumatic pains, since it stimulates the blood flow, minimizes bruising and accelerates the healing of damaged tissues.
HERBAL FIRST AID KIT: POISIONOUS PLANTS: Some plants can be poisonous if eaten, and others can cause contact rashes if they touch the skin. For some plants, all parts are poisonous, wile for others, only certain parts are harmful. The danger can range from mild irritation to severe illness or death.
• If someone eats a poisonous plant, call Poison Control for advice. Know the names of poisonous plants in the area because Poison Control needs to know what was consumed!
• Keep indoor plants where children can’t reach them.
• Watch children carefully when they play outdoors.
• Teach children always to ask an adult before eating or drinking anything.
• When camping or picnicking - only eat wild plants if that are known to be edible! People have died after mistaking hemlock for wild carrots.
HERBAL FIRST AID KIT: CONTACT RASHES:
Poison Ivy and Poison Oak liniment for external use: A fresh or tinctured Jewelweed poultice specifically neutralizes the Rhus toxin and works well. Other remedies include grindelia, combined with echinacea, calendula and white oak bark.
Jewelweed Poison Ivy Solution: Ingredients: a pint jar, 4 ounces Jewelweed tincture, distilled water, 5 drops lavender essential oil, 5 drops tea tree essential oil, cotton cosmetic pads, and a small jar with a tight-fitting lid.
Directions: Place 10-12 cotton pads in the smaller jar. Set aside. Pour the tincture into the pint jar. Add distilled water to double the volume. Add the essential oils and cap tightly. Shake well, and pour over the cotton pads, making sure to saturate the pads completely. Store for up to 4 months. To use squeeze excess liquid out of the cotton pad and wipe it on the affected area. This is a great treatment for poison ivy, oak, sumac, rashes, bug bites, and minor scrapes and scratches.
Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis): a member of the touch-me-not family, Jewelweed grows 4-5 feet tall. It has translucent-like, watery stems with swollen joints, and it branches out in different directions. Leaves are ovate, thin, smooth, almost wax-like, serrated, and light greenish grey in color. They have a silvery shimmer to them when placed in water. Jewelweed has a distinct irregular blossom that is yellow or orange in color with 5 petals, 2 of which are united, 3 sepals, and 5 stamens. Seed capsules, when mature and full of seeds, explode, throwing seeds all over. To harvest jewelweed, clip the smaller branches with a pair of sharp scissors.
Jewelweed is mostly used in fresh form, but it can also be juiced or gently boiled in water and frozen into ice cubes to preserve it. It’s most commonly used as a poultice or infused in water, witch hazel, or vinegar, but some use it dried in infused oils, salves, and soaps. Jewelweed is a well-known astringent herb and is commonly used for external skin conditions and has cooling and moistening energetics.
HERBAL FIRST AID KIT: DIARRHEA, NAUSEA, & UPSET STOMACH: Ginger capsules are a remedy for tummy upsets, including motion sickness, morning sickness, gas, and menstrual cramps.
Raspberry leaf is a very mild remedy for nausea and diarrhea.
Other herbs that soothe GI issues include peppermint, cinnamon, licorice root, ginger root, and horehound.
Horehound (Marrubium vulgare): a wrinkly, silvery herb that tastes intensely bitter and has an oily texture. Horehound thins and moves mucus, and it’s a classic for wet coughs, making them more productive. It helps ease the symptoms of asthma, chest congestion, chronic bronchitis, and allergies, and has a significant role to play in respiratory health, from clearing coughs to soothing and opening the lungs.
Consider Horehound for any respiratory issue with thick mucus congestion, including allergies and postnasal drip. It’s too bitter for tea, but excels as a fresh plant tincture.
HERBAL FIRST AID KIT: COLDS, FLU, & RESPIRATORY ISSUES: Echinacea tincture: don’t leave home without this external antibiotic that also provides a temporary boost to the immune system. It is good in cases of cold & flu.
Thyme essential oil: is a must bring for camping! Place 2 drops in recently boiled water, and inhale the steam for colds, flu, and bronchitis. Use 2 drops in 4 ounces of water for mouthwash, toothache, or sore throat. Use the same recipe externally for crabs, lice, and other external parasites.
Other herbs that soothe respiratory issues include oregano, coltsfoot, golden seal, and lobelia.
Echinacea: (Echinacea purpurea): Echinacea tea can help to boost your immunity and fight off colds and flu. Echinacea tea has a strong floral taste which many people like to pair with a sweetener like honey or stevia.
Echinacea is essential for any first aid kit. It is stimulating to the immune system, helping to fight off infection or cold. Because it reduces inflammation, it is also useful for allergies, and food poisoning. It can be taken internally and applied externally for infections, abscesses and bug, spider or snake bite.
ECHINACEA TINCTURE RECIPE: Ingredients: 2 parts dried Echinacea Root, 1-part dried Echinacea Herb, 1-part fresh Garlic, chopped, 1-part dried Eleuthero Root, 1/2-part Cayenne powder, 100 proof Vodka, and 1 quart-sized glass mason jar. Please note: Part equals volume, not weight.
Directions: Using a quart-sized glass mason jar, begin filling it with the herbs and dried plant material until it is 1/4 full. Add enough 100 proof Vodka to the herbs to cover them, filling the jar, leaving a 1/2-inch headspace. Shake until well combined. Set the jar on a counter in a high-traffic area and shake it as many times as possible throughout each day. Allow the mixture to steep at least 4 weeks. Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth. Pour the prepared tincture into a dark glass bottle and discard the herbs. Label the name, date, and contents.
Thyme Leaf: (Thymus vulgaris): an effective herbal tea ingredient that calms stomach problems and sore throat. Use its leaves to prepare tea, and if there are flowers, add them too.
Thyme grows well in full sun but also tolerates partial sun. It is an ideal herb that is very low maintenance. Plant in spring after danger of frost has passed, in well-drained soil that is on the dry side, and space 12 to 15 inches apart.
With its antifungal, antispasmodic, and expectorant effects, thyme leaf fights agents that cause bronchitis, helps to subdue coughs, soothes a sore throat, and relaxes bronchial muscles. Thyme leaf relieves cough by relaxing muscles involved in coughing, thins mucus, making it easier to expel, decreases mucus associated with allergies and upper and lower airway infections, and reduces inflammation in the airways.
CHOOSING PLANTS FOR THE HERBAL FIRST AID GARDEN: Before modern pharmaceuticals, people turned to nature to find cures for what ailed them. Herbs, shrubs, flowers, and trees can be grown that can treat minor ailments and injuries, from headaches to bee stings, right in your own backyard.
The local growing zone is 7, and this zone has a wealth of plants that will thrive in the area, including many hardy herbs that are suitable for a first aid garden. Herbs are easy to grow, and many are drought tolerant. Herbs typically do not require heavily nutrient rich soil and are naturally resistant to many insects and diseases.
Medicinal herbs for the Herbal First Aid Kit include calendula, comfrey, chamomile, dandelion, echinacea, golden seal, nettle, mugwort, peppermint, and yarrow.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale): nutritious and flavorful, the liver cleansing constituents of this alterative herb include inulin, potassium, calcium, sodium, phosphorus, iron, and vitamins A and C.
Beloved by herbalists, the humble yet vital dandelion offers beautiful golden flowers that can happily grace the kitchen table. Though the root and leaves are most often used by herbalists, the flowers also have useful properties and are used to help relieve pain when taken both internally and externally.
Dandelion fritters are a favorite springtime treat! Gather the blossoms and rinse well with water then leave to dry for a bit. Mix egg and milk together. Dip the dandelion blossoms in this mixture and then dredge them in flour. Fry carefully in olive or coconut oil and enjoy!
Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris): grows to 4 feet in height, but occasionally reaches heights of up to 6 feet. Its angular reddish-brown stems have bitter-tasting leaves that have a sage-like aroma. The plant blooms with yellow or dark orange flowers in the summer.
The mugwort plant is used for colic, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, headache, epilepsy, irregular menstrual periods, anxiety, insomnia, restlessness, irritability, and depression. It is commonly used in cooking to flavor fish, meat, desserts, pancakes, soups, and salads. Mugwort is used in a variety of herbal preparations, including extracts, tinctures, supplements, and as a poultice, a soft, moist mass of plant leaves kept in place with a cloth and applied to the body to relieve soreness and inflammation. Mugwort can be made into a tea by adding 1.5 teaspoons of mugwort leaves to a cup of boiling water, steeping for 10 minutes then straining off the leaves and serving.