Essential Herbs for Summer First Aid

BoyonbeachSummer’s not over yet…and neither are our outdoor activities! To get some insight into unique herbal remedies for the bumps and bruises, stings and scrapes that come with outdoor fun, we turned to Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, MD, and member of Pharmaca’s Integrative Health Advisory Board.

What should I stock in my herbal first aid kit?  

Choose what you need in your herbal first aid kit based upon where you live, how you live and who lives with you! Here are the basics that most of us should keep around the house:

  • Calendula salve for skin irritations and rashes
  • Arnica salve or tincture for bruises, strains and sprain
  • Oregon grape root or goldenseal tincture—a powerhouse antimicrobial that can be used internally or topically
  • Echinacea tincture and/or elderberry syrup for colds and upper respiratory infections
  • Slippery elm lozenges for sore throat and occasional heartburn
  • Bentonite or French clay for insect bites
  • Witch hazel extract for bug bites and swelling
  • Grindelia tincture for poison ivy/oak and for chest congestion
  • Tea tree oil for fungal infections
  • California poppy tincture for use as a mild sedative and pain relief
  • A variety of herbal teas (e.g. chamomile for tension, ginger for nausea or upset stomach, peppermint for colds, etc.).

Other first aid essentials: acetaminophen for pain, diphenhydramine for allergic reactions, tweezers for removing splinters, oatmeal and baking soda for itchy skin, and an assortment of bandages, gauze pads, etc.

What herbs are safe for babies and children? 

If you have children in the house, make sure that you keep some remedies that are appropriate for their age. Chamomile, for example, soothes a fussy 2 year old or can ease crampy diarrhea in a 5 year old; slippery elm lozenges can soothe sore throats; honey can reduce coughs in children over a year; and echinacea glycerite (an alcohol-free version) and elderberry syrup are good for colds and coughs, etc.

Remember, any child under the age of two months who appears ill should be seen by a qualified health care professional. You can also find extensive information on safely and effectively treating children and adults at home in my book, Healthy at Home—as well as information about when you should seek medical care!

Give us your go-to herbs in the summer for the following

Insect bites. French or bentonite clay mixed with a little water to make a paste—apply to bite and then cover with cloth or plastic wrap for 30-45 minutes. Repeat 3-4 times per day if needed. Witch hazel extract can also be applied as a compress to the bite.

Poison ivy and poison oak. Grindelia tincture is hands down my favorite treatment. It can be applied directly to affected area, or you can mix 1 teaspoon in 1/4 cup of witch hazel extract and then apply (repeat as needed).

You can also make an oatmeal bath to soothe skin: Whirl 4 cups of oatmeal in blender or coffee grinder until powdered, then add 1/2 cup baking soda. Put in a cloth bag, sock or pantyhose and throw in bathtub of cool water and soak. You can also make a compress out of the oatmeal/baking soda blend and apply topically to the affected area.

Scrapes and bruises. For scrapes, wash with soap and water to remove any debris. If necessary, you can get extra antimicrobial protection by rinsing the cut with either of the following: Dilute 5 ml of Oregon grape root or goldenseal tincture in 50 ml of water, OR dilute 60 drops tea tree oil in 1 ounce water. Calendula ointment can then be applied and the cut can be covered with an appropriate bandage. For strains, sprains or bruises (not an open cut), arnica salve or tincture is the best you will find.

Earaches from swimming. If you’re prone to getting swimmer’s ear, use this remedy to prevent infection (Caution: Don’t use this if your ears are already hurting, because the alcohol will burn). Mix 1 oz rubbing alcohol and 1 oz white vinegar in a jar (mark EXTERNAL USE ONLY!). Apply 2 to 3 drops of room temperature mixture in each ear after swimming or showering. The alcohol will effectively remove the water, while the acidity in the vinegar prevents bacteria from growing.

Sunburn. You can use aloe vera topically, but one of my other favorites is to make a strong pot of green tea, let cool, and apply to the sunburn every 3-4 hours. Prevention is the best remedy here, however. Wear a hat, protective clothing and/or safe sunscreen!

For more first aid advice, speak with a Pharmaca practitioner today.

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