Whether you're into hiking, camping, sailing or just hanging around the back yard this summer, chances are you'll experience a scrape, rash or itchy bug bite at some point. With a little preparation and a few essential supplies, you'll be ready to tackle any minor emergency that comes your way. In addition to bandaids, gauze, scissors and tweezers, the following items are found in every well-stocked herbal first aid kit.
Witch Hazel Extract The all-purpose antiseptic and soothing agent for scrapes, cuts and other minor skin irritations. It's also perfect for diluting essential oils before using them topically.
Lavender Essential Oil Excellent for bug bites, stings and burns. Lavender is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and analgesic and is one of the few essential oils that can be applied to the skin "neat" (undiluted). The organic compounds aldehydes and ketones not only counter inflammation and pain, but also promote new tissue growth and reduce scarring.
Aloe Vera Gel This is the standby for summer skin care, especially to ease sunburn. Aloe contains a compound called aloin that not only blocks up to 30% of the sun's UV rays, but also stimulates cell turnover in UV damaged skin. As an added bonus, this agent effectively soothes redness and irritation due to poison ivy, poison oak, ringworm and eczema.
Chamomile Tea Bags Great for making a "cuppa" when you just want to relax but tea bags are also ready-made compresses. Chamomile is also a gentle herb that's perfect for children.
St. John's Wort Oil Excellent for muscle aches, sprains and bruises.
Calendula Salve Great for on-the-spot treatment of cuts, rashes, insect bites and other skin irritations.
Meadowsweet/Catnip/Feverfew These three are grouped together here because they each perform the same general function. Should a headache spring up or a fever break out, tea made from any of these herbs can help a great deal. Meadowsweet contains salicin, a precursor to aspirin. Feverfew is well known for its ability to reduce fever and reduce the severity and frequency of migraines. Catnip has antispasmodic and mild sedative properties and is also traditionally used to reduce fever and headache. In fact, catnip tea (blended with saffron) was once a common treatment for scarlet fever and small pox.
Herbal Wound Powder This medicinal compound can be sprinkled over wounds before dressing or used to make healing salve. Very handy to have in your first aid kit!