I’d be lost nowadays without my herbal first aid kit. My son’s only 3 1/2 but last time I offered him Calpol at 3am he spat it out and asked for his ‘poorly tea’ (Catnip tea) instead. During the spring and summer, most of our herbal ‘first aid kit’ is growing in the garden or in the woods and fields nearby. Having some basic herbs and kitchen ingredients to hand in emergencies, and knowing how to use them can make the difference between a good night’s sleep and a sleepy visit to A&E. So if you’d like to start collecting, here are some favourites of mine:
Before we look at the herbs though, you’ll need some other bits and bobs to help you use them. Empty spray bottles are available from chemists, so get a couple of those. Also, keep a pair of old but clean socks (yes really). You’ll be amazed at how handy they are for earaches and chicken pox. And don’t forget to have a good reliable thermometer suitable for the whole family to use.
The Best Herbs For Your Herbal First Aid Kit
- Chamomile Tea – the teabags from the supermarket work just fine. It has so many uses I can’t go into all of them here, but it works wonders at calming inconsolable babies (of all ages, including adult babies!) and children. It also aids restful sleep, relieves nausea, soothes sore eyes, and relieves itchy skin.
- Echinacea tincture – there’s a bit of an art to using this, but it’s wonderful for preventing and treating infections. It’s also a mild analgesic, so perfect diluted as a gargle or spray for sore throats, or applied to insect bites or stings.
- Calendula cream – you can treat this as a good general antiseptic and healing cream for any cuts, grazes, burns etc. It
will also happily treat nappy rash.
- Arnica salve or Comfrey Cream – both are excellent for bumps, bruises, strains and sprains. Homeopathic Arnica tablets are also available from The Natural Dispensary, but Comfrey should only be taken internally under supervision of a Medical Herbalist.
- Aloe vera gel – this is best made fresh from the plant, but the bought variety is much easier to carry! Aloe gel is perfect for itchy, sore or irritated skin. Use it to relieve urticaria, or itching from chicken pox. It can also be applied during a bout of thrush to soothe the burning, although you’d probably need other herbs or conventional treatment to treat the infection.
- Elderberry syrup – is not only delicious (on ice cream or in prosecco – sssshhhhh!), it’s proven to help prevent colds, especially if you travel by plane a lot. Drunk warm it will help bring down a high temperature as well.
- Oats – pop a couple of handfuls into an old sock, tie it up and add a bit of water before heating it in the microwave for a minute or so. It makes a lovely warm compress for earache, sore muscles or joints, but obviously check the temperature before applying it.
- Onion – a key ingredient for cough medicine and ear infection remedies. Onion cough syrup is really quick and easy to make just using sugar and onions. And onion juice rubbed around, or put onto a cotton wool ball just inside the ear can be very effective at treating infections. Please get advice from your Doctor or Herbalist as well.
- Cold & Flu tea. The standard mix used by Medical Herbalists is equal parts Elderflower, Peppermint and Yarrow, drunk freely during colds. For flu you could swap the Yarrow for Boneset, which is specific for treating the kind of fever and muscle aches we get with flu. Neal’s Yard’s Echinacea Tea contains these herbs.
When And When Not To Use Your Herbal First Aid Kit
With herbal medicine, there’s always something you can do, whatever your circumstances. Herbs are fine for treating common, uncomplicated minor ailments like colds or hayfever if you’re just self treating at home. It’s a good idea to know what to look out for, especially if you’re looking after a young child or elderly person. The NHS Choices website and 111 out of hours service are always available if you have any concerns. If you’re really worried, don’t hesitate to get urgent medical help as appropriate.
How To Find Out More
Make sure you buy your herbal remedies from a reputable company as unfortunately there are a lot of fake or inferior products on the market nowadays. Most of the remedies I’ve mentioned here are available from Neal’s Yard Remedies.
I also run regular workshops on how to make and take your own herbal remedies. Search ‘What’s On’ to find out what’s happening when.