“Long before people bought medicine or food at a store, they learned to use the wild plants growing all around them. They watched animals to see which plants were good to eat and which plants were poisonous. They experimented and learned which plants could heal people when they were hurt or sick. People passed their knowledge on to their children and grandchildren for generations.”
-Ellen Evert Hopman, Walking the World of Wonder
This is a travel version herbal first aid kit. It fits into a plastic case or a small back pack. This is quick and easy to assemble and will help you to learn first aid first hand. I’ve listed some books at the end of this article for further information on first aid and herbs.
A Carrying Case
The first thing you’ll need is a sturdy carrying case for your kit. Either a shoebox sized plastic tub or a small kid’s back pack will do the trick. If you are using a tub, you can write on it with a sharpie “First Aid Kit” or buy a vinyl sticker to place on top of it. I prefer the universal green background with white cross. You can also purchase a sew on patch for your backpack. Anyone needing to find your kit should be able to see the decal or patch.
Basic First Aid Supplies
Next you’ll want to assemble the basic first aid needs. This may vary a bit depending on your family’s needs but this is a good starting point. Add or subtract as needed:
Assorted sizes band-aids, including some butterfly or wound closure strips
Travel sewing kit which contains needle, thread, safety pins
Plastic eye cup
Extra safety pins
Small Ace bandage
Small tube super glue – for gluing together gaping cuts
Alcohol swab pads
Various tape – I like to use a piece of plastic to wrap duck tape and bandage tape around
Small bottle hydrogen peroxide
Small bottle saline – good for cleaning wounds and the focused stream can be used to flush out a dirty wound
Contact lens case and spare contacts – if there is a wearer of them, especially the driver, it’s not fun to lose a contact and try to drive without it!
Instant Hand warmers – for applying heat to an injury
A piece of flannel fabric or a wash cloth – Use to soak tea in for a compress or to wash wounds
A bottle of water – for washing wounds, using to make tea, etc.
A sliver of soap in a ziplock bag
Now it’s time to assemble some herbs to go along with your kit!
Herbal salve – see the previous tutorial for making your own individual salve packs.
Lip balm – this can be used for chapped lips and in a pinch, as a salve substitute if you are out of salve. It can also be rubbed onto cracked heels and other dry skin patches.
Natural Peppermint candies – These are good for nausea, motion sickness and upset stomachs
Ginger chew candies – Same as the Peppermint candies, offers a variety in case Peppermint isn’t liked or doesn’t work
Herbal extracts –1/2 or 1 ounce plastic bottles are best so the bottles won’t break.
–Peach Extract – Bee stings, coughs
–Plantain Extract – Bee stings, bleeding, allergies, to help draw out splinters
-Osha Extract – Allergic reactions (pet dander, stings, pollen)
–Crampbark Extract – Cramping of any kind, muscle spasms, tension
–Wild Cherry Extract – Stress, anxiety, coughs
–Willow or Meadowsweet Extract – Headaches, inflammation
–St. John’s Wort Extract – nerve pain, nervous tension
–Dandelion Extract – Digestive issues
–Echinacea Extract – Boosts the immune system, good for venomous stings and bites
Homeopathic tabs – There are many homeopathic tabs available, I find these to be most useful with kids.
-Arnica – anytime anyone gets a cut, bump, bruise, scrape, etc. 4 of these tabs go under the tongue
-Rhus toxicodendron – this is a great defense against poison ivy
-Apis mellifica – for bee stings
Flower essences – I like to keep Bach’s Rescue Remedy on hand for emergency situations when trauma happens. I find it good for soothing and calming kids who are hysterical and uncontrollable with fright, trauma and/or pain. It works great on animals too (rub a few drops on the inside of their ear.
Powdered herbs – Though extracts are handy, sometimes powdered are good to have on hand too.
–Cayenne – Packaged in tiny baggies in 1 teaspoon measurements. Useful for pouring onto a wound that won’t stop bleeding and can also be used to save someone’s life during a heart attack (mix 1 teaspoon with 1 cup water, preferably warm) and have them drink it. If they are unconscious, rub directly on their gums. CAUTION: This will sting (obviously) so use with caution on children. It’s a good last resort, gotta stop the bleeding, kind of herb.
-Wound blend – a combination of powdered herbs such as Goldenseal, Echinacea, Usnea, Plantain, Comfrey and Yarrow blended together to pour onto wounds to stop bleeding, protect from infection and encourage healing.
-Activated charcoal – though this is not an actual herb, no first aid kit should be without this. Activated charcoal can be used for a myriad of things from making into a poultice (I like to use Plantain and Echinacea for applying to venomous bites or Plantain to help draw out splinters), applied to weepy wounds to help dry up and heal, or taken internally for intestinal distress including diarrhea, vomiting, food poisoning and other toxins
Essential oils – Be careful with essential oils, they are extremely potent. Most essential oils should be diluted in an oil before using, the ones listed below are okay to use full strength as listed.
–Rosemary – the traveller’s friend. I sniff the bottle if I’m driving and get weary, it’s a great pick me up. It’s also great for calming down cranky kids, they can sniff the bottle too or a few drops can be added to a cotton ball and stuck in an air vent. It’s also great for opening stuffy sinuses.
-Tea Tree – a drop can be applied to a mosquito bite for instant relief
–Lavender – Calming for most people, can be sniffed or placed on a cotton ball in the vent. Soothing for burns, bug bites
Tea bags – Tea bags are a handy way to bring along dried herbs in pre-packaged dispensers.
–Chamomile – great for upset stomachs, nausea, sleepy kids who are wired (as a tea) and great for applying to sore, tired inflamed eyes (soak the bags in hot water, gently squeeze out excess liquid and apply to the eyes after it has cooled a bit). The tea can also be used in an eye cup to wash an irritated, inflamed eye.
–Peppermint – great for indigestion, nausea, digestive headaches and for a pick me up. Peppermint is cooling so drinking Peppermint tea can help to cool down someone who is overheated.
Herbal First Aid Books
Having a reference guide can be helpful but only if you have read it a few times to become familiar with it.
The Herbal Medic: Practical, clinical herbalism & first aid: for home, remote and post-disaster environments by Sam Coffman – Sam has a bit of everything in his book, including beautiful color photographs to help with plant identification.
Pocket Guide to Herbal First Aid by Nancy Evelyn – this tiny pocket manual has a soft spot in my heart as it is one of the first herbal books I purchased.
First Aid with Herbs by John Heinemann – This is a nice thin booklet that tucks nicely into a car first aid kit.
Herbal First Aid and Health Care: Medicine for a New Millennium by Kyle D. Christensen
Herbs to the Rescue: Herbal First Aid Handbook by Kurt King – I love this book as a quick reference. It is easy to read and section three contains lists of herbal sources for vitamins and minerals.
Kid’s First Aid Books
Most are not herbally oriented but they are good for starting conversations on what to do in an emergency. They are a great learning tool for asking “what type of herbs would we use for this scenario?”
The Mary Frances First Aid Book 100th Anniversary Edition: A Children’s Story-Instruction First Aid Book with Home Remedies plus Bonus Patterns for Child’s Nurse Cap and Apron by Jane Eayre Fryer – This is a delightful book written in the early 1900’s that was republished in 2011. Though some of the first aid techniques are outdated, it’s a great starter book for kids and even lists herbal remedies for use.
Kids to the Rescue!: First Aid Techniques for Kids by Marybeth Boelts
Herbal Games to Reinforce First Aid Skills
Games are a great way to help reinforce first aid skills while having fun. Kids learn best through play, so follow up some herbal first aid learning sessions with some games.
Wildcraft! by LearningHerbs.com is a great game to help reinforce how to use herbs for first aid.
Do you have a herbal first aid kit? What is in your herbal first aid kit?