First aid is a broad topic, so I have focused on a few of the most common external problems that might face gardeners or hikers. There are many herbs which can be used for these conditions, but I have limited the scope to my favorite herbs that are local, easily found in your yards and/or found in abundance in the wild. These remedies can easily be made yourself, or purchased from local vendors. Look for tinctures with 50% alcohol and oils/ointments made from fresh plants in high quality olive oil.
Safety Note: Do research, get expert opinions and trust your instincts when choosing and using herbal remedies. You are in charge of your own health and the decisions you make regarding it.
I. Wounds, Bites and Stings
Actions needed: vulnerary (wound healing), anti-inflammatory, astringent, anti-microbial/ antibacterial/ antiseptic, hemostatic (stops bleeding), suppurative (brings infection to a head, pulls out pus)
- Fresh Poultices – plantain leaves, violet leaves, yarrow leaves, chickweed herb
- Plantain is a superstar for bites and stings – fresh poultice (chewed) is best, but moistened dry leaves, moistened powder, or oil/ointment work too. Plantain is excellent for drawing out stingers, venom and splinters. It is also an excellent herb for itching caused by bites and stings, or anything else.
- Dried herbs, moistened – violet leaves, plantain leaves. Let dried herbs soak in room temperature water until they are pliable enough to apply to the wound.
- Infused Oils or Ointments – Excellent for wounds, bites, infections: yarrow leaves/flowers, calendula blossoms, St John’s Wort flowers/leaves, plantain leaves, violet leaves, chickweed leaves/flowers, comfrey leaves or root (not on deep wounds!!)
- My favorite for a deep wound – calendula succus dripped on a slit band aid, keeps wound open and weeping. Calendula lotion might work as well, I just haven’t experimented with it.
- Lotion – A “lotion” in herbal terms usually refers to a 50% alcohol tincture which has been watered down by half, giving you a 25% alcohol tincture which can be used externally. Yarrow and St. John’s Wort make good lotions.
- Bandaging tip for wounds – If using gauze and tape instead of a band-aid, make sure you put the
tape all the way around the body part so it sticks to itself. Otherwise, it usually falls off quickly.
II. External Bleeding – Action needed: Hemostatic
- Classic wisdom for bleeding wounds is to apply pressure. This is to seal off the capillaries that
have been injured, giving the blood a chance to clot.
- My favorite remedy by far: Fresh yarrow leaf/flower poultice, or if not available, yarrow powder
III. Minor Burns
Actions needed: Vulnerary, cooling, demulcent
- Draw out excess heat as quickly as possible– use lukewarm or cool water.
- My favorite remedy for burns is St. John’s Wort oil. It relieves pain, reduces inflammation and is
especially great for sunburns.
- Other herbs to use: Calendula blossom oil/ointment, crushed fresh violet poultice with honey (“replace with a fresh poultice when signaled by pain”), fresh bee balm leaf poultice, crush chickweed poultice to draw out heat
IV. Sprains, Strains & Muscle Pains
Possible Herbal Actions Needed: Anti-inflammatory, anodyne (pain relieving), anti-spasmodic, vulnerary
- Ice – for no more than 15 minutes.
- Infused oils
- `St. John’s Wort oil/ointment– anti-inflammatory, pain relieving. If applied to warm skin (after a shower, for example), can help clear lactic acid out of overused muscles, relieving soreness and spasms
- Infused oil/ointment of arnica flowers, solomon’s seal root, comfrey root or leaves
- Poultices – Hot burdock leaf vinegar poultice, fresh or dried (then moistened) violet leaves (heat as hot as it tolerable, don’t overdo it), fresh mullein leaves (soaked in hot water until pliable, then applied like violet)
- Fomentations – hot fomentation of ginger root (cloth soaked in ginger root decoction and applied to the affected area)
- Tinctures: St. John’s Wort blossoms, Meadowsweet leaves/flowers, Skullcap leaves/flowers, Willow bark
- Honey or decoction – Ginger root, Tumeric root