12 essential items to stock in your herbal first aid kit

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1 January 1970

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It’s a good idea to have a first aid kit on hand with sticking plasters, painkillers and antiseptic cream, but it is also useful to add some healing herbs to your emergency stash.

1 Aloe vera gel

Cooling and healing, aloe vera soothes the inflammation of sunburn and common kitchen scalds and burns.

2 Arnica gel or cream

Arnica flowers have anti-inflammatory and circulation-stimulating properties; the gel or cream is excellent for sore muscles, sprains, strains and bruises. Do not apply arnica to broken skin.

3 Chamomile tea bags

Chamomile makes a tasty tea. Gentle enough for children, chamomile has mild sedative, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It promotes relaxation, relieves indigestion and, when applied topically, soothes skin irritations.

4 Citronella-based insect repellent

Most herbal repellents contain citronella, a pungent citrus-scented essential oil distilled from an aromatic grass that grows in southern Asia. Herbal insect repellents work well, as long as they’re applied liberally and frequently (as often as every two hours). I like to use Safe, which you can find at hebebotanicals.co.nz.

5 Echinacea liquid extract

Rich in immune- stimulating chemicals, echinacea can be used for any type of infection. You can get echinacea tablets, but liquid extracts are the most versatile because they can be used both internally and externally.

6 Eucalyptus essential oil

A potent antibiotic and antiviral, eucalyptus is excellent for treating colds, flus and sinus infections when used as a steam inhalation. Dilute with oil or witch hazel extract before applying to the skin, and do not take internally.

7 Ginger capsules, tea bags and crystallised ginger

The antispasmodic and gas-relieving properties of ginger soothe digestive upsets. Ginger has been proven to relieve motion sickness better than Dramamine, the conventional drug treatment.

8 Lavender essential oil

Virtually an all-purpose remedy, lavender has sedative, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. It’s helpful for anxiety, insomnia, headaches, wounds and burns. For most people, lavender essential oil can be applied directly to the skin.

9 Laxative herbal tea bags containing senna

Travel constipation is a common complaint. Most herbal laxative teas rely on senna, which contains compounds called anthraquinones that stimulate intestinal activity. Because senna has a bitter, unpleasant flavour, it’s often combined with tasty herbs such as cinnamon, fennel, liquorice and ginger.

10 Peppermint essential oil and tea bags

With its high concentration of menthol, peppermint soothes an upset stomach, clears sinuses and curbs itching from insect bites. If you have sensitive skin, dilute peppermint oil before applying. Taken internally, peppermint may aggravate heartburn.

11 Valerian tincture

The sedative properties of valerian make it useful for relieving anxiety, insomnia and tension. It’s also a mild pain reliever.

12 Witch hazel extract

Distilled witch hazel has mild astringent, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, making it useful for insect bites and skin irritations. It’s also an excellent base for diluting essential oils for simple, topical herbal first-aid remedies. Do not take it internally.

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