With a little innovation, you can learn to make your own All-Natural First-Aid Kit that won’t poison you! Truth is, a lot of the products on the market that are designed to keep bugs away or heal cuts are not the most health friendly. In fact, many of these products contain nasty chemicals. From the petroleum (i.e. Plastic) in your Neosporin (and yes, you do absorb the plastic straight into your skin) to the DEET designed to kill living creatures (yes, we are living creatures), these aren’t ideal if you wish to avoid the lurking chemicals within.
I have spent every summer in the mountains. Hiking up the mountains, over the mountains and literally crawling around inside the mountains. I’m an Underground Cave Guide at Rat’s Nest Cave in Canmore Alberta, Canada and it’s a very physical job.
Squirming through small holes, rappelling off cliffs into the black abyss, squeezing past thousand-year-old calcite cave formations, I’m bound to get a few bruises and scrapes. Yet, I’m always prepared with a few key salves and oils to make those bruises heal a little faster and provide some relief from the sting. If we take care of our health by eating healthy, we should also take care of the little (or large!) nicks and cuts we get along the road of life. These bumps and bruises can cause problems on the superficial skin level and if left to fester, may let nasty infections proliferate.
Over the years of adventure and escapade, I’ve fine-tuned my first-aid kit to include a variety of powders, oils and salves that promote healing and ward-off infection. Together with the essential fire-starter and knife, my kit includes the following wild wilderness saviors:
The Powders, Oils and Salves:
If I can take only one thing with me in the woods, that would be turmeric. Turmeric has long been used as a powerful anti-inflammatory in both the Chinese and Indian medicinal practices. It is a warming spice – good for the cold weather blues added to anything – sweet or savory, it’s not just for curry.
Applied topically, it can prevent infection in cuts and scrapes, soothe toothaches and heal bruises. If eaten, say goodbye to flatulence and even painful menstruation. The active oil in turmeric is called ‘curcumin’ and produces no toxicity – so you can use/eat it every day. In many cases, a daily dose of turmeric has helped people reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome and even may prevent cancer due to curcumin’s antioxidant effects enabling it to protect the cells from free radicals that can damage cellular DNA.
2. Coconut Oil:
What can I say – this is the oil of ultimate uses. Just check out the 42 ways Jennifer Lannon has found to use coconut oil! I use it in my kit as a sun protection, moisturizer on my face and all over my body. It is anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. Use it as a base and mix it with essential oils to prevent the sting of a sunburn (with lavender) or ward off the bugs (with cedar, lemongrass and citronella) There is also growing evidence that daily consumption of coconut oil, at least a few tablespoons a day can help protect against Alzheimer’s and support the thyroid.
3. Oil of Oregano:
A few drops under the tongue may sting, but it’s worth it. Due to the antiviral properties of oregano oil, it may help prevent colds and flu, GI track upsets and even ward off pesky parasite infections. Candida albicans, the bacteria that causes a body-wide fungal infection has a hard time hangin’ on with this powerful anti-fungal. Even skin conditions such as cold sores, nail fungus, joint pain, muscle aches, and dandruff don’t stand a chance faced with oregano oil, but never put it directly on broken skin as it may irritate. It is indeed very powerful.
4. Tea Tree Oil:
Hailing originally from Australia, this one is always with me! Tea tree oil is anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. Use it on cuts and small wounds to keep the bad bacteria at bay. There are literally hundreds of uses for this miracle oil. From Acne to Asthma and Ingrown Hairs to Infections; even mosquito bites to cleaning your toothbrush – this oil is an absolute must! Mix it with coconut oil in order to spread it out. On its own, tea tree oil is so very potent – a little goes a long way!
5. Arnica Lotion:
This salve, made from fresh arnica flowers is used as a topical cream in order to reduce the healing time and limit bruising and sore muscles when applied right after injury or as soon as possible. These little flowers have anti-inflammatory and circulation-stimulating properties but should not be used on open wounds.
Whether travelling or battling with stress of the everyday, the body is constantly fighting to stay in a state of homeostasis, a perfect balance. When this balance is upset, we get sick. From a little sniffle to the full-blown flu, medicinal mushrooms are your best friend.
The most common medicinal mushrooms are the Shiitake, maitake, chaga and reishi mushrooms. They’ve been gaining popularity in the western world over the last few years, yet have been used in oriental medicine traditions for decades. No health benefit is better documented for medicinal mushrooms than immune support. From a dietary perspective, medicinal mushrooms appear able to enhance immune function in both directions, giving it a boost when needed, and cutting back on its activity when needed. Because of this, you can’t eat too many. Added to your daily tea or smoothie in powdered form, your immune system will thank you!
7. Activated Charcoal (powder form from burnt coconut husks):
For acute use in food poisoning, intestinal illness, vomiting, diarrhea, or the ingestion of toxins, mix activated charcoal with water and drink it. It will bind to unwanted toxins and expel them with bodily wastes.
8. Cayenne Powder (in capsule form):
A spicy addition to any dish, cayenne powder can actually stop a stroke in its tracks. Placed under the tough, it can increase blood flow and improve metabolism. Straight on the skin, it will stop bleeding rapidly yet sting like a son-of-a. In capsule form, ingested cayenne will also warm you from the inside out by elevating your core body temperature for a short time. In this case, it may stave off hypothermia.
9. Chamomile Tea Bags:
By making a strong brew, you can use the liquid to calm yourself and help you sleep. You may also soak a paper towel and cover your eyes to fend off pinkeye. Chamomile has mild sedative, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It supports relaxation, alleviates upset stomach and, when applied topically, relieves skin irritations.
10. Bug-Off all-natural Bug Spray:
I make my own insect repellant and it has worked wonders while bush-whacking through dense forest and even in my back yard at the height of pesky bug season.
- 1 cup of witch hazel
- 2 tablespoons of neem oil – which contains natural insecticidal compounds
- ½ teaspoon vodka as a natural preservative
- 140 drops essential oils
Bug-Repelling Essential Oil Blend:
- 30 drops citronella
- 30 drops cedarwood
- 30 drops of lemongrass
- 20 drops lavender
- 15 drops lemon
- 15 drops of eucalyptus
Add all ingredients to a spray bottle that fits nicely in your first-aid kit, shake and spray!
11. Eucalyptus Oil:
For any respiratory type problems, a few drops of this oil in the palm of your hand will open up airways when inhaled. It can be diluted with coconut oil and be applied externally to the feet and chest as an impromptu vaporub. It will repel the bugs too!
12. Powdered Ginger:
Ginger is great for nausea, reflux, stomach trouble and morning sickness. I also keep some in the car for motion sickness. It helps sooth the stomach after a digestive illness or food poisoning. Mix it with Coconut Oil and Turmeric for a yummy tea!
13. Witch Hazel:
My husband is a big fan. As an aftershave tonic, he never gets ingrown hairs on his face. It has a mild scent and can be mixed with any essential oil to provide relief of so many symptoms. Used after a hot shower when the pores are open, witch hazel can soothe any skin irregularity, including spots on the face and dark circles under the eyes. A little splash on any part of the skin can relive dry skin, itchy skin and even diminish body odor.
We all need healthy bacteria in our gut to balance the plethora of toxins and nasty microbes we come in contact with on a day-to-day basis. Gut health is 90% of the immune system. Those who have used extensive anti-biotic therapy should most definitely take probiotics everyday – you can get them naturally from raw, unpasteurized sauerkraut, kombucha and kefir but in a pinch, the capsules will help huge! Anyone who gets sick frequently doesn’t have enough healthy bacteria in the gut – get on the program.
15. Female Tincture:
Painful period cramps… This is my one continual struggle in life. To provide relief in the backcountry, I recommend a blend of Jamaican Dogwood, Cramp Bark and Valerian Root and Black Cohosh.
- Fill a clean glass canning jar with dried herbs.
- Add vodka to the top.
- Screw lid on tightly and store in a cool, dark place.
- Shake 3-7 times a week.
- Let sit for 3-5 weeks and then strain the herbs out of the tincture and pour into a colored glass bottle, closing the lid tightly.
Alcohol tinctures will last 2-3 years and need to be kept in a cool, dark place.
16. Lavender Oil:
Mixed with witch hazel or coconut oil, a lavender spray or salve provides instant relief from minor burns – from the sun or the campfire!
17. Dehydrated Coconut Powder:
Fresh water may be hard to come across in the wilderness, especially in the desert where I spend a lot of time. Keeping a packet or two of dehydrated coconut powder on you will help combat and prevent dehydration. It is loaded with electrolytes and keeps your water retention in balance.
The Other Goodies
- Several pairs of gloves (disposable examination gloves)
- Pencil and waterproof paper
- High pitched whistle
- Multi-tool Knife (with scissors, tweezers and knife)
- Duct Tape
- Needle and Thread
- Barrier device (to administer CPR)
- Emergency Blanket
- Headlamp with extra batteries
- A small bag of walnuts and goji berries to stave off hunger if lost
- Fire starter (flint striker and cotton balls)
- Candle (use wax to maintain fire)
- Assorted bandages and gauze (tensor, triangle)
- Butterfly bandages
- Small Water bottle (full – for emergency use only)
- Life StrawTM
Non-allergenic band aids or Superglue; this sticky liquid can be the impromptu stitches you need. Use to seal minor to moderate skin cuts (not puncture wounds) with butterfly bandages. Especially good for face and other visible areas that scar easily as well as where other bandages can be difficult to apply or may not stick such as on fingertips, knuckles, in hair or on cracked soles of the feet.
A little much, maybe… but the best part is that you can pick and choose. What ails you most when you’re roughing it? You can survive and thrive for a long time out there with these goodies; provided you brought your sleeping bag, shelter, a little more food and a keen sense of adventure! You never know what sneaky tricks Mother Nature has in store for you… be prepared!