You can stay prepared when there is a sustainable first aid kit in your back yard. Learn the five herbs to get started and begin to build your kit.
It is always wise to have a first aid kit with you, whether you are at home or away. There are many options for purchasing them in the marketplace, and some people even build their own first aid kits.
Today I want to talk about a sustainable first aid kit. There are any number of things that can happen that would make it impossible to refill your kit at the local store. I want you to be prepared. Learning the plants that are growing all around you is one of the best ways to maintain a sustainable first aid kit.
A first aid kit is not meant to handle large emergencies that require extreme medical intervention. They are meant to handle small cuts and prevent infection. They can be used as a first step before you consult a medical professional for further assistance.
A first aid kit can handle cuts, bruises, nonpoisonous bites and stings, small first degree burns and other low-level accidents. A first aid kit can also help to slow bleeding, reduce swelling and keep a person comfortable as they seek further help. Remember a simple cut that gets infected can easily turn into a large problem in a grid down situation.
Embracing the first aid tools that grow all around you
If you are lucky, your back yard holds wonderful remedies all by itself. With the addition of a few plants to a garden, you can easily handle the most common herbal first aid situations. A basic container garden can help those in urban areas build a sustainable first aid kit. Searching out plants in the wild, also known as wildcrafting, is wonderful but there is something about having the plants you need right out your back door.
When you grow an herb garden, you’re able to watch them grow each day. You have them readily available for accidents that occur at home. And, if for any reason, you are not able to get to your favorite wildcrafting area you’ll have what you need. By watching the plants grow in your back yard daily, you’ll also be able to identify and use them in the wild with ease.
Learning to use herbs for first aid
Now is the best time to switch your first aid kit to a sustainable first aid kit. As we should all know, having tools on hand but not knowing how to use them is a waste. Think about it honestly, if you have a store bought first aid kit, are you even sure how and when to use it?
If you have not taken a basic first aid class, I suggest you do. Consider your local red cross, they will have classes available. After learning some basic first aid, you need to learn how to add medicinal herbs to your first aid care. It is important to know which herbs you will use in which situation. It is also important to know what you can handle on your own and what situations require more help.
Building a first aid kit
To transition your first aid kit to an herbal kit, start with just one herb. This gives you a chance to learn the herb in its entirety. I believe it is best to have a few powerhouse herbs on hand to handle many different situations rather than 50 herbs that each take care of only one thing. If you want to add herbs to a travel kit then carrying 50 herbs with you is just not practical.
There are many suggested herbs out there to keep on hand but to make your kit sustainable you need to get acquainted with the herbs local to you. Don’t get overwhelmed; you have local access to more than you think. You also have the option of bringing many herbs to you through a garden. When you know what grows locally, your kit will be sustainable because you know where to find supplies when you run out.
Supplies for the kit
As you transition your kit, start by looking at what you have, what you use it for, and what you could replace it with if it runs out. When you buy the most basic first aid kit you’ll likely get some band-aids, gauze, and maybe some tape. You may get ibuprofen or Tylenol, and an antibiotic cream. This is, of course, the very basic kit.
Replacing band-aid’s and gauze can be done by using old scrap fabric that has been boiled and cleaned well. As for replacing the medications, you want to ask yourself what those medications would most likely be used for.
When I put my kit together, I thought of the most common accidents I run into, and I prepared for them. I wanted herbs that would cover inflammation and swelling from injury, headaches, bites or stings, burns, cuts, and oncoming illness, such as the cold or the flu. I also wanted to be able to carry these herbs with me on the go.
The form of your remedies
I use remedies in the forms of poultices, teas, and infusions, tinctures, steams, creams, and salves. All of which can be made with the herbs and supplies I can find locally. Right now, I have the luxury of using my freezer to store herbs and online stores to buy special butters and essential oils and lavish goodies to make all my remedies. If I lost the ability to use these things I would be ok. I have a backup plan!
In the warmer months, my backup plan is to use the fresh plants growing around me wild or in the garden. In the cooler months, I store dried herbs. Dried herbs can be turned into almost anything you need them to be. They can even be used as poultices by adding a bit of moisture.
Finding the supplies to keep your remedies sustainable
If you want to get more complex than just fresh and dried herbs in teas or poultices you’ll need to make some friends. Going it alone isn’t any fun so meet your community.
Tinctures made with alcohol can last a very long time. Storing them now and making friends with the local moonshine maker for supplies later is not a bad backup plan for tinctures.
Learning to infuse your herbs in rendered lard or tallow would be an option if you don’t have access to olive oil. You can get the supplies to try this from a butcher or a friend who butchers their own animals.
Befriending the local beekeeper would be a backup plan for creating salves and keeping honey on hand. They may be able to spare some beeswax for hardening using in remedies.
Do you have a friend with an apple tree? Do they make vinegar with their apples? If you don’t have a friend that makes it, make your own. Vinegar has many health benefits all by itself, and it can also be used to make infused tinctures. Vinegar is easy to make.
As you are making these friends remember you have something wonderful to trade with them. You will have first aid skills and the knowledge of local herbal medicine to trade with them. Not to mention the remedies you’ll be a pro at making and using.
What herbs should you use?
Because we all live in different places, I cannot tell you exactly what herbs to put in your kit. I don’t know that they will grow well for you. There are however many herbs that can be grown in a garden or grow wild across the US. Here are a few to start with.
Plantain (Plantago major) also called white man’s footprint, grows everywhere. This amazing “weed” can handle many things. It takes the sting away from a sting or a bite almost instantly. It has drawing properties that help remove splinters and venom. It is an anti-inflammatory that helps with many different skin issues. FYI, this is not the banana looking thing you see in the supermarket.
Aloe. As many people know, it is cooling and soothing to burns. The healing properties that make it wonderful for burns also make it good for healing other wounds. It helps to prevent infection from setting into a wound and helps to regenerate skin as it heals. It can be helpful with fungal infections such as ringworm.
Calendula. Also known as Pot Marigold, don’t confuse this with Tagetes spp, the plant most often known as marigold. This plant is easily grown from seed, in a container or a garden. This too is a wonderful herb for skin issues and infections. I love this with Lavender for burns. It is also useful for conjunctivitis, an eye infection.
Comfrey, (Symphytum officinale) Another herb for the garden. This is a powerhouse herb fantastic for sprains, strains and broken bones! It’s not recommended for open wounds. It’s so wonderful at healing broken skin that it will heal skin right over infection causing many problems.
Yarrow, (Achillea millefolium) An herb to wildcraft and then plant in your garden. This herb stops bleeding wonderfully. It is also great for fighting infection both in wounds and internally. This is my go-to herb when I feel a sore throat coming on. The colorful plants you find at the greenhouses don’t have the medicinal properties that the white flower plants do.
As you build your kit and learn the herbs that work for you, you can add combination remedies. I make a salve for skin issues, and it combines herbs such as calendula, plantain, and lavender. By doing this, I have one little jar packed with a lot of punch. As we speak, my son is using it to soothe his mosquito bites. This salve also works great for burns.
I want to have my herbal remedies with me always. Occasionally this requires a few changes to my basic remedies. Like making my herbal salves just a bit harder, so they don’t melt easily. And storing my tinctures in special ways to make sure they stay as cool as possible. All and all, every remedy I have at home can also be carried with me as I go or stored in a go bag.
Digging deeper or just skimming the surface
I love what I’ve found through herbalism. It is my passion, and therefore I spend a lot of time working with it. If this is you, then first aid is a great place to start. If this is not you, that is fine too. If you are just looking for the basics so you can handle the small stuff and that’s where it ends, herbal first aid is also a wonderful place to start.
As a nurse, I am intrigued by learning more about the ways we can heal deeper wounds through herbalism, but you don’t have to go that deep. Just knowing how to find and use a few herbs that can help in a first aid situation gives you back control over your health.
If you don’t have time to go out and identify plants but know what plants you want to use, buy them, plant them and watch them grow. You will be surprised how many of these plants you’ll begin to see out in nature once you’ve welcomed them into your garden.
To learn more about building your own sustainable first aid kit and how to add herbs to first aid treatments, visit Melissa over at her website Melissa and Yarrow. You can also grab your free first aid checklist while you’re there!
About the author: Melissa Combs is a wife, mother and small town girl, who is always on call for the unexpected accident. As an EMT and RN, with a passion for outdoor adventures, herbalism was a natural transition. When she’s not creating and experimenting with herbal remedies, you’ll find her exploring the outdoors with her husband and two adventurous sons. As a family, they are learning to live a little closer to God and the land he has provided them.