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Herbal First Aid Kit

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Every home should have a homeopathic first aid kit

Every home should have a homeopathic first aid kit. Keep it handy for backyard and travel use.

Herbal tinctures and extracts are assimilated quickly and administered easily. Tincturing extracts valuable active plant properties only soluble in alcohol. You can reduce the alcohol by leaving the drops to sit in half a cup of hot, boiled water for 15 minutes. Or mix extracts with juice to disguise the taste. Extracts keep their potency for several years if stored in a dark and cool place.

Cayenne moves blood from the centre of the body to peripheral areas, warming hands and feet. Five to 10 drops diluted in two ounces of water can be used internally. A couple drops under the tongue help revive someone in shock or trauma. Use externally for bleeding lacerations to coagulate the blood (it stings a bit).

Valerian is antispasmodic, relieves intestinal and menstrual cramps, headaches and general aches or pains. As a nervine, it brings sleep to an exhausted person. The dosage is 30 to 60 drops.

Echinacea increases the supply of white blood cells to an infected area, boosting the immune system. Antibiotic to bacteria such as streptococcus or staphylococcus, it's also a good preventive and supportive herb for the onset of the flu or common cold. It's helpful with fevers, poisoning or any type of internal infection. Use from 30 to 60 drops, the higher ranges for fevers and acute situations. For toothaches, massage into surrounding gums and teeth. For bites, take 60 drops every 15 minutes.

Grindelia or gumplant cools and soothes hot, irritated skin rashes, sunburns, itchy insect bites and poison ivy when used externally. Taken internally, it helps expel mucus obstruction in the bronchioles and is useful for some types of asthma and respiratory congestion.

Milk thistle combination includes milk thistle, burdock and kelp in equal parts. It acts to leach heavy metals, drugs and toxins (even effects of radiation) from the thyroid, blood and liver and protects the liver against further damage.

Quassia is an antimicrobial traditionally used for bacterial diarrhea, dysentery and giardia (a gastrointestinal complaint from contaminated water). The standard dose is three to five droppersful every six hours. To treat suspected bad water, add 30 drops to each quart of water.

Flower rescue remedy is used for emotional trauma and on symptoms ranging from hyperventilation to neurosis. Rubbing drops on the temples and wrists of hysterical children will have an immediate calming effect.

Powdered herbs can be encapsulated at home with ease.

Slippery elm capsules are used for food poisoning. The herb buffers poisons in the stomach and bowels to decrease toxic absorption. It can soothe mucous membranes and settle an upset stomach.

Ginger root powder alleviates motion and morning sickness and nausea caused by flu or bad food. Use two capsules at a time.

Marshmallow-peppermint oil capsules combine four parts marshmallow powder to one part peppermint oil. The powder lets the oil reach the small intestines and reduce the cramping that can accompany an infection. You can also dissolve a capsule in juice or water.

Poultice combination powder should consist of at least one antibacterial herb, one antifungal, an emollient and an astringent. A possible combination is equal parts gentian, myrrh gum, goldenseal and marshmallow. Store in a zip-lock plastic bag. It makes a nice dust for sore feet, lacerations, diaper rash, infections, insect bites or inflamed eyes (it's cooling and soothing). A tea of these herbs can be used externally as a wash. For foreign objects in the eye, make a paste by adding water to the mix and bandage it over the closed eyelid to draw the object out and soothe the eye.

Oils to have on hand include:
Peppermint. A little on the temples can help with headaches and tiredness and a few drops in water will settle an upset stomach.

Tea tree oil. Called a "first aid kit in a bottle," it has strong antifungal, antibiotic and antiseptic properties and can be used for fungal infections, wounds, burns and cold sores. For earaches and on sensitive skin, dilute with equal parts olive oil. Use sparingly it goes a long way.

Salves shrink and soothe swollen tissues, fight bacteria and speed healing. I recommend a combination of one herb from each of the following categories for a good all-purpose salve:

  • Emollients include marshmallow, slippery elm, plantain, comfrey and mullein;
  • Antimicrobials include echinacea, goldenseal, yerba mansa, Oregon grape, propolis, myrrh gum, garlic, calendula, camomile, chaparral, gentian and usnea;
  • Astringent herbs are horsetail, bistort, geranium, rose, alum, yarrow, witch hazel, yellow dock and St John's wort.

All of these herbal products are available at most health food stores. Be sure to include dosage information on the bottles. Make an instruction booklet with three- by five-inch cards covered with see-through packing tape to waterproof.

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