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Herbal first aid

Herbal First Aid

To do the best job of stocking a first aid kit, you’ll want to spend some time making (or purchasing) an herbal salve or two and a variety of tinctures. And you’ll want to select a few key essential oils (like tea tree and lavender) with wide applications. You can also quickly concoct a number of very simple recipes with the help of a good herbal manual.

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Herbal ear oilHerbal Ear Oil

Combine 1/2 cup mullein flowers, 4 cloves of garlic, chopped, and enough olive oil to cover. Warm for several hours over very low heat, then strain through cheesecloth and place in a dropper bottle. Store in the refrigerator, but place in a glass of hot water to warm before using. Don’t use if the eardrum is perforated. (A drop of vitamin E oil is also a good addition.)

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Take-the-Bite-out-of-Stings Treatment

Combine 1 teaspoon echinacea tincture with 1 teaspoon green clay powder and 1 teaspoon distilled water. Apply to insect bite or sting and allow to dry. Rinse when itching or stinging has subsided.

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Herbal Ice Treatment

We all reach for the icepack or ice cubes when we strain a muscle or bruise ourselves. Why not use herbal ice cubes? Simply make a strong tea using appropriate herbs, like chamomile and lavender flowers. Strain, cool, and pour into ice cube trays for use as needed.

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Applications Primer

When you’re learning to use herbs as aids, you’re likely to come across some unfamiliar vocabulary. Here’s a quick rundown on some the terms you might encounter:

Compress: a cool or warm cloth (with or without botanicals) that’s applied directly to the body.
Elixir or Syrup: a sweetened, alcoholic herbal
Emollient: a soothing, protective substance used externally.
Essential oil: a concentrated form of plant or flower essences, usually obtained by steam distillation.
Infusion: a strong tea, made by pouring boiling water over an herb and soaking for a certain length of time. When the infusion is made from the hard parts of an herb (the roots, bark, or seeds), it’s called a decoction.
Liniment: a topical medicated lotion, usually rubbed into the skin to relieve aches.
Poultice or fomentation: a substance applied directly to an area to draw out impurities and/or increase circulation. An herbal poultice is made of herbs that are macerated and applied with a hot cloth.
Salve or balm: a semi-soft preparation used to soothe, may be used for skin irritations or muscle soreness.
Tincture: a concentrated liquid extract of an herb. Tinctures (especially those made with alcohol) have a long shelf life, are easy to administer, and are quickly assimilated.

Consult a good herbal healing book for directions
on making and administering each of these. Also
consult your healthcare practitioner or an experienced
herbalist if you have any questions about taking any
herbs internally. And, finally, if you’re pregnant, never
take any internal remedy (herbal or conventional)
without first consulting your healthcare provider.

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Ask the Experts

What should I stock in my herbal first aid kit?

To some extent, the contents of your first aid kit will depend upon the needs of your family. (Do you have a toddler with lots of scraped knees, an athlete with sore muscles, or a spouse with sensitive skin, for example?) Here are some things you’ll want to include regardless though: bandages, tweezers, alcohol, green clay, aloe vera gel, electrolyte replacement, scissors, thermometer, witch hazel, and waterless hand sanitizer.

Are all herbs equally potent?

ChamomileNo, not at all. Some herbs (like chamomile and calendula) work very gently, while others (echinacea and goldenseal, for example) are more potent. Some forms of application (like a poultice) are less strong than others (like a tincture). And even the same herb in a given application will be more or less potent depending upon how it was grown, harvested, handled in transport and stored. That’s why it’s so important to always purchase your herbs from a reputable company. And, of course, once you have the herbs at home, it’s important that you store them properly to keep them at their best—away from light, heat and moisture.

Are there some herbs that I shouldn’t use because they’re becoming endangered?

Yes, and these are the wild herbs that Frontier doesn’t offer, because they’re no longer plentiful enough in the wild to support harvesting. Please join us in not purchasing these herbs: Lady’s slipper root (Cypripedium pubescens), Beth root (Trillium erectum), True unicorn root (Aletris farinosa), False unicorn or Helonias root (Chamaelirium luteun syn. Helonias lutea [dioica]), Wild goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), and Wild American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius). (All of Frontier’s ginseng is domestically cultivated.)

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