Herbal First Aid Kit
A simple way to get to know herbs is to use them for first aid issues. Consider making up a box filled with remedies to take with you on vacation, or to send to college with your child. Be sure to include instructions.
Which remedies to include in an herbal first aid kit can be determined by keeping in mind who might be using them: What allergies do they have; What might they be exposed to; What issues might arise?
Be aware of the vast quality differences in products on the market. Especially when it comes to herbs, the cheapest will not be the best. Avoid ordering products from large online suppliers, as they do not keep their warehouses appropriately temperature- and humidity-controlled, which damages the products. Consult an informed practitioner if pregnant, nursing or on any prescription or over-the-counter medication, as there could be interactions with the herbs.
There are many different herbs one could include in a kit. Below is a sample of the most common and easiest to come by.
Andrographis: for viral illness when taken internally. Still works after several days of symptoms (unlike echinacea). Take 200mg every two hours for the first 12 hours, then four times daily until symptoms resolve. Although liquid herbs—teas or tinctures—are typically preferred, this herb is best as a tablet or capsule, as the tincture is extremely bitter and unpleasant.
Arnica: for wound healing, bruising, muscle soreness. Safe when used as a homeopathic, either topically or internally. Do not use the herbal tincture internally. For the homeopathic form, use several “pellets” under the tongue three times daily until the bruising starts to turn yellow/green. For the topical cream or gel, use as needed for muscle pain or bruising. Note: Once the bruise starts to turn yellow/green, switch to the homeopathic remedy Ruta, at the same dosing, until the bruise is resolved.
Cantharis: a homeopathic remedy for bladder infections. Use 30C strength, several “pellets” under the tongue every three to four hours for symptoms. If started when symptoms first arise, one can avoid a full-blown infection; use for several days. Can use up to 10 days to treat a mild bladder infection and avoid antibiotics. If bladder infections frequently arise after intercourse, take one dose as a preventative after each intercourse event.
Chamomile: for wound healing and insect bites when used as a topical ointment; for indigestion, IBS, cramps (either gastrointestinal or menstrual), headaches, insomnia when taken internally as a tea. Tea: use one tablespoon dried herb in 10 ounces of water. Drink three to four cups per day. Tincture: use 60 to 120 drops in water three times daily. To make a topical ointment, mix two drops essential oil in one teaspoon aloe gel and apply to skin.
Cinnamon: for nausea/vomiting from food poisoning (kills E coli) when taken as tea; for heavy menstrual flow when taken as tincture internally; also helps regulate insulin when taken internally. Tea: one teaspoon powder in eight ounces water; steep covered for 20 minutes. Drink four ounces three to four times daily. Tincture: use 40 drops in water two to four times daily until bleeding slows. (This can be used each month, on a regular basis, for heavy flow).
Jamaica Dogwood: use internally for mild to moderate pain of any kind. Tincture: 60 to 120 drops in water, every two to three hours as needed. Combines well with California poppy (same dose). Add passionflower tincture also if the pain is causing anxiety (60 drops.)
Marshmallow: use internally for GERD and stomach upset. Works especially well when used with an infusion of ginger root. Use 40 drops tincture in water in the morning for GERD. For ginger infusion, chop ginger root finely; place in tea infuser. Put this in a mug, cover with boiling water for 10 minutes. One cup each morning.
Motherwort: for muscle spasms, palpitations, stress related heart disorders, anxiety when taken internally. Tincture: 60 drops in water three times daily. Tea: one teaspoon dried herb in eight ounces water; steep 20 minutes. Two to three cups daily. Caution: use only for short periods of time if hypothyroid; could make thyroid condition worse.
Oscillococcinum: This isn’t an herbal, but a proprietary homeopathic remedy. Extremely effective for colds and flu. It is sold in “individual dose” vials, but in reality, that small vial is actually two to three doses. Take one-half to one-third of the vial (small “pellets”) and dissolve under the tongue once or twice a day until feeling better. Some believe that it is helpful to use as a preventative once a week to avoid seasonal colds. This isn’t proven but can’t hurt.
Peppermint: use internally for gas, nausea, indigestion and morning sickness. Tea: one to two teaspoons dried herb in eight ounces water; steep 15 minutes. Three to four cups daily. The essential oil has many uses: place on gum for tooth pain, inhale to relieve headaches. Mix several drops with aloe gel and use topically to speed healing of herpes lesions and athlete’s foot.
Plantain: This is a common weed, and during most of the year it can easily be found outside—worth learning what it looks like. Use bruised, fresh leaves to speed healing of cuts, insect bites, poison ivy (chew up or mash/cut up fresh leaves, place on area and wrap up with gauze bandage). As a tea or tincture, for gastritis, cystitis, bronchitis. Tea: two teaspoons dried herb in eight ounces water; steep 15 minutes. Three to four cups daily. Tincture: 60 to 120 drops in water twice daily.
Sweetish Bitters: used internally for indigestion and constipation. The actual herbs in this herbal blend will vary slightly by manufacturer, as many different bitter herbs will work. Typically included are milk thistle, dandelion, gentian, fennel. Tincture: 60 to 120 drops in water one to two times daily. Option: Make a “mocktail” with bitters in sparkling water; add fresh lime slice. Drink this prior to a big meal that might cause indigestion.
Valerian: for insomnia with anxiety; also for diarrhea and stress-induced gastrointestinal symptoms. Tea: one-half teaspoon dried root in eight ounces water; steep 60 minutes. Two to four cups daily. Tincture: 30 to 60 drops in water three to four times daily. Note: This herb should not smell like dirty socks. If it does, it is a poor quality product and should be avoided. Also note that some people have an idiosyncratic reaction to this plant and actually become more agitated when taking it. This is unpredictable; if it occurs, discontinue use.
Yarrow: use internally for IBS, bleeding ulcers, heavy periods, “nervous stomach”. Topically, stops bleeding. Tea: one teaspoon dried herb in eight ounces water; steep 15 minutes. Drink three to four cups daily. Tincture: 60 to 120 drops in water three times daily. For topical use, liquid tincture can be placed directly on the cut, then wrap the area with gauze bandage.
Wendy Warner, M.D., ABIHM, IFMCP, practices holistic medicine at Medicine in Balance, in Langhorne. For more information, call 215-741-1600 or visit
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