Natural First Aid

Natural First Aid

I often get asked what to keep at home instead of conventional first aid items. I try to use things that are easy to source, and some that might even be hanging around for culinary use too!

Marigold is useful for many simple self limiting complaints.  It helps damaged skin tissue repair itself so use topically for cuts and grazes.  Carry on using it and it might limit scarring, especially if you mix with a little wheatgerm oil.  Marigold is anti-fungal so can be helpful for athletes foot or other such conditions like ring worm or thrush.  It’s been used by nursing mothers to help heal sore nipples and similarly on babies bottoms to help treat nappy rash, the anti-fungal action can be an added bonus here too if thrush is present. You can buy the dried marigold flowers at specialist herb outlets (contact me for details if you need help with that) or you may have them growing in the garden (check the variety is Calendula officinalis). Try freezing into ice cubes so you always have some to hand.

Lavender pure essential oil from a reputable supplier.  Try rubbing a drop into your temples to ease  a tension headache or a little on your pillow to relax at bedtime.  You can apply neat onto burns, bites and stings providing the skin isn’t broken; it’s anti-inflammatory so helps take the itch and heat from swelling or discomfort. I would dilute in a teaspoon of carrier oil if using on children though and be careful not to get it near the eyes.

Fresh Sage leaves can be rubbed onto bites and stings for quick relief in a hurry.  Made into a tea they help ease a sore throat and many ladies swear by sage tea to help hot flushes.  I usually find menopause requires more a more complex approach but I have met some for whom sage has been enough.

Honey is a wonderful food but also a great remedy to have to hand.  Add to luke warm water (with or without lemon) to help sore throats;  drink as it is or gargle too. It’s also great to slap onto a burn immediately after the accident to take out the heat and minimise blistering (providing the skin remains intact). Runny honey is the best for this but no expensive type or brand needed.

Try making a simple onion and honey syrup by slicing an onion into a clean jar, cover with honey and store in the fridge.  Give the mixture a shake every now and then and after 48 hours you will notice how thin the honey has got as it absorbs the constituents and properties of the onion.  Strain into a sterilised bottle and keep in the fridge for up a month, use the discarded onions in cooking asap – don’t leave them hanging about too long now.  Upto 8 teaspoons a day of the syrup can be given to adults to help sore throats and coughs.

Chamomile tea is sold everywhere these days! It can be helpful if you have had a heavy night or simply got a bit of a bad stomach following over indulgence or a bug.  Chamomile is known as ‘mother of the gut’ helping to calm and support most disturbances of the stomach and digestive tissue. Once it’s been brewed it can be drunk immediately or left until cool/cold.  Chamomile mixes well with peppermint and fennel that are also widely available and good tonics for the digestive system.

Lynda Jones BSc (Hons) Medical Herbalist


Winter Herbs

Many of us grow herbs in our garden and only use them for cooking purposes – which is great, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to know which you can safely use to help common and simple ailments? I thought I’d share some information about things that you may find useful in these cold, winter months! Please do remember that the suggestions I make are intended as guidelines only and should not substitute medical advice, if in doubt then please contact your chosen health professional.

Many people wouldn’t class Allium cepa (onion) and Allium sativum (garlic) as herbs, but any plant substance that has medicinal value is classified as such by Medical Herbalists. Onion and garlic, belonging to the onion family, share some common properties useful at this time of year; both are expectorant and antibacterial, helpful for stubborn chesty coughs. A traditional recipe for winter coughs can be made by steeping sliced onion in honey for 48 hours in the fridge. Half a dozen garlic cloves can be added for extra potency if you don’t mind the smell!! The syrup is ready to use after 24 hours but best to leave for the full 48 before you strain it into a sterile bottle. Although not strictly a herb, the honey has its own soothing action to the chest and throat and has anti bacterial action too! The syrup can be kept refrigerated for a couple of weeks and a teaspoon taken up to 6 times daily. As garlic and onion both have hypoglycaemic actions and properties to support the circulatory system, a teaspoon or so taken daily can be a good all round tonic too.

Berries from the Sambucus nigra (elder) tree have been used traditionally at this time of year. Elderberries are proven to be active against the flu virus, are nutritive, have immune modulating properties and are diaphoretic (induce sweating). This can be helpful for chills and fevers. They are anti-viral, anti-oxidant and have been used by herbalists to treat winter coughs, colds and, of course the flu! You can collect your own berries (if you are confident with identification), juice and freeze them to keep a stock at hand. Otherwise bought juice or tincture can be used. Elderberry preparations can be made more palatable (they are sometimes fairly tart!) by adding some warming spices. Heating herbs such as Cinnamomum zeylanicum (cinnamon), Eugenia caryophyllus (cloves), Eletarria cardamomum (cardamom) and Zingiber officinalis (ginger) are all useful for warming up the body to fight the effects of a winter cold. They have the added advantage of being carminative to the digestion too. Try a tasty decoction (simmered infusion) of these warming spices using fruit juice and a little elderberry – you may be surprised, it’s like a non-alcoholic mulled wine – and its good for you too!!!

Lynda Jones BSc (Hons) Medical Herbalist