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

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The Medicinal Garden

Medicinal GardenIsn’t it wonderful to wander around at this time of year and see the beautiful fragrant plants on display in the gardens and countryside?  The nurseries, garden centres, DIY shops and even the supermarkets have a good range of fresh herbs and flowers in full bloom.

Whilst many people know the culinary uses of commonly sold fresh herbs I thought it would be good this month to talk about their medicinal qualities too.  A word of warning though, do please ensure you have the specific variety to which I am referring – simply check the labels just to make certain.

In the 1500s parsley (petroselinum crispum) was introduced into Britain as a renowned diuretic, digestive tonic and menstrual flow stimulator.  Nowadays, Medical Herbalists still use it in these ways for their patients.  Its also a very nutritive herb containing marked amounts of Vitamin C and Iron.

Sage (Salvia officinalis purpurascens/rubia) has many uses making it an excellent herb to have to hand.  Take a few fresh leaves and rub directly onto bites and stings as a quick anti-inflammatory first aid treatment.  Make an infusion and use hot or cold – its antiseptic and astringent qualities may help as a gargle/mouthwash for throat and gum problems.

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is another tasty common garden herb with medicinal actions.  Its antiseptic and astringent properties make it a suitable accompaniment or alternative to sage in problems associated with the mouth and throat.  Thyme is particularly renowned for its antiseptic, antispasmodic and expectorant properties explaining its use in coughs and other problems related to the lungs and respiratory system.  It also has an anti-fungal action which may help such things as athlete’s foot, ringworm and thrush.

Lavender (Lavandula officinalis) is recognisable to most of us and smells brilliant fresh!!  Many people are surprised to hear it has medicinal value beyond its reputation for helping sleep.  It is definitely worth trying the flowers infused as a tea, its taste is delicate and has a number of actions beneficial to health.  The essential oil that gives lavender is wonderful scent has antiseptic, antibacterial and analgesic properties.  Fresh flowers are calming to the nerves and are antispasmodic, helping with spasm and tension, both muscular and in the digestive system.

Finally Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) – a hardy woody herb with characteristic fragrant spiky leaves.  Rosemary has antidepressant properties, is a circulatory stimulant and nerve tonic which means an infusion can be quite uplifting to the spirits.  A pleasant tasting and caffeine free alternative to coffee perhaps?  Its essential oil is carminative and antispasmodic, useful qualities again for digestive or muscular pain and spasm.  Traditionally speaking, a rosemary infusion is used externally to help hair growth – understood maybe by its ability to improve circulation to the head and scalp.  This may also explain its use for memory and concentration.  Overall, it makes a pleasant drink hot, cold or luke warm – especially if you are feeling in need of uplifting and restoring.

As with all herbal remedies please be sensible.  2 – 3 cups of an infusion per day using a teaspoon of herb should be sufficient for most peoples needs.  If you are pregnant, breastfeeding or taking any other medication then please take advice from a Medical Herbalist prior to taking any remedies.  Should you have any questions, or require a private one to one consultation then please do contact me.

Lynda Jones BSc (Hons) Medical Herbalist

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Herbal First Aid

I am often asked about which remedies, creams and potions people should keep handy for emergencies in the home.  It can be quite confusing and you risk ending up with lots of different products forgetting which one should be used when! The trick is to keep it straightforward so this month I will talk about a few simple yet very versatile herbs.

Tincture and/or cream of Calendula officinalis flowers (marigold).  Marigold flowers are extremely versatile – they help promote the healing of tissues they come into contact with, both externally and internally making them a handy remedy for cuts, grazes, and mouth ulcers.  Marigold is also antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal and may be considered for a variety of ailments – ringworm or other fungal related conditions, bites and stings, spots, abscesses, sore nipples for nursing mums, whitlows, burns (including sunburn), dry and sore skin following gardening or heavy household chores.   The tincture can be diluted with cooled boiled water and applied with cotton wool.

A cream made from Symphytum officinalis leaves (comfrey) is also a good addition to the emergency cupboard.  It may be useful to have a stock of the dried leaves kept in a cool dark place too!  The cream is handy to use in a hurry – comfrey is anti-inflammatory, it infuses right through to the deep tissues and bones, it was used for fractures long before plaster casts were heard of!!  Any inflammation and pain of the joints and bones may be helped by application of comfrey.  It is also a powerful healer of cuts and grazes but one has to take more care than when using marigold – it can heal so quickly you need to make sure there is no infection in the wound to be addressed first.  When you have more time available, a compress can be applied to aching joints – brew up some tea and soak a bandage in it to provide a longer acting soothing and anti-inflammatory action.

Tincture of Valeriana officinalis root (valerian) is always handy to have at home.  Valerian is anxiolytic (a substance that alleviates anxiety).  I may well suggest this to people (after a short chat) to try for most short term nervous states – exam nerves, before their driving test, and any excessive nervous states causing irritability.  It has sedative, carminative, relaxant, anti-spasmodic and mild analgesic effects too.  It has been used for centuries for its calming effects and may also help headaches and pain involving spasm – both musculoskeletal and digestive in origin.  Valerian is a true tranquilliser, what this means is that it will not send you to sleep if you don’t need to, however, at night in bed when your thoughts are racing and keeping you awake it may help calm the mind enough to allow the body to sleep.  I would definitely recommend talking to a qualified Medical Herbalist though, before you try valerian – it is a very gentle remedy but doesn’t suit everyones needs.

Lynda Jones BSc (Hons) Medical Herbalist

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