DIY herbal first aid

CONSUMERLINE - Ching M. Alano (The Philippine Star) - April 4, 2016 - 10:00am

This is the story of an enterprising woman who’s been cooking with herbs for a long time. She loves that she could just go out to her garden, smell the flowers, and pick all those lovely, fresh greens and toss them into whatever was boiling, broiling or baking in her kitchen. Then one day, she picked up an old herb book and found out that her garden yielded not only ingredients for her pantry, it could actually provide her with a whole medicine cabinet!

As she was nursing her flu and browsing the herb book, she realized that all the herbs listed in the book to cure her condition were growing right in her garden. Thus, she worked on her first herbal remedy. Up next, she experimented with a concoction for bruises, which turned out to be as successful as the first experiment. Thus, she decided it was time she gave her medicine cabinet a major shakeup. She threw “every pill, drop, and ointment” — all those fancy brand-name products — into the bin (bin there, done that?) and created her own medicine cabinet full of her DIY (do it yourself) herbal remedies.

Happily, back then, even the pharmaceutical companies were starting to discover the wonders of herbs, like aloe vera, and using them in their products.

“You, too, can adopt a more natural approach to first aid,” writes Kathi Keville, in her book Herbs for Health and Healing.

She gingerly adds this caveat: “... But you must be sure that you know when herbs are a reasonable alternative to conventional medicines and when they are not.”

Now that it’s summer and the kids are at home, moms can take care of those small emergencies, such as minor burns, cuts, bruises or scrapes. They’re a part of daily life, says Kathi, but “of course, any serious or unusual injuries should send you scurrying for immediate medical attention. If a trip to the doctor is required, stabilize the condition as best you can with herbal remedies, then keep your patient as calm and comfortable as possible. Whenever you have any doubts that you can deal adequately with an emergency, choose the safe route — seek professional advice.”

She can’t stress this enough: “Of course, it is important not only to know the herbs, but to be able to use them properly — using them incorrectly can do more harm than good.”

She learned her lesson only painfully well when she tried to formulate a recipe for a mustard plaster. “... I didn’t know that the mustard was supposed to be cut with flour to prevent the plaster from overheating. I assumed that the intense heat I felt was part of the therapy (the ‘no pain, no gain’ philosophy). Finally, with my back well burned, I frantically peeled off the plaster. This experience taught me two things. The first was that I should never again approach first aid without being fully informed about what I was doing; the second was that aloe vera sure does heal a burn (yes, say hello to aloe).”

Kathi gives the buzz on mosquito/insect bites.  The answer to nature’s pesky bugs can also be found in nature. According to Kathi, minor bites from mosquitoes and other insects respond quickly to an herbal oil. Here’s Kathi’s recipe.

Insect Bite Oil

1 teaspoon lavender essential oil

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Combine essential oil and vegetable oil and dab mixture directly on bite as needed. Store in a bottle with a tight lid. A glass container is best, but if you prefer a lighter plastic container, choose one made of oil-resistant plastic (you can find these in camping goods stores). Make sure to keep the Insect Bite Oil away from your eyes.

Here are three more herbal recipes, this time for bruises as well as minor burns (as Kathi confesses she’s drawn to hobbies that often unfortunately lead to burns) and sunburn which may be a different kind of burn, as it is caused by exposure to ultraviolet light, but has the same symptoms as an ordinary burn.

Bruise Compress

1 tablespoon tincture of arnica flowers, Saint-John’s-wort flowering tops, witch hazel bark or chamomile flowers

4 drops lavender essential oil

2 tablespoons cold water


Combine ingredients. Soak a washcloth in the herbal water to make a compress. Wring it out and place it directly on the bruised area. To keep the compress extra-cold, insert an ice cube (regular or herbal) inside the folded cloth.

Herbal Ice

1 cup water

1 teaspoon chamomile flowers

1 teaspoon lavender flowers

Pour boiling water over the herbs and let steep in a covered pan for about 15 minutes. Strain out the herbs and freeze the tea in medium-size ice-cube trays Once the cubes are frozen, pop them out and store them in a plastic bag in the freezer. Herbal ice can be applied directly to the bruise or wrapped inside the bruise compress.  Keep your herbal ice in the freezer so it is always handy in case of an emergency.

Homemade Aloe Gel

1/4 cup peeled aloe vera leaves

150 International Units vitamin C powder

Puree aloe leaves in an electric blender, using enough leaves to make 1/4 cup of puree. Stir in vitamin C powder as a preservative. Store in the refrigerator — cold helps burns to heal. 

Is the sweltering summer heat making you dizzy? Here, try this.

Lavender Compress

5 drops lavender essential oil

2 cups water

Soft cloth

In a small bowl, combine essential oil and water. Soak cloth in lavender water and wring it out. Fold cloth and apply it to the back, neck, and forehead.

Please pass the lavender compress!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

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