Traveling Companions: Assembling a DIY Herbal First Aid Kit for Your Next Adventure
Whether you’re heading out on a road trip, hopping on a plane, spending the day at a music festival or sending your firstborn off to college, you can never be too prepared! This DIY herbal first aid kit is specific to the size of the adventure and your family’s needs. To assemble your custom first aid kit, consider what needs are most likely to arise when you’re away from home. For example, when you travel and try new foods, do you suffer from indigestion? How will you adjust to the change in time zones? Do you need to be prepared for mosquitoes, bug bites or sunburn? Constipation is common for some people when they are away from home. Does getting on an airplane or skipping your daily routine cause anxiety? Do you have trouble sleeping in hotel rooms or in the great outdoors?
Even if you’re not going anywhere, this is also a wonderful approach if you want to rid your home medicine chest of over-the-counter drugs and replace them with healthy herbal alternatives. You can find more about Everyday Alternatives to Over-the-Counter Drugs, here.
Assembling a DIY herbal first aid kit for traveling doesn’t require an entire herbal pharmacy, but you’ll be glad you’re prepared for the small misadventures that might otherwise derail your plans. Consider these herbal traveling companions for your next adventure.
DIY Herbal First Aid Kit Essentials
ANXIETY, STRESS & INSOMNIA
Lavender Essential Oil: This is one of the best first aid remedies for any size adventure. For travel related anxiety, nervous tension, stress or insomnia a simple inhalation can work wonders. Simply place a drop or two of the pure essential oil on a tissue, hold it over your nose and breathe for several minutes. You can also add a drop or two of the essential oil to a teaspoon of unscented lotion or any available carrier oil and massage it into your skin. Lavender essential is also an excellent first aid remedy for itchy bug bites, sun burn, muscle aches and pains and headaches.
Valerian Root: If you usually have trouble sleeping when you travel and plan to be away from home for more than a night or two, consider taking valerian root in capsules or in a liquid extract. Valerian root promotes deep restful sleep and can also be used in time of acute stress or anxiety. It’s also an option for muscle pain and menstrual cramps.
INDIGESTION, NAUSEA, CONSTIPATION & DIARRHEA
Peppermint Essential Oil: This essential oil is an excellent first aid remedy for nausea and motion sickness. Like lavender or tea tree essential oils, peppermint can be used as a simple inhalation. Diluted in an unscented lotion or carrier oil, it can also be rubbed on the belly to relieve nausea, gas and bloating. Properly diluted peppermint essential oil is also an excellent choice for pain, muscle aches and itchy bug bites. A simple inhalation is also helpful for sinus congestion. Always properly dilute your peppermint essential oil if you are applying it topically; one to two drops in a teaspoon of lotion or carrier oil is a good, quick dilution for most purposes.
Ginger: Chewing on crystallized ginger can help ease nausea and motion sickness. If you often experience motion sickness when you travel, be sure to start using ginger before you board that boat or start down that winding mountain road. Ginger is also help for gas, bloating and digestive cramps. Instead of the sweet and spicy pleasure of crystalized ginger, your herbal first aid kit could include ginger in a tincture or in capsules. Ginger can also be used as a first aid remedy for colds or flu with lots of mucus, coughing, fevers, body aches, pain and menstrual cramps.
Digestive Bitters: These make a great travel companion if you’ll be eating exotic foods or something other than what you eat at home. Digestive bitters like this Better Bitters blend promote your body’s secretion of digestive enzymes and healthy digestive function. They can be especially helpful for indigestion, gas, bloating and the breakdown of heavy, fatty foods. They also have a mild laxative effect. Digestive bitters are usually taken as a tincture or liquid extract and work best if taken about 15 minutes before each meal.
Marshmallow Root Powder: This is an excellent digestive remedy if you’re traveling with children, though it works just as well for adults. Marshmallow root powder mixed in water, yogurt or other soft food can soothe stomach ache and irritable digestion and slow diarrhea. Taken with lots of water it can help relieve constipation.
Tea Tree Essential Oil: Small bottles of essential oils make great travel companions, especially when size and weight are considerations. Like lavender, tea tree essential oil is an important and versatile first aid remedy. When it comes to digestive complaints, dilute, tea tree essential oil in an unscented lotion or carrier oil and rub it on the belly for food poisoning (combined with Peppermint) or traveler’s diarrhea.
Echinacea-Goldenseal: This herbal combination works for a wide range of issues. Whether in capsules or an extract, this combination is an excellent remedy to help the body recover from food poisoning and traveler’s diarrhea. It’s also helpful for colds, flu and general immune support.
COLDS, COUGHS & IMMUNE SUPPORT
Tea Tree Essential Oil: At the first sign of a cold, cough or other respiratory infection, put one drop of tea tree essential oil in a glass of hot salty water and gargle several times per day. A simple inhalation of the essential oil may also be helpful. A drop of tea tree may also be applied to small cuts or scrapes to inhibit infection. If your trip includes air travel, a simple inhalation of immune stimulating, anti-microbial essential oils like Essential Immunity, before, during and after the flight will help protect you from infectious bugs circulating in the aircraft. This blend includes tea tree and lavender essential oil.
Echinacea-Goldenseal: If you’re going to be away from home for an extended period and will not have easy access to herbal remedies, take along something for general immune support. The echinacea- goldenseal combination used for digestive complaints is also helpful for colds, flu, and other infectious conditions.
Ginger: This is another versatile remedy for your travel first aid kit or home medicine chest. Discussed in more detail above, ginger is a useful first aid remedy for colds, coughs, flu and fever, as well as digestive issues.
PAIN, SPRAINS & MUSCLE STRAINS
Arnica: If you’re going to be carrying a heavy backpack, walking long distances, or otherwise likely to develop sore muscles while you’re traveling, include Arnica in your first aid kit. In addition to relieving muscle aches and pains, Arnica is an excellent first aid remedy for a twisted ankle, stiff neck, bruising or any other sprain or strain. Pack an arnica cream or oil for topical use as well as the tiny vial of homeopathic arnica pellets for internal use. Use arnica as soon as possible after an injury or even before you put on your backpack or head out for a long hike.
Peppermint and Lavender Essential Oils: These two multi-purpose first aid oils can be combined in a carrier oil or lotion and applied topically to relieve pain. Roman Chamomile and Frankincense essential oils are two other good choices for pain and sprains that make versatile first aid remedies. If you like to make your own herbal products, this Herbal Pain Relief Salve is another excellent travel companion.
TOPICAL REMEDIES FOR CUTS, SCRAPES, BITES & BURNS
All-Purpose Antiseptic Salve: Every herbal first aid kit should include an all-purpose antiseptic salve that can be applied to small cuts, scrapes and other small wounds. The salve should help inhibit infection and promote healing. My favorite antiseptic salve is made with chaparral infused oil and lavender and tea tree essential oils. Keep your eyes out for the recipe later this month or try this all purpose calendula salve which is a great carrier for the essential oil of your choice.
Lavender Essential Oil: This multiuse essential oil can also be diluted and applied topically to relieve itchy bug bites and burns, including sunburn. It will also help keep a small wound from becoming infected and promote wound healing.
Tea Tree Essential Oil: This versatile first aid remedy can be applied topically to inhibit infection. Diluting the oil first is best to avoid irritating the skin.
Yarrow: Dried yarrow or yarrow tincture can be applied topically to stop bleeding. If you know this fragrant flower, you might find it near your campsite or along the trail. The fresh plant can be mulched and applied to a wound. This remedy is not necessary in every first aid kit, but it is a wise addition when medical assistance is far away. Yarrow can also be helpful for sinus congestion, colds, flu and fever.
First Aid Accessories
In addition to herbal remedies and depending on the type of travel, be sure to include first aid accessories like band-aids, gauze pads and adhesive tape, cotton balls, antiseptic wipes and a small bottle of unscented lotion or carrier oil for the dilution of essential oils. Cold and hot packs, tweezers, a small pair of scissors and other accessories might also be helpful.
Assembling Your DIY Herbal First Aid Kit
Allow the circumstances of your adventure, your most common needs and the needs of your fellow travelers to dictate the contents of your herbal first aid kit. For example, if you’re only going to be away from home for the day picnicking or dancing your feet off at a music festival, take along a small kit with essential oils. If you’re hopping on an airplane or taking a long road trip, consider adding immune support and sleep aids to your essential oil kit. If you’re traveling in areas where food and water borne illness are a concern, be sure to include immune and digestive remedies. If you will be traveling in areas far from medical assistance be as complete as you can, given space and weight limitations. If you’re traveling with a group, it helps to collaborate on an herbal first aid kit that can be shared by everyone. A water proof container or zippered bag is ideal for most kits. As with the contents, choose a container or bag specific to your travel.
An herbal first aid kit for your weekend car-camping trip might look like this:
Lavender essential oil
Tea tree essential oil
Peppermint essential oil
All-purpose antiseptic salve
A first aid kit for your trip to the Galapagos or a trek to Manchu Pichu might look like this:
Lavender essential oil
Tea tree essential oil
Peppermint essential oil
A small bottle of unscented lotion
All-purpose antiseptic salve
Valerian root capsules
Band-aids, gauze and adhesive tape
Taking along an herbal first aid kit will help ensure that you are prepared for the unexpected. However, when and wherever you travel, use common sense and seek medical attention when necessary. In the best of circumstances, you’ll feel prepared and confident that you have the herbal companions you need, but you’ll never have to use them.
I’d love to hear about your travels and the herbal first aid remedies you’ve used along the way. You can share your stories in the comments below or on Instagram along with a photo of your herbal first aid kit at #nectarherbandtea.
To happy, healthy and safe adventures,