Updated March 2, 2022
We all know that life is extremely unpredictable. One minute you’re happily cutting food for your rabbits and the next thing you know you’re staring dazed at your finger thats now dripping with blood after a too close encounter with your pruning shears.
Even if you aren’t quite as accident prone as I am, things happen and its nice to be prepared when they do. Having a well stocked first aid kit in your home and with you when you go on a trip is a great way to be ready for whatever issues may arise. If you get anxious when you travel, knowing that you are well prepared in case of illness or injury can be a good way to relieve some of your stress.
The following is a list of things in my personal first aid kit. Feel free to make substitutions or omit things based on what is available and makes the most sense for your needs. If you’re flying to your destination, you’ll need to be mindful of airline fluid restrictions and plan accordingly. Some of these remedies are somewhat specific for travelers, so you may choose not to include them in your home medicine cabinet.
Tinctures are a really handy on-the-go herbal preparation, especially if you store them in dropper bottles. I like to keep all of the tincture bottles in my first aid kit in a small ziplock bag in case of spills. If you’re traveling with glass bottles, you’ll want to pad them somehow to prevent them from breaking.
These are the herbal tinctures in my first aid kit:
Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea; Echinacea angustifolia) — This cleansing, immune boosting, antibiotic, and antiviral herb is a great addition to any first aid kit or medicine cabinet. The tincture can be used topically to disinfect cuts and scrapes. It can be taken internally to help treat colds, flus, food poisoning, and bacterial infections. Herbalist, Rosemary Gladstar, recommends taking a dropperful of tincture every 3-4 hours at the first sign of illness (sore throat, cough, fatigue, etc.) until symptoms subside.
Echinacea can also be used preventatively prior to leaving home to prevent illness if you tend to get sick when traveling. Gladstar recommends taking a dropperful 2-3 times daily for three days before traveling and three days after arriving at your destination to boost and support immune function.
Digestive Bitters — This tincture is an invaluable remedy to have on hand for a wide variety of stomach issues. Digestive bitters tincture aids digestion, relieves gas & bloating, and can be helpful for nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
You’ll find more information about bitters and how to make your own tincture in my post, DIY Digestive Bitters.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) — This is one of my favorite herbs for a variety of issues that may arise during travel. It is sedative, pain relieving, and soothing to the nervous system. It’s a valuable sleep aid, helps relieve muscle spasms, calms overexcitement, and is good for general pain relief.
While many people find valerian to be relaxing, a small percentage of people actually experience a stimulating effect from this herb. If you haven’t taken valerian before, try a small dose to see how it will affect you.
Typical dosing: 10 drops to 1 tsp for insomnia, stress, pain, menstrual cramps, aching muscles.
St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum)— This herb is helpful in with general pain relief. It has properties that aids wounded tissues in their recovery. It is an anti-inflammatory. It also aids in recovery of mental/emotional balance after suffering trauma.
Typical dosing: 10-30 drops for nerve pain, depression, anxiety, or burns.
Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) & Hawthorne (Crataegus laevigata; Crataegus monogyna) Blend— This herbal combination can ease the symptoms of jet lag and can also help treat altitude sickness. Gladstar recommends taking 1/2 to 1 tsp of tincture 3 times daily for several days before and after traveling to help prevent jet lag. Avoid taking ginkgo if you take blood thinning medications.
Capsules are another herbal preparation that is very convenient for travel. You can often find herbal capsules in health food stores and even some pharmacies. Mountain Rose Herbs is another great source.
If you’re going to be using a lot of capsules, it’s probably worth it to buy your own capsule machine and empty capsules so you can fill them with your own powdered herbs. This will save you money and also allows you to make customized herbal blends to fill your capsules with.
If you’re not assembling this first aid kit for travel and just want to have a well stocked medicine cabinet at your home, you may want to keep loose dried herbs on hand instead of capsules. It can be cheaper and it’s really not that inconvenient to make a cup of tea when you’re at home. Do whatever works best for you and your family.
The following capsules are in my first aid kit:
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) — This herb is helpful for cases of nausea, motion sickness, and helps to calm stomach issues caused by stress and anxiety. It’s warming properties also make it helpful for several other issues travelers might find themselves dealing with, like menstrual issues (especially cramps), coughs, sore throats, and colds.
Activated charcoal — Internally, this powder helps to absorb a variety of toxins from the digestive tract, including many chemicals, poisons, and pathogens that cause food and water bourne illnesses.
It also can be used externally to treat spider bites or help to draw out splinters. Just break open a capsule and mix the contents with a very small amount of water to make a paste. Smooth the paste over the affected area and let dry. Remove with a cloth dipped in warm water.
White willow bark (Salix alba) — Willow is a natural source of salicin, the active ingredient in aspirin. It is useful as an anti-inflammatory and all-purpose pain reliever. It can also be useful for treatment of occasional headaches. Standard dosing: 2 capsules with food.
Cranberry — Cranberry capsules are an invaluable remedy to have on hand if you’re prone to bladder or urinary tract infections. Start taking capsules in large doses at the first sign of infection. This can help stop a bladder infection that is just starting.
Lavender essential oil — Lavender has a wide variety of uses and is very gentle. It’s antiseptic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and calming.
Dab a drop of essential oil on your finger and rub on temples and behind ears to soothe headaches caused by stress and tension or to help calm nerves in stressful situations. This method is also helpful for cases of insomnia.
Lavender EO can also be used topically to promote healing and reduce pain or itching in bruises, burns, wounds, and insect bites. Apply a few drops to affected area to soothe and help prevent infection. For burns, mix a few drops of oil with a tablespoon of honey to make a healing, antiseptic dressing.
Peppermint essential oil — This stimulating essential oil is uplifting, energizing and has a variety of first aid uses.
For upset stomach and digestive issues, add 3 to 4 drops of pure essential oil to a cup of warm water and drink.
For headaches caused by fatigue, put a few drops on a towel or cloth and inhale deeply. Or mix 6-10 drops of peppermint oil with a carrier oil (like olive, sunflower, or coconut oil) and massage onto back of the neck.
Tea tree essential oil — Tea tree is a powerful antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and antifungal. The essential oil of this herb is very versatile and can be used to treat a variety of issues that may arise on your travels.
To relieve symptoms of sinus & bronchial infections, and colds, put 10-15 drops in a bowl or pot of hot water. Drape a towel over your head and the bowl and steam for 8-10 minutes. Or if an herbal steam isn’t practical, try put a few drops of tea tree essential oil on a cloth or towel, hold over your nose and breathe in deeply.
For fungal infections and rashes, apply a few drops diluted in a carrier oil directly to the affected area.
To remove embedded ticks, put a drop of tea tree EO on the butt of the tick.
Kloss linament — This traditional remedy is helpful for topical treatment of muscle inflammation, insect bites, scratches, wounds, boils, pimples, infected rashes, splinters, and poison oak/ivy. It should be used only externally.
The following recipe is a classic, adapted from Back to Eden by Jethro Kloss.
Kloss’ Herbal Linament
- 1 oz golden seal root
- 1 oz myrrh gum
- 1/4 oz cayenne
- 1 pint rubbing alcohol
Combine ingredients in a glass jar with a lid that fits tightly. Cover and let sit in a warm place for 2 weeks or more, shaking daily.
After 2 weeks, strain well and store in a glass jar. Apply to affected area to relieve any of conditions listed above. This remedy will sting when applied to broken skin. Dilute with water for use on animals and children.
Every good first aid kit will also include the following items to help sanitize and bandage wounds or stabilize injuries.
- Rubbing alcohol
- Band aids
- Cotton swabs
- Cotton pads
- Ace wrap
- Athletic tape
Putting together your own herbal first aid kit can be empowering. Knowing that you are prepared for injury and illness can help relieve some of the stress of travel and will help your trip go smoother if an accident occurs or if you fall ill away from home.
7Song. “Wilderness Herbal First Aid.” http://www.7song.com.
7Song. “Herbal First Aid: Protocols, Pain remedies, Wound care and Street Medicine.” http://www.7song.com.
7Song. “Herbal First Aid: Wound Care.” http://www.7song.com.
Gladstar, Rosemary. Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health.
Gladstar, Rosemary. “Herbs for the Traveler.”
Hoffman, David. Medical Herbalism.
Kloss, Jethro. Back to Eden.
Tierra, Michael. The Way of Herbs.
Weed, Susan. Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year.