First Aid Natural Travel Remedies
Before we start our adventure, most of us remember to pack our essential prescription medicines, a few plasters, sun tan cream and Alka-Seltzers. But what about problems that may occur in out-of-the-way places with no medical care? I’ve put together a brief guide to natural remedies, which you can take with you or find locally and can be used for these unforeseen emergencies. You must, however, seek medical attention, on your return to civilization, at the first opportunity.
The most common ailment is travel sickness. Now you can take the usual pills but, invariably, they are antihistamine and can make you very sleepy. If you enjoy the actual journey, sleepiness is best avoided and it's essential if you're driving, of course! Ginger has been used for decades for morning sickness and is safe and really effective for travel sickness too. Ginger has the added bonus of containing a natural antibiotic and the ability to stimulate the circulation. It is widely available as capsules or even crystallised (unless you are diabetic).
Jet Lag – If you are traveling some distance, the first few days of your holiday or trip could be disrupted by the time difference. A tried and proven remedy is to use 3mg Melatonin which is a hormone naturally produced by the pineal gland and which regulates the body clock. It is much favoured by long distance business travellers. If you have difficulty getting melatonin you can use -5HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) which is a natural antidepressant and will boost levels of serotonin to help you sleep and regulate your appetite. Both are available from Amazon or similar stores.
Sun burn – Use herbal Echinacea cream which will sooth burnt skin and speed the rate at which it heals. Aloe Vera is excellent at soothing sunburnt skin and if a plant is available just break off a leaf and rub the gel on the skin.
Echinacea is also available as tablets and is highly effective to treat colds and flu which can make travelling a misery.
Insect repellent – The best course of action is to stop the bugs biting you in the first place. Most proprietary repellents contain DEET, which is bad for your skin and becoming ineffective as insects are becoming resistant. However, nothing develops immunity to essential oils and a blend of Neem oil together with Lavender, Eucalyptus and Citronella essential oils continues to be effective. The proportions should be roughly 20ml of Neem oil with 7 drops of each essential oil. Make up a small bottle to take with you.
Insect bites – Blend almond carrier oil with Tea Tree, Citronella, Lavender and Eucalyptus essential oils and apply to the skin.
Stomach upset – A simple cup of builder’s tea will help eliminate diarrhoea but not normal strength. You need 4 teabags in each cup so that the tannin (a natural antibacterial agent) will kill off the cause. Probiotic Capsules will both prevent and cure upset stomachs but make sure they are enteric coated to save the good bacteria. Nettle Tea will help protect your liver against too much alcohol and will also help with allergies from pollen and foods.
Goldenseal – This is a must for any traveller’s kit. It is a very potent antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial herb which works well with Echinacea to protect the immune system and help with stomach upsets. Available in variable forms from Amazon.
Arnica 30c – This homeopathic remedy is another essential. It will reduce bleeding, bruising, inflammation and can help with shock & promote rapid healing of wounds.
Pyrogen 200c -Another homeopathic remedy for emergency situations where a doctor is not available. Use in cases of food poisoning, fevers and septic infections. The symptoms to look for are upset stomach, going from hot to cold and back together with palpitations.
Burns – The best treatments for burns is Lavender Oil which can be applied directly to burnt skin. It may sting a little initially but will take the pain away and allow rapid healing with no scars. It will also prevent any infections. It is used widely by the military and burns units of hospitals. Always carry a 20ml bottle - it is a first aid kit in itself. Either dab it on or use it on a sterile dressing or paper tissue soaked in Lavender oil and, if you have any, cover with cling film or at least a clean plastic bag.
Dehydration – One of the best rehydration fluids is coconut water. Drink directly from the coconut, which you can buy from many native markets. It is so pure it is used as emergency plasma. In the markets they tend to use young green nuts which are open on display. Refuse these as bacteria may have entered the nut and contaminated the water - ask for it to be opened in front of you. There is nothing wrong with the older brown nuts and the water is often sweeter but don't buy them for later as there is a greater chance they will have "gone off" and not only will the water be undrinkable but the flesh also. Use coconut water to wash out and clean open wounds if bottled water is not available. Do not use river water.
If you have room a roll of duct tape has many important uses. Cut thin strips to use as stitches to close cuts. You can prepare strong splints for broken bones using a strong branch, tent pole etc. by taping to the affected limb. Use patches, with a square of tissue or clean cloth in the centre to cover small open wounds to keep dirt out.
You should carry some essential tools and I would suggest:
A good quality Swiss Army knife with all the gadgets (scissors etc.) and at least one razor sharp blade.
Three single edge stainless razor blades
A cannula in a sterile pack, (cheaply available from Amazon) as some native hospitals do not have sterile equipment.
Pack of fine sewing needles and strong waxed thread.(See duct tape as an alternative)
Two pairs of tweezers (one sharp point and one flat chisel point.)
Small pack of latex gloves (unless allergic then use vinyl)
Length of Paracord cheaply available from camping shops or Amazon.(for use as a tourniquet, sling etc.)
A pair of close mesh tights which can be used as a coarse filter and perhaps half a dozen paper coffee filters for finer use.
Pack of strong uncoated condoms for use as liquid carrier, to cover burnt skin etc.
A small lightweight booklet with first aid tips.
Thyme essential oil. An essential for travellers. Two drops in 4 ounces of water for mouthwash for toothache or sore throat. Same recipe used externally for crabs, lice, and all external parasites. Two drops placed in recently boiled water, inhale the steam for cold, flu, or bronchitis.
Cayenne capsules. A proven styptic. Apply externally to stop bleeding rapidly. Alternative styptics include comfrey and yarrow. Comfrey is perhaps the finest internal anti-haemorrhage available and is great for external use as well. There is some anecdotal evidence that cayenne taken orally as a liquid it can prove beneficial in the case of heart attack or stroke. This can be extremely dangerous and never give to anyone who has lost consciousness or takes blood thinners. I would consider this as a very last resort and cannot recommend it. It will also warm cold feet, sprinkled inside your boots.
Take a small pack (500gm)of Activated Charcoal (Carbon) to neutralize poisons. (Medicinal grade in capsules or pack can be purchased from Amazon - initial dose 50-100 gm mixed with water then 50gm every 4 hours. Break open capsules for topical use or just swallow capsules for internal use) It is an antidote for arsenic, mercury, pesticides, strychnine, warfarin, hemlock, E. Coli, petrol/kerosene and over 4,000 chemicals, drugs, plant and microbial toxins, allergens, venoms, and wastes. It can be used topically for venomous snake and spider bites. It should be dampened before being taken internally (about 1 teaspoon) and also when placed directly onto the wounds. Be aware that activated charcoal is much less effective against alcohols and cyanide.
In addition you should include Bentonite Clay (Pure grade 420gm can be purchased cheaply from Amazon) - If you are bitten by a snake, activated charcoal will only be useful for the first four hours. Following that, bentonite clay should be applied directly to the wound site, because it has a remarkable ability to draw out toxins
Colloidal silver - Silver is undoubtedly one of the best anti-bacterial and anti-viral substances available. (Can be purchased in 500ml bottles, from Amazon) It can therefore be used to make water safer to drink, unlike chlorine which can cause major arterial damage. Be aware that it will not kill most parasites and water should be boiled first, then silver should be added to the filtered water 15 minutes before its use. Colloidal silver will also help anyone who has become sick with almost any illness. Take 2 tablespoons every few hours. It is better and safer than antibiotics in every category.
Mix colloidal silver with a small amount of sea salt added to spring water to make an effective eye wash. The salt will make the silver solution closer to that of human tears, and therefore, it will minimize burning sensations. It needs to be made in a dropper bottle beforehand, because there is no time to waste in an eye emergency.
Iodine - Iodine can be a life safer for deep wounds. (Iodine tincture BP 25ml dropper bottles can be purchased from Amazon or similar.) It penetrates deeply to kill all infectious bacteria. Wound infections must be prevented, so apply iodine liberally to any injury that is slow to heal, until the wound has scabbed over. The iodine will boost the immune system, and promote rapid healing too.
Baking Soda and Vinegar - Wasp, hornet, and bee stings can be eliminated using one of these substances. Firstly remove the sting, if visible, with tweezers. Wasp and hornet venom are powerful alkaline so use vinegar on a tissue for 15 min. In the case of bee stings, they are acidic and a damp paste of baking soda should be placed on sting site. Anyone who knows they suffer a severe reaction should carry an adrenaline (epinephrine) auto-injector device, otherwise do not walk or run and lay down until symptoms pass. A blue inhaler will help if you have one. It may be reassuring to know that very few people have died from wasp or bee stings, although you may feel awful or panicky.
Opium, cannabis ("marijuana") - While illegal in most areas of the world, cannabis is ideal for mild to moderate pain relief and nausea while opium will supress extreme pain. For legal reasons I cannot suggest you take any with you but it may be widely available where you are.
Pain relief - If you run out of paracetamol there are various foods and herb that may help. Rich dark red cherries can help by reducing inflammation. Capsaicin (Capsicum) – Found in hot chili peppers, can help treat migraine and cluster headaches, also soreness. Ginger, Turmeric, & Holy Basil can be used as an anti-inflammatory. We all know that white willow bark is the basis of aspirin and can be brewed into a tea. However, this is powerful and can cause internal bleeding and external wounds to be slow to stop bleeding.
As a child in Devon, if I cut myself my grandmother would go into the garden and fetch a clean fresh spider’s web which she would drape over the cut. This would instantly adhere, stop the bleeding and help the healing. It is known that man has used spider web as wound dressing for at least a thousand years. The demand for spider silk in the medical profession is high with a myriad of potential uses such as scaffolds, bone grafts or ligament repair. The silks are fully bio-compatible and bio-degradable, making them ideal for suture threads and other implantable biomaterials which need initially to be strong, before breaking down in the body. Take great care that the spider whose web it is, is not poisonous and will bite.
If sterile dressings are not available then banana leaves can be used as an alternative wound dressing. As a natural product, banana leaves are heavily contaminated with various pathogens that must be removed before they can be used as wound dressings, but there are effective sterilization methods that do not affect their beneficial wound-dressing properties. This can be steam sterilization which proved to be the optimal sterilization technique. A similar result can be simply achieved by cutting fresh leaves into strips and washing with tap water, then heating on a tray in water, similar to a bain-marie, to abt 120 degC for around 20 minutes until they are dry. They will only remain sterile for a week. Use gloves to handle them. Banana leaves displayed wound-dressing properties that equal those of petroleum jelly gauze dressings. They make an excellent alternative to the very expensive burn dressings used in western hospitals and have good pain relieving and wound healing properties. They are also easy to remove, reducing any damage to the newly-healed area underneath.
Where I have mentioned sources of supply for certain items it is for general guidance only and not an endorsement. These items are unlikely to occur in a useable form in the wild and should be purchased before travelling and added to your first aid kit.
© 2012 Peter Geekie