This spring I had the pleasure of spending six weeks in France and Iceland. It was an amazing trip! I wish I could sit you all down and show you hours worth of photos I took along the way… but I have a feeling that could put many of you to sleep.
So instead I thought I would be more practical and share my herbal first aid kit with you all. I bring my herbal first aid kit with me whenever I take a trip. I have my basic kit ready to go at all times but I do like to customize it depending on the location and duration of the trip. I am always grateful to have my own trusted herbs along for the trip so I don’t have to suffer through minor complaints or rely on over-the-counter medicines from the pharmacy.
What goes in your travel first aid kit?
What goes in your own herbal first aid kit is really dependent on what you specifically need. Do you get digestive problems when you travel? Have problems with sleep? Have pain? Get anxious? Have cold sores? Are you headed to a sunny location and want to bring along sunburn relief? Or will there be lots of stinging insects? It’s a good idea to think of what you most commonly reach for and then fill your kit with those solutions.
Another consideration is weight and space. If you are traveling by car then you may be able to bring along more herbs as opposed to traveling by plane or traveling light with a small backpack. It’s also fun to explore what other places have as herbal remedies. You may find interesting herbs and herbal blends along the way. However, if you have an acute problem like insomnia or digestive upset you don’t really want to be searching for remedies at that moment.
A peek inside my herbal first aid kit
The following are the things you’ll find in my own travel first aid kit. I hope this gives you ideas for creating your own.
Salves for boo boos.
I typically carry two different salves for minor scrapes and bruises.
This salve is great for those minor scrapes. It helps to heal the skin right up.
This salve is better suited for bruises and sprains. Arnica opens up the capillaries, which helps to promote circulation, one of the most important steps in healing a bruise or minor sprains.
Having trouble sleeping is a common problem when traveling. If you travel long distances (to France for example) then jet lag can be a concern. But even if you aren’t too far from home the excitement of the journey or even just sleeping in a strange place can prevent sleep.
This is a great formula for promoting sleep. All of these herbs are relaxing nervines with potential sedative qualities. A couple squirts of this and I am out for the night. I should note that valerian can actually cause the opposite effect in some people and make them feel more wired, thus preventing sleep. So, it’s a good idea to know whether or not you are a “valerian person” before relying on it in your herbal first aid kit.
This blend could also be helpful for relieving stress and anxiety. It can cause a lot of drowsiness so use caution when using it during the day, especially if you are driving or operating machinery and need to be alert.
Digestive problems are also a very common problem when traveling. The stress of travel, eating strange food or simply eating contaminated foods can create all levels of digestive upset. Using a bitters formula like this one from Urban Moonshine before meals can help you avoid a stomach upset. It can be taken in larger doses as needed to address tummy upsets. It works great against general nausea, indigestion, bloating, gas and mild constipation.
When I go to Mexico where parasites are more of a concern I also bring along activated charcoal capsules.
Traveling can be stressful to the immune system, leaving you more susceptible to upper respiratory infections like the common cold. Also, being in crowded airports or train stations can bring you in contact with these common viruses. When I travel I like to take something to support my immune system in the hopes of avoiding catching anything.
Elderberry extract is wonderful at preventing an upper respiratory infection and at shortening the duration of a cold.
One of my own weak links is musculoskeletal pain. I have an old injury from my teenage years that can flare up from time to time so I always bring along my favorite pain remedies.
This “Pain in the…” tincture formula from Five Flavor Herbs is an amazing blend of herbs that works for all types of pain. Headaches, menstrual cramps, back pain, etc. I don’t travel far from home without it.
Another pain remedy that I am fond of is these Chinese patent medicated patches called Wu Yang patches. These have a blend of herbs, including wintergreen, that helps to decrease musculoskeletal pain.
You simply cut off a portion of the patch, remove the backing and then stick it to the area that hurts. On my trip to France I gave out these patches like crazy to folks who had different types of pain and all were quite pleased with how much their pain was reduced.
Candied ginger is a great addition to your travel first aid kit because it can help with so many different issues. It helps with general nausea, which can be helpful to those who get car sick. It can soothe a sore throat or even help with general digestive upsets. They also taste great.
Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender essential oil can be used topically for bug bites, headaches, cold sores and minor burns. Breathing in the scent of lavender can also promote relaxation (something that’s quite handy when the stress of travels are getting to you.)
I like to keep a couple bags of chamomile and peppermint tea in my herbal first aid kit. Both are great for calming an upset tummy. Chamomile can be helpful for soothing the nerves. One time I was traveling to an herb conference and I woke up with one eye super red and filled with gunk. I think it was pink eye. I made a little poultice out of my chamomile tea bag and it cleared it up quickly.
Peppermint tea is another nice tea to have in your herbal first aid kit. It tastes great and helps with stomach upset and nausea.
I also like to keep several packets of Emergen-C in my first aid kit as well. These are mixed in water and can help rehydrate you in times of minor dehydration.
I hope the items I’ve mentioned so far have given you ideas on what you may want in your own herbal first aid kit. I do change what’s in mine depending on where I am traveling and how I am traveling (weight/space considerations). If you don’t travel very much (or if you don’t use the items in your herbal first aid kit very often) you may want to freshen up your kit once a year to make sure your salves and teas are still fresh and potent.
Other things you may consider adding to your first aid kit include…
yunan baiyao powder: Somewhat hard to find these days but this is a famous herbal powder for stopping bleeding.
An antimicrobial tincture blend: This could be used diluted to clean out wounds or for urinary tract infections. Echinacea and yarrow are good choices.
No Jet-Lag Homeopathics: I used these on our way to France and our way home. I had very minimal jet lag when arriving in France and zero perceived symptoms of jet lag when I got home. I’m a believer!
Putting it all together
Here’s a tip I learned years ago from herbalist Natalie Vickery. Fish tackle boxes, readily found at hardware stores or sporting goods stores, are great containers for your herbal first aid kit. They can safely hold tincture bottles in individual compartments so they are well protected. I’ve used a fishing tackle box as my herb first aid kit for years and they work great.
Many times our remedies and recipes are things you can make yourself. This is a bit different in that I am showing you the contents of my first aid kit and giving you tips on how to create your own.
We’ve linked to Mountain Rose Herbs and other sites so that you can find these things readily. If you really want to create your own herbal first aid kit from scratch then I highly recommend the Herbal Basics course on HerbMentor.com, which shows you how to create salves, tinctures liniments, etc that end up being your own herbal first aid kit.
I should also mention that this article is specifically about an herbal first aid kit and so I didn’t cover items normally found in a standard first aid kit. It’s also a good idea to have a standard first aid kit with you that includes bandages, gauze, iodine, etc. These can be easily bought as a kit at sporting good stores, hardware stores, etc.
So now that you’ve seen what my herbal first aid kit looks like, I’d like to hear what you have in yours or what you are planning to include.
Visit Mountain Rose Herbs for many of the supplies above.