Mother Earth Living

The Gardener's Natural First-Aid Kit

Ease gardening woes by keeping a natural first-aid kit packed with these healing essentials and natural remedies.
By Gina DeBacker
March/April 2013
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Ease gardening woes by keeping a first-aid kid packed with healing essentials such as aloe vera, arnica, tea tree, witch hazel and more.
Photo By Thomas Gibson


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There’s nothing like time spent outdoors gardening. And while this hobby can reap a bevy of health rewards, it can also cause stress to our bodies. If you plan to spend your spring digging in the dirt, keep this natural gardener’s first-aid kit nearby for blisters, sunburns, or bumps and scrapes. Note: With any natural remedy, go easy at first to make sure your skin doesn’t have an adverse reaction. If a wound is serious or lasts more than a week without signs of healing, consult a medical professional.

First Aid for Blisters

Never pop a blister. Doing so invites infection. Instead, dry the blister: Soak a gauze pad in witch hazel extract, a mild astringent with antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. Place the soaked pad over the blister and cover with an adhesive bandage. If a blister breaks on its own, wash the area with soap and water, then dab it with tea tree oil, a powerful antimicrobial with antiseptic properties. Cover the area with a gauze bandage; reapply tea tree oil and change dressing daily.

First Aid for Splinters

Use sterilized tweezers to ease a splinter out, then wash the wound with an herbal infusion to disinfect. Herbs with antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties include St. John’s wort, chamomile and Oregon grape root. Make a strong infusion by steeping a handful of one or more of these dried herbs in water for 5 to 10 minutes.

First Aid for Minor Cuts and Scrapes

Powdered goldenseal is a powerful antimicrobial and antiseptic that can be sprinkled directly onto cuts or wounds to help stop bleeding. Once bleeding stops, gently wash the wound with soap and water. Pat dry, apply raw, unprocessed honey, and cover with a clean bandage. Honey reduces bacterial contamination in wounds, helping them heal faster. Change dressing and reapply honey one to three times daily as needed.

First Aid for Stings and Bug Bites

First, minimize stings and bug bites by deterring pests. Rather than commercial brands formulated with DEET—a pesticide that has been linked to neurological damage and can cause rashes and eye irritation—try this herbal spray: 2 ounces of a carrier oil (such as almond or grapeseed) combined with 1⁄2 teaspoon of citronella or lemongrass essential oil. Apply at least every two hours.

Treat minor bites or stings with a poultice made from equal parts echinacea tincture, water and bentonite clay. This blend will draw out the poison and help relieve itching. You also can add a few drops of lavender or peppermint essential oil to boost its antiseptic and antibacterial properties. For additional treatments, check out these Natural Home Remedies for Bee Stings.

First Aid for Bruises

Apply ice to bruised skin to relieve pain and swelling, and apply an arnica cream or gel twice daily. If you are prone to excessive bruising, you may want to consider taking vitamin C capsules or eating more vitamin C-rich foods such as citrus, broccoli and peppers.

First Aid for Poison Ivy and Other Rashes

If you’ve come in contact with poison ivy or poison oak, take action fast. Wash the area thoroughly with soap and cool water, or sponge with rubbing alcohol to remove the oily resin as soon as possible.

To treat a rash, spray a grindelia tincture—either directly or diluted with water—to the affected area several times a day. The resins and tannins in this herb should stop the itching. Jewelweed is another effective herb for rashes. Crush its leaves to extract its juice, or freeze jewelweed tea into ice cubes; rub the juice or cubes on the affected area. (Jewelweed tea may induce vomiting. Don’t drink it.)

For large rashes that have already settled, draw out any remaining toxins by soaking in a tepid or cool oat bath: Wrap unflavored rolled oats in fine cheesecloth to make a packet; run water through the packet into the tub; and relax in the oatmeal-infused water.

First Aid for Sunburns

To prevent sunburns, apply a mineral sunscreen (look for active ingredients zinc and titanium dioxide) no lower than SPF 30, wear a hat and other protective clothing, and limit your sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.—when the sun’s rays are the strongest—whenever possible.

To soothe sunburns, apply aloe vera gel to cool the burn and treat the inflammation. Black tea is another natural option, as its tannins will treat the burn and reduce pain and redness. Brew a strong batch, cool it with ice, then gently apply it to the affected area with a towel or washcloth. You can also soothe skin by soaking in a lukewarm apple cider vinegar bath—one large glass of vinegar should do the trick. (A few drops of lavender oil will mask the vinegar smell.) For additional treatments, read the article Beat the Heat! Home Remedies for Sunburns.

First-Aid Kit Supplies

■ Adhesive bandages in various sizes
■ Almond oil  
■ Aloe vera gel
■ Arnica cream
■ Bentonite clay
■ Boswellia capsules
■ Citronella oil
■ Cotton swabs
■ Echinacea tincture
■ Grindelia tincture
■ Lavender essential oil
■ Oatmeal
■ Powdered goldenseal
■ Rubbing alcohol
■ St. John’s wort 
■ Sterile gauze pads
■ Tea tree oil
■ Tweezers
■ Unprocessed honey
■ Vitamin C capsules
■ Witch hazel

Resources

Aura Cacia
essential oils

Boiron
arnica cream

Dickinson’s
witch hazel

Herb Pharm
tinctures

JĀSÖN
aloe gel

Mountain Rose Herbs
herbs and essential oils

NOW Foods
supplements

Wild Carrot Herbals
herbal body-care products


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