Travel First Aid: Make a Herbal Remedy Kit

Build a homemade herbal first aid kit, perfect for healing the small emergencies of traveling.

| May/June 2001

Travelers are exposed to wonderful opportunities and adventures. Unfortunately, they also are exposed to viruses, bacteria, fungi, amoebas, and biting insects. Add those to changes in sleep patterns, new foods, climate variations, and footwear woes, and travel can become a recipe for colds, indigestion, insomnia, skin infections, and blisters, to name only a few complaints.

Fortunately, herbal remedies lend themselves well to minor travel problems. They can resolve a number of topical and intestinal infections, reduce headaches and other aches and pains, and relieve colds and infections. Pharmacies and large health-food stores that stock herbal remedies can be found in many major cities, but these aren’t always conveniently located and might not be open when you need them. For camping trips and journeys to remote areas, such luxuries might not be accessible at all. Therefore, bringing along your own traveling herbal pharmacy makes good sense.

Organizing your kit

There are several things to keep in mind when building an herbal travel kit. First, your destination will help you to determine what kinds of problems you might encounter and what herbs might be appropriate to take along. Visiting the in-laws at Thanksgiving will require slightly different gear than a foray into the Amazon jungle. Second, your destination will also determine how you’ll carry your kit. For example, if you’ll have access to your car or will be staying at a hotel or someone’s home, a heavy carrying case won’t be an issue. A hiking trip, on the other hand, requires easy portability. Finally, the specific needs and tendencies of the other people with whom you’re traveling will determine which herbs you choose to bring. For example, if you’re traveling with someone who has a tendency to develop insomnia, you’ll want extra herbs to help that person sleep.

Container options

A small tool or tackle box, available at any hardware store, makes an excellent traveling first-aid case. They’re sturdy and resistant to small critters, and they prevent bottles from breaking if jostled or if the container is dropped. Most have drawers, or at least trays, for storing items in separate compartments, which makes it easy to organize your kit and find what you need when you need it. Metal tool and tackle boxes last for years but are heavier and more expensive than plastic versions, so you might opt for a plastic carrying case if portability is a concern. Metal ones occasionally rust over time; plastic ones sometimes crack. Make certain before you buy a case that the handles and latches are durable. The size of your travel kit will be determined by how much you’ll need to carry along, plus a little extra room to add a few items over time.

Camping-gear stores generally sell high-quality packs made of durable cloth or nylon that can be turned into cases for your herbal travel kit. To shop for one, bring a 1-oz. tincture bottle and a few salve jars to the store with you; look for a case with several compartments where such items will fit. Cases with plastic “windows” on the inside make it easy to see what you’ve stored in the various compartments, enabling you to reach for something quickly in minor emergencies. You might choose nylon over cloth, because it’s generally water resistant and cleans up easily.

Homemade travel cases can also be created out of a variety of materials, such as cookie tins, sturdy plastic food containers, cosmetics or toiletries bags, doctor’s bags, cigar boxes, and sewing boxes. Some herbalists fashion their own travel kits by strategically sewing a strip of 3/8-inch elastic into a homemade or purchased satchel. The elastic holds tincture bottles and other jars in place so that when the bag is opened, the items are easy to view and access.

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