Building Your Natural First-Aid Kit: Herbal Skin Healers

Scientifically backed first-aid herbs can often heal wounds and relieve pain better than pharmaceutical alternatives. Learn what to stock in your natural first-aid kit.

| July/August 2015

  • Aloe vera gel is nature’s perfect burn cream. Human studies show it heals minor burns more quickly than a standard pharmaceutical cream, and it’s a well-known treatment for sunburns.
    Photo by iStock
  • Aloe is a wonderful skin soother.
    Photo by iStock
  • Topical ointments containing comfrey help reduce pain and can help ease muscle or ligament sprains.
    Photo by iStock
  • Extracts of gotu kola have been shown quicken would healing time and reduce scarring.
    Photo by iStock
  • Skin-healing calendula can be used in compresses, ointments and herbal oils.
    Photo by iStock
  • Plantain is a weed that grows wild all over North America. Its anti-inflmmatory and antihistamine actions make it a perfect on-the-spot treatment for insect bites and splinters.
    Photo by iStock
  • Use herbal remedies to treat minor cuts, burns and other common injuries quickly and effectively.
    Photo by Veer
  • Be prepared when hiking, biking or running on trails away from easy access to a medical facility.
    Photo by iStock
  • Strong green tea makes a good remedy for skin ailments ranging from acne and eczema to wounds and burns. Tea also tightens puffy under-eye skin. Use a cloth soaked in tea and cooled in the fridge.
    Photo by iStock
  • Use oats to reduce itching and inflammation often associated with eczema and healing wounds.
    Photo by iStock
  • Minor scrapes can be soothed and sanitized with herbal options.
    Photo by iStock
  • Sea buckthorn oil contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, vitamin E and cartenoids, which help to increase tissue regeneration.
    Photo by iStock
  • A well-known antidepressant, St. John's wort has also proved useful for speeding wound healing times.
    Photo by iStock
  • Yarrow, a traditional wound healer, helps stop bleeding and prevents infection.
    Photo by iStock

As the matriarch of an active family, I’ve learned a thing or two about taking care of minor wounds. When a loved one runs into the house bleeding or gets a cut while out hiking, it’s a scary experience. And while of course some injuries require a trip to the emergency room, when it comes to dealing with minor cuts and burns, becoming well-versed in natural remedies and wound healers can help us feel more calm and in control in those moments of chaos.

Skin-Healing Recipes

Healing Calendula and Comfrey Salve
Soothing St. John’s Wort Oil

Your Guide to Herbal First-Aid

When an injury strikes, before you do anything else, take a deep, centering breath. If you have any doubts about handling the situation on your own, call your doctor or 911 (see our two “When to Seek Medical Assistance” for more tips). The information in this article applies to minor lacerations (cuts), abrasions (scrapes) and burns.

If it’s not an emergency-room situation, your first step is to control bleeding. Cover the area with a clean bandage and apply firm, steady pressure for at least five minutes. Don’t stop to peek under the cloth.

Next, wash the wound with plain soap (not anti-bacterial soap) and plenty of water. Remove any foreign material, including splinters and road grime. If necessary, use a fine brush and tweezers. Cover the area with gauze and tape, plus an herbal salve, if desired.

Finally, turn to medicinal plants to help relieve pain and support healing. People have turned to medicinal plants for millennia for first-aid treatment. In this article, we highlight some of those traditional plants whose healing power is supported by research. Many of these plants are easy to grow in temperate climates or in pots indoors. All of them are excellent additions to your natural first-aid kit.

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