The Home Cook’s First-Aid Kit

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Photo By Thomas Gibson
Make your family's cooking time safer with these natural remedies.

In many homes, the kitchen is where we spend the most time together. It’s where we transform simple ingredients into long meals around the table; educate ourselves and our families about cooking techniques, health and nutrition; and it’s often the hub of gatherings and celebrations. With this fusion of people, food, heat and tools, minor emergencies are bound to happen from time to time. Keep everyone in your kitchen safer and happier with this home cook’s natural first-aid kit, and be ready to spring into action when minor burns, cuts, indigestion or stress threaten to dampen your family’s kitchen fun.  

Natural Remedies for Burns

After a minor kitchen burn, immediately run the skin under cool tap water for at least 10 minutes or until the pain diminishes. If you’re quick enough, you may prevent blistering. Do not apply ice to the burn, as it can further damage the tissue. If a blistering burn is larger than 3 inches in diameter, seek medical attention right away.

For smaller burns, turn to aloe. Aloe is the most well-known herbal remedy for burns, and for good reason—the gel from its leaves can cool the burn and work to prevent infection. Aloe is incredibly easy to grow indoors, and if you keep a small potted aloe plant on your kitchen windowsill, you’ll always have fresh gel available to treat minor burns. You can also apply a cool, wet chamomile tea bag to the burn for relief, or a green tea bag to promote healing. Applying honey to small, superficial burns may relieve pain and possibly infection. To further promote healing once the burned area has begun to heal, apply vitamin E oil and cover it with an adhesive bandage.

Natural Remedies for Minor Cuts

If a chopping mishap results in a minor cut, apply direct pressure to the area with a clean cloth for 20 to 30 minutes until the flow of blood stops. If possible, elevate the injury and avoid repeatedly checking to see if it’s stopped bleeding, as that may prolong the clotting process. Clean the wound with clear water; soap and a washcloth may be used for the area around the injury. After rinsing the wound, dilute a few drops of tea tree or lavender essential oil—two natural antiseptics—in warm water and apply to the area. After the wound has been cleaned, a topical application of goldenseal cream or tincture may provide antimicrobial benefits, while raw unprocessed honey is a natural antibacterial that can be applied to the wound afterward to help healing. Apply raw honey (many grocery-store honeys actually contain high-fructose corn syrup) to the affected area and cover with a clean bandage one to three times daily as needed.

Natural Remedies for Stomachaches and Indigestion

Rich, hearty and spicy foods can sometimes lead to indigestion. Try soothing an upset tummy with a refreshing cup of peppermint tea. Peppermint is a natural antispasmodic that relaxes the stomach muscles, helping food and painful digestive gas pass through the stomach more quickly. (Do not use peppermint if you have gastroesophageal reflux disease.) You may also find relief from taking enteric-coated peppermint capsules. A study published in Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics showed that a combination of 90 mg peppermint oil and 50 mg caraway oil in enteric-coated capsules had a relaxing effect on the gallbladder and may soothe the symptoms of indigestion. Another time-tested digestive remedy, ginger calms the intestines and increases the secretion of digestive bile. Drink ginger tea, snack on candied or fresh ginger (though don’t use the latter on an empty stomach), enjoy a glass of real ginger ale or take a ginger supplement to alleviate digestive problems. 

Natural Remedies for Stress

Sometimes preparing a dinner party, a holiday event or even just putting together a weeknight dinner around busy family schedules can cause stress. Help your body and mind handle stress more easily with adaptogenic herbs such as ashwagandha, Asian ginseng, astragalus, eleuthero and rhodiola. Look for adaptogens in single-plant tinctures or combinations of herbs. You can also use soothing herbs to relax the nervous system. Drink a cup of chamomile or valerian tea—both calming herbs—or breathe in the essential oil of lavender or rosemary. A Japanese study recently discovered that smelling these two oils reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Breathe in a couple of drops on a tissue or add a few drops to a homemade reed diffuser. (Learn how to make your own reed diffuser.)

Grease Fires

Cooking causes more household fires than home heating, and unfortunately fires can strike without warning. In case a grease fire starts in a frying pan, keep a pan lid nearby to put out the flames. You can also douse small flames with baking soda, a versatile home staple that can neutralize odors and remove caked-on food from pots and pans. Baking soda contains carbon dioxide, which prevents the fire from consuming the oxygen it needs for fuel. Do not under any circumstances pour water on a grease fire—water dramatically encourages grease fires to spread.

Stock Your First Aid Kit

• Adhesive bandages in various sizes
• Vitamin E oil
• Tea tree essential oil
• Lavender essential oil
• Potted aloe plant or aloe gel
• Goldenseal cream
• Unprocessed honey
• Ginger capsules
• Peppermint tea
• Rhodiola tincture
• Baking soda

Note: With any natural remedy, go easy at first to make sure your skin doesn’t have an adverse reaction. If a wound looks serious, consult a medical professional. 

Mother Earth Living assistant editor Gina Debacker always keeps an aloe plant in her Lawrence, Kansas, kitchen for minor burns.

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