Most disasters—such as a hurricane, an earthquake, or limited civil unrest over a local tragedy—are short-term. But for the purposes of this book, I am assuming the worst-case scenario; namely, a long-term crisis with no hospitals, no pharmacies, and no trained medical professionals. You are the help you will need.
In a worst-case disaster, wounds will be a fact of life. People will be bitten, bruised, burned, blistered, and bleeding far more often than occurs today. And if you haven’t had enough alliteration yet, there will be more pokes, prods, and punctures than ever before.
We will be outside more, moving more, lifting more, walking on uneven ground more, hunting more, and farming more. We will spend more time with biting insects and animals. We will be using more wood to heat our homes. We’ll be doing a whole lot more cooking, and doing it most likely with wood, although there are good solar options as well.
There will be disagreements leading more readily to physical altercations. There will be people who did not prepare and are desperate and will try to take what you have set aside for yourself and your loved ones. Finally, there will be dishonorable folks whose plan it was all along to take what others have.
Civil unrest is to be expected in a worst-case scenario, with violence erupting suddenly and with frequency. Although there are many good books, classes, videos, and other instructional materials to help you prep for those scenarios, this discussion will focus on what happens after the dust settles, specifically acute care and recovery from injuries.
I strongly recommend taking a wilderness first aid course, which typically goes further than a standard first aid course. I maintain current information on both free and fee-based medical preparedness training, with and without herbs, on my website (www.HerbalPrepper.com) that is worth checking regularly.
In this book, my job is to provide you with herbal alternatives that you can grow and craft on your own without outside suppliers or supplies.
ADMINISTERING FIRST AID
Often, first aid instruction makes the assumption that you know what happened or that the person affected can tell you what happened. That may not always be the case. For example, if you happen to come home and find that the wood stove has burned out, the house is cold, and your partner is on the floor unconscious, you have a mystery to solve before you can help. If you come across someone who has collapsed in the snow, there’s a shovel nearby, and the person seems to be dressed warmly enough, you have another mystery to solve.
Always make sure that you are safe before attempting to help. Check for animals, people, electrical wires, traps, and anything else that stands out as a potential hazard. You will do no one any good if you are also injured. You will also make the job of anyone coming to your aid harder now that there are two injured people.
Look for signs of what happened. Is the person bleeding? Is he or she breathing, and is there a pulse? Does it look like a fall? Do you smell alcohol? Ask if the person can hear you.
In the case of the person lying unconscious on the floor, there are many possibilities. He or she could have been knocked out by an intruder or overcome by carbon monoxide. Or, the person could have been bitten by a spider that had crept close to the stove seeking heat.
The person collapsed in the snow could have fallen victim to hypothermia or might have had a heart attack while shoveling.
You may not know exactly what is going on in every situation. But if you have solid first aid skills, know how to do chest compressions, understand how to clear a spine, know how to stop bleeding by applying pressure, and have an array of herbal medicines to pick from, you’ll be better equipped to handle more health emergencies than most people in a worst-case scenario.
A FEW WORDS ABOUT YOUR FIRST AID KIT
Containers. I love my beautiful glass jars and bottles. However, they have no business in an emergency kit that will be banged around, bumped, tossed, and who knows what else. I keep most of the liquids in my kit in HDPE plastic. The material was designed for caustic liquids. For milder liquids, I do use some other types of plastic. For the short-term emergency use for which these formulas are intended, I’m not worried about anything leaching.
Herbs. The formulas included here are made from dried herbs. I made this decision so that even if you are reading this book in November, or if you live in a small apartment in the middle of the city, you can still order the herbs and make these remedies. If you are fortunate enough to have access to fresh plant material, just use the information from other chapters to make your adjustments.
Of course, if you use the simpler’s method (page 22), or if you stick to 80 or 100 proof vodka, then you can ignore some of the specifics in the formulas. Your creations will be more intuitive than measured, and that’s perfectly fine. You will still end up with effective remedies.
The formulas call for some herbs that are not included in Chapter 4, Materia Medica. There are many more herbs than the 50 that I included, but I may never have finished this book without setting a limit. There will be information on my website about other herbs. Perhaps, someday, there will be time to write an inclusive herbal tome.
Labeling. Yes, I do repeat myself about labeling each bottled remedy. I promise you, in a couple of months you will not remember what is in that bottle. I’ve been there. Every herbalist has. And if you don’t know what it is, you can’t use it. So I’m hoping my repetitiveness prevents problems for you.
Some family members may need different doses than the standard ones I’ve listed. Let’s look at dosing considerations for “special populations” such as children, pregnant and nursing women, overweight adults, and the elderly.
Children. Several methods of calculating a child’s dosage have evolved over the years. Three of the most common are Cowling’s rule, Clark’s rule, and Young’s rule.
Pregnant and Nursing Women. There are no unique dosing considerations for pregnant or nursing women. However, many herbs are not appropriate during pregnancy, and some herbs are appropriate only at certain times during pregnancy. For instance, black cohosh is not appropriate for muscle soreness during pregnancy. But to help start and establish labor, black cohosh is appropriate. Herbs that shouldn’t be used during pregnancy are covered in Chapter 4, Materia Medica. Be sure to check contraindications before including herbs in remedies for pregnant or nursing women.
Overweight Adults. It has been my experience that larger adults, whether by height or weight, do need stronger or more frequent doses. But you have to be careful since an overweight person doesn’t necessarily have larger internal organs. You can’t just double the dosage from a 150-pound person to a 300-pound person. Be mindful of other health issues, especially related to blood pressure, blood glucose, and hormonal balance. I’ve found it better to add an extra dose at the same strength, observe the results, and adjust as needed.
The Elderly. Dosage considerations for the elderly are highly individualized. Some people remain active, are connected to their communities, participate in civic and charitable events, continue to drive, have good eyesight, and show few to no signs of chronic illness. They don’t require anything different from any other healthy adult.
Unfortunately, this is not the norm for the elderly population in the United States. Advanced age and illness have almost become synonymous. If you are dealing with someone who is frail, focus on nourishing and tonic herbs. Many elderly are cold all the time because of poor circulation. Chronic illness is common, so be aware of arthritis and diabetes. Also keep in mind that cell regeneration slows down with age, and wound healing may take a long time. The skin becomes thinner as it ages, is more easily broken, and may take longer to heal. You may want to consider topicals, such as lotions, creams, and salves, in which you incorporate the pain-relieving herbs.
Just remember that 100% natural lotions and creams contain water. Without a preservative, they will grow mold, bacteria, and all sorts of funky things. Some essential oils, depending upon which ones, may preserve a lotion for up to a month, but that same strength of oils may also be too intense for an elderly person. Keep lotions in a cool, dark place, and make them in small batches so they are used up before they grow something unpleasant.
Following are some common injuries and ailments you may encounter, as well as suggestions for what to keep in your first aid kit to treat them.
Allergy and Anaphylaxis (Severe)
Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction, often to foods like shellfish or nuts, or in some cases to bee or wasp stings. If you know you have a severe allergy, especially if you have to carry an EpiPen, you absolutely have to have a plan B.
One suggestion for prevention is to eat a diet high in omega 3 fatty acids. Some studies show that animals on a high omega 3 diet had a better survival rate after anaphylaxis than those who ate more omega 6 fatty acids. I wouldn’t count on that exclusively, but eating plenty of omega 3 fatty acids won’t hurt. Plus there are many benefits in consuming omega 3 fatty acids, including lowering inflammation, helping relieve stiff arthritic joints, and lowering elevated triglycerides.
Ma Huang (Ephedra)
Normally, anaphylaxis is treated with an EpiPen, which delivers epinephrine to stop the reaction. Ephedrine is similar to epinephrine, and ma huang (Ephedra sinica) contains ephedrine.11
See page 90 for dosing instructions and precautions. Do be aware that ephedra can raise blood pressure.
Another option is lobelia tincture, which is beneficial for asthma. It is also a help in at least certain cases of anaphylaxis. A dose equivalent to 10 to 40 drops of lobelia extract should be administered every hour up to 6 hours, depending on the individual’s needs.12 Given its effectiveness for asthma, I suspect it would be useful for other types of anaphylaxis.
Food Allergy Herbal Formula
Finally, I present an option for you to investigate further. It has very promising research behind it, but the remedy is based in traditional Chinese medicine and I am not well versed in TCM. This formula has been shown to prevent anaphylaxis when people who are allergic to peanuts consume peanuts. It is based on the wu mei wan blend with two herbs (zhi fu zi and xi xin) left out of the formula, plus an herb called ling zhi added to the formula. Wu mei wan can be purchased as capsules online, as can ling zhi. The new formula is called FAHF-2 (FAHF stands for “Food Allergy Herbal Formula”). These are the percentages of the herbs used in FAHF-2:13
Ling zhi (Ganoderma lucidum), 28.17%
Wu mei (fructus pruni mume), 28.17%
Huang lian (rhizoma coptidis), 8.46%
Ren shen (radix ginseng), 8.45%
Huang bai (cortex phellodendri), 5.63%
Gan jiang (rhizoma zingiberis officinalis), 8.45%
Dang gui (radix angelicae sinensis), 8.45%
Gui zhi (ramulus cinnamomi cassiae), 2.81%
Chuan jiao (pericarpium zanthoxyli bungeanum), 1.41%
I doubt that these herbs will be available for harvest here in the United States for use in a post-disaster scenario. However, you can purchase and stockpile them now, unlike an EpiPen and the follow-up antihistamine treatment.
The follow-up for any of these severe allergy options should be nettle and liver support. The liver manufactures antihistamine, and nettle provides antihistamine.
This is perfect for all minor wounds, scrapes, small cuts, and other minor injuries. Any open wound can become infected. We tend not to worry about them in our sanitized, modern lives, but during a crisis even a small cut can turn deadly. If you see a red line tracing up from the wound, it’s too late to use this salve as a preventive remedy. In this case, begin a course of sida tincture to prevent infection from spreading.
The amounts are variable, depending on how much you want to make at one time.
1Infuse thyme, lavender, calendula, and plantain into olive oil. You can use any portions you wish, although I tend to do equal portions (example, 1/2 cup of each herb and cover in oil). You can do this individually or all at once. Infuse the herbs in oil either by maceration or in the slow cooker. If macerating, soak for 6 weeks. If using a slow cooker, set on low for 2 to 4 hours on warm (if your slow cooker has a warm setting) for up to 2 weeks.
2Strain the herbs, and bottle the oil.
3Using a double boiler, warm 8 fluid ounces of the infused oil and 2 tablespoons of beeswax until the wax has fully melted into the oil. Use low heat. Do not try to speed the melting by turning up the heat. You do not want to cook the oil.
4Take the double boiler off the heat, and pour the liquid into jars or tins.
5Allow to cool, and label the containers.
6Add one container to your kit, and store the rest.
This remedy requires a capsule machine, capsules, and powdered herbs. Although you may have to put in a little more labor to powder the herbs and fill the capsule machine with capsules, this is a highly convenient way to administer herbs.
4 parts ginger
4 parts turmeric
1 part black pepper
1Follow the directions on your capsule machine.
Personal preference: I like to take two size 00 capsules (approximately 700 mg each) 3 to 6 times throughout the day to relieve inflammation.
INDIVIDUAL INFUSIONS V. COMBINED INFUSIONS
When you set up your home apothecary, you have a choice to make singles (individual extractions, like arnica infused oil or dandelion tincture) or blends (multiple herb extractions, like black cohosh, cramp bark, and white willow infused in oil together for an anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic massage oil or salve). Making singles gives you the widest range of options for use, while making blends saves a step toward making a final product. I personally prefer to make singles and blend the singles as needed, though I do set up a few blends of remedies I use a lot. This is a matter of personal preference, and there is no right or wrong way.
Access to clean water is vital. Lack of potable water can lead to a parasitic infection such as giardia or cryptosporidiosis. If you suspect this type of infection, try the following tincture blend.
1 part wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) tincture
1 part black walnut tincture (the green hulls)
1 part garlic tincture
1 part horseradish tincture
1 part milk thistle tincture
1 part cloves tincture
1 part thyme tincture
1 part berberine tincture (type local to you)
1 part ginger tincture
1Blend these tinctures together.
2Bottle, label, and add to your kit.
3Take a standard 30 to 60 drop dose, 3 to 6 times per day, when symptoms of parasitic infection are present.
If a severe burn victim is lucky enough to survive the extensive trauma, there may be scarring. This salve may be able to help.
1 part rose hip seed oil (can substitute pumpkin seed oil if you don’t have rose hip seed oil)
1 part St. John’s wort infused oil
1 part comfrey infused oil
1 part plantain infused oil
1 tablespoon lanolin (if allergic, leave out)
1 tablespoon beeswax
3 tablespoons honey
30 to 60 drops lavender essential oil
1Either purchase or press rose hip seed oil. This is a wonderful skin-healing oil.
2Make infused oils of St. John’s wort, comfrey, and plantain, either individually or all together. I suggest individually.
3Blend equal parts of these oils and the rose hip seed oil.
4Melt the beeswax and lanolin into 1 cup of the blended oil slowly on low heat to avoid cooking the oil.
5When the wax and lanolin are completely melted, remove from the heat.
6Once the wax has begun to cool, add the honey. This may take some stirring to fully incorporate, or use an immersion blender.
7Add lavender essential oil, and incorporate into the salve.
8Scoop into containers, and label. Put one container in your kit, and store the rest.
9Massage often to soften scar tissue.
Ideally, I prefer to know more about an infection before selecting an herbal remedy. That may not always be possible, especially in an emergency without the benefit of diagnostics. To take this one step further, even if I know exactly what the infection is once I arrive on scene, I can’t carry dozens of tincture bottles in my kit. My solution is an “everything but the kitchen sink” approach. I make each tincture individually and then blend them together for use in the kit.
It is important to note that the terms “antibacterial” and “antiviral” do not mean “kills all bacteria” or “kills all viruses.” They are effective against certain bacteria or viruses. The ideal would be to know specifically which bacteria or virus this or that herb has been shown effective against, and to be at home with all of your herbal tinctures at your disposal. However, in an emergency, and for simplicity’s sake, the easiest approach is to have a single antibacterial formula that is effective against a very wide range of bacteria, and the same goes for having a single antiviral formula (follow the antibacterial formula below). This way, you can address more infections while carrying fewer bottles.
4 parts sida tincture, aerial parts
4 parts sweet annie tincture (Artemisia annua)
3 parts Echinacea angustifolia root tincture
2 parts juniper berry tincture
2 parts usnea tincture
2 parts garlic clove tincture
1 part black pepper tincture
1Blend these tinctures together.
2Bottle, label, and add to your kit.
3Administer a standard 30 to 60 drop dose, 3 to 6 times per day, when symptoms of bacterial infection are present.
Taking the same approach for an antiviral tincture as I do with Antibacterial Tincture, this is the formula I carry.
3 parts Chinese skullcap tincture
3 parts red sage (Salvia miltiorrhiza) tincture
3 parts dong quai (Angelica sinensis) tincture
2 parts elderberry tincture
2 parts echinacea tincture
1 part ginger tincture
1 part licorice tincture
1Blend these tinctures together.
2Bottle, label, and add to your kit.
3Administer a standard 30 to 60 drop dose, 3 to 6 times per day, when symptoms of viral infection are present.
Burns are classified by degrees that correlate to layers of the skin. First-degree burns affect the epidermis, second-degree burns impact the dermis, and third-degree burns reach to the subcutaneous, also called the hypodermis. There is also a fourth degree, a full-thickness burn through the skin layers down to muscle and/or bone.
First-degree burns are often sunburns. Trust me when I tell you that I’m as white as a ghost, and sunburns are serious, painful burns that sometimes progress into second-degree burns. I’ve had a lot of experience with burns, where people have been seriously hurt or scarred. I’ve been the first responder in a remote area and seen hands and limbs that had been burned in a campfire. Every type of burn is serious business.
Burns can be caused by heat, chemicals, electricity, or radiation. Heat might be fire, or it could be a steaming pot of water that gets knocked off the stove (always turn your pot handles inward when cooking). Chemical burns require thorough flushing, and when you think you have flushed enough, go ahead and do it again. If you do not remove all of the chemical, a first-degree chemical burn can turn into a fourth-degree one.
With electrical burns, be very, very careful to ensure that you do not get electrocuted yourself. Use a wooden broom handle to move a wire if necessary, and do not step into water around downed or connected wires. Be aware of your surroundings, especially if there is bad weather. The last type of burn is a radiation burn. Although radiation burns could be from medical treatments, they are almost always sunburns.
The first order of business is to stop the extent of the damage. This might consist of smothering the person with a blanket to put out flames. At some point and very quickly, you need to cool down the tissues. This is most often done by running cool, not cold, water over the burn. Remove any clothing or jewelry that might hold heat. Anything that covers the burn site will retain heat. Do not apply oil or butter to the burn. It will only hold in heat and cause the burn to progress. The only exception is if the burn is from tar, because no amount of water will get tar off. Go ahead and use the fat to remove the tar, and then immediately begin cooling the skin with water.
There are many ways to determine the depth of a burn. But in an emergency, the easiest thing to remember is that pain is actually good. It means that the burn has not gone beyond second degree and the roots of the nerves are still intact. If the person has no pain, the burn is third or fourth degree.
You will need to assess a burn victim for the extent of the depth (degree) of the burn, as well as the percentage of body burned. Normally, the “rule of nines” is used to assess the percentage of body burned. This is a method used by paramedics where limbs, the torso, and head are assigned percentages based on the number nine. But unless you do this often, it’s easy to forget what limb equals what percentage during an actual emergency. A simpler approach is to remember that the palm of your hand is approximately 1% of the body. You can use that as a guide in determining the percentage burned. If more than 10% of the body is burned, you can expect difficulty in regulating body temperature, keeping the person hydrated, and preventing infection. Be on the lookout for shock and sudden drops in blood pressure from fluids leaving the vascular spaces.
Second-degree burns may blister. If this happens, leave them alone unless they are cutting off circulation. Intact blisters act as a sterile bandage. Eventually, the fluid inside will get reabsorbed. If a blister pops, then you need to debride it (remove the damaged tissue). Clean it with Wound Wash (page 114), and be sure to get out the thick fluid. Using a scalpel, cut the dead skin layer as close to the new skin layer as possible to prevent it from getting caught or pulling. Cutting it off as close to the healthy skin as possible without cutting into that healthy skin allows for new skin growth. Treat this area as you would any other open wound.
The only other time debriding comes into play is when there is an eschar, or dead tissue. It must come off. If it is a large area, debriding can be done in stages. But if you do not remove the dead tissue, it can breed infection, including gangrene, and the body can develop sepsis.
You already have everything you need in your kit to treat the burn. Clean any wound with Wound Wash. You can also use it to spray a sunburn for relief. With any open wound from a blister, you can use Anti-Scar Salve (page 95), Wound Powder: Antibacterial (page 114), or Antibacterial Tincture (page 95). For any full-thickness burn, apply raw honey or Wound, Burn, or “SHTF” Honey (page 113), and cover with a bandage. For all burns, change the bandage daily to see how the burn is healing and to check for infection.
Caring for full-thickness burns can take months. There is a lot more to caring for a full-thickness burn victim than there is to providing first aid. Some of the most important points to remember are:
•Be alert for unsafe drops in blood pressure from dehydration. Without the skin as a barrier, moisture evaporates from the body. Keep the person covered, and monitor his or her blood pressure.
•Encourage drinking fluids with rehydration salts.
If this is insufficient to keep the person hydrated, and you do not know how to start an IV, then you may want to rig up a drip of normal saline (it’s the easiest saline to make at home and can be preserved in mason jars by pressure canning) to get into the burn victim with an enema. This method, which provides fluids rectally, was done prior to development of IV fluids through a line.
In addition to herbs to help tissue repair, a burn victim requires a lot of food energy to repair tissue: 5,000 calories per day of nutrient-dense foods.
Cold Weather Injury Care
Cold weather injuries include the following:
•Injuries to the extremities.
•Injuries to the core.
•Infections from dead tissue.
Cold weather injuries usually bring to mind such conditions as frostbite, hypothermia, chilblains, and trench foot. Frostbite, chilblains, and trench foot are injuries to the extremities. Hypothermia is an injury to the core.
Prevention is key. Keep warm by wearing layers. Wool is an excellent choice because it stays warm even when wet. Keep extra wool socks in the bugout bag.
If you find someone unconscious in the snow, do not rub that person vigorously. You could actually cause a heart attack. Don’t rub the extremities, for example, fingers and the tips of ears, either. If frozen, they could break right off!
One thing I want to stress: Never give cayenne or ginger to someone who has been out in the cold until you know their core is warm. If you start applying cayenne salve to the extremities, or giving cayenne or ginger internally to help “get the blood pumping,” then you are taking body heat away from the core. Give cayenne or ginger only when you know the core is warm.
The best thing you can do is to get the person warm. If you have only a blanket, then put that blanket between the individual and the ground, and use your body heat to help warm the person. At some point, however, you will have to get the person to shelter.
Children (okay, and some adults too) just don’t know that they are too cold to be safe outside because they are having so much fun in the snow. If they begin to shiver, that’s a sign that their body temperature is dropping, and they need to get warm right away. When the shivering stops, it is not because they have adjusted to the outside temperature. It is just the next step in hypothermia.
For hypothermia, you must warm the body. Sitting by a heater, sipping a hot beverage, like broth or herbal tea, can help warm up the core. Provide blankets, body heat, or even a lukewarm bath at 105°F. Hypothermia is a dangerous situation and can progress into serious medical conditions, such as cardiac arrest, kidney problems, and pancreatitis. Without access to medical care, do take every precaution to avoid hypothermia.
You can treat damage or wounds to the extremities exactly as you do a burn. If there is a wound, wash it. If there is a blister (chilblains, most likely), leave it alone unless it bursts or cuts off circulation. If there is frostbite, stop the damage from spreading and warm up the body. Just don’t rub the body to warm it.
If there is dead tissue, it must be debrided. Otherwise, it could become gangrenous, and septicemia or sepsis will follow.
Having the problem opposite to diarrhea can be just as serious. Constipation can be brought on by stress, change in diet, and lack of fluids. These conditions can easily happen simultaneously during a crisis.
This is one of many reasons why we should eat what we store and store what we eat. Yes, you can have a large stockpile of freeze-dried foods as a backup. But it is far better in the long run to dehydrate, ferment, and freeze (if possible) your own food storage and eat from it regularly. You can ensure there is plenty of fiber and moisture, which are often lacking in prepackaged meals.
If dehydration is the issue, increase fluids. If being sedentary, perhaps due to injury, is the issue, find a way to move without aggravating the injury. An enema may be necessary if the person is impacted. However, with plenty of fluids, movement, and a few natural helpers, most of the time an enema shouldn’t be necessary.
Natural remedies that can help relieve constipation include:
•Yellow Dock and Molasses Syrup (page 133)
•Traditional Fire Cider (page 118)
•Fermented foods or probiotic supplement
•Marshmallow root cold infusion
Senna is an herbal option for constipation relief, but it is a laxative, unlike the more gentle options above. I find it far too harsh and had intense cramping whenever I tried it. Senna has a role to play, but I don’t use it unless truly necessary.
Dental Infection Tincture and Mouthwash
Few things can stop a person in his or her tracks like an oral infection. A simple tincture made with some of the ingredients for the Herbal Throat Spray used directly at the site of pain or infection in the mouth can go a long way toward relieving the pain and resolving the infection. You can also use it as a mouthwash, if you find yourself without toothpaste, or if your gums or the inside of the mouth are injured.
If doctors are hard to come by in a worst-case survival situation, you can bet that dentists will also be scarce. If you have any option for getting antibiotics or having a dentist look at your tooth, do so. This tincture is appropriate for any type of mouth pain, and it can be used directly on a dental abscess. An infection from a dental abscess can migrate to the heart, where it can be fatal.
2 fluid ounces spilanthes tincture
2 fluid ounces echinacea tincture
2 fluid ounces berberine tincture (type local to you)
2 fluid ounces clove tincture
1Mix the tinctures together.
2For infections, such as an abscess, apply as needed directly to the abscess. The abscess may need to be drained and an herbal antibiotic, like Antibacterial Tincture (see page 95), may be necessary until you are able to get to a dentist.
3Fill a spray bottle, label it, and add it to your kit. Keep the rest in storage.
To make a mouthwash, add 8 ounces of clean water. The alcohol in the tinctures should be sufficient to preserve the wash. Spilanthes induces saliva production, so you shouldn’t need more water than that. Swish around the mouth and spit.
Diarrhea, Dehydration, and DIY Oral Rehydration Salts
Diarrhea can be caused by parasites, bacteria, or viruses. As well as being extremely uncomfortable, diarrhea can be dangerous because of the massive loss of fluids and nutrients. Most people recover providing they remain hydrated.
In addition to the parasitic infections giardia and cryptosporidiosis, two of the most common viral infections causing diarrhea are norovirus and rotavirus.
Rotavirus is still a big killer of children worldwide in third world conditions. Keep in mind that if economic collapse or any of the potential disasters that preppers keep a close watch on were to happen, those same conditions may become common here in the United States. The source for viral infection is usually contaminated waste, which clings to plants. The incubation period is 2 days, followed by vomiting, then 4 to 8 days of watery diarrhea, low fever, and possible dehydration.
Norovirus is responsible for 90% of all non-bacterial gastroenteritis worldwide and 50% of all infection in the United States. Sources of norovirus are contaminated water, person-to-person transmission, and food handled by an infected person, which is common in closed populations such as nursing homes, cruise ships, prisons, and schools. Norovirus is highly infectious. The symptoms and incubation period are the same as for rotavirus. One difference is that norovirus is still contagious for 2 weeks after symptoms have abated, while the rotavirus is only contagious for 2 to 10 days of onset of symptoms. In a post-disaster scenario we wouldn’t have access to a lab to determine whether the outbreak was norovirus or rotavirus, so it is safer to act as if all infections are norovirus and to assume victims are infectious for 2 weeks after their symptoms subside.
In general, tannin-containing herbs, fruits, and bark inactivate viral gastroenteritis diseases. Tannin sources include cranberry, blackberry root, pomegranate, oak bark, and pine needles. Cranberry, which is easy to store, can be used as juice, but it must be unsweetened. You might be able to get away with cranberry sweetened with grape juice, but absolutely no added sugars. That would make the diarrhea worse.
Other herbs that can help include licorice, especially for rotavirus, and Potentilla erecta and P. tormentil, which boast 18% to 30% tannins.14
Salmonella is a common infection that packs a wallop and now shows some drug resistance. It is found all over grocery store shelves and in all conventionally raised chicken and eggs. Salmonella is in contaminated food packaging plants, which is how it ends up in raw foods like sprouts and spinach. If ever there was an argument for keeping your own chickens, salmonella is it.
Here are a few “fun facts” about salmonella:
•It can live outside a host for years.
•Freezing does not kill it.
•Heating does kill it (either 130°F for 1 hour or 170°F for 10 minutes).
•Salmonella symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, severe abdominal cramps, and, in severe cases, sepsis and infection of other organs. Herbs and natural remedies that are helpful include:
•Juniper berries and needles
•Rhodiola, licorice, and ginger juice (or ginger tincture instead of the juice)
E. coli is another common intestinal infection. It comes from the same sorts of places as salmonella. E. coli has several strains, but if you are without a lab, you won’t know which strain you have. Symptoms include hemorrhagic diarrhea, severe intestinal cramps, and even kidney failure. I would approach a suspected E. coli event the same way as I would salmonella, but I would add oak bark decoction for the tannins, echinacea tincture, a tincture of ginger, licorice, and reishi, and nettle seed tincture.
Oral Rehydration Salts
In any case of diarrhea, you may have to make a batch of oral rehydration salts (ORS). You can use any clean water plus regular white sugar and table salt. You can substitute honey for the sugar, Celtic sea salt for table salt, and coconut water for tap water. Here are two recipes that I like.
2 tablespoons sugar + 1/2 teaspoon sea salt + 1 quart water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt + 2 tablespoons honey + tiny bit of warm coconut water to help warm and thin the honey, making it easier to mix + 1 quart of coconut water
Give ORS in 1-cup doses after each episode of diarrhea.
Ear Infection Drops
Ear infections tend to be a childhood problem, but not always. Some adults still get ear infections. I used to get them well into my mid-twenties. If you are bugging out with children, however, ear infections can be a real problem.
Some of the classic herbal remedies include garlic infused oil and mullein flower infused oil. You can use them individually or combine them. However, I am not a big fan of garlic infused oil unless it has just been made in a slow cooker on low for 4 hours and allowed to cool. Garlic infused oil has a tendency toward botulism, and there is a small chance of botulism through topical application. It is very slight, and is usually more apt to happen in massive injuries where crushing is involved. I just don’t feel comfortable with the risk when it comes to kids, especially when other remedies are available.
Mullein flower infused oil is my preferred choice for ear drops. I have also heard of other herbalists using echinacea and bee balm (Monarda) in their ear drops.
Olive oil (enough to completely cover your mullein flowers)
1Infuse the mullein flowers in the olive oil.
2Strain out the flowers, reserving the infused oil.
3Bottle and label the oil.
4Store the bulk of the oil, and bottle a very small amount for your kit. Oil is used only a few drops at a time.
5To use, gently warm the oil by holding the bottle in warm water. Use either an orifice reducer (the type used in essential oil bottling) or a small HDPE bottle and a disposable plastic pipette. At home, it’s far easier to use a glass pipette without risk of breaking it.
6Drop 3 or 4 drops of oil onto the side of the ear canal, and allow the oil to make its own way down.
7Apply 4 to 6 times per day until symptoms stop.
Do not use if the eardrum is perforated.
My favorite earache remedy by far is lavender essential oil. I like it even more than the ear drops made from mullein flowers. For the kids, I take a cotton ball and work it into an earplug. Then I add a drop or two of lavender essential oil to the part of the plug that will stick into the ear but doesn’t actually go far into the ear canal. The vapors from the lavender oil make their way to the infection, providing relief. This is even better if you can have the child rest the infected ear on a hot water bottle wrapped in towels for protection. Between the warmth and the lavender essential oil, this remedy should provide relief from both pain and infection without having to actually drop anything into the ear.
Eye Infection Wash/Compress
An eye infection is never pleasant. Conjunctivitis, probably the most common eye infection, is often called “pink eye” because of how red and irritated the eye becomes. It is highly contagious. In an environment where unclean hands touch the face, odds are high that you or someone in your group will develop an eye infection. Always remember to wash your hands as often as possible and avoid touching the face.
This blend of herbs can be made as an infusion, or you can make a decoction of your berberine herb, add the other herbs and allow them to steep, covered, for 15 minutes, and then strain out all the herbs, reserving the liquid. Apply with a towel used as a cooling compress. It can also be used with an eye cup to rinse foreign matter out of the eye. Be absolutely sure to strain all herbal material when making this wash. The last thing anyone needs is a tiny bit of plant material scratching the cornea. Be vigilant in straining with a fine-mesh sieve, a piece of nylon stocking, or a muslin bag.
1 part berberine (type local to you)
1 part calendula
1 part echinacea
2 parts eyebright (Euphrasia)
1Make small batches because the wash will keep for only 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator.
2Make a decoction of berberine.
3Add the remaining herbs and steep, covered, for at least 30 minutes.
4Strain out all plant matter, and store in the refrigerator.
5Use as an eye wash, or mix with witch hazel and use as a compress.
For an emergency first aid kit, store the herbal blend in a jar and make a strong tea only when needed. Strain through a muslin bag, and use as either a wash or a compress.
Fracture and Broken Bones Poultice
Typically, a broken bone is obvious. A fracture is less so. Both are serious, painful injuries. Some are far more complicated to deal with than others. Properly setting a bone is a specialized skill, and I strongly encourage you to take advanced first aid and emergency training before attempting it. There are dangers beyond having a bone heal improperly (and having to rebreak and reset it). Depending on where the break is, moving the person may cause massive bleeding (upper thigh), or may worsen the break and cause fractured shards to migrate.
It may not be immediately clear if there is fracturing. For example, it is very easy to fracture some of the small bones in your foot if you fall and severely sprain your ankle. In that case, the treatment for the sprain and the fracture are the same. Immobilize the ankle and foot with either a compression bandage or an air cast if you have one. Keep the foot elevated whenever possible, apply ice and an herbal poultice, and give an herbal pain reliever if needed. A similar treatment can be done for a hand or forearm by immobilizing a suspected fracture with an air cast.
Once the bone is safely and properly set, herbal treatment for bone healing can begin. This takes the form of poultices, nutritional support for the bones, and herbs to help relieve the pain. I would use the exact same poultice as for Sprains and Bruises Salve/Poultice (page 111). If the skin is broken, leave out the arnica and add more comfrey and goldenrod. I would also give the following nutritional syrup.
2 parts nettle leaves
2 parts horsetail (Equisetum arvense)
1 part burdock root
1 part rose hips
1 part red clover (Trifolium pratense)
1Blend the herbs together.
2Make a decoction of the herbs using 1 cup of water and 1/2 cup of the herbal blend. You should end up with approximately 1/2 cup of liquid or slightly less, depending on how well you drain the herbs.
3Strain out the herbs, and combine with blackstrap molasses to reach a volume of 1 full cup.
4Bottle, label, and store in the refrigerator. The syrup will keep for only a few days at room temperature. If it is summer or you live somewhere hot, try making a double decoction to reduce the water content, but it is still best stored in the refrigerator. If grabbing your kit, add this syrup to the kit just before leaving.
5There will also be pain and inflammation to deal with. See the tinctures for major and minor pain on pages 105 and 106.
Heart Attack Care
One thing I foresee happening a lot, unfortunately, is heart attack. People who are sedentary suddenly being required to move more just to survive, people with hypertension thrown into stressful situations, laboring outdoors in the cold, and a dozen other possibilities will make heart attacks even more common during a disaster than they are now.
I’ve read about and know several people who have used cayenne tincture during a heart attack. And while it’s wonderful that they survived, there are issues with using cayenne, even if it potentially played a role in their survival. Cayenne is one of the fastest acting-vasodilating and blood-thinning herbs. It makes some sense to use during a heart attack for those reasons. But how do you know for sure whether the person had a heart attack in the first place?
Let’s say you come upon someone who is unconscious. You call out, check for signs of life, check for spinal injury, support/stabilize the neck, and try to piece together what happened. The person may have had a heart attack, or may have tripped and fallen, hitting his or her head. Or the individual may have had a stroke or a ruptured aneurysm. Thinning the blood may be the exact opposite of what you want.
There are so many scenarios that could bring you in contact with an unconscious person. If you know the person, and you know of a history of heart attacks or some cardiovascular problem (especially if you just heard complaints of heart attack symptoms), and you see that individual fall to the ground, and you feel confident that a heart attack occurred, then it may make sense to give cayenne tincture.
I can’t make this call for you, but I do suggest learning the signs of a heart attack as opposed to a brain hemorrhage, ruptured aneurysm, and so on. Of course, this only helps if the episode takes place right in front of you and you know the individual’s health history. Personally, I would focus more on beginning chest compressions. Hopefully, someone will arrive or you will have on hand a portable defibrillator. Unfortunately, most people do not regain consciousness through chest compressions alone. Chest compressions are important to help keep a person going until a defibrillator or other intervention can be applied. Portable and home defibrillators are available for anyone to purchase. Amazon often runs sales on them. If you have heart disease in your family, it may be worth the expense.
Afterward, however, hawthorn berry tincture can be a great help in healing any damage to the heart suffered during a heart attack. Hawthorn berry tincture (page 63) is a great cardiac tonic for both preventive care and aftercare healing.
Internal Bleeding Tincture
This tincture may be of use when you see signs of internal bleeding, which will vary depending on where the bleed is. For example, bleeding from the kidney or bladder would result in blood in the urine. Intestinal and stomach bleeding would show blood in the stools. Bleeding in the liver or spleen causes abdominal pain and swelling. Other symptoms of internal bleeding include low blood pressure, dizziness when standing, and bleeding from any body orifice.
Yarrow is called “the battlefield herb” for a reason. It is known for its ability to control the blood—to stop bleeding as well as prevent dangerous clots. You can use yarrow picked straight out of the ground, the flower ground up as a wound powder, or in the following tincture blend.
3 parts yarrow tincture
1 part shepherd’s purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris) tincture
1 part nettle tincture
1Blend and bottle the tinctures, label, and add to your kit.
2Give 30 to 60 drops every 15 minutes until some improvement is obvious, and then begin to back off to every 30 minutes, then to every hour, and then to 3 to 6 times daily, providing that signs of improvement are clear.
Do you need a migraine remedy in your kit? Maybe, maybe not. But if you or someone in your family routinely gets migraines, then you absolutely do. Migraines are debilitating and can leave a person in pain, nauseous, and sensitive to light for several days in a row. Try these remedies now when the next migraine hits to see which works best. Migraines can be at the base of the head or behind an eye. They tend to happen on only one side of the head, and usually the same side each time. Other types of headaches can be brought on by dehydration, stress, and sinus pressure.
Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium). Take this classic herbal migraine and headache remedy by either tincture or capsule. It may not be the best option for anyone allergic to ragweed as they are from the same plant family and may trigger an allergic reaction.
Peppermint. At the first sign of a migraine, take peppermint tea or apply a drop of peppermint essential oil to each temple. Be aware that many people cannot handle peppermint essential oil directly on the skin and must use a carrier oil such as grapeseed oil.
Personally, peppermint essential oil used directly on my temples doesn’t irritate me. That does not mean it’s safe to use it that way. Every person is different. Use a carrier oil if necessary. Try adding a drop to the palms, rubbing them together, cupping them over the nose, and inhaling. If peppermint oil is still too irritating, try lavender essential oil instead. Most people tolerate lavender well, although it doesn’t help my headaches as well as peppermint.
Codonopsis. Take by tincture. It is safe for use by children and during pregnancy.
I would get carsick on long trips when I was young, and sometimes it happens to me even now. Nausea is a pretty common symptom, especially for children and during pregnancy. Let’s say something has happened, and you have decided it’s time to bug out before things get worse, especially if one of your concerns is traffic from your primary location to your bugout. You need to leave before the highways and secondary routes become parking lots.
Unfortunately, a child or a pregnant woman in your group is nauseous.
Sometimes, you can’t do anything but pull over and let nature take its course. Other times, there are tips and tricks, as well as some herbal help to avoid becoming nauseous or to nip nausea in the bud before it gets out of hand.
Sitting in the front may not be safest place, but it does naturally cause people to look straight ahead instead of out the side windows. This can help with car sickness. The noise of the vehicle and the tires on the road can irritate the inner ear and cause nausea as well. Having the radio on may distract you from your outside environment, but it can cut down on car sickness. And as much as I don’t care for kids being dependent on electronic entertainment, having an MP3 player with earbuds can help without distracting the driver. A DVD player with headphones is even better. It keeps the focus away from the windows, blocks out road noise, and doesn’t take away from the driver’s situational awareness.
As for herbs, having a thermos of peppermint, chamomile, or ginger tea prepared ahead for the ride is a good idea. By the time car sickness sets in, it’s probably at a good temperature to drink. Candied ginger is a convenient way to keep ginger in your first aid kit without spoiling.
Pain Relief Salve
Thankfully, most injuries are not nearly so dramatic or serious as gunshot wounds, deep lacerations, or internal bleeding. I spent years caring for non-life-threatening pain in my massage practice. Muscle injuries, spasms, poor body alignment, hip problems, and a host of painful conditions are far more common injuries that, at best, will slow you down and, at worst, leave you vulnerable to some other threat.
One of my favorite remedies for injured muscles and joints is this warming pain relief salve when heat is appropriate. (Heat is not appropriate for acute injuries; use ice immediately after an injury.) Cayenne is loaded with capsaicin, which helps to create a warming sensation in the layers of tissue as it sinks into the skin. It brings the blood to the injured site, and with the blood comes more oxygen and nourishment. Capsaicin also numbs the nerve endings, helping to alleviate the sensation of pain.
This salve also includes St. John’s wort infused oil. While St. John’s wort can be used dry in capsules and to make a tincture, the flowers must be used fresh to get a decent infused oil. The oil can then be used throughout the year. St. John’s wort nourishes the nervous system, helping the body recover from anxiety and nerve pain. I’ve found it immensely helpful for back pain, especially low back pain, as well as sciatica.
Arnica and goldenrod both add pain-relieving properties. My observation from using variations of this salve is that arnica seems to alleviate discomfort more in the joints and structures, whereas goldenrod seems to help more with discomforts in the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and connective tissues.
1/2 cup cayenne infused oil
1/4 cup St. John’s wort infused oil
⅛ cup arnica infused oil
⅛ cup goldenrod infused oil
1 tablespoon beeswax
Optional: 48 drops clove essential oil (omit for sensitive skin)
1Make individual infused oils of the above herbs in sunflower oil. Each is so useful for multiple recipes that it’s far better to make them separately and then mix as needed. Sunflower oil is lighter than olive oil and absorbs into the skin a little easier. You could use olive oil if you wanted to make a massage oil instead of a salve.
2This salve requires 1 cup of total oil. I’ve indicated my preferred amounts of infused oils, including the ones infused from St. John’s wort, arnica, and goldenrod flowers. Feel free to adjust as desired.
3Melt the beeswax into the infused oils in a double boiler on low heat. Do not cook the oils. Using only 1 tablespoon of beeswax will allow the salve to penetrate the skin more easily.
4After the wax has completely melted, remove from the heat. You now have a perfectly effective salve. However, if you wish to include the essential oil, this is the time to do so.
5If you choose to add an essential oil, clove or one of your own selections, add it directly to your containers, pour the salve over the oil, and cap immediately. Label the containers, and put one in your kit.
Pain Tincture: Major
I cannot take an ounce of credit for this wonderful combination of herbs. It came from the individual writings and efforts of two herbalists, Kerry Bone and Kiva Rose. Kerry Bone has a product in a pill form that includes California poppy, corydalis, and Jamaican dogwood bark.
Then I found a variation of this combination on Kiva Rose’s blog. While both herbalists have a poppy as the primary ingredient, Kiva Rose uses Mexican poppy (Eschscholzia californica mexicana). She combines these herbs in tincture form instead of a pill, which I prefer because the herbs will be absorbed faster into the system with the assistance of the alcohol.
The faster you can relieve the pain, the better. She also uses more corydalis than Jamaican dogwood in her blend, whereas Kerry Bone uses more Jamaican dogwood than corydalis.
I got to test this tincture for the first time when my husband’s back was injured. I had California poppy, corydalis, and Jamaican dogwood tinctures on hand, so I blended them together. Shortly after taking it, my husband was fast asleep. The herbs are known to cause drowsiness, but he had also been awake for two nights without sleep due to the pain. I’ve since taken it myself after a bad fall, and used it in my practice. Apply caution as the treatment does induce drowsiness.
3 parts California poppy
2 parts corydalis (Corydalis yanhusuo)
1 part Jamaican dogwood (Piscidia piscipula)
1Mix the above tinctures, or tincture the above proportions of herbs.
2Bottle and label.
3Take 20 to 30 drops as needed.
I would try dosing every 20 minutes at first, perhaps only for the first hour, and then as needed after that. Pay attention to the length of intervals between necessary doses. As the injury heals, you will want to spread these doses out more. Do not operate vehicles or heavy machinery when taking this remedy. Of course, if you have severe pain, you shouldn’t be out doing that anyway. Stay home and rest up! This remedy is not for pregnant women.
Pain Tincture: Minor/Moderate
White willow tincture is safe and effective in relieving mild to moderate pain, providing there is no allergy to aspirin and, if for a child, no fever present. While there is no evidence that the natural salicin in white willow bark causes the same allergic reaction as the synthetic version found in aspirin, it’s better to err on the side of caution.
This caution holds true also for the warning against aspirin during an infection when giving to children. Although there is no evidence that herbs with salicin may cause Reye’s syndrome the way synthetic aspirin does, unfortunately there has not been a study in this area. It’s prudent to apply the same warnings from aspirin to herbs that contain natural salicin.
Keeping these cautions in mind, I like to try white willow first for all types of aches and pains, including headaches, sprains, and arthritis. I would describe it as more effective and longer lasting than aspirin, and it doesn’t upset my stomach, which is something that synthetic aspirin does.
When dealing with a severe sprain, between my instructions and my husband’s patient willingness to learn how to do the actual crafting, I instructed him to blend the following tinctures of herbs, with 1 ounce equal to 1 “part,” to help reduce the pain and inflammation.
3 parts white willow bark
2 parts black cohosh
1 part corydalis yanhusuo
1 part ginger
If an ingredient is not appropriate for you, leave it out. Otherwise, consider some of the topical salves for pain in this chapter.
Poison Ivy/Poison Oak Salve
When people describe plants and herbs as slow and gentle, they have probably never had an encounter with poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac and experienced the itchy rash. Try this salve if you have the unfortunate experience to encounter one of these plants. Jewel weed (one of those extra herbs I’ve squeezed in here) needs a lighter oil than olive oil, because it doesn’t absorb very well.
1 ounce sunflower oil
1 ounce jewel weed (impatiens)
1 ounce grindelia
1 ounce plantain
1 tablespoon beeswax
48 drops tea tree oil
1Infuse jewel weed (use the whole plant, but break or cut the stems as much as possible), grindelia, and plantain into the sunflower oil.
2Melt the beeswax into 1 cup of the infused oil.
3Remove from the heat, and let cool slightly.
4Add tea tree to each jar or tin equal to 2% of the container. If you are using a 2-ounce jar or tin, that is about 20 to 25 drops (2% of 2 ounces is a little over 1 ml, and 1 ml is 20 drops).
5Label the containers, add one to your kit, and store the rest.
Poison Ivy/Poison Oak Spray
If you prefer to spray on relief, give this a try. Spray as needed.
16 fluid ounces witch hazel
3 ounces (by weight) jewel weed
3 ounces (by weight) grindelia
Optional: 96 drops total of any combination of lavender, peppermint, or tea tree essential oils
1If you have just jewel weed or just grindelia, go ahead and use 6 ounces of the single herb. It will still work.
2Add herbs to a quart mason jar, and cover with witch hazel.
3Allow to steep for 4 to 6 weeks, then strain out the herbs.
4If desired, add essential oils to the spray bottle.
5Pour in liquid, and label the spray bottle. Place in your kit, and store the rest.
Respiratory Infection Tea
This is one of my favorite remedies for a respiratory infection that grips the chest. I like to call it “herbal tussin tea.”
2 cups hyssop flowers
1-1/2 cups mullein leaves
1-1/2 cups slippery elm root
1 cup elecampagne root
1/2 cup coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara), aerial parts
1/2 cup marshmallow root
1/2 cup spearmint leaves
1/2 cup whole cloves
1/2 cup licorice root
1/2 cup thyme leaves
1Blend these ingredients together.
2Transfer to a jar or tin, label, and put in your kit. Store the rest in either a mason jar or a Mylar bag with oxygen absorbers.
3Prepare this tea as an infusion. While there are roots and tough plant parts in it, enough of their medicine comes through.
4Take 4 to 6 cups daily.
Snake- and Spider-Bite Care
Even if you live somewhere that naturally lacks venomous snakes and spiders, that doesn’t mean they aren’t out there. Unfortunately, some people think keeping venomous creatures for their private collection is a good idea.
In my area, we have a population of timber rattlesnakes, northern copperheads, and northern black widow spiders. Even though snakes are not commonly seen in our small city, one afternoon I spotted something on top of a shrub while on my way into my old apartment building. At first I couldn’t quite make out what it was. The color seemed to blend into the bush, and it looked something like a garden hose coiled up. It would have been a very odd place for maintenance to leave a garden hose. As I walked closer to my door, I saw a head come up, and I froze in place.
Although I would love to tell an exciting tale about a harrowing encounter I was lucky enough to survive, what I actually encountered was a large, nonvenomous garter snake basking in the sun. However, it spooked me enough to start looking into which creatures in our area are venomous.
Of course, the remedy always given for venom is antivenom. Well, I don’t have a laboratory in my basement, and my herbal workspace is about as mad scientist as I get. So, antivenom isn’t going to work in a situation where hospitals and medical interventions are out of the question.
Checking around first aid supplies and camping supply shops, I found the Sawyer Extractor Pump, which is advertised as using suction to draw out venom. While I understand the concept and I had some hope for it, I found that scientific studies of the pump were less than impressive. It is apparently capable of sucking out some bloody fluid but doesn’t do a good job of extracting venom. One study found it extracted no venom at all.15
Here are some general guidelines for venomous bites:
If you are still in the vicinity of where the bite happened, calmly check for signs of the snake (or spider, scorpion, or other creature) and move to safety if necessary. This may mean carrying the bite victim out of the area. Walking increases circulation, and you don’t want to encourage the venom to spread.
Keep the person calm. Ask if you may help. Talk to him or her about each step in your evaluation and proposed treatment. Speaking slowly and deliberately is helpful in keeping a person calm.
Examine the bite. First, make sure there is no venom on the surface of the skin. If there is, make sure not to come in contact yourself. Use some kind of barrier, such as protective gloves, and use either water and soap, or alcohol-soaked pads from your kit, to thoroughly wipe away the venom. Take care when disposing of anything that may have come in contact with the venom so no one else accidentally is exposed.
Then check for swelling and discoloration. If there is discoloration, mark it with a pen, and come back to that spot periodically over the next few hours to see if the damage has spread.
If possible, keep the site of the bite lower than the heart, and have the bitten person stay off his or her feet. More movement equals more circulation, and more circulation of the venom.
Other ways to draw out the toxin include activated charcoal, bentonite clay, plantain, or any of the ingredients from the drawing salve on page 110.
The charcoal or clay may not actually be reaching the venom, depending on the size of the puncture wound from the snake’s teeth, which can often be more like needles than tissue-ripping fangs. Drawing agents are still worth a try, as activated charcoal is capable of drawing out brown recluse venom. Just be aware that such drawing agents are not foolproof.
In addition to applying drawing herbs topically, you may find that a blend of tinctures helps. Much depends on the type of snake bite, the health and size of the person, and a host of other factors. 80% of the world’s population uses herbal medicine, so some herbs are known for treating snakebite, and some have studies to support that use.16 This tincture includes herbs with traditional use in snakebites, either to counter the venom, lower edema, or stimulate the body’s cleansing processes.
3 parts sida tincture
3 parts echinacea tincture
3 parts turmeric tincture
2 parts black cohosh tincture
1 part milk thistle tincture
1 part burdock tincture
Additionally, give encapsulated andrographis, size 00 capsules, approximately 700 mg (not part of tincture).
1Blend the single tinctures or make a tincture of the herbs in the above proportions.
2Bottle and label. Add one to your kit, and store the rest.
3Prepare capsules from powdered andrographis (exceedingly bitter, take encapsulated). Give tincture frequently, every 30 to 60 minutes if bite radius is spreading. Give 2 capsules every hour if bite radius is spreading.
4Adjust dosing based on observations. If bite radius is not spreading, slow down tincture and capsules to every 3 hours.
There are many factors in whether or not a snake or spider bite becomes fatal. This is an area of natural medicine that I hope sees far more research. Thankfully, most bites do not have enough venom to be fatal. It is often our fear, racing heart, and panic that help to circulate and spread the venom through the body. The best thing to do when there is no hospital or emergency care available is to get still, get as comfortable as possible, use the natural remedies you have, and do your best to wait it out as calmly as possible.
Snakebite and Toxin Drawing Salve
Sometimes, you need to draw a toxin, a venom, or even a splinter out of tissue. There are certain types of bites that I handle differently, but I carry this as a general, all-purpose drawing salve.
1 part olive oil
1 part plantain leaves
1 part mullein leaves
1 part calendula flowers
1 part comfrey
1 tablespoon beeswax
2 tablespoons activated charcoal powder
2 tablespoons bentonite clay
2 tablespoons honey (optional)
1Make an infused oil of equal amounts of plantain, mullein, calendula, and comfrey in olive oil.
2Melt the beeswax into the oil in a double boiler on low heat. Do not cook the oil.
3When the wax has melted completely, remove from the heat and transfer the oil and wax to a mixing bowl.
4Add the activated charcoal and bentonite. Stir to incorporate.
5The salve will begin to cool. You can either pour the salve as is into containers, or you can add honey.
6Adding honey is a little tricky, since you don’t want to cook raw honey, but you need the salve warm enough to be liquid. Look for a point where the salve is cooling a little on the sides but is still liquid in the middle, but barely so. Add 2 tablespoons of warm, runny honey. Either stir the honey in, or if the salve has cooled off too much or the honey wasn’t warm enough, you can force the honey to blend with an immersion blender.
7Scoop the salve into jars or tins, smooth the top with a spatula, and wipe the edges of the containers clean.
8Label the containers, add one to your kit, and store the rest.
Sore Throat Spray
Here is the perfect example of how berberine and echinacea can work together harmoniously in a throat spray. If you can, gargle with saltwater gargle first, and then spray as needed to numb the throat.
2 fluid ounces spilanthes tincture
2 fluid ounces Echinacea angustifolia tincture
2 fluid ounces berberine tincture (type local to you)
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 to 5 drops peppermint essential oil
1Mix the tinctures together, and then blend in the honey and lemon juice. You should have a total of 8 fluid ounces.
2Add peppermint essential oil for flavor.
3Pour into two 4-ounce spray bottles, and label them. Put one in your kit, and store the other.
Sprains and Bruises Salve/Poultice
Contusions, a.k.a. bruises, are injuries to blood vessels that show up at the surface of the skin as dark areas. They can be small or large, and a faint dark color or deep blue. The longer it takes a bruise to come to the surface, the deeper the wound. Contusions can be signs of other injury below the skin, especially when accompanied by pain and inflammation. This type of injury may be a strain, sprain, or a fracture that needs further care.
I keep a blend of the herbs for this treatment in a jar to be used as a compress. I also use these herbs in a salve in case there just isn’t the option to set up a compress. For example, if I notice a bruise on my son (who knows what he banged into) but he’s otherwise fine, I apply the herbs as a salve.
If someone sprained an ankle and we had to leave the area quickly, I would slather this salve on, tape it up, and get out of there. Later on, I would apply the herbs in a poultice. If the situation were less urgent, I would take the time to get the person off his or her feet, get the foot elevated, and make a poultice.
Instead of regular flour, the lavender powder in this recipe adds a nice dimension to the remedy, calming the injured person. You could also get lavender into the salve either through infused oil or by adding lavender essential oil at the end, but I haven’t found that lavender oil makes as much of a difference to the salve as lavender powder does to a poultice.
Olive oil (for salve)
Self-heal (Prunella vulgaris)
Beeswax (for salve)
Lavender flower powder (for poultice)
1Make an infused oil of equal portions of herbs and olive oil.
2Melt 2 tablespoons of beeswax into 1 cup of the infused oil in a double boiler on low heat to avoid cooking the oil.
3Strain the herbs, and pour the liquid into jars or tins.
4Allow to cool, and label the containers.
5Add one to your kit, and store the rest.
1Mix equal portions of well-chopped herbs, except the lavender powder (kept in a separate jar), in a large mixing bowl. I usually use 1/2 cup as a portion.
2Fill a jar with herbs for your kit, and store the rest in mason jars or Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers until needed.
3Add the herbs, except the lavender powder, to a pot and cover with clean water. Gently warm the water for no more than 5 minutes, and remove from heat.
4Add the lavender powder to thicken the poultice, and make a paste.
5This blend contains arnica, which should be used only on closed wounds. Also, arnica is not for use during pregnancy. It is, however, a wonderful, well-researched pain reliever. If you want to omit the arnica, go ahead.
Comfrey comes with a generic warning not to use during pregnancy because of the presence of alkaloid pyrrolizidine alkalide (PA; see Comfrey page 51). However, this is one of those “use your common sense” moments. I would not drink comfrey root tea while pregnant. However, for short-term, topical use on a bad sprain, I would use the leaves, which have less PA, and be comfortable with that choice. I haven’t seen anything that demonstrates a clear risk during pregnancy for that type of application. Do some additional reading on comfrey, and come to your own conclusion.
Clearly, if a worst-case scenario occurs, there are going to be emotionally distressed people who will see and experience things they never imagined. Ideally, access to professional therapists after a major trauma would be great. Herbalists are not that. However, we as individuals need to have a plan to help those in distress, including ourselves.
There are many nerve-calming herbs, known as nervines. Often, simply drinking some tea made from oats, chamomile, and lemon balm is sufficient for me to come back to center when I’m being pulled in a thousand different directions between work, family, the temper tantrums of small children, household chores and errands, homeschooling, podcasting, writing, prepping, and who knows what else. And those are still everyday stresses. They are not major traumas.
A tincture can enhance the calming tea. When you make your tea of oats, chamomile, and lemon balm, add 30 to 60 drops of valerian or American skullcap tincture while the herbs are steeping. I find it’s a better-tasting way to take those tinctures anyway.
You may need several options, as not all herbs work the same on all people. Do not discount the value of a cup of tea to calm and steady a person. There is something very soothing and grounding about sitting down with a hot cup of herbal brew, inhaling the steam, and drinking it like some magical relaxation potion. Here are some options I find very relaxing:
•Rose petal infused honey, by the spoonful as needed
•Kava kava pastilles
•Any combination of the above
To make the kava kava pastilles: Mix kava kava powder with honey by adding the honey a little at a time and mixing thoroughly. Stop adding honey when the mixture is the consistency of dough and holds its shape. Roll into little balls between your fingers, press flat, and allow to air-dry.
Urinary Tract Infection Tincture and Tea
When people are under stress, do not drink enough water, and have no access to hygienic conditions, urinary tract infections (UTI) can develop. They are usually caused by E. coli, but can also be caused and aggravated by sexual intercourse. Make each tincture individually, and then blend and bottle for your kit.
Marshmallow root does not tincture well. Instead, make a tea from a cold infusion of the root and milky oat tops. The demulcent herbs helps to soothe irritated tissues.
1 part bilberry tincture
1 part berberine tincture (type local to you)
1 part juniper berry tincture
1 part dandelion root tincture
1 part corn silk tincture (collect silk when shucking corn)
1 part nettle seed tincture
1Blend the tinctures together.
2Bottle, label, and add to your kit.
3Take a standard 30 to 60 drop dose, 3 to 6 times per day, until symptoms are gone.
1 cup marshmallow root
1/2 cup milky oat tops
1In a quart mason jar, add the marshmallow root and milky oat tops.
2Fill to the top with room-temperature clean water.
3Allow to sit at room temperature for at least 4 hours, or up to 12 hours.
4Strain and drink throughout the day. Be sure to drink water and cranberry juice as well.
Wound, Burn, or “SHTF” Honey
There really is nothing like raw honey for a wound or a burn. You don’t even have to do anything to it for it to be ideal first aid for a serious cut, puncture, or even full-thickness burn. And while you don’t have to do anything to raw honey for it to heal a wound and prevent infection, you can infuse it with herbs to add additional layers of healing properties.
Apply honey after you stop the bleeding and clean out the wound. You don’t want to dilute the honey, and you don’t want to trap dirt or particulates in the wound when it’s healing.
Approximately 2 pounds (32 ounces) raw honey, with some left over
1 part St. John’s wort flowers
1 part lavender flowers
1 part sida aerial parts
1 part plantain
1Fill a mason jar about three-quarters full with the herbs.
2Fill to the top with the raw honey, allowing the honey to settle and adding more until the jar is filled. Use a plastic knife to get rid of any air pockets. Secure tightly with a lid to keep out any moisture.
3Allow the honey to infuse for 6 weeks, or use a slow cooker. Place the mason jar in a slow cooker, and fill the pot up to one-quarter full with water. Allow to steep on low for 2 hours, then turn the slow cooker off. Let the jar sit in the slow cooker until it is cool. If your slow cooker has a warm setting, allow it to continue steeping for 4 to 6 hours. Just be very careful not to let the honey get above 115°F to avoid cooking off the enzymes in the honey. Better yet, keep it under 110°F.
4While the honey is warm and runny, strain out the herbs.
5Bottle, allow to cool, and label.
6Add the bottle to your kit, and store any extra.
Wound Care Tincture
This tincture can be applied externally to stop bleeding, provide a bit of numbing, and cut down on infection. I make each tincture separately based on the information in Chapter 4, Materia Medica, and blend them.
4 parts yarrow tincture (controls the flow of blood)
2 parts echinacea tincture (fights infections, somewhat numbing)
1 part spilanthes tincture (fights infection, somewhat numbing)
1 part berberine tincture, type local to you (fights infection)
1Apply by the capful (common with HDPE bottles) or dropperful (pipettes are more common for glass) directly to the wound every 15 minutes while also applying pressure until the bleeding has stopped.
2Pour into a bottle for your first aid/trauma kit, and store the rest in a bottle for storage or home use. Label and add to your kit and supplies.
Wound Powder: Antibacterial
Another option for wounds is an antibacterial wound powder that can help stop bleeding and prevent infection. The powder will have to be cleaned out carefully, as it may clump, although removing it may cause the wound to start bleeding again. However, it does a good job of helping the tissues stay healthy as they heal.
1 part yarrow flowers
1 part marshmallow root
1 part usnea
1 part kaolin clay
1Dry and powder the herbs.
2Blend equal amounts of each herb and the clay, and keep in a jar or bottle that will allow you to shake out the powder, preferably with one hand. This will allow you to continue to apply pressure with the other hand.
3Label the container, and add it to your kit.
This wash has multiple uses, which is important in a first aid kit. I use the wash for both wounds and burns. My kit contains two bottles: a 4-ounce spray bottle and a 16-ounce squeeze bottle. I used the squeeze bottle to flush a wound, and the spray bottle on minor abrasions as well as sunburn. For a more serious burn on the hand when there isn’t any clean water to cool the burn, I would empty the larger bottle into a basin and soak the hand. Note that the herbs in the following list are measured by weight and the witch hazel by volume.
16 ounces witch hazel extract
1 ounce thyme leaves
1 ounce plantain leaves
1 ounce berberine (type local to you)
1Infuse equal amounts of thyme, plantain, and berberine into witch hazel, and let soak for 4 to 6 weeks.
2Strain out the herbs, and bottle the liquid.
3Label the bottle, and add to your kit.
11According to The Merck Manual: “Ephedrine has alpha and beta effects similar to epinephrine but differs from it in being effective orally, having a slower onset and longer duration of action, and a greater stimulant effect on the CNS, producing alertness, anxiety, insomnia, and tremor.” Robert Porter, The Merck Manual (Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck, 2011).
12Finley Ellingwood, The American Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Pharmacognosy (Chicago: Ellingwood’s Therapeutists, 1915).
13This breakdown and further information on FAHF-2 can be found in the online magazine Acupuncture Today. Jake Paul Fratkin, “Stunning Herbal Formula Wins Recognition in the Western Medical Community,” Acupuncture Today 6, no. 12 (2005). http://www.acupuncturetoday.com/archives2005/dec/12fratkin.html.
14In Mrs. Grieve’s book, A Modern Herbal, she provides a remedy for dysentery as follows from “Compound Powder of Tormentil:” “A very reliable medicine in diarrhea and dysentery. Powdered Tormentil, 1 OZ; Powdered Galangal, 1 OZ.; Powdered Marshmallow root, 1 OZ.; Powdered Ginger, 4 drachms. An infusion is made of the powdered ingredients by pouring 1 pint of boiling water upon them, allowing to cool and then straining the liquid. Dose, 1 or 2 fluid drachms, every 15 minutes, till the pain is relieved—then take three or four times a day.” Margaret Grieve, A Modern Herbal (New York: Dover Publications, 1971).
15Michael B. Alberts et al., “Suction for Venomous Snakebite: A Study of ‘Mock Venom’ Extraction in a Human Model,” Annals of Emergency Medicine 43, no. 2 (2003): 181–86.
16Y.K. Gupta and S.S. Peshin, “Do Herbal Medicines Have Potential for Managing Snake Bite Envenomation?” Toxicology International 19, no. 2 (2012): 89–99.