Medical herbalist Nicola Parker recommends a natural first aid kit for when you’re in the wilds
Essential remedies for outdoor and holiday activities includes neem oil, aloe and arnica.
Like many people this summer, my partner and I have decided that we will be taking our holiday time in the UK. Due to the uncertain nature of things, it feels like a sensible option and it will be nice to put our money back into some smaller, more local businesses.
With that decided, we have chosen to go on a hiking holiday in the Lake District. We are both quite outdoorsy and I’m not afraid of roughing it for a few nights while we camp out. As long as we go well prepared of course, which for me, always involves adding my essential remedies to a first aid kit.
First things first, I’ll be taking a neem-based insect repellent. I personally struggle with the smell of some of the chemical ones available in camping shops. I also find that they leave my skin feeling dry and unhealthy afterwards.
Neem oil is a natural insect repellent and is incredibly moisturising, so with neem, I never have a problem.
A few years ago, I used a neem oil rub on all exposed skin just before one of those long-distance mud runs that have become so popular. We’d been warned about ticks in the area and having helped patients with Lyme disease, I was extra-paranoid about protecting myself from these insect bites.
In any outdoors event, neem has treated me well so it is my go-to herb for this. As a topical oil, it’s also antimicrobial and anti-itch, so if I do get bitten because I’ve forgotten to use it, I can use the same preparation to treat the bite too!
Aloe and lavender are my two essentials for burns. Lavender is one of the few essential oils that can be used neat on the skin and mixing it with aloe creates a cooling, healing treatment for sunburn or for burns picked up at the cooking fire.
I’m not used to heating water and cooking around an open flame, so an aloe and lavender gel will definitely be coming along. Both are incredibly cheap and lavender can be used as an antiseptic and anti-inflammatory oil in case of bites or stings from the flora and fauna.
Arnica is my herb for injury. Homeopathic arnica come as tiny tablets that can be chewed after injury and has been traditionally used to help speed up the healing process.
The gel or cream can be used topically to bring out bruising, so perfect for application on bumps and sprains. Arnica gel is my main recommendation for topical treatment of joint pain, in my own practice. My knees are not what they used to be and with an old hip injury, I certainly expect to experience some joint stiffness after a long hike.
Cramp is the other problem that can ruin a long walk. I am not prone to cramp unless I’m exercising but years ago, a walker gave me an excellent tip. She used to take magnesium phosphate (Mag Phos) tissue salts with her on her long hikes, explaining that a couple of tiny tablets dissolved in the mouth can relieve cramp almost instantly.
I do use magnesium, in either large tablets or as a topical spray to manage cramp, but Mag Phos tissue salts are tiny and pocket-sized, making them perfect for long journeys away from home, when I may only need them occasionally.
My final addition to my first aid kit, will be sachets or capsules of a probiotic called Saccharomyces boulardii. The remedy used to be called Diarr-Safe because it’s used for infections that cause diarrhoea and of course, because Saccharomyces boulardii is quite the mouthful.
While out camping, I do worry about not cooking food thoroughly or drinking unclean water while we are out in the wilds, if taking it from natural sources. Diarrhoea can ruin any holiday, but the idea of getting it while out on a long walk doesn’t bear thinking about!
So that’s my natural first aid kit all packed and ready for the British summer. Now, if only I had remedies to keep the sun shining and the rain at bay, but perhaps that might be asking too much of my herbs.
l For more information, or to book an appointment with Nicola, contact her clinic on 01524 413733.