From cuts and bruises to flu and fever, there are natural remedies for almost every minor ailment you might come across. Create your own natural first aid kit made from plants and you can help your body heal itself from a range of illnesses*.
Less pills. More potions.
I’ve personally always had an aversion to medicine. In fact, one of the first medicines prescribed to me as a young child resulted in an unfortunate red and blotchy diagnosis: my genes dictate I’m allergic to the most potent and common antibiotic there is, penicillin. How brilliant.
Many years later and my sensitivities eventually led me here, morphing into a hard-core drug-label analyst and side-effects reader. The kind of woman who is incredibly resistant to touch any sort of pain medication. When most would reach for a Lemsip, I reach for echinacea.
Instead of popping a painkiller, I pop a turmeric pill. Antiseptic cream on your cut? I’d rather use aloe vera and tea tree oil. Call me a witch, call me a hippie, I think I’m pretty wise. Whilst we’ve become a population so impatient to our natural healing processes, we resultantly end up spending millions of pounds every year on cold, flu, sunburn, sickness and minor ailment remedies. But are all the pills, potions and creams really necessary?
Nature is healing
Herbs, florals and botanical extracts constitute an umbrella term known as herbal remedies, a practice that pre-dates today’s NHS prescriptions by a long shot. The majority of tablets, creams and tinctures we use today have their medicinal foundations firmly rooted in plant-based ingredients.
If we take a look at our healing relationship with nature, it’s clear to see that we are living amongst some extremely potent and powerful healing plants, which can be harnessed for our benefit in a simple way. By using naturally extracted herbal remedies, we can reduce the amount of colourings, additives, preservatives and potentially non-vegan ingredients that are concealed in your over-the-counter medicines.
Your natural first aid kit
A first aid kit, as we all know, is stocked up with the essentials for quick relief and recovery. I’ll take you through a few of the essential components that I always have on hand. Luckily, the majority of these are already regular items I use for day-to-day living, forming ingredients in my skincare routine and natural cleaning products.
Surround yourself with naturally-healing ingredients and you’ll soon find yourself reaching for them more often than you’d have first thought.
Cuts, grazes, insect bites, pet wounds and blisters are all eased by using melted coconut oil on the skin. A natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, coconut oil will ease discomfort and help reduce swelling and redness around the injury.
Coconut oil can be used in the mouth as an ease for gum disease and mouth ulcers, simply melt a tablespoon of it and swill around the mouth before spitting it out.
Abrasions, sunburn, minor burns and scalds, cuts, wounds, dry skin, razor burn, skin irritation and insect bites. Rich in phytochemicals, this healing plant helps cool the skin and reduces inflammation by increasing skin moisture content.
The purest gel comes from the fresh plant itself. Failing this, an organic, 99% pure gel can be bought from most high-street health retailers. Apply about a palm-sized amount of gel to the affected wound area, and lightly smooth over until the skin is soothed.
This is a miracle for minor food poisoning and digestive problems. If you find yourself suffering from diarrhoea, stomach cramps or sickness, taking a couple of capsules of activated charcoal will help ease your discomfort.
The activated charcoal absorbs toxins produced by bacteria, and helps expel any pathogenic bacteria from your body by clumping them together. Take every 3 hours with water or as advised on the packaging.
Citronella Essential Oil
Citronella is a fantastic natural insect repellent. It can be added to a carrier oil (such as sweet almond, castor or jojoba oil) to be applied directly onto the skin.
Citronella can also be sprayed onto your clothes and diffused into a room at night to keep biting insects at bay – making it an essential for any eco-conscious traveller.
Echinacea is my absolute go-to when it comes to cold and flu. Echinacea is incredible at increasing white blood cell functionality and quantity.
Caffeic acid, polysaccharides and alkamides are the active ingredients, which ease symptoms of cold and flu, such as headaches, fevers and runny noses. It can be taken as a preventative medicine in the winter too protect you from infection to when the first signs of the cold appear.
Arnica or Calendula
Both herbal flowers possess natural healing properties. Arnica is effective for reducing bruises (from my experience – I bruise like a peach!) and is usually a cream or a gel.
Calendula is brilliant at reducing eczema, helping heal the skin post-surgery and injury, and also eases allergic skin reactions. Calendula is usually a cream or an infused body oil.
Cuts, grazes and bruises
For minor abrasions to the skin, the primary aim of recovery is cleaning the wound. First, use a pair of tweezers to remove any debris and ensure the wound is clean by running distilled or purified water over the area. Next, I always choose to apply a tablespoon (sometimes larger or smaller dependent on the wound size) of melted coconut oil onto the wound.
Coconut oil is a natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, which will act as a seal to the outside world, preventing any microbes from gaining access to your body. Then simply dress with a bandage or one of the methods detailed below.
Common cold and flu
You’re sitting on public transport or standing in line at the checkout minding your own. All of a sudden, a sneeze in front of you triggers that sinking feeling inside your stomach. *sigh* Illness ensues. The best way to treat a cold or flu is to prevent it from taking hold of your body in the first place. I choose to take echinacea tincture about twice a day during flu season, alongside my regular vitamin D supplement. Turmeric is also a fantastic supplement to include in your diet (or take by a capsule) to help increase your immune functioning.
Unluckily, you may find yourself suffering should the virus take over. I choose to drink chamomile, ginger and peppermint teas, calming a sore throat and helping reduce sinus mucus. You can also opt for herbal remedies such as marshmallow flower and feverfew – both of which help control the viral infection, support a healthy respiratory system and reduce congestion. At night, I diffuse lemongrass, eucalyptus, tea tree and lavender essential oils around my room to help create a calming and anti-viral atmosphere while your body heals itself. Don’t be afraid of a slight fever, it’s your body’s way of helping increase your immune response and aids your recovery faster, so try not to be too hasty when you reach for those paracetamol.
Food poisoning and indigestion
For indigestion, I have found that sipping on a simple drink of warm water and a tsp of bicarbonate of soda will act as a natural anti-acid. You can also add in a few drops of edible peppermint oil extract to reduce stomach spasms and drink ginger juice and aloe vera juice to ease discomfort.
Minor food poisoning can be extremely debilitating. As soon as you feel discomfort, take two capsules of activated charcoal and drink some ginger tea to help reduce toxin accumulation. You should also keep yourself hydrated by sipping on coconut water and peppermint tea. When the system is rid of the pathogens, boost up your natural gut bacteria by taking a probiotic capsule and eating fermented foods such as yoghurt and tofu.
Minor burns and sunburn
For scalds and burns, your priority is keeping the skin cool and hydrated to aid seamless recovery. Immediately cool the skin using running cold water then a cold compress for 20-30 minutes. Once the area is slightly blistered (which is completely normal) you should apply aloe vera gel every few hours to keep the wound cool and hydrated.
Avoid using oils or oil-based creams on the skin, as these can hamper the healing process. Latterly to aid healing, you can use cooled black or green tea bags, which contain tannic acid, to help draw heat from the wound and ease the irritation you feel.
Homemade Hand Sanitiser
- 230ml (8fl oz) thick, pure aloe vera gel
- 1 tsp melted coconut oil
- 10 drops marjoram essential oil
- 5 drops lavender essential oil
- 5 drops tea tree essential oil
- 3 drops lemon essential oil
- Mix all of the ingredients together and decant into a bottle or jar of your choice.
* Whilst these natural remedies are a great way to help alleviate symptoms of certain minor ailments and illnesses, we do not recommend avoid taking medication if you need to. After all, we need happy and healthy vegans to help drive the vegan movement forward!