Sandra is a medical herbalist, medical anthropologist, and columnist for the NZ Herald.

Your health: Plant medicines to add to your first aid kit

1 comment
Photo / Getty Images
Photo / Getty Images

Hi Sandra, what plant medicines should we be adding to our family first aid kit?

Thanks for your question. As summer inches closer and more and more time is spent adventuring in the great outdoors, it's the perfect opportunity to review first aid supplies. Plants that target multiple conditions are ideal for the family first aid kit. When prepared carefully their shelf life can extend to several years.

My favourite multi-tasking plant medicines are:

St John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum): At the top of my list for the family first aid kit is St John's Wort oil. It has an impressive ability to treat pain, inflammation, nerve injuries and burns when applied topically. In many European countries it is officially approved to treat burns from heat sources, sun or radiation treatments. It is also fantastic for helping speed the healing of cold sores, shingles and other enveloped viruses. Apply topically, several times daily, to speed nerve and tissue healing.

A cup of St John's Wort tea prepared from certified organic plants is fantastic for calming the nerves after accidents, shock or upset. Tea preparations are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, meaning the gentle sedative and anti-anxiety actions of its constituents can quickly assist in restoring a state of calm. Although certain preparations of St John's Wort can interfere with pharmaceutical medication, Medsafe New Zealand stated that St John's Wort which is low in the active constituent hyperforin (less than 3%), such as in traditional herbal teas, is unlikely to produce interactions.

Calendula (Calendula officinalis): A well-researched healing herb for the skin with anti-septic, wound healing, anti-inflammatory, astringent and pain relieving properties. It is clinically proven for promoting the healing of open skin, cuts and grazes. It is also fantastic for the irritation and inflammation of insect bites, hives and rashes. Like St John's Wort, it is also useful for burns of all kinds. I usually combine Calendula in a cream base with Nettle (Urtica dioica) and Chickweed (Stellaria media), as both plants provide additional relief to itching skin.

Arnica (Arnica montana): In the immediate aftermath of an injury, you cannot go past Arnica. It is the most frequently used medicinal plant for sports injuries and first aid. It is most effective in the first 24-48 hours after an injury to reduce inflammation and relieve swelling, pain and bruising. It stimulates circulation to the injured area and promotes healing. It is most commonly applied topically, since its internal use is only safe when professionally prepared by an experienced herbalist. The European Commission has approved the external use of Arnica flower for injuries and for the consequences of accidents, e.g. sprains, haematoma, dislocations, contusions, oedema due to fracture, rheumatic muscle and joint problems. It is also approved for the treatment of superficial phlebitis and inflammation caused by insect bites. In cases of inflammation, Arnica preparations also show analgesic and antiseptic activity.

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale): Comfrey is an excellent first aid remedy for soft tissue injuries, inflamed tissue, tendonitis, sprains, bruises and swelling. It is often used for injuries that take longer to heal, as it is a cell proliferant (helps to build new healthy tissue). It can also help to minimise scarring. Like Arnica, it is most frequently used as a topical application, but can be used internally if professionally and expertly prepared.

Plant medicine can provide both fast-acting and long-lasting relief in many situations that require first-aid. The key to effective plant medicine is the of sourcing high quality, certified organic plants that are carefully and traditionally prepared. I hope you consider some of these wonderful plants as contenders for your medicine cabinet.
If injuries requiring first aid do not improve or worse, please see your leading healthcare professional.

References

Duran V., Matic M., Jovanovc M., Mimica N., Gajinov Z., Poljacki M., & Boza P. (2005). Results of the clinical examination of an ointment with marigold (Calendula officinalis) extract in the treatment of venous leg ulcers. International Journal of Tissue Reactions, 27(3):101-6.

May, p. (2013). Arnica Flower CO2-Extract - Approved Efficacy in Topical Treatment. Cosmetic Science Technology, 1-6.

Predel, H. G., Giannetti, B., Koll, R., Bulitta, M., & Staiger, C. (2005). Efficacy of a Comfrey root extract ointment in comparison to a Diclo-fenac gel in the treatment of ankle distortions: Results of an observer-blind, randomized, multicenter study. Phytomedicine, 12(10), 707-714. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.phymed.2005.06.001

Sarris, J., Panossian, A., Schweitzer, I., Stough, C., & Scholey, A. (2011). Herbal medicine for depression, anxiety and insomnia: a review of psychopharmacology and clinical evidence. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol, 21(12), 841-860. doi:10.1016/j.euroneuro.2011.04.002

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW
Sandra is a medical herbalist, medical anthropologist, and columnist for the NZ Herald.

Sandra Clair is the founder of Artemis (artemis.co.nz) offering New Zealanders a premium range of traditional plant medicine products. She is one of New Zealand’s most highly qualified health professionals in her field, as a Swiss trained medical herbalist and a medical anthropologist (M.A.). Sandra is currently completing a PhD in health science at the University of Canterbury in collaboration with the Chair for Natural Medicine of the University of Zürich, Switzerland.

Read more by Sandra Clair

Have your say

1200 characters left

By and large our readers' comments are respectful and courteous. We're sure you'll fit in well.
View commenting guidelines.

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 26 Feb 2017 23:45:32 Processing Time: 628ms