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Herbs - Summer First Aid Kit With Ciara O'Meara

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Today Ciara O'Meara is here to talk about putting together your very own herbal first aid kit for summer. She will be looking at herbs and remedies to help ease complaints including bites, burns and stings.

Ciara O'Meara, medical herbalist:
I have a long standing interest in natural medicine. From a young age I found myself allergic to antibiotics, this prompted a proactive approach to preventative medicine, ensuring that through diet and exercise I was always doing my best to stay healthy. I completed an honours Science degree in University College Dublin in 1997 followed by an MSc in Medical Genetics at Aberdeen University. I then spent a number of years working in the field of academic research in areas such as The Human Genome Project at Oxford University, UK, and on Cancer research at Cancer Research UK. It was during this time that I took up a yoga practice and further cultivated an interest in holistic medicine.

First hand experience of successfully using herbal medicine prompted me to pursue an interest in the subject. I soon realised that this interest was part of a much broader, richer and complex area of natural medicine which required dedicated study to appreciate both its subtleties and power. To deepen my knowledge on the subject and acquire the ability to confidently use it as a health professional I completed a four year degree at Westminster University in London.

1. Insect repellant
2. Insect bites /Sunburn
3. Upset stomach/indigestion
4. Rashes/Prickly heat

1. Insect repellant

You will need:
Witch-hazel water
Citronella essential oil

Here is a quick and efficient recipe for your own natural mosquito/insect repellent spray. Witch-hazel is an astringent and anti-inflammatory properties which will help reduce oozing from any bites or stings. Citronella oil is a well known insect repellent which should help keep reduce the risk of being bitten!

. Take 50mls of witch-hazel water and to this add10-15 drops of citronella essential oil. Label and pour into a 50ml spray bottle store in a cool area. Spray on all over (avoid eyes), or on affected area if already bitten.

2. Insect bites /Sunburn

Use: Lavender oil and Aloe vera gel

You will need:
Aloe vera gel
Lavender essential oil

Preparation: add 10-15 drops of lavender essential oil to 30mls of gel. Mix thoroughly place in a jar and label clearly, store in a cool place.

Why use it?

Aloe vera gel is soothing to irritated skin; it will help repair damaged skin cells and prevent scarring. It is best to buy a product that is at least 98% aloe gel.

If you have an Aloe vera plant you can make your own gel by cutting off an outer leaf of the plant slicing through the outer leaf and removing the gel centre. You will need to add some vitamin C powder as a preservative; additionally you can add a couple of Vitamin E oil capsules for preservation and also for the healing qualities of the vitamin E. This should last for a week or so if stored in the fridge.

Lavender essential oil is anti-inflammatory, anti-septic and promotes skin healing.

How to use it

For insect bites apply as soon as possible, reapply as often as required to the affected area.

When treating burns it is essential that cold water or ice is applied immediately. Avoid oil based preparations as they trap the heat in the skin and prevent air circulating around the skin prolonging healing time. After the area has been cooled the gel can be applied to the affected area.

3. Upset stomach/indigestion

Slippery elm powder
Peppermint oil capsules

Why use it?
Many people suffer with changes in bowel habit or an upset stomach when travelling; the following two remedies can be of use.

Slippery Elm powder: This powder provides a directly soothing effect on the gastrointestinal system; it provides a protective healing barrier on the digestive mucus surfaces.
It contains both soluble and insoluble fibre, therefore when mixed with liquid it forms a mucilaginous substance that is soothing to inflamed surfaces and also acts as a bulking laxative. It is therefore soothing following a bout of diarrhoea and helps to draw water into the bowel in cases of constipation.
It can be taken by babies, children, and the elderly and pregnant or breast feeding mums.

Of use in acid reflux conditions, it can be taken before meals and also last thing at night to protect the stomach from the effects of excess acid.

Peppermint oil capsules: Peppermint oil capsules these are an excellent remedy for indigestion accompanied by bloating. This herb has proven to reduce the cramping or spasm associated with IBS. It relaxes the intestinal smooth muscle returning it to its normal functioning state.

How to use it?

Slippery elm powder can be taken in tablet form, or the powder can be mixed into food, yoghurt, with hot or cold milk or mashed up with a banana.
Peppermint oil capsules; follow directions as per product.

4. Rashes/Prickly heat

You will need:
Rose water
Peppermint essential oil
Cotton wool pads

Rose water is very cooling to the skin and can sooth inflammation and restore the natural PH of the skin. Peppermint oil is cooling; the menthol in it acts as a mild analgesic to the skin and will prevent the urge to itch the skin.

To prepare:
Take 50mls of rose water add 10-15 drop of the peppermint essential oil , shake vigorously and pour some onto the cotton wool. Use this soaked cotton wool as a compress. Alternatively pour into a spray bottle and spray as required onto the affected area of skin.

Compresses can be more useful for small children; the soothing contact of a caring hand can go along way if a child is feeling irritated and unwell!

Cuts and scrapes

You will need:
Echinacea tincture 50 mls
Ti -tree essential oil (5-6 drops) or lavender essential oil (15 drops)
Rose water or witch hazel distilled water 30mls

Directions: Mix all above ingredients together and store in a spray bottle, labelled.

Why use this?

Many homes will have Echinacea on their shelves. It is useful preparation to have on standby for colds and flu's, it will also have anti-microbial effects when applied topically and can be gargled for any irritated/inflamed tonsils or throat. Here we can use it as a first line treatment for cuts to prevent infection. The lavender or ti-tree are both antiseptic too, the Rosewater or Witch-hazel act as a sterile water to hold the tincture in reducing the alcohol percentage.

Remember if the cut is deep to wash it out thoroughly, also remember if you are using an alcohol preparation there may be a slight 'sting' when it is applied to a wound. You may be able to find Echinacea in a non-alcoholic preparation for very young children, but remember that the alcohol has antiseptic properties in itself.

When the wound starts to heal you can use the Aloe-vera and lavender gel to help promote healing and reduce scarring.

Essential oil dosages are for adults, when using preparations with very young children reduce the quantities by one third.

. Witch-hazel water
. Citronella essential oil
. Aloe Vera gel
. Aloe Vera Leaves (Ciara will bring)
. Lavender essential oil
. Slippery elm powder
. Peppermint oil capsules
. Rose water
. Peppermint essential oil
. Cotton wool pads
. Echinacea tincture 50 mls
. Tea -tree essential oil (5-6 drops) or lavender essential oil (15 drops)
. Rose water or witch hazel distilled water 30mls