The truth is, a lot of the products on the market that are designed to keep bugs away or heal cuts are not the most health-friendly. In fact, many of these products contain nasty chemicals. From the petroleum (i.e., plastic) in your Neosporin (and yes, you do absorb the plastic straight into your skin) to the DEET designed to kill insects, these aren’t ideal if you wish to avoid the lurking chemicals within.
If we take care of our health by eating healthy, we should also take care of the little (or large) nicks and cuts we get along the road of life. Over the years of adventure and escapade, I’ve fine-tuned my first aid kit to include a variety of powders, oils and salves that promote healing and ward off infection. Together with the essential fire starter and knife, my kit includes the following wilderness saviours.
If I can take only one thing with me in the woods, it would be turmeric. Turmeric has long been used as a powerful anti-inflammatory in both Chinese and Indian medicinal practices. Applied topically, it can prevent infection in cuts and scrapes, soothe toothaches and heal bruises.
What can I say—this is the oil of ultimate uses. I use it in my kit as a sun protection, moisturizer on my face and all over my body. It is anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. Use it as a base and mix it with essential oils to prevent the sting of a sunburn (with lavender) or ward off the bugs (with cedar, lemongrass and citronella).
TEA TREE OIL
Hailing originally from Australia, this one is always with me. Tea tree oil is anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. Use it on cuts and small wounds to keep the bad bacteria at bay. There are hundreds of uses for this miracle oil. From soothing mosquito bites to infections—this oil is an absolute must. Mix it with coconut oil in order to spread it out. On its own, tea tree oil is very potent—a little goes a long way!
This salve, made from fresh arnica flowers, is used as a topical cream to reduce the healing time and limit bruising and sore muscles when applied right after injury or as soon as possible. These little flowers have anti-inflammatory and circulation-stimulating properties but should not be used on open wounds.
For acute use in food poisoning, intestinal illness, vomiting, diarrhea, or the ingestion of toxins, mix activated charcoal (powder form from burnt coconut husks) with water and drink it. It will bind to unwanted toxins and expel them with bodily wastes.
CAYENNE POWDER (IN CAPSULE FORM)
A spicy addition to any dish, when placed straight on the skin this super spice will stop bleeding rapidly (be prepared—it’ll also sting like a son-of-a…). In capsule form, ingested cayenne will also warm you from the inside out by elevating your core body temperature for a short time. In this case, it may stave off hypothermia.
BUG-OFF ALL-NATURAL BUG SPRAY
I make my own insect repellant, and it has worked wonders while bushwhacking through dense forests and even in my backyard at the height of pesky bug season.
• 1 cup witch hazel
• 2 Tbsp. neem oil, which contains
• natural insecticidal compounds
• 1/2 tsp. vodka as a natural preservative
• 30 drops citronella essential oil
• 30 drops cedarwood essential oil
• 30 drops lemongrass essential oil
• 20 drops lavender essential oil
• 15 drops lemon essential oil
• 15 drops eucalyptus essential oil
Add all ingredients to a spray bottle that fits nicely in your first-aid kit, shake and spray.
For any respiratory-type problems, a few drops of this oil in the palm of your hand will open up airways when inhaled. It can be diluted with coconut oil and applied externally to the feet and chest as an impromptu VapoRub. It will repel the bugs too!
Ginger is great for nausea, reflux, stomach trouble and morning sickness. I also keep some in the car for motion sickness. It helps soothe the stomach after a digestive illness or food poisoning. Mix it with coconut oil and turmeric for a delicious tea.
Mixed with witch hazel or coconut oil, a lavender spray or salve provides instant relief from minor burns—from the sun or the campfire!
DEHYDRATED COCONUT POWDER
Fresh water may be hard to come across in the wilderness, especially in the desert where I spend a lot of time. Keeping a packet or two of dehydrated coconut powder on you will help combat and prevent dehydration. It is loaded with electrolytes and keeps your water retention in balance.
You can survive and thrive for a long time out there with these goodies. You never know what sneaky tricks Mother Nature has in store for you, so it’s best to be prepared.
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Read This Story in Our 2023 Summer Outdoor & Travel Issue
Featuring Alison Jackson, Canadian cyclist and only North American male or female to win the famed Paris Roubaix. Travel the country’s most stunning hot spots by campervan. Become a better trail running by improving your ascents and descents—plus, train outdoors with Canada’s Top Fitness Trainers. Enjoy plant-based summer recipes and so much more.