Disclaimer: this article is for informational purposes only; always seek the advice of a medical professional.
Choosing a primal or Paleo style diet tends to lead people to take a more hands on approach to general healthcare. With GP’s stretched to the max it’s always useful to have a selection of self help tools available for minor injuries and illnesses. This article will look at the top 7 items that you might want to have to hand to make up a primal first aid kit.
1 – Aloe Vera Plant
Aloe vera is an incredibly easy plant to look after so if you think you have the black thumb of death – don’t despair! You’re highly unlikely to kill an aloe. Keep one on your kitchen window sill, water it whenever you remember and it will provide you with an immediate solution to minor burns. Simply break off a small piece, slice it down the middle with a finger nail, and apply the soothing gel to the burnt area. It is also fantastic for cooling minor sunburn.
2 – Activated Charcoal
Activated charcoal is extremely effective at sorting out episodes of sickness and diarrhoea caused by bacteria. We were introduced to it by an Indian friend who would not be without it when travelling on the Indian subcontinent
You can buy activated charcoal in capsules or powder form. Taking the capsules is much easier but you miss out on all the fun of looking like a toothless witch! Don’t try using the charcoal that you would use on the BBQ as although they are basically the same thing, the activated charcoal has been ‘cleaned up’ which means it is both safer to use and exponentially more effective at absorbing the bacteria which are causing you problems.
You can also use activated charcoal powder in homemade toothpastes or simply on its own as a toothpowder, although this can prove to be a very messy experience!
As with many home remedies there can be some controversy over its use, so do your own research and consult a medical practitioner before using.
3 – Dried Elderberries
Elderberry syrup has been scientifically proven to be one of, if not the most effective, remedies for the flu. There are proprietary brands which can be found in good pharmacies, but they are crazy expensive, whereas making your own is very easy and super cheap. The very best way to make it is with fresh elderberries foraged in the autumn. You can make up a big batch that should keep for at least 6 months in the fridge (if made using sugar and kept in sterilised bottles or jars). However for the sake of convenience and for the summer period which can bring with it some nasty flu bugs, having a bag of dried elderberries in the house is an invaluable investment. You can buy them from any reputable herbal supplier, or if you manage to gather plenty yourself, make your own dried supply by popping them in a dehydrator and then keeping in an airtight container. They smell pretty horrendous, so you’ll definitely want to make sure they’re well sealed!
To make elderberry syrup simply place one cup of berries in a pan with two and a half cups of water*. Bring to the boil and gently simmer for an hour. Allow to cool slightly then strain through a sieve squeezing as much of the juice out as you can with a fork or the back of a spoon. Stir in some manuka honey to taste, store in a clean jar in the fridge, and use within a week. You can take elderberry syrup as a preventative – 1 tablespoon once a day, or twice a day once the cold or flu has struck.
*To make more effective and improve the taste, add 5 cloves, a 1 inch piece of ginger, and a cinnamon stick to the pan.
4 – Manuka Honey
Manuka honey is a particular type of honey produced in New Zealand, it is a raw product and so retains much of its beneficial antibacterial properties. If you’ve ever looked at jars of manuka honey in a health food shop you may have been confused by the varying price ranges within the same brands. This is all down to the UMF or the ‘Unique Manuka Factor’, which is a unit of measurement for the quantities of non-peroxide antibacterial activity in the honey; the higher the UMF the more potent the antibacterial qualities. To qualify as an active therapeutic grade honey, the UMF has to be 10+, with honey in the 12 – 15 UMF having been shown to be effective against a wide variety of resistant bacteria.
As well as being the perfect sweetener for your elderberry syrup, a teaspoon of manuka honey can work wonders on a sore throat. Add to hot water with a slice of lemon for a soothing drink, or mix 1 tablespoon with 3 tablespooons of raw apple cider vinegar, 3 drops of ginger oil and 5 drops of lemon oil to make up an effective throat gargle – simply add 1 teaspoon of the mixture to a glass of warm water and gargle twice daily.
Honey is also reputed to quicken healing for minor burns.
5 – Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar (ACV), particularly the raw variety, is a marvellous item to have in your pantry. Raw ACV is another of those products which is rather expensive to buy, but very cheap and easy to make at home. All you’ll need is a bottle of organic cider and a mother – this is the colony of bacteria that turns the alcohol into vinegar, and the best way to get one is to start off by buying a bottle of readymade raw ACV. Once you have that it’s simply a case of pouring the bottle of cider into a jar, adding the mother, covering with muslin or a coffee filter, and leaving in a dark place until the contents stop smelling of alcohol! The longer you leave it the more potent the vinegar will become. You can then strain the vinegar into a clean jar and start the process all over again, or leave the mother in the jar with the vinegar until you’re ready to make another batch.
ACV is antibacterial and as such makes a useful throat gargle – see the above recipe. It has many other reputed (though largely unproven) health giving properties and anecdotal evidence suggests that it could help to alleviate mild gallstone related pain.
6 – Essential Oils
A selection of high quality essential oils makes a wonderful addition to any home, and not just as a delightful way to fragrance a room. Essential oils have many therapeutic properties, as anyone who has any experience of aromatherapy will know.
N.B. It is generally recommended that pregnant women avoid contact with essential oils unless prescribed by a qualified practitioner.
Lavender oil in particular is a must for the primal first aid kit; as well as being a pleasant way to help calm and soothe, it is also useful in helping to heal minor burns – add a drop to a piece of aloe vera before applying the gel to the affected area.
Other useful oils to have on hand are:
- Ginger – an anti-inflammatory and, if using a food grade quality oil, a drop in your elderberry syrup will help fight off the bugs.
- Clove – a traditional remedy for toothache for its antiseptic and anaesthetic properties. Clove oil for dental use can be bought from most pharmacies, and should be applied directly the tooth with a cotton bud, avoiding skin and gum contact.
- Tea tree – a powerful antifungal, antiseptic, antiviral oil which is generally considered safe to apply topically to cuts, burns, stings, and rashes etc. Using it in a diffuser is also a lovely way to sanitise a room that has been subject to cold and flu germs!
- Eucalyptus – a useful oil to have on hand for the cold season as it is a decongestant as well as being antibacterial and antiviral.
7 – Bicarbonate of Soda
Bicarbonate of soda can be an effective way to ease the pain and itch of a sting. Simply make up a thick paste by adding a small amount of water to the bicarbonate of soda and apply to the affected area.
Bicarb is useful as an occasional treatment for heartburn and indigestion (though you’re probably far less likely to suffer from either of those when following a primal or Paleo style diet!) – dissolve half a teaspoon in half a glass of water. Do not take more than 7 doses in any 24 hour period and do not use as a regular treatment as this can lead to a variety of problems!
Bicarbonate of soda is also a useful item to have in your bathroom cupboard as it is an effective underarm deodoriser (though it can cause irritation, so discontinue use if this happens) and its antibacterial properties mean it makes a useful toothpaste.
First Aid Training Courses and disclaimer
First aid training is an incredibly important and useful skill to have. We highly recommend that you seek out a local training course at your earliest opportunity so that you know how to respond in an emergency situation. St John’s Ambulance run regular courses, why not ask your place of work if they can organise a training day?
Whilst all of these household items can potentially make a useful contribution to the everyday incidents that happen to us all, there is no substitute for professional medical advice, and the information contained within this article should not be taken as such.