Summer is around the corner and it’s time to get outside! Along with barbeques, hiking and enjoying the outdoors comes life’s little accidents like bug bites, sunburn and minor injuries. Now is the time to prepare for summer by creating your own little aromatic first aid kit. One of the things I love about using essential oils for first aid is that they are very potent so you only need a small amount on hand. This makes them easily portable for hiking, backpacking and travel.
When using essential oils, it is important to think about safety and application. More isn’t necessarily better – for you or the planet.
**See the bottom of this post to check out my First Aid Recipes and get the printable recipes download here.**
General Dosage Guidelines: Most essential oils should be diluted before applying to the body. You can dilute essential oils into vegetable or herbal oils, salves, lotions, shampoos or conditioners, etc. For ease of explanation, I will call any of these the “carrier”.
You can also read my article on Making Your Own Natural First Aid Kit
Lavender is one of the safest and most widely used oil in aromatherapy. I carry a bottle of lavender with me in my purse and I never travel without it. It has a balancing action, enhancing relaxation in smaller amounts and having a more stimulating effect in larger amounts.Lavender is antimicrobial and makes an excellent inhalation for both respiratory and sinus infections1. It is also antifungal, making it effective for yeast and fungi including yeast infections, athletes foot and toenail fungus. Lavender is anti-spasmodic, making it useful for headaches, menstrual cramps and digestive problems2. As an anti-inflammatory it is helpful for skin irritations and inflammations such as dermatitis, bee stings, bug bites, and rashes. Lavender is calming and relaxing and can be useful to promote a restful sleep10. It is balancing to the emotions and is helpful for both anxiety and depression.
Lavender is one of the best oils for healing burns. Firstly, I like to cool a new burn with cold water. After a few minutes, apply lavender neat (undiluted) to the burn. I don’t recommend adding a fixed oil such as a salve or vegetable oil as it will hold the heat in a new burn. Apply a small amount of lavender essential oil every time the burn starts to hurt. In a short time, the burn should stop hurting and an herbal salve can be applied. Helichrysum essential oil can then be added to help prevent scarring.
I know of no contra-indications for lavender. The oil can be adulterated (as can any essential oil), so always be careful about the purity of the product you purchase. Although almost all essential oils should be diluted before application on the skin, most people can use lavender neat (undiluted). If you have sensitive skin, try applying a small patch test on the inner elbow before using.
Marjoram essential oil has calming and sedating properties. It is a wonderful anti-spasmodic for smooth muscle cramping including intestinal and menstrual cramps2. As calming oil, it helps to counter a feeling of fight, flight or freeze and will help with feelings of anxiety and grief3. Marjoram helps to moderate high blood pressure, and relax muscles4. Similar to the whole herb, marjoram essential oil aids digestion (dilute and rub topically over the stomach) and can have a very gentle laxative effect. Marjoram should be avoided during pregnancy5.
Rosemary is helpful for pain including headache, muscle aches and digestive distress. As a cardiovascular tonic, it will encouragecirculation1thereby bringing more blood (think nutrients and oxygen) to both the skin and brain.Rosemary reduces fatigue and encourages alertness, creativityand improves short-term memory. It is particularly helpful during tests or periods of intense work. Used topically on the scalp (1% dilution) rosemary has been shown to encourage hair growth1. Rosemary is antiviral4, antibacterial and antifungal6. It is a great cold and flu remedy, helping to relieve congestion, cough, and sinusitis. Contraindications: Avoid during pregnancy5. Do not use if epileptic or with high blood pressure5.
Ravensara is my favorite essential oil to have on hand for colds and flu. It is wonderful anti-viral7for respiratory infections and that deep bone ache that can accompany a fever. Ravensara is expectorant, helping to loosen and eliminate mucus, making it helpful for congestion and sinus infection. Ravensara is considered very safe and has no known contra-indications.
There are many species of Eucalyptus used in aromatherapy. Each has its own unique healing properties. Eucalyptus radiata is very safe and can be used with both children and adults. It can be used in a vaporizer, diffuser, or humidifier to clean the air. Add a few drops to the shower floor before showering for an easy steam. Eucalyptus is an excellent anti-viral making it useful for cold and flu6. It is a helpful expectorant for coughs and congestion. A drop of Eucalyptus radiata can be added to salt and then mixed into warm water for a sore throat gargle.
Eucalyptus radiata is considered very safe, with no known contra-indications.
Widely used as a tea beverage, German chamomile is best known for its relaxing properties. The steam distilled oil should have a blue color, caused by the constituent chamazulene. It is healing to the skin, promoting new tissue growth after an injury.German chamomile oil is excellent for allergic skin inflammation, hives, rashes, eczema, bug bites and bee-stings. Along with lavender, chamomile essential oil can be applied directly to recently burned skin to soothe and heal. Chamomile is helpful for sprains, injuries and muscle soreness and inflammation. It is antispasmodic, making it helpful for both muscle and menstrual cramps2. German chamomile is one of my very favorite essential oils for relaxing and calming the body and mind. Chamomile is very safe and effective with children. It has no known contra-indications.
Helichrysum is a wonderful first aid oil for the skin. It is useful for burns, and will speed healing and reduce scarring from cuts, surgery and tattoos. Helichrysum is particularly useful for inflammation, tendonitis and bruising. It will help to dissipate a bruise quickly (or sometimes even prevent it altogether) if applied soon after an injury. Helichrysum can speed healing for wounds, whether open or closed and can work to help clean and close a wound. Contra-indications: Helichrysum contains ketones, and should be used with caution during pregnancy and with children.
Tea tree is and excellent antimicrobial and antiseptic oil6. It is antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal4, 10. Tea tree is useful for herpes, cold sores, cold and flu1. It has a high concentration of terpinen-4-ol, a compound with wonderful anti-inflammatory properties8. Most people can use tea tree undiluted on the skin, but it’s always good to make sure your oil is pure and unadulterated. Topically, tea tree is good for wounds, acne, contact dermatitis, dandruff, and funguses such as athlete’s foot, toenail fungus and ringworm (yep, it’s a fungus, not an actual worm). Tea tree has also been researched for its exceptional ability to topically treat headlice9. Although rare, tea tree has been known to cause skin irritation and allergic reactions10. Try a patch test before using undiluted on the skin.
**Get the printable recipes download here**
Sun Burn Soother
First Aid Fighter
Cold and Flu Inhaler
Beat the Bugs Spray
© Elaine Sheff, Clinical Herbalist, RH (AHG) 2019
About the Author:
The author of several books on herbal medicine and healing, clinical herbalist Elaine Sheff has been passionate about sharing herbal knowledge for over 25 years. Her latest book is Naked: Botanical Recipes for Vibrant Skin and Healthy Hair. Elaine is the Co-Director of Green Path Herb School, located in Missoula, Montana, where she strives to inspire and empower students and clients to remember their connection to the earth, the plants and their own healing process. She is a professional member of the American Herbalist Guild and teaches workshops, and at conferences, both nationally and internationally. Elaine has an International Certification in Aromatherapy from the Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy. As a certified Instructor of the Natural Family Planning and Fertility Awareness Methods, Elaine has helped many couples to avoid or achieve pregnancy naturally. She has written numerous articles about her family’s journey with epilepsy and a special needs child. Elaine has written for publications including the Journal of Medicinal Plants and their Applications, Mamalode and AromaCulture magazine. Elaine’s workshops have been featured at conferences including the Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference, Montana Herb Gathering, Northwest Herb Symposium, Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference, Spokane Herbal Faire, the Ecoexpo, Mountain West Herb Gathering, Inland Northwest Permaculture Convergence, and the Pacific Women’s Herbal Conference. You can often find her bent over an herb in her garden or marveling at small flowers in mountain meadows with her husband and sons. If you’d like to learn more about medicinal plants, you can connect with Elaine, and Green Path Herb School via the Green Path Website or through social media: Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter, or Instagram. You can find out more about Elaine and her life work at GreenPathHerbSchool.com.
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6. The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy by Valerie Ann Worwood