As a bushcrafter you know how powerful mother nature is, but your probably also know how sharp your knife can be, and how hot the handle of your coffee pot can get above the fire. We have all been there, those nasty cuts and painful burns. You never know in what kind of situations you will end up with in the woods, so it is a no-brainer to have a proper first aid kit in your pack at all times! Natural remedies can be perfect to help to speed up the natural healing process. This burn and wound salve will be a perfect addition to your (natural) first aid kit. In this post we show you how you can make it yourself!
Our bushcraft first aid kits have always been well filled, and so have our herb cabinets at home. It took some time to realize those herbs and natural remedies deserve their place in the first aid kit as well. It started with a bottle of vodka, some tea trea and beck-olja oil, which worked (for us!), even better than their modern counterparts. There is something very satisfying in being able to make things that help your body to heal. It gets even better when you are able to find some of these aids in the same spots you have been hiking and camping in for years! Once you start to recognize plants like plantain (Plantago lanceolata) and yarrow (Achillea millefolium), you will see how many healing allies there were beside you for all these times.
Fresh plantain leaves can be used directly on the skin to calm down rashes and insect bites, and dried leaves of yarrow can help to stem bleeding. Just to give some examples. Make sure to always do your own research by the way – only use what you can identify easily and always check for side effects and possible warnings.
Honey is not something you can find easily in nature, actually, conscious honey harvesting is something to be aware of! When we eat honey, we -in a way- steal food from bees, which they sometimes can not go without in order to survive. Luckily, there are some amazing bee keepers, who put the health of their bees first. Honey is not only a delicious sweetener, but is has been used a medicine for over 8000 years and can be found in Stone Age painting. In various cultures honey has been mostly used for treating wounds and gut related problems. Modern medicine is slowly but surely finding evidence for the well-spread use of honey as medicine (further reading links noted down below).
Mānuka honey is honey made by bees foraged from the nectar of the mānuka tree or tea tree (Leptospermum scoparium). You might have heard of this tree before, since this is the tree where tea tree oil comes from (distilled from its leaves). Mānuka honey has got a creamy golden brown colour and contains relatively high levels of methylglyoxal (MGO) (compared to regular honey). This MGO and natural occurring components gives Mānuka honey its antimicrobial properties. If you can’t find Mānuka honey, or want to use a local product, make sure the honey is of good quality.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is well known for its scent, and is said to work as a antimicrobial and relieves pain (although research is inconclusive). You can always omit the essential oil, or switch it out for a healing oil of your choice (make sure it is something that can be used on burns and/or open wounds).
Making the salve
What you will need for a small tin
– 1/4 cup of Mānuka Honey
– 20 drops of lavender essential oil
This recipe will make a small batch of salve, enough for one 60 ml tin or a couple of smaller tins. We like to use 15ml tins in our Bushcraft first aid kits.
Mix the honey with the essential oil and store in a well cleaned tin. We store these salves in aluminium tins, that can be placed in boiling water to kill any germs.
Use of the salve
First degree burns
Cool the burn thoroughly with cool (not too cold) water. Never apply ice or very cold objects directly to the skin. When cooled down, apply a layer of salve on the skin, and cover with a dry sterile gauze. Change gauze once a day.
Make sure to seek medical aid when the skin is leathery or charred looking, with white, brown, or black patches, or in case of infection and/or large blisters.
Small open wounds
Clean wound thoroughly, with water and betadine, vodka or something alike. Apply salve and cover with a dry sterile gauze. Change gauze at least once a day.
Let us know: What is your favourite natural remedy/addition to your first aid kit?
Please, don’t be a fool. Always consult a doctor when your have (large) burns or wounds! Honey is not suitable to ingest for children under 12 months old or for those who have strong allergic reactions to bee stings.
Resources and further reading