School will soon be out for the summer and holidays are on the way, so I’d like to offer you some natural solutions to common wellbeing issues. Most of the ingredients for these simple remedies are easily available and if you are going away a couple of bottles of essential oils along with a versatile carrier oil don’t take up much space – you can use any cold pressed oil, including sunflower or almond, both easily available in supermarkets! Other go-to remedies include salt and cucumbers - some of the best natural helpers are found in the kitchen.
ESSENTIAL OILS FIRST AID KIT Shopping List
- Chamomile Roman
Whether you are heading to the Norfolk Broads or the beach in Marbella, insect bites can be a problem. Mosquitoes, gnats and sand flies can all cause swelling, redness and itching, resulting in a miserable holiday experience. Essential oil of citronella (Cymbopogon Winterianus) is a good repellent. Either pop a few drops into a bath or dilute it to rub on the skin, using 4 drops of the essential oil in 20 mls of a carrier such as almond or sunflower (use a weaker dose of 2 drops for children). The main chemical constituents of the oil are geraniol, citral, citronellal and citronellol and it is these naturally occurring substances which give all oils their therapeutic properties.
This essential oil is versatile, and as well as being an effective insect repellent it is also antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antidepressant and with good deodorizing properties! It is excellent in a foot bath for hot, swollen feet and of course, the mosquitoes and gnats will leave your ankles alone afterwards.
If you do get stung by any insect, then lavender (Lavandula Augustifolia) used immediately can help stop the swelling and itching. Keep a 20ml bottle with 4 drops of the essential oil diluted in a carrier in your bag when you go to the beach or on a picnic. As well as being helpful for mosquito, gnat and sand fly bites lavender will help with wasp and bee stings too.
Lavender is the only oil it is acceptable to use neat in emergency, but in general avoid using undiluted essential oils. Lavender has a wide variety of chemical constituents such as limonene, a-pinene, camphor, linalool and terpinen-4-ol and this is what makes it such an all-rounder, with wide-ranging therapeutic effects.
As a first aid oil lavender is unendingly versatile with antiseptic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, bactericidal and carminative effects. It also helps heal wounds as it is a cicatrisant and as it is anti-inflammatory and antiseptic it is good for cleaning them. Lavender oil is a diuretic and will help with the bloating that can result from sitting on a plane or in a car for hours – pop a few drops in your bath. Of course, lavender is also excellent for sunburn – mix a drop into a teaspoon of the Aloe Vera gel before you apply it to boost the benefits.
However careful you are, it is easy to get sunburn, and a dull cloudy day on an English beach is just as dangerous as walking up a hillside in Andalucia! As soon as you see redness, apply Aloe Vera gel generously. Aloe Vera is rich in polysaccharides and these have anti-inflammatory properties as well as aiding angiogenesis, one of the processes involved in producing new tissues – this plant is used both to help burns and wound healing but do use pure Aloe Vera gel or juice, and avoid products that simply have it as an ingredient. There may not be enough Aloe Vera to help, and there may be other ingredients (such as petrochemicals) which actually trap heat into the skin!
An alternative to Aloe Vera is cucumber – slice it and lay the pieces over the sunburned area. It is cooling and soothing, and as it is full of water it may help re-hydrate the skin. It is also good for tired, puffy eyes.
Accidents happen on holiday, and you may stand on something sharp on the beach, resulting in a nasty cut. Sea water may be contaminated, so be aware that it might not be the ideal thing to clean a cut with. Simply apply pressure immediately and elevate the foot (or hand) to stop the bleeding. Wash the wound with clean water containing a teaspoon of salt as this is an effective antiseptic and cover it if it hasn’t stopped bleeding completely. You can also use a lavender compress to aid healing and as an antiseptic - just use wet gauze or a clean wet cotton hankie and put one drop of lavender onto it then apply it to the cut and leave it for five minutes.
Sore throats happen on holiday just as they do on work and school days! As soon as one starts up, pop a couple of drops of diluted lavender oil into the ears (4 drops in 20 mls of carrier). You could also gargle with a teaspoon of salt in a glass of water as bacteria can’t survive in salt water. If you have an oil burner, then pop a mix of eucalyptus and lemon essential oils in it – this is an effective anti-viral mixture.
Lemon essential oil has important chemical constituents such as limonene and citral, which are both antiviral and the terpenes linalool and geraniol which may help stimulate the immune system as well as having antibacterial qualities.
Eucalyptus is the essential oil for stuffy noses, sore throats, colds and flu! Eucalyptus Globulus is a native Australian tree, also called the fever tree. The key constituent is limonene from the point of view of helping colds, flu and sore throats, but the plant has a wide variety of different properties. It is also an excellent insect repellent and blends well with citronella – always stick to 4 drops of essential oils in total in 20 mls of carrier for adults, less for children. So try 2 drops of eucalyptus and two of citronella or lemon, for adults and half that for children.
Upset tummies can have lots of causes – unfamiliar food, tap water in some countries (always drink bottled water), or simply an attack of the latest ‘bug’. If you do get digestive problems, then have a cup of strong peppermint tea to help settle your stomach down and eat a pot of natural yoghurt. Check the yoghurt pot to make sure it has acidophilus or bifidus bacteria which help restore balance in the gut and calm it. If you feel nauseous, then ginger is a good solution – grate root ginger into hot water and add a twist or lemon, then drink it as a tea. Ginger essential oil is a good stand-by – pop it in a burner with a drop of lemon essential oil. IF diarrhoea and/or vomiting persist for more than 24 hours or there is a high fever, then get qualified medical help (which may be a pharmacist in many countries).
Summer sun, swimming pool chemicals, salt water and dusty walks in the country can all take their toll on your hair so here are a few ideas of herbs and fruits that you will probably have in the kitchen or find in the garden or surrounding countryside and can use to maintain your crowning glory.
Dandruff is also called sebhorreic dermatitis and it is caused by reactions to chemicals in products, irritated oily skin, inflammatory skin conditions and a build-up of bacteria, yeast or fungal organisms. It is a symptom rather than a condition, and it can be tricky to work out what is causing the problem. Many people are in any case turning to natural solutions and away from commercial products for their hair care.
Lemon juice is a good way of removing a build-up of shampoo and conditioner – sometimes a problem if you have been using a leave-in product with sunscreen over the summer. An itchy, flaking scalp may be the result of hair products which haven’t rinsed out thoroughly. One issue with soap and detergents is that they change the pH level of the skin, making it slightly alkaline instead of slightly acidic. This allows unfriendly bacteria and other organisms to breed, as the skin relies on acidity to control these organisms. Shampoo is a detergent with added ingredients, and can affect both acidity levels and hydration of the scalp. Lemon juice is slightly acidic and so will help correct the alkaline imbalance. Lemon is also a hair lightener, which is good news for blondes who want to lighten the tone of their hair without the use of chemical colourants.
Mix one tablespoon of lemon juice into a cup (about half a pint in old money), then massage it thoroughly into the hair and scalp before rinsing out. Vinegar is often suggested as a hair tonic, and it has many of the advantages of lemon juice – but I’d rather smell of lemons!
Rosemary infusion is said to stimulate the hair follicles and help hair growth. It certainly has useful antibacterial and anti-yeast/fungal properties, and is simple to make. Either add a couple of drops of essential oil to the final rinse when washing your hair or make an infusion. This is simple - pop a few sprigs of fresh rosemary or a teaspoon of the dried herb into a cup, add boiling water and leave for five minutes. Add the rosemary infusion to the final rinse. There's no need to rinse it out. Mint is a good complement to the scent of rosemary and also has useful properties, so add a few sprigs of mint to your infusion if you wish. Rosemary doesn’t have the same lightening properties as lemon juice, and it's a good choice for dark-haired people.
Mint is a useful herb for a wide variety of purposes, including getting rid of nits! This is one reason for including it in your hair rinse if your children have ended the school year with them. It has carminative and anti-inflammatory properties too, so will ease an itchy scalp. And it smells fresh and cool on a hot day, of course!
Camomile infusion is my final haircare suggestion. Make it the same way as the rosemary and mint version. Chamaemelum Nobile (Roman Chamomile) is the variety you would use, and you may either have it in your garden or find it in the countryside in Mediterranean areas. It is another plant which will help repel nits, and an infusion of mint and chamomile would smell lovely – a natural alternative to the products sold in pharmacies. Chamomile is an effective antibacterial so it will help keep the scalp and hair healthy. It is a good carminative too, and a chamomile rinse after a bedtime hair wash will help soothe you to restful sleep. If you don't have the herb, then use Roman Chamomile essential oils - a couple of drops in the final rinse.