Savy savy.jpg
IFPA award ifpaaward.jpg

Summertime first aid

Summertime first aid Poison-Ivy.jpg
Treat the itch of poison ivy with a thin paste of green clay

Stock your alternative medicine toolkit!

By Jonathan Evans
Herbal Information Specialist for the Herbarium

Summertime and the livin’ is easy, except when we overdo it.

After being locked down for so many months, some folks may have forgotten how to be outdoors and enjoy themselves in a safe and responsible manner. If you aren’t careful, you can end up nursing some of summer’s most common health problems instead of enjoying your time in the sun.

Summertime first aid tips

In case you have been partying hearty, here are a few suggestions for summertime first aid.

• Sunburn – A little too much time under the sun can cause a lot of discomfort. Some easy, quick treatments for sunburn include making a batch of black tea (Tetley, Salada, etc.) and applying liberally to the burn.  Chamomile tea is also very good to stop the burn and soothe the skin. You can also just wet the tea bag and rub it on the burn.

Apple cider vinegar is also a great way to soothe the burn. Granted, you may smell like a batch of french fries from the Big E but the pain will be gone.

If the sunburn is widespread, make a large pot of the tea and add it to cool or tepid bathwater for a full body treatment.

• Other burns – For a burn from a grill or campfire, pure essential oil of lavender ( Lavandula angustifolia) applied directly will stop the blistering and the pain almost immediately.

Normally using undiluted essential oils is not suggested, but for first aid, this one of those exceptions to the rule.

• Poison Ivy – Make a thin paste of green clay and apply to the affected area. I find the green clay works better than calamine lotion. It will draw the oozing from the blisters and reduce the itch.

Many years ago one of our nephews was clearing brush and took all the precautions against touching poison ivy. He had long sleeves and gloves and such. Unfortunately, he kept wiping the perspiration off with the back of his gloves and ended up with poison ivy all over his face, neck and other areas. We got the green clay out, soaked gauze bandages in the solution and wrapped him up. He looked like a mummy but felt a great deal better.

Another remedy is Rhus tox, a homeopathic form of poison ivy. Sounds strange but that is homeopathy – “like cures like”. There are also sprays and tinctures to apply topically using camphor, Grindelia, Jewel Weed and Witch Hazel. Sometimes you may find Jewelweed near the Poison Ivy. It has very bright, small orange flowers. Just break off a few leaves or the stem and rub the juice on.

• Bug bites/bee stings – A paste of green clay applied to the bite or sting can help draw the venom out and stop the pain or itch. Black drawing salve also works well.

If you are out and have no other item to help, look for plantain (Plantago major) which grows everywhere. It is that spoon-shaped, green-purple leafed plant that you can often find growing between the cracks on the sidewalk. It also has a seedy-looking spike growing up through the middle.  Take a leaf of plantain, break it or chew it up a bit and apply to the bite or sting. It is very helpful.

• Foot fungus/Athlete’s foot – As a treatment, apply apple cider vinegar and let the toes air dry. If it is a new fungal infection, this can stop it quickly.

Tea tree oil diluted with a carrier oil such as grape seed, sweet almond or even olive oil can also be used.

If this is an infection that has been there for a while and is getting worse then it may be a systemic situation calling for more aggressive action. There are tinctures available that would be used internally and externally to help kill off the Candida, which is causing the infection. A good probiotic with multiple strains of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium in a 30 billion or more strength will help keep the candida in check.

• Indigestion – Too much of a good thing can sometimes ruin a good barbecue. Try eating some pineapple or papaya, whether it be fresh, dried or  chewable tablets. This can aid protein digestion and help your tummy feel better.

Peppermint or chamomile tea also helps. You can make some peppermint or chamomile ice cubes to help with indigestion.

The peppermint tea ice cubes are also wonderful to add to any beverage for a nice cooling effect.

I hope these handy dandy hints will be helpful. Enjoy the rest of your summer!

— Jonathan

Send questions on botanical remedies to: Natures Rx: Jonathan Evans at, or by regular mail to: The Herbarium, 264 Exchange Street, Chicopee, MA 01013. If requesting additional info, include a self-addressed stamped envelope.