In this introductory guide, we will give you some basic wilderness first aid tips as well as identify some of the most commonly used herbal plants that are used for first aid as well as detail how to use them if you find your self in need of medical aid in the wild.
The Basics To Wilderness First Aid
If you do injure yourself whilst out in the wilderness then treating the wound quickly is paramount. This helps to reduce the chances of your wound becoming infected and helps to manage any discomfort and pain you might experience.
Any scratches or cuts should be cleaned out as soon as possible with plenty of fresh water, or if you are in a cold climate seawater can be used. Be careful if you are in a warm climate where algae often bloom as this could infect the wound. If possible, boiling any water will sterilise it.
A Natural Plaster
Bandaging any open wounds is pretty essential to prevent bleeding and infection. However, you might not always have a plaster. Seaweed makes excellent plasters and poultices thanks to several interesting properties. Firstly, seaweed contains iodine, which helps to heal the wound and seal it from secondary infection.
In addition, seaweed shrinks as it dries, making it the perfect bandage. For example, if you cut your finger, after washing it with clean water you could wrap a frond of seaweed around the cut and wait for it to dry. The seaweed tightens as it dries and will hold tight, stopping bleeding and protecting the wound.
Baked, dried and powdered seaweed is also great for cuts as they stop bleeding and prevent any further infection, as well as healing the wound.
The Top 5 Herbal Plants Used For First Aid
There are several plants in the UK that have healing abilities that are invaluable for first aid whilst in the wild. Whilst some are pretty rare and hard to identify, there are some pretty common ones that anyone can use with basic knowledge.
Here are our top 5 plants that are both common and easy to identify that you can use if you find your self needing first aid in the wilderness.
Yarrow (Acillea Millefolium)
Yarrow is a great addition to your first aid kit thanks to its anti-bacterial, anti-thrombotic, anti-inflammatory and diuretic properties. It also is an effective treatment for colds and the flu. Yarrow can be identified by its many small leaves and the small white, multi-headed flowers that grow.
Yarrow can be used in several ways. If you have a cut, yarrow makes a brilliant poultice and was apparently used by soldiers in the Trojan War from the Iliad. Crush or chew the leaves before applying directly to the cut. Pressure will also be needed if it is a deep cut to stem the bleeding.
The stems make a great herbal tea if you are ill or sick and will aid in the restoration of the immune system. Yarrow also helps to speed up the transition of other medicines, helping them to take effect faster. Finally, the tea helps with blood pressure and can prevent blood clots.
Plantain (Plantago Major)
Plantain has similar properties to dock leaves, which are a commonly known remedy to stinging nettles. Plantain grows on lawns and country tracks and can be used to treat a number of injuries and ailments and is an effective all-rounder in your first aid kit.
The crushed leaves can be applied to insect bites, impact wounds and any inflammation of the skin. It is also effective with mouth ulcers. A plantain poultice has the ability to draw out dirt or sand from your wound and effectively clean it. It also has antiseptic properties which kill germs and helps the wound heal.
Plantain can also be brewed into a tea and used to treat a range of ailments, including irritable bowel syndrome and haemorrhoids.
Dandelion (Taraxicum Officinale)
Dandelions are easily recognisable and can be found in a wide range of grassy places. All of the parts of dandelions are edible, but it can be a little bitter. Dandelions are a great source of vitamins A, B, C and D, making the bitterness worth it. It is also a good source of potassium and is a great detoxifier.
Eating dandelions aids in digestion and is also a diuretic. It can also be turned into an ointment which is great for treating cracked skin.
Burdock is another great addition to your first aid kit and is easily found in hedgerows. Not only is burdock root a good source of carbohydrates, but the leaves also have useful herbal properties.
The leaves can be made into a poultice that can be used to treat bruises and bumps. Steam the burdock leaves until they are soft and then apply them to the affected area. Leave the leaves in place as they cool down.
They can also be used to treat minor burns. However, in this case crush rather than steam the leaves and then apply to the burned area. this will help to reduce the pain and help the burn heal.
Selfheal (Prunella Vugaris)
Selfheal is more common to areas with chalky soil, but it can also be found in fields and woods across the UK. It is a good all-rounder to have in your wild first aid kit.
Selfheal can be brewed into a tea that can be used to treat viral infections, mouth ulcers and fevers and flu symptoms.
These are just a few of the herbal plants that can be found in the UK with interesting and useful properties that can help you perform first aid and fight infection on your next wilderness adventure.
First aid is a vital part of any adventure and taking the time to know what you can use to help you in the wild is definitely worth it.