Tiny's First-Aid and Medicine-Box Essentials! (Part 2)
Hello and welcome to Part 2 of my post about medicine-box and first-aid essentials that I wouldn’t like to be without! If you haven’t already read Part 1, you can find it here. In the interest of safety I suppose I had better repeat my disclaimer before I resume the list.
Please note that I am not a doctor and nothing in this blog post is intended to constitute medical advice. In the case of illness or injury, always consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner or a trained First Aider. In a medical emergency, call the emergency services.
Okay, let’s continue!
Fresh garlic. Some IC sufferers find high sulphur foods triggering, so if you’re not able to tolerate garlic and onions, you’ll need to skip this one. However, many people have no issues with high sulphur foods and fresh garlic is known for its antimicrobial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties. It would be great to take during urinary tract infections, but the reason I like to have it in the house is, once again, in case I feel like I’m starting with a cold. It is important to eat garlic raw in order to get its antibacterial or antiviral effects, but I always used to wonder how people achieved this. If you’ve ever tried eating raw garlic on its own, you will know that it really burns your mouth and oesophagus. It can then be uncomfortable in your stomach and can also make you feel nauseous.
I have found that an excellent way to eat raw garlic is to peel and finely slice a single clove, and then mix it with other food. You could choose anything you like – just make sure that each forkful of food you eat contains only one or two thin slices of garlic. This vastly reduces the burning sensation and eliminates any nausea. Your breath will be horrific the next day, but the effects are far superior to cooked garlic or to garlic supplements. I have warded off a few colds this way by eating raw garlic at the very first sign of a prickly throat (or eating it preventatively after being around ill people). I sometimes eat it just because it gives a nice kick to my food as well – it is not at all unpleasant when you get used to it.
Running a website aimed at interstitial cystitis and pelvic pain, I am obviously aware of the traditional remedy of sticking raw garlic up your vagina to address yeast infections. I have absolutely never tried this and I have no idea how people stop it from burning, if indeed it does burn! It has never sounded like a good idea to me in any case.
Vitamin C. I personally think that it is important to supplement with a couple of grams of vitamin C every day as standard, because unlike most mammals, humans are unable to manufacture their own and must obtain it from diet. However, even if you don’t routinely take vitamin C, I still consider it an important medicine-drawer item, so that during times of illness or infection you will already have it to hand. I’ve mentioned vitamin C in plenty of previous posts so I won’t go into detail about it here. At the first sign of a cold or infection I take three grams and I then try to take either a gram an hour, or three grams every four hours. If you have no bladder issues you can feel free to use plain old ascorbic acid. If you have a history of UTIs or you have interstitial cystitis, you should choose a mineral ascorbate such as magnesium ascorbate or calcium ascorbate instead to avoid bladder irritation. Don’t wait until you’re already full of a cold or infection to buy your vitamin C – have it in stock ready so that you can start using it in earnest at the very first sign of illness.
Vitamin D3. As with vitamin C, I think it is wise for most people in the not-so-sunny UK to supplement with vitamin D3 on a regular basis. Also as above, even if you don’t do this, it is wise to have vitamin D3 in your home-remedy arsenal, ready to deploy at the first sign of illness. Again, I have written about the use of vitamin D3 for fighting infections before so I won’t repeat it here. I am sometimes asked for my opinion on dosing and although I cannot recommend a regular intake of more than 4,000iu a day (which is the upper limit recommended by the Vitamin D Society), I can direct you to this study which examines other dosage protocols.
Zinc. Also handy to have in case of colds or other infections. A good multivitamin should provide your ordinary daily serving of zinc, but during a respiratory virus it can be useful to bump up your intake, as zinc has been shown to reduce the duration and severity of colds if taken early enough. To this end, I keep a standalone zinc product in the house so that if I need to add extra into my day for any reason, I can do so.
You’re probably sensing by now that I really don’t like getting colds! Sticking with the same theme, here are a couple of topical items for your inventory.
Vicks Vaporub. Although this is a very mainstream and old-school item, lots of people don’t actually keep a jar in the house! There has been a jar in our house for my whole life, because it is just so versatile. You can use it at the very first sign of a cold and also during the horrible stuffy nose phase. The usual way to use it is to rub it on your chest, but you can also put it on your back and the soles of your feet. I find it especially effective when applied to the soles of the feet at bedtime – sometimes it has helped me to ward off a cold entirely, but at the stuffy nose phase it is very good too. Another way I like to use it is to dissolve a lump of it in a bowl of very hot water, then lean over the bowl, put a towel over my head and inhale the vapour. This is not safe for young children, who might knock over the bowl and burn themselves, but you can put a bowl in their bedroom on a high shelf and let the vapours waft around the room. Vicks Vaporub is for external use only, but my great-grandad apparently used to coat the back of his throat with it at the first sign of a cold!
Mustard powder. Mustard powder footbaths are another very traditional protocol for times of colds and chills. You dissolve a couple of heaped dessertspoons of powder in a bowl of hot water and soak your feet for about ten to twenty minutes. Done very early, when you very first feel a bit cold and wonder if you’re starting with something, these can be incredibly effective at warming you up and helping you to ward off whatever is trying to get hold of you. Sometimes I have even done mustard footbaths to warm up my feet after a few hours in high heels or on a very cold day! If I do become fully ill, I also do them to try to push the virus through more quickly. They’re great for children, as they don’t involve taking a nasty-tasting medicine! You can do it as a hand soak instead of a foot soak if you prefer, but don’t touch your eyes until you’ve washed the mustard off your hands.
Comfrey cream or ointment. Cream is less greasy and more user-friendly than old-fashioned ointment, but you can use either. Comfrey is fantastic for sprains and strains – think twisted ankles, achy knees, or pulled shoulders. Colloquially known as ‘knitbone’, comfrey is also ideal for speeding the healing of fractures and breaks if they’re not surrounded by a plaster case and impossible to access! Thought it was just an old wives’ tale? See this study and think again! There is always a pot of comfrey cream in our first-aid box!
Calendula cream. Although scientific research to support the topical use of calendula is limited, it has a long traditional use as ‘nature’s Savlon’. Long before you could pick up antiseptic creams from a pharmacist or supermarket, people used calendula for the treatment of minor cuts and grazes, to promote healing and prevent infection. Nowadays many people still apply calendula cream to minor wounds, rashes or burns. I have on occasion used it vaginally during times of dryness or irritation and it has been successfully used in bacterial vaginosis and vaginal candidiasis.
Aloe vera skin gel. Pure aloe vera gel is fantastic for sunburn and minor burns. It is also good for minor wound healing, sore noses during colds, as a general skin moisturiser, and for flattening flyaway hairs. Some brands, like Desert Harvest Aloe Vera Gele, are also safe for intimate areas where they can be used to address dryness and irritation. As a fair-skinned person I get sunburn most years, so this is an essential item in my first-aid kit – I find it so much more soothing than traditional after- sun lotion!
Lavender essential oil. This is great for minor burns and wounds and although you might expect it to sting on application, it actually doesn’t. It is also good when applied to spasm types of pain – things like period pain, griping tummy ache – or when massaged into the temples during a headache. Lavender inhalation has also been shown to be effective in the management of acute migraines and it promotes relaxation and drowsiness.
Numbing cream. This one is only for wusses, but I always keep a tube of numbing cream at home in case I ever need a blood test or injection at short notice. If you’re not needle-phobic you won’t need to bother with this one, but I very much am! I buy Emla cream (or its generic equivalent) from the pharmacist – if you tell them you’re having a blood test and are afraid of needles they will sell you a tube without issue. You can also use it on genital mucosa, so it might be helpful to those of you who sometimes require catheterisation or other invasive urological procedures.
Imodium. Back in the worst of my IBS days, a packet of Imodium used to travel everywhere with me! If you suffer with digestive upset and loose stools on a regular basis this is a big warning flag that you need to address your gut health. You most likely have some combination of undiagnosed food intolerances, leaky gut, candida, intestinal parasites, and gut dysbiosis. In the meantime, occasional use of Imodium might make the difference between you being able to get out of the house and not. Now and again, most people suffer with nervous diarrhoea or diarrhoea for no apparent reason, so it is good to have Imodium in stock just in case it strikes at a special occasion or inconvenient time. Please always be mindful of other people’s health and never go out if you have an actual tummy bug.
Slippery elm powder. This is soothing to the entire digestive tract, so from acid reflux, heartburn and stomach ulcers to diarrhoea and constipation, it is a wonderful herb to have in stock. It is a popular choice for addressing leaky gut and can also relieve sore throats and coughs. Slippery elm’s soothing properties are thanks to its high mucilage content – when it comes into contact with liquid it forms a thick gel that coats the throat and digestive tract. I would recommend powder rather than capsules, both for economy and efficacy in relation to upper digestive or respiratory tract issues. Some brave souls take slippery elm powder in water, but I cannot manage this! Instead, I mix the powder with some Biona apple and banana puree (the dog has his in yoghurt, but I am intolerant to dairy) and eat it like that. Mixing it with slightly thick foods seems to be a much more palatable way for most people to take it. If you have IBS-D, you might only be able to tolerate small amounts of slippery elm – my sweet spot for keeping stomach ulcers at bay seems to be about a third of a teaspoon each evening. Some people take far more than this. You’ll need to do your own research and find what works for you.
Some kind of over-the-counter sleep aid. Everyone has a bad night now and then. Whether you choose a pharmaceutical solution like Nytol, or a herbal capsule like Passiflora, having a sleep aid in the house can be a godsend if you find yourself lying awake before a heavy day at work or a special event. I struggle a lot with my sleep and am afraid I have quite an impressive collection of both herbal and pharmaceutical sleep aids, including some prescription-only items, but even if you normally sleep like a log, it can be good to have a mild product available for occasional use.
Okay, that seems like quite a list! I’m sure most Tiny’s Blog readers will already have many of the items, but hopefully some of you will find my suggestions useful in putting together your own wellness kit. The last thing you want to be doing when you’re not well is trailing off to the shop or the chemist, so it is nice to have a few things at home ready and waiting for if you should need them.
Wishing you the best of health so that you won’t need to use your wellness kit at all!
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