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When my boys were small, they’d come to me almost daily with scratches, bites, and bruises that needed attention. I learned to keep a first-aid kit close by—in the house, in the car, and in our backpacks. But my first-aid kit went beyond bandages, sterile pads, and antiseptic solutions. I followed the advice of Ayurvedic practitioners, including Dr. Nita Desai, John Douillard, and Dr. Deepak Chopra, to learn some safe and natural treatments for their scrapes.
Most Ayurvedic remedies are kid-friendly, easy to use, and effective for all ages. Better yet, many of these can be made from foods and spices you may have in the pantry. Here are a few of my go-to remedies, so you can build your own Ayurvedic first-aid kit.
My kids and I call honey “golden medicine” for the color, taste, and powerful medicinal properties. Honey is antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory. Applied externally, it helps heal and regenerate the skin on wounds and burns. You can swallow a spoonful for nighttime coughs or a distressed nervous system. Raw, unfiltered, local honey is a great antidote to seasonal allergies. Just a couple of important reminders: Don’t cook or heat honey, says John Douillard. It produces ama, a type of “toxic waste” that gunks up your system. And don’t feed honey to babies under one year of age.
Curcumin, a polyphenol in turmeric, has anti-inflammatory properties that work as a pain reliever for a headaches and joint or muscle pain. My go-to after a strenuous workout or a long hike is “turmeric mocktail.” I mix one teaspoon of turmeric in a glass of warm water, a bit of honey, a splash of fresh lemon juice, and a pinch of black pepper. I also keep a turmeric and honey paste in a jar and take a a teaspoonful 3-4 times a day for cough or cold. Children under 6 may take a half teaspoon 3–4 times a day.
Crystallized ginger or ginger drops are a staple in my first-aid kit for when someone starts feeling nauseous, carsick, or run down. Ginger tea helps, too. Add a few pieces of fresh ginger to boiling water and steep for 10–15 minutes. Strain it into a glass jar, add some honey and fresh lemon juice, and sip it throughout the day. It prevents constipation during the winter (vata) season and clears mucus during spring (kapha) time. Because it has warming and stimulating properties, pitta types need to be careful how much they ingest, especially on hot summer days.
Chamomile calms the body and mind. The mild taste and soothing aroma of chamomile tea eases stomachaches, indigestion, sleeplessness, and stress. It’s also so mild, you can sip it throughout the day. For colds or other respiratory issues, sipping warm tea and inhaling the aromatic steam can help loosen up mucus in the chest and nasal cavities.
Maintaining digestive regularity can be tricky when you’re traveling. Made from three three Ayurvedic fruits (amalaki, haritaki, bibhitaki), triphala helps to clean and tone the intestinal lining without irritating it. Dr. Douillard’s book, Perfect Health for Kids, recommends making a paste of equal parts triphala and honey and taking one teaspoon after meals. Or prepare Triphala tea—1/2 teaspoon in a cup of hot water—and drink it once or twice a day. It’s soothing during stressful times and especially helpful during winter (vata) season to relieve constipation, gently detoxify the system, and keeps the immune system strong.
Another digestion aid is a mixture of cumin, coriander, and fennel. Dr. Nita Desai prescribed CCF tea many years ago for my digestive issues. My digestion is much better now, but I still drink this tea occasionally for bloating, menstrual cramps, and when I’ve overeaten. The recipe is simple: ½ tsp of each spice added to 4 cups of boiling water. Simmer for 5–10 minutes, strain, and drink it warm throughout the day.
Also known as Indian Cherry, ashwagandha is an adaptogen herb I can’t live without. Because it has relaxing and immune-boosting properties, I take it year-round to stay calm and grounded, and to help me rest. One or two 500 milligram capsules in the morning and at bedtime is usually enough for me. I put 1/2 teaspoon of the powder into my morning smoothie or chai tea, and drink Ashwaghada tea in the evening.
I give it to my kids during stressful times and during cold and flu season. It has a slightly bitter taste, but I camouflage it by blending it into their smoothies, chai, or hot chocolate. Start with 1/4 teaspoon of powder mixed with their beverages once or twice a day. If they tolerate it well, you can increase the amount gradually up to 1 teaspoon once or twice a day when they need more support for the immune and nervous system.
Himalayan rock salt
Rock salt has antibacterial and antiviral properties. One study shows salt water gargling to be highly effective in preventing respiratory tract infections. Stirring ¼ to ½ teaspoon into eight ounces of warm water makes an inexpensive oral rinse used to relieve sore throat, irritation in the mouth, and painful gums. Sometimes I add ½ teaspoon of turmeric for an extra anti-inflammatory boost.
I always keep a steady supply of this delicious herbal jam. It’s high in minerals and vitamins. (One of the ingredients, amalaki or Indian gooseberry, is one of the best sources of bio-available vitamin C.) Dr. Douillard recommends a teaspoon in the morning for building strength, stamina, and immunity. Take it a few times a day if you’re coping with a cold, fatigue, or stress. This jam tastes good straight from the jar, on a cracker, or mixed with warm water. A spoonful is enough, but Douillard says it can be taken safely in larger doses.
Aloe Vera gel
Aloe Vera is a medicinal plant Ayurveda and other traditions have recognized it for antiseptic, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. I use aloe vera gel externally to soothe sunburns, wounds, bug bites, and inflammatory skin conditions such as acne, eczema, or psoriasis. I’ve also discovered that a tablespoon of aloe vera juice—fresh from the plant or store-bought—mixed with 12 ounces of purified water works well as a cooling and inexpensive skin toner and hair rinse for itchy scalp and dandruff. If you’re buying aloe juice, make sure it’s pure with no additives.
See also: 3 Ways to Treat Sunburn, Naturally
Make your own Ayurvedic first-aid kit
To make your own Ayurvedic first-aid kit, you’ll need jars or non-reactive containers and labels. For easy access, I keep mine together in a box, where they’re ready when I need them.
I feel good when my family is happy and healthy. My Ayurvedic first-aid kit gives me peace of mind knowing that I have solutions that work for my whole crew. As with all medications and supplements, discuss taking any new products with your healthcare provider.
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