Little First Aid Kit

First aid kits can come in all shapes and sizes. Creating kits for different settings has become an unintentional hobby; I have a home kit, car kit, camping kit, foot care kit, birthing kit, menstruation kit, animal kit, trauma kit, a daily kit, and even an “extras” kit (a kit from which I can restock all other kits!). All of these are constantly transforming and evolving when I come across different containers, different wound dressing material, or if I choose to switch up the herbs I’m working with.  It’s become an obsession really.

What I want to share in this post is a simple first aid kit that is carried daily, and covers the most basic first aid needs. This is a kit that I created for my mom, and, according to her, it has been useful.  It is small (3.5″ x 2.5″ x 1″) and fits nicely in her backpack or purse.

The little first aid kit includes:

  • Band aids
  • Gauze
  • Antiseptic towelettes
  • Wound dressing- a vial of honey-resin mixture.
  • Green band aid salve- all purpose salve in chapstick tube, for skin irritation- bug bites, burns, eczema, dry skin, etc.
  • Electrolyte packets
  • OTC medicine- each in its own bag, labeled with dosage, instructions, contraindications, and expiration date:
    • Ibuprofen- an NSAID (non-steriodal anti-inflammatory) that eases pain from inflammation and lowers fevers. Ibuprofen acts quickly, but doesn’t stay in the body too long, so it has a lower risk of stomach and kidney problems, compared to other meds. Long term use is still not ideal. Do not give to anyone less than 6 months old.
    • Aspirin- another NSAID. Beyond pain relief, this can be a lifesaving anti-clotting medicine in the event of chest pain & heart attacks. Chewing 2-4 baby aspirin upon experiencing chest pain is a standard recommendation by the 911 dispatcher before first responders show up. I have seen aspirin alone resolve serious chest pain very quickly. Long term use can cause gastric distress.  Aspirin is not usually given to children and teens due to the increased risk of Reye’s syndrome.
    • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)- an analgesic (painkiller) and fever reducer. This important to have when NSAIDs cannot be taken, or if pain is not from inflammation. Be careful with Tylenol, as it is one of the most commonly overdosed OTC medications, causing liver damage or even acute liver failure. Don’t take Tylenol with alcohol, and follow the exact dosage instructions.
    • Children’s Tylenol can be important to include in a kit for children, for cases of high fever.
    • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)- antihistamine and sedative.  Severe allergic reactions are becoming more common, and Benadryl can help stave off/slow down/reduce an anaphylactic reaction. Even though I don’t experience allergies, I always carry it on me because (1) I could develop them at any time, and (2) I’d like to provide relief if I am with someone having an allergic reaction. Please note that diphenhydramine is also a sedative, so people will feel sleepy after taking it.  This can effect driving, and the like. I choose Diphenhydramine over other antihistamines because of its relative effectiveness for more severe allergic reactions, beyond just the typical sinus discomfort. In these cases, take Benadryl and call 911.

You may be thinking, “Well, geez Annie, this is not very herby!”  And it’s true.  With this little kit, I’ve chosen to prioritize pharmaceuticals over herbs. The purpose of this kit is to cover the most basic first aid needs, in as small a container possible; so that it is practical and desirable for my mama to take with her wherever she goes.  And since she is rather herbally-inclined, she expands upon this kit with her own plant potions as it makes sense for her personally.

First aid kit photoshoot by Carla Seward ūüôā

East Africa Reflections

IMG_8986 copyTanzania is a very tough place.¬† Beautiful, wild, intimidating, and tough.¬† The plants seem pumped with African magic and everything has more of an edge to it.¬† Acacia thorns wait around every turn.¬† Spiky aloe reaches the sky and is filled with sticky yellow sap that is deeply bitter.¬† The tulsi has much more of a medicinal bite.¬† Fig trees are as grand as sycamores.¬† And above the cloud line, copious amounts of usnea grow like Spanish moss.¬† When you are up this high, the view stretches out forever.¬† ‚ÄúI can see the curve of the earth,‚ÄĚ my friend says.¬† The ground is rocky and demands your undivided attention, lest you stumble.¬† The flora, fauna, and terrain make my dear Florida seem very small and tame (and comforting).

IMG_9294 copy (1) Here a leopard rests after its meal, much closer than my comfort zone.

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I came to the small town of Wasso, Tanzania with a project started by Guido Mase to incorporate local herbal medicine into the hospital.¬† The goal is to be part of an effort to bridge the gap between traditional medicine and western medicine.¬† For me, it was the perfect opportunity to work with both my EMT and herbal skills.¬† In the states, I dance between these two worlds that can compliment each other so well when they are utilized in tandem. Let me state clearly, I did not come to Africa to “help” people, I came to learn from them, and hone in on the skills of autonomous healthcare (opportunities to use herbal medicine in hospital settings do not exist in the states). This picture to the left shows a traction splint fashioned with sticks and a ripped up bed sheet.


To care for someone’s wound day after day is a wonderful privilege and can present with challenges.  Every wound is different, just as each person’s healing capacities vary.  Herbs have so much to offer, both externally and internally, to support the body’s process.  Using raw honey topically on wounds produces results that continually amaze me.  This alone is a valuable addition to any hospital.  For not only is it important to keep wounds clean, but with trauma, it should also be essential to employ care that encourages tissue regeneration, like honey and vulnerary herbs. This photo shows the two-week progression of a calf burn. We used prickly pear, which Guido is harvesting in the photo below.

Besides wound care, we also provided support to patients with herbal teas prepared from plants we gathered around the village. Medicinal teas are a foreign concept to many in the states, but this is not the case in Tanzania.  Plant medicine is still a part of the culture, and it is taken with much compliance.  Alas, as the industrialized world spreads its web of influence, herbal medicine (and other skills) seem to be falling by the wayside.  I hope they can hold onto the ancestral knowledge that still lies at their fingertips.

An hour’s walk from the hospital lives a Maasai herbalist named Sangau N Swekei.  We visited him one day and found his home filled with folks who had traveled to receive his care.  Though he was very busy, he invited us for chai (sweetened warm milk) and showed us many plants that he uses and loves.  While he introduced us to medicine his father had taught him, he brewed a dark decoction of roots over an open fire, underneath the Ol’lousigi tree (Zanthozylum chalybeum, a prickly ash).  What a gift to witness this herbalist taking care of his corner of the world.  He sent us on our way with a backpack full of roots and branches.

Commiphora africana

Commiphora africana

This trip was my first time outside of North America, and it was remarkable to be surrounded by a traditional culture that is still very intact; the Maasai.  A month’s visit is just a small peak into their herding way of life, but it is a big step back, with a long contemplative gaze, at the culture I come from.  In the states, we always seem to be rushing about, regrettably pulled along by stress, our ever-present and irritating dictator.  In Tanzania, time seemed to slow.  We took chai breaks.  We sat on the porch beading and listening to cowbells of the nearby herd moving through the village.  I immersed myself in a fiction book for the first time in years.  Indeed, stress is not as present in the place.  For this experience, and all the rest, I am grateful.

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Shade is a hot commodity!