Natural medicines have been around since the dawn of man, but their roles have been swept to the sidelines by modernization. However, in times of unrest and catastrophe, the fruits of modern medicine might not be readily available, forcing us to rely on the very gifts that Mother Nature has given us. Therefore we can learn a lot from those tree-loving hippies who use plants and herbs to treat many common injuries and diseases. In particular, several natural antiseptics are available for treating wounds and cuts – many of which are already in your pantry.
Put These Natural Antiseptics in Your Pack Before Heading Out
The first step of treating a wound or cut is to stop the bleeding, usually by applying pressure to the injury with a clean cloth. Once the bleeding has stopped, the next and most important part of treatment is cleaning and disinfecting the area. One of the most widely used natural antiseptics is garlic, and its use has been documented across many cultures. There is evidence that fresh garlic has both antibacterial and antiviral properties, though the anti-vampire effect has yet to be proven.
Garlic’s effectiveness diminishes with age, so fresh garlic should be used on wounds rather than older bulbs that have been lying around. The active chemical in garlic is allicin, which is formed when fresh garlic is chopped or crushed. Allicin, which gives garlic that distinct aroma, is very unstable, and thus it is essential to apply the bulb immediately to the wound after you cut it.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil has been gaining popularity as a natural antiseptic. The oil is extracted from the leaves of a tea tree — a native of Australia — and can be applied topically on a cut to prevent microbial infections. The oil is composed of 98 different compounds, but the active ingredient is still unknown. Applying the oil around cuts and wounds before dressing them can prevent harmful unwanted infections. One caveat: This oil is toxic to humans when taken orally, so be careful not to ingest it.
Of all the natural antiseptics, the most tested and proven medicine is honey. The sweet liquid produced by bees has been used throughout history to treat wounds. Honey exhibits antiseptic activity on a wide spectrum of bacteria. Its effectiveness can be traced to many factors, including its acidity and high osmolarity, and the presence of hydrogen peroxide. If you are storing honey, make sure to keep it in a cool environment, because heat can break down the hydrogen peroxide.
Honey can also be used on a wound to help it heal faster. We all know that honey is sticky, and this property can help form a protective barrier around a wound while maintaining a moist environment. The anti-inflammatory aspect of honey has been well documented and can be useful for reducing pain and soreness around wounds. With all its benefits, it seems like honey and wounds were made for each other. If you do apply honey to a wound, be sure to wrap the area with cloth or medical wrap to keep any dirt and particles from latching on. Keep in mind that honey has a high sugar content, so ants, dogs, and hungry bears will be attracted to the wound.
Speaking of that sweet carbohydrate, sugar itself has been used for centuries to promote faster wound healing. It is believed that a sugar dressing will absorb any moisture from the tissue around the wound, and it will dehydrate bacteria as well, preventing any microbial propagation. Keeping the wound clean, sterile, and free of microbes reduces inflammation and speeds up the healing process. If you apply sugar to a wound, be sure to cover it with a dry dressing and monitor for any moisture collection. If the dressing becomes too moist, replace both the sugar and dressing, because sugar on a wound is most beneficial when it remains dry. Stockpiling sugar is a no-brainer since it’s also useful in the kitchen. Make sure you store your sugar in a dry environment and inside a sealed, hard container to prevent any critters and bugs from getting into your stash.
The rate of wound healing depends on many variables, and many natural medicines have been used to accelerate this process. Aloe vera is used for many dermatological purposes, and its boost for speeding skin healing is popular. When cut, the spiny leaves of the aloe plant excrete a gel that can be applied directly onto wounds. The gel exhibits a soothing anti-inflammatory effect.
Many still question the effectiveness of aloe vera due to the lack of concrete scientific evidence, and though there have been studies that have shown it to reduce healing time, further studies on aloe are needed. The aloe vera plant grows readily in many different climates, does not require much water, and is resistant to pests; therefore, growing one in your house would not be a bad idea. With the rise of antibiotic-resistant forms of bacteria, alternative options for treating infections have become ever more important. As the field of alternative medicine continues to grow and more research is being done to fully understand the vast range of options, our medicine stockpiles can be expanded to include so many plants and trees that grow right outside our windows.
Further Reading: 50 Survival Tips & Tricks for the Outdoors