Herbal first aid

‘My child has earache/stomachache/nettle rash’.

‘I’ve burnt myself/cut myself/pulled a muscle’.

These are the sort of first aid issues that people call about; not serious enough to go to the doctor, but needing attention right now. And usually, if you know how to use it, there will be something to hand in your kitchen cupboards or growing nearby. So here are a few of the best herbal standbys. If you don’t have them, it’s worth looking out for them and collecting, growing or buying some supplies.

Garlic (Allium sativum) is an all-round remedy for lots of things. It’s strongly antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, and if you can’t take it internally, rubbing some on your skin will allow the essential oils to get to wherever they are needed. For earache, you can infuse a crushed clove in a little olive oil for a few hours, and put a few drops into the affected ear. Add some lavender oil if you don’t like the smell; this is calming as well as antispasmodic, and will help a child in pain to calm down.

Marigold (Calendula officinalis). You can buy calendula cream, but it will be much stronger – and a beautiful golden colour – if you make your own. Infuse calendula flowers in sunflower oil in a water bath, and then mix the infused oil into a neutral cream base of your choice. Useful for skin infections, burns, rashes and all sorts of bumps and scrapes. And a tea made with the flowers can be drunk to calm upset stomachs, or added to a bath to help soothe sunburn and rashes.

Chamomile (Chamomilla recutita) is just as good as Calpol without all the sugar and colouring, when you are trying to calm a fractious child or ease a tummy ache. Infuse the flowers in boiling water for 3-4 minutes and drink it when it’s cooled a little. You can add honey if you want to, but it has its own sweetness. It takes the edge off anxiety and can help you get to sleep; gentle enough for children, but effective for adults too.