Category: Well-Being

Natural First Aid Series #1: Cuts and Abrasions

cuts-healThere is a lot of swordplay in our house. I mean a lot. And wrestling, and karate. And similar to the old adage, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” (I love that one!), where there’s physical play and roughhousing, there are scraped knees and elbows. Couple being eight years old with the weather of Spring — it’s gorgeous out! — and you’ve doubled the chances for bruises and abrasions by, say, a factor of skateboarding, biking, soccer, ferocious tag games and tree-climbing.

So what do you do with the cuts and abrasions, bumps and bruises? One blog doesn’t cover every eventuality, so we’re starting a natural first aid series, beginning with cuts and abrasions. Here are Mommy’s ER’s favorite remedies, starting with the simplest and working our way up to DIY mama extraordinaire’s homemade healing balms (in our blog this upcoming Friday) — I fall anywhere along this spectrum on a given day, so this mama likes to have options:

Before we begin, lets talk when to go to the doc and when you can treat this safely at home. Hit the urgent care if the wound is deep (this can use a deeper washing out than at home to avoid healing over bacteria), if the wound was inflicted by rusty metal (we don’t want to mess with tetanus), or is bleeding profusely, or doesn’t stop bleeding after 10 minutes. If the wound is wide, or deep enough that you can see the yellowish fatty tissue underneath the skin, it could benefit from stitches. Also, if over time the cut becomes yellow and pus-y, or the wound doesn’t do most its healing work in the space of a week, it’s time to go in.


  1. Wash with Soap and water. Don’t skip this step. Really, Aidan. Especially if we’re talking about anything that has scraped the skin, you want to make sure that any measures you take after this are not healing over unwanted germs. Clean it gently, but thoroughly.
  2. Once the wound has been cleaned, it’s time for an antisepticWitch hazel is still my fave, because it is antimicrobial, effective, and actually soothes inflammation, pain and burning while it disinfects. You can mix it with equal parts rubbing alcohol, or apply by itself. Hydrogen peroxide is still a legit alternative. So is vinegar. Vinegar diluted in water, then placed on a cotton ball is a GREAT natural antiseptic. You can use apple cider vinegar or white vinegar with 1 part vinegar to 3-5 parts water.
  3. Apply healing salve. What you’re looking for here is something with disinfecting properties, and, ideally moisturizing and skin nourishing as well. We’re busy brewing up batches of our 3 favorite salves for Recipe Friday, but in a pinch, here is my list of miracle salves that stand alone:

* Honey: I’ve advocated for honey on various occasions, for everything from colds to sore throats, but never have I been more impressed with it than I am when it comes to topically using honey for cuts and abrasions. We’re apparently going way back to ancient Egypt on this one. Honey has been used by everyone from pharoahs to our grandmothers for scrapes and skin ulcers. Now, modern science supports its usage as an antibacterial and antiseptic for even antibiotic-resistant wound treatment. Honey contains hydrogen peroxide, which it releases slowly into the cut or abrasion, creating a strong germ-killing effect. The viscose nature of honey also forms a natural barrier, and helps prevent scarring. Honey even works against antibiotic-resistant bacterias like mrsa. WIth additional anti-inflammatory effects, and the capacity to

promote healthy tissue growth, honey deserves a blog in its own right. Not all honeys are created equal, however. If you’re getting serious about your natural medicine cabinet, order honey made from the pollen from the flower of the tea tree bush, or manuka plant for extra nutrient content and antibacterial properties.

Lavender: antibacterial and antiseptic, lavender is purported to even aid in cell regeneration and enhance the pace of blood clotting. For easy application, add 3-4 drops of lavender essential oil to a piece of gauze and place it over wound, 2-3 times per day.

Coconut oil: contains lauric acid, capryllic acid, and medium chain fatty acids that kill bacteria, fungi and viruses.Apply it topically (and feel free to use it internally when cooking up Indian food!)

Tea tree oil: tea tree oil, used externally, is an amazing antiseptic and antimicrobial. It contains a compound called terpenoids, which may be responsible for its bacteria, fungus, and virus-killing capabilities. You can apply 2-4 drops directly to a gauze and place the gauze over the wound, or to minimize any skin sensitivities (essential oils, and tea tree in particular, is strong stuff!), mix 3-6 drops of tea tree in two teaspoons of vegetable oil (almond oil and coconut oil are great here, but your kitchen olive oil also does the trick) and apply directly. Or even mix it with vodka! — 2 parts tea tree to 1 part alcohol. Tea tree oil is also purported to have pain-killing effects. Let your little one be the judge of this. (note: tea tree oil, along with all of these suggestions, are for external use only. That said, feel free to eat the honey and coconut oil…)


Mama Nature, thank you for these, on behalf of little knees everywhere. 🙂

The Many Uses of Witch Hazel

Chinese_WitchHazel_webMy assistant tells me yesterday about her aunt’s mother: how every morning of her adult life, she would soak cotton balls in witch hazel and place them on her eyes while she laid on the ground and did her stretches for about 30mins.  Since my assistant is now worried that age is getting the better of her eyes (I personally doubt it, her skin is as good as my seven-year-old’s), she’s wondering if she can co-opt this old-time remedy…

Witch hazel really is amazing enough to avoid being relegated to the “something weird I might find in Grandma’s medicine cabinet” file. Its also a great topical remedy for both kids and their parents, which doubly justifies its shelf space. A yellow flower found both in Asia and parts of the United States, it is used both internally and externally (my recommendations are all external, for internal, I’d consult with an herbalist). Native Americans used it as a poultice for bruises, wounds and tumors. Nowadays, it is often mixed with isopropyl alcohol, to increase its astringing effects (– and in this form is only appropriate for external use). Its astringent, antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties give it a wide range of utility. Here is a list of possible ways to use witch hazel — and promote it from aunt’s-mother’s-relic to mainstay of your first aid cabinet:unscented-Witch-Hazel

It IS great for swollen eyes, mama! Lightly soak a couple of cotton balls, leave them on your closed eyes for 10 minutes and voila! It may not be elegant, but it works at least as well as cucumbers…and with a bit of lavender essential oil, smells pretty too. The anti-inflammatories plus high count of antioxidants provide us with a much-needed fountain of youth. Close your eyes, relax, and let the inflammation of a sleepness night(s!) drift away.

Diaper rash, beware! Topical witch hazel water, sometimes mixed with lavender, rosewater or aloe, was always next to our changing table when my son was in diapers — I would add some to his regular wipes, which were always a bit too dry to do the real work, and I have to say, he never had a case of diaper rash.

Bruises, sprains, and strains: mixed with arnica, or used on its on, witch hazel reduces tissue inflammation — the same property that helps with our at-home eye facelift.

Skin conditions: Have a blemish? Did your kid come home with a rash of unknown origin? Poison ivy? sunburn? minor kitchen burn? Let the tannins in witch hazel (which give it its astringent properties) go to work by applying it topically. I’ve even used it after stings to bring down swelling and soothe pain. And its worth a mention: while research is mixed, the anecdotal reports of eczema sufferers who say that witch hazel dramatically reduced itching, bleeding, swelling is compelling — worth a try.

Bleeding: Let common sense be your guide, but know that witch hazel has been used for centuries to stop bleeding. By topically applying witch hazel to small wounds and cuts, you can reduce bleeding at the site.

I hope you don’t have them, but if you do: Hemorrhoids. Anti-inflammatory. Astringent. Soothing. Post-partum, whenever, witch hazel as a sitz bath or wipe provides well-reported relief.

Dad’s out of aftershave: no problem, this works better than most we’ve tried — AND it’s all natural.

Your aunt’s mother wasn’t wrong. At least, not this time…:)

For more information on witch hazel, here a couple of great sites to check out:

Drooling and Fussy: How to Soothe a Teething Baby

As luck would have it, this news coincides with the news that Hylandʼs teething tablets are voluntarily and temporarily recalled for packaging reasons. Oh no. These were the mainstay in my mamaʼs group, and a fallback suggestion for teething clients that allowed me to be lazy in good conscience. Here we are, back at square one, so to speak, which, as it turns out, is a great place from which to revisit some simple solutions to teething.kid-toys

1) While I was and am still a fan of Hylandʼs teething tablets (and they still have a teething gel available!), some pediatric practitioners are bigger fans of single dose chamomilla, rather than a compound homeopathic. This just means your child is getting chamomilla and nothing else. Taken in 12x or 30c (youʼll see numbers like these any time you buy a homeopathic, it represents the number of dilutions the substance has undergone), chamomilla is an especially good solution if your babyʼs gums are red and swollen, and if your child is irritable, and gets worse at night. Your child can take this every hour as needed, up to six doses per day.

2) Clove oil is a natural pain-killer. Rubbed on the gums with a clean finger, it can gently anesthetize the area. Pediatric expert Janet Zand recommends mixing one drop of clove oil with 1-2 Tablespoons of olive or safflower oil, and I find this to be sound advice, as it keeps the action of the clove oil mild — not too harsh for young and tender gums.

3) Frozen bananas are a time-honored remedy for teething, and have the added benefit that they arenʼt running the risk of leaching chemicals like plastic teething rings might.  Peel and split the banana length-wise and then cut in half again width-wise to get a length that is manageable for your baby. Sweet and chewy, this can gently numb the gums, and give baby something to chew or suck on besides the breast. (a welcome relief for mama.) Every 15-20 minutes allow a 10-20 minute break in sucking on anything frozen — to keep gums from getting frostbite. (Its a long shot, but some pediatricians feel it best to err on the side of caution here.)

4) Baby Safe Feeders are another natural option for introducing the gentle numbing relief that ice can bring. Place frozen fruit or veggies into the mesh bag, close it by pushing down a small ring to keep it in place, and your baby can suck without choking risk. Again, periodic breaks are a good idea. I like this solution because any leeching that happens will be something nutritious — think frozen grapes, carrots,
chunks of melon or mango, all of these fit easily.

5) Calcarea carbonica is another homeopathic remedy for teething — good for babies whose teeth are delayed in coming in, and then when they do start to come in, have a slow, difficult time of it. Homeopaths often find that children for whom calcarea carbonica works best tend to be a little chubby (think big sweet round baby face) and may be slow to walk or crawl. As with the chamomilla, a low potency dosage — in this case 6x or 6c as needed is a very safe dose.

Babies who are teething often get accompanying symptoms — immune system goes down a bit, digestive disturbance, mild diarrhea, cold symptoms, and bouts of crankiness. These are common and should pass as the teething abates. For our son it was an ebb and flow as teeth came in. And be sure to drink some chamomile or lemon balm tea for yourself if you are the parent of a teething young one…nerves can get frayed as teething symptoms linger and pass. Thank goodness their smiles are worth it.

My Favorite Homemade Natural Bug Repellent for Babies and Kids

almond-oilThere are a million great natural ways to ward off mosquitos and other bugs as the temperature rises… Okay maybe not a million, but at least as many as there are kinds of bugs to fend off ourselves and our young ones. That said, if you’re anything like me, you’d rather someone give you a favorite recipe — and save your brain cells for harder questions like, “what was I in my past life?” (my eight year old), or “why is he not asleep at 11:30pm?” (me, regarding my five month old).

So, for Recipe Weekend, I’m sharing with you my new favorite recipe for natural, homemade bug repellent. I formulated this recipe based on what will work, but still be gentle enough to be used on both my little guys — and not stain anybody’s cute white summer tees. The geranium in this recipe is especially good for ticks, the citronella — and virtually everything else included — repel mosquitos and other bugs via smell, but still smell great to most human types.

Natural Bug Repellent: safe enough for Baby too

Here it is (for an 8oz batch):

  • 4oz witch hazel
  • 4oz almond oil

These are the carriers. Mix together, then add these essential oils:

  • 15 drops geranium
  • 15 drops citronella
  • 7 drops eucalyptus
  • 7 drops lavender
  • 7 drops lemongrass

(optional: repel bugs, and make it smell extra yummy):

  • 5 drops rosemary
  • 5 drops peppermint

This recipe can be mixed and matched based on what you have available. The general formula for a good homemade bug repellent for babies and children is roughly a 1:10 ratio of essential oils to carrier liquid, or roughly 30-50 drops per 8oz of ‘carrier’. I love this formula because witch hazel is a great carrier for essential oils, is super-gentle for babies’ skin (its my favorite formula for diaper rash!) and you can buy it already infused with lavender. (It’s also great if heaven-forbid you get bitten.) The almond oil is high in vitamin E, so again, a skin-nourisher — and the rest, well, they’re the gold standard in essential oils that discourage bugs from hanging around.

These smells not your cup of tea? Experiment with formulas you like best. You can substitute out any of the above (I personally would keep the geranium, but anything else is up for grabs) and use any member of the mint family (catnip is particularly effective), cedarwood (very earthy, woodsy smell), lemon, even vanilla. You can also sub out the almond oil for purified water. I like the almond oil for its silky smoothness and absorbency, water provides a lighter spritz.

Apply liberally as you like, at least every 2-3 hours. On my baby, I tried just a little on his sensitive skin first, since everybody is different. Now we’re ready for my absolute favorite activity: staring up at the sky under our wide oak tree on our mowed-slightly-less than-we-ought-to lawn. Feel free to join us.