Any keen walker is bound to have sustained a minor injury whilst out on the trail, or seen it happen to someone in their group. While nature can offer harsh conditions, risky terrains and all kinds of things trying to bite and sting you, it is often willing to reconcile by offering a number of plants which can soothe stings and bandage wounds. So if the great outdoors has caught you unprepared, try these simple tips using common plants you can find by foraging for first aid whilst out walking.
Image sourced: Olegivvit
With their thin, skin-like texture, rose petals make an effective, temporary skin graft, ideal for stopping bleeding or covering up grazes. Rose petals are naturally antiseptic, helping to kill germs in the wound and prevent new ones from entering. Any blood should help the rose petal stick to the wound, keeping it safely covered while you look for a more long-term treatment.
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Plantain is an abundant, wide-leafed plant which is commonly used both internally and topically as a medicinal herb. Press one or two leaves against a cut and tie tightly to the limb using string, long grass or stems to stop bleeding, or gently rub on a plant or insect sting to soothe itching and pain. The plant’s combination of antibacterial properties, soothing mucilage and the cell regenerating compound, allantoin makes it a highly effective plant for treating a number of small injuries and skin irritations.
Image sourced: Sten Porse
One of the earliest tricks you probably learned when spending time outdoors as a child was using dock leaves to treat nettle stings. While nettles contain a certain level of acid in their hair-like stings, it is in fact the level of histamines in the sting which generate discomfort and the body’s inflammatory reaction. Dock leaves contain antihistamines which ultimately help to calm this inflammation, though it is simply the mucilage consistency of their sap which provides the instant relief. If stung by a stinging nettle, don’t be tempted to rub it directly with a dock leaf- this will irritate the skin further and push the stinging hairs deeper in. Instead, tear off some of the leaf and mash it up with your fingers until it begins to release a juice. Dabbing this onto the irritated area will help to soothe the stinging and calm the inflammation.
Dock leaves often grow near to nettles as they enjoy the same shady areas and cool, damp soil conditions. You can identify them with their wide, round leaves.
Image sourced: Travis
If your wanders often take you to the coast, you’ll be happy to hear that seaweed is another perfect plant for soothing cuts, scrapes, burns and rashes. The gelatinous texture of kelp allows it to cool irritated skin, and when bound tightly around a cut, can help to slow down or stop bleeding. Kelp is a naturally purifying plant which plays a large role in filtering toxins from the sea. In a similar way, it will work to keep any wounds clean until longer term medical supplies can be found.
Image sourced: Stu Phillips
If, on a long walk in the woods, you find yourself in need of a plaster for a cut finger, the birch polypore may offer everything you need. The birch polypore is in fact a fungus which can be found growing on the sides of birch or oak trees, and often resembles a wide, flat saucer sticking out to one side. The pliable, rubbery texture of the fungus makes it easy to shave a thin layer off using a knife. Then, simply wrap around the cut finger and tie firmly. As with all fungus though- make sure you’ve 100% identified it before handling it!tagsfirst aidforaginguseful plants