Backpackers need to be carrying a first aid kit on their travels, of some sort. As you are gathering supplies for your first aid kit, ask people who have already been to the area you are going. What problems did they run into? Be careful asking for advice on your travel first aid kit from too many health care professionals or you will end up carrying “a portable emergency room” that requires its own seat on the plane and is filled with “must have” items you’ll likely never use or things that require special training.
A good approach is to try and anticipate the medical issues you’ll likely run into, on your travels. Have some supplies ready for common ailments like diarrhea, sore muscles, fevers, urinary tract infections, fungal infections, cuts, wounds and scrapes and respiratory infections. Somethimes your hotel might be away from hospitals or being in alienated place with unfamiliar language.
Why learn about medicinal plants? Certainly, backpackers shouldn’t leave the first aid kit home, but it can be useful and interesting to know a few plant medicines too. Whether you are someday in a survival situation, or you just lost your first aid kit and have a terrible headache, wouldn’t it be nice to find relief nearby?
You can. There are many effective medicinal plants. Some are also dangerous, of course, just like synthetic medicines can be. I won’t discuss those here. This is a quick guide to a few safe plant medicines.
-Plants For Pain Relief:
Fill the bottom of a cup with shredded willow bark, and make a cup of tea with it. Let it steep for a few minutes before you drink it. The active ingredient is salicin, closely related to salicylic acid, which is used to make aspirin. You can also try chewing on a few balsam poplar buds.
Sap from “blisters” on balsam firs is a strong antiseptic. Pop the blisters on the trunks of young trees, and the sap will ooze out. You can spread it over cuts and small wounds to prevent infection. It is very sticky, however, and it will be difficult to wash off (at least it smells nice).
The crushed leaves of Saint John’s Wort can be used as an antiseptic dressing as well. I once put a wad of the mashed leaves on a nasty gash in my foot, replacing it occasionally, and the cut healed faster than I’ve ever seen a cut heal. St. Johnswort has anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties.
-Medicinal Plants For Diarrhea:
You can drink tea made from the roots of blackberries and their relatives to stop diarrhea. Just fill the bottom of the cup with the cleaned and shredded roots and pour boiling water over them. Let the mix steep for five minutes before drinking.
Oak bark and other barks containing tannin are also effective. I have also used the twigs to stop diarrhea when I was backpacking in Mexico. Make tea with a spoonful of the bark or chopped-up twigs. Tannins can be hard on the kidneys, so drink just one cup of tea, or use oak only if you don’t have other options.
You can relieve the itch from insect bites, sunburn, or plant poisoning rashes by applying a poultice of jewelweed (Impatiens biflora). I have seen a poison ivy rash cleared up overnight using the juice from jewelweed. It is also said to work on sunburn as well as aloe vera.
Make a tea of witch hazel leaves (Hamamelis virginiana), and you can use it for relief from insect bites, and sunburn. Witch Hazel used to be a common astringent that women used as a “tightening” face wash.
There are hundreds of wild medicinal plants that could be useful to hikers and backpackers. You don’t need to become an expert to benefit from them. Just learn to identify and use a few of the most widespread and safest ones.
That are some plants that can heal but there are not grow in every place in every country. Remember to check your condition before go travel and prepare yourself for a worse condition by pack your first aid kit and survival kit.
Some travelers opt for a pre-departure checkup. This is your choice, obviously a good bet if you are not feeling well before long term travel.
If you take a regular prescription medicine, make sure you have enough to cover you for your trip. Keep a copy of the prescription with the medicine so that you will not raise eyebrows with a load of pills coming through customs. Keep the pills in the original, labeled bottles if possible. If you wear contacts, take along your glasses and prescription as a backup in case you loose one. Many of the environments will be extremely dusty during the dry seasons, which will be a nightmare for contact lenses. You might want to see a dentist. Consider getting that sore tooth fixed in a developing country with a slow turning drill.
No one enjoys needles, and paying for those vaccinations with your own money adds even more insult! However most of the nasties you can get while traveling will last a lifetime, some will kill you sooner – get vaccinated!
Sometimes proof of a particular vaccination, such as yellow fever, is required before you will be allowed a visa into a country. This is especially true in South America and parts of Africa. Keeping good record of what you received and when can save you pain and money!
The good news is that most of the immunizations last for 5 or even 10 years, so this is something you have do not do too often
not to mention try to always bring a survival kit along with because anything can be happen without alarm. Lets prepare for the worse.