High summer approaches and holidays are just around the corner. Children, tired after a long term of exams, sports days and end-of-year activities, are beginning to thrill at the thought of freedom and expeditions. Adults have been plotting and planning the best vacation they have ever – EVER – had. Expectations are sky-high and beautiful!
And then as soon as you’re there, in the dreamed-of place, reality crashes in: maybe the kids are sick in the car; a bee chases Dad across the campsite and whaps him on the eyebrow; or Gran starts complaining that there are mozzies everywhere and she can’t sleep without the window being wide open. It is then that you might like to know that herbs can help. Taking some with you (read on!) is a very good idea but herbs being herbs you are quite likely to find useful ones right there, just when you need them, right next to you.
Car sickness you can prepare for quite simply. Studies have shown that ginger is about the best at stemming nausea and it’s readily available at supermarkets and grocers’ shops. The National Institute for Medical Herbalists* suggests grating a couple of tablespoons of ginger root (with the skin on because the most active part – the essential oils – are located just beneath the skin) into half a litre of organic apple juice and adding the juice of an organic lemon. Drink about half before setting off and keep the remainder in a Thermos flask to sip on the journey.
Now comes the sting: what is it about bees that they want to chase men rather than women? Or maybe that’s just the magnetism of my man. And boys. Anyway, moving quickly away from that thought, bee stings are vile and very painful. You certainly don’t want to muddle up a bee sting and a wasp sting. They require opposing treatment. Bee stings are acid so need an alkaline neutralizer; wasp stings are alkaline so need an acid alleviator. So Bicarbonate of Soda for bees (does BSB help you to remember?) – make it into a paste with a bit of water and spread on once you have removed the sting with some tweezers. For wasps, dab vinegar or lemon juice straight onto the sting site. If the critter stings you in the mouth – most unpleasant indeed - eat some salt or suck on ice-cubes on the way to the hospital. By the by, both salt and vinegar are good for flea bites too – so maybe those crisps aren’t such a health hazard after all (no, sorry, bad joke).
On to Gran and the mozzies. Actually, Gran is right – who can stand mosquitos? Certainly not me: if there’s buzzing stabber within a 50-mile radius and I’m in the middle of a multitude of plumptious people it would find me and zap me so enthusiastically that I itch for the next fortnight. In seriously pesky places, it hasn’t been unknown for me to have 20 bites on one arm alone. They L-O-V-E me. Until I discovered that there are things which will put them off, dissuade them, discourage and disarm them – and those wonderful things are heaps of heaven-sent herbs.
Bugs don’t like mint, or lemon and garlic, or basil (this is beginning to sound like a rather delicious pasta recipe; maybe it’s no wonder that these are such popular Mediterranean ingredients!). But back to bugs and their bugbears: geranium, cedarwood, clove, thyme, rosemary and bog myrtle; and they rather eschew eucalyptus, citronella, juniper and lemongrass too, not to mention feverfew and lavender. So you could use a few drops of essential oil of any three or four of those in 150ml of witch hazel, decant into a spray bottle and spritz away. Oh and do take a jar of Soothing Salve it has a whole host of uses. It’s great for bites, itches and scratches, minor burns and swellings and works its magic in getting rid of headaches and persuading you - and the Little Ones - to relax too. A worthy holiday companion indeed. May your holidays be worthy of your dreams.
*National Institute for Medical Herbalists www.nimh.co.uk
Photo: Rothamsted Research