Ideally when we teach our CPR, BLS, First Aid courses, it is with the mindset that you are giving care very temporarily until EMS arrives or you can transport the person to a higher level of care. These critical moments can save a life and you are an integral part of this life saving system.
But what if you are hiking or there is a delay in getting care due to unprecedented circumstances? According to Charles Garcia, Director of the California School of Traditional Hispanic Herbalism, no one should rely solely on foraging for medicinal plants in an emergency but rather start off with a well stocked first aid kit. Foraging can be instrumental for delayed care and when that kit is deficient for one reason or another and I in future posts I will cover some things you may find in the wilderness to address emergency needs. But let's start with a couple of things that you can easily carry in your first aid kit all the time that cover a lot of ground.
As a review from the lay person's basic first aid course, you are instructed to apply direct pressure to a wound to try to stop bleeding. (If gloves are not available try using a barrier like a plastic bag.) For most wounds, this will suffice but if the bleeding goes through the bandage, continue to add bandages on top of the current one. If the bleeding is heavy or uncontrolled, it can become life threatening. Activating EMS if it is available is appropriate but we are here to discuss when they are not.
Two simple substances that you can put into your first aid kit are People's Paste and Cayenne Pepper. According to Lalitha Thomas of "Ten Essential Herbs" cayenne pepper can be sprinkled into wounds and cuts to help stop bleeding. After sprinkling on the wound, continue to hold direct pressure on the wound. Repeat sprinkling cayenne if and as needed. Surprisingly it normally does not sting. Cayenne can also be used internally to buy time for internal bleeding and can help treat shock. Not only does cayenne help the clotting factor but also helps balance the circulatory system and can assist in calming the person overall.
Infants to 3 years old: A few grains up to a tiny pinch of cayenne on the tongue or mixed with a small amount of liquid
Children 4 to 10: 1/8-1/4 tsp in a small amount of liquid used as needed
Children 11 to adult: 1/8-1/2 tsp or more dry or in 1/2 cup of liquid as needed.
Do not give liquids to someone who is unconscious! Place a little cayenne on the inside of the mouth. This is just buying you time and you still need to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
People's Paste is a blend of Slippery Elm powder, Oregon Grape Root powder, Myrrh Powder. Comfrey root powder can be added to the blend as needed. People's Paste touts a lot of uses but for this instance can help get excessive bleeding under control and encourage healthy blood clotting. It is highly antiseptic, has natural antibiotic properties and helps wounds heal. The only time we avoid using People's Paste initially is with a puncture wound.
People's Paste can be used by sprinkling the powder on the wound and then continuing to add direct pressure to the wound. Repeat as necessary. There is no need to wipe off the herbal powder as it will only encourage healing to take place. People's Paste can help treat many wounds and cuts past the initial emergency to encourage the healing process.
To purchase People's Paste:
DOGS: Cayenne is also used extensively for some animals including dogs. For instance, if they chip a claw far enough to bleed it can be very slow to clot. Using cayenne halts the bleeding. There is a special dog friendly version of People's Paste (K9 Paste) as all of the ingredients in PP are not suitable for dogs internal or external. We use K9 paste for internal gut support and external bleeding control.