Backcountry First Aid

Anything can happen in the Montana backcountry. When it does, homeopathic remedies can be welcome additions to the first aid kit: they're light, inexpensive, and effective when correctly administered. As a bonus, you can buy most of the components at health-food stores.

Blisters and Cuts
Calendula helps damaged skin heal and is anti-microbial. Find extracts of the flower in botanical salves and tinctures to clean and coat wounds before bandaging. For profuse bleeding, try applying yarrow (Achillea).

Arnica tends to be overprescribed, but is often given topically when shock, bleeding, or rapid bruising is occurring, especially when the person claims to be fine. Hypericum, usually in tablet form, is often used to treat injuries in areas with lots of nerve endings or injuries causing shooting upward pains such as tailbone injuries, back trauma, or crushed fingertips. Injuries that might call for Vipera often have intense throbbing pain that goes away when the injured part is held at heart level. Think of the sprained ankle that feels better when elevated or the smashed finger that must be held against the chest.

Twisted Ankles and Knees
For strains that feel worse with rest and initial movement, but improve with continual motion and heat, try Rhus Toxicodendron and Ruta Graveolens. Rhus Toxicodendron, which is also the remedy for poison ivy, is more common so give this one first. If the injured area is cold to the touch and feels better with cold applications, try the evergreen shrub Ledum. It's also useful for puncture wounds.

Bee Stings
First, remove the stinger. Then try Apis for swelling, redness, and itching, especially if the area feels better with cold applications and worse with heat or pressure. Note that this requires crushing a whole bee and mixing it into a water-and-alcohol base. Apis homeopathic remedies do not replace the need for an epi-pen if the victim is allergic to bee stings.

All of the these remedies can be given at a 30c dose. Dissolve three to five pellets under the tongue. Repeat every three hours if needed, but do not exceed three doses a day. Hopefully you can enjoy the great outdoors without incident, but it's always best to be prepared.

Lou Walters is a Naturopathic Physician at The Source Wellness Center in Bozeman. For more information visit