Dr. Aaron's Blog

Surviving Summer Critters and Scrapes – Naturally!

August 27, 2014 All by Aaron Van Gaver

With earlier sunsets and cooler evenings, it’s clear that the summer is winding down. However, despite the definite nip that has replaced the sweltering heat of July, there are still a couple weekends left of this season to trek up into the hills or set up camp alone the shores.   I fully intend to take advantage of this time – pull out my camping gear, pack up the car and take off to a remote corner of the province to enjoy all that nature has to offer.  Along with my tent, sleeping bag, and hiking boots, I will include a selection of herbal preparations to ward off ‘friendly’ mosquitoes and soothe blisters or cuts.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea Tree essential oil can be mixed with alcohol (such as vodka) and used as a mist to deter mosquitos and other bugs.  If you are not a fan of the smell of tea tree oil, lavender, eucalyptus, basil, and rosemary will also repel insects. If you feel like being creative, combine a few of your favourite fragrances.  

Cayenne Pepper

This will staunch bleeding of any kind – bleeding nose, or cuts and deeper wounds. Just sprinkle over the affected area and be careful not to touch it to your eyes. A liquid extract will also work, but is not necessary. I suggest picking up some in the spice isle of your nearest grocery store. 

Neem Oil or Cream

Neem is a great herb with many uses. Along with Aloe Vera, it can soothe sunburn. It can also be used for eczema, rashes and bites. It is antiviral and antifungal.  I find it useful for treating all matter of skin issues and don’t stray far from home without it.I highly recommend Neem Cream by Ferlow Botanicals. This preparation includes Aloe Vera and Vitamin E – both great additions for burns and other ailments. Gaia Garden carries an oil that will also work.


Recommended for insect bites, poison ivy or poison oak. This can be used as a poultice (used dried) or in ointment form.  


I do not recommend sampling river or lake water, but in the event you do, goldenseal will do the trick. It is also useful, as a ‘natural’ antibiotic, for viral or bacterial infections. It does not have the most pleasant taste, so I would recommend trying to find capsules or mix the powder with juice.


Garlic is a great herb with many uses. Aside from seasoning your food, with its antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal actions, it can be used for sore throats, earaches, and other infections. It can be used as an alternative to goldenseal in most cases.

Peppermint Essential Oil

If you are at all like me, you will not be amused to find a family of mice inhabiting your car or tent. To deter such unwelcome guests, I suggest ‘anointing’ your car trunk (anywhere there may be food) and edges of the tent with peppermint essential oil.  


Arnica is a great addition to your summer survival kit. As a topical gel or cream, it is my go-to for sprains, strains, bruises, and achy muscles.  Be careful not to use it on any open wounds.

Quercetin, Eyebright, & Stinging Nettle

There is nothing worse than seasonal allergies when trying to enjoy the outdoors. There are several herbal alternatives to pharmaceutical antihistamines available. However, if you are prone to environmental allergies, I do suggest including Benadryl in your kit along with some alternatives to try first.

Quercetin, not a herb, is a flavonoid found in some fruits, leaves, and grains acts as a natural anti-histamine. If you are someone who fears being stranded in a field of grass or pollen dripping flowers, I suggest picking up a bottle of quercetin to quell the itchy eyes and sneezing. It is best used before being exposed to the allergen as it will prevent the release of histamine.

Herbal alternatives such as eyebright and stinging nettle will also act as antihistamines to reduce secretions, treat itchy eyes, and quell sneezing.