Ideas for an Herbal First Aid kit for the Washington DC March


A few people have recently asked me what first aid items they should bring to the January 21 march in DC.

Please note, I am non-partisan at this (or any) event. I am there to assist anyone who needs help and is willing to work with me.

I have a much more detailed handout here. It is geared for street medics, but has useful information for anyone wanting to use herbal medicine in first aid situations. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, just some ideas for folks to consider.
For most folks, you will only need a small fraction of the medicines and supplies below. I am including more information for those planning on treating a wider array of people, a large group one is traveling with, or practicing as street medic.

Most of these treatments are symptom relieving, since the march is only for one day. You are less likely to be treating infections, though you could offer support and advice.

People are often anxious and tired at these events having traveled a distance. All the excitement and people can induce anxiety and fatigue.

If you are going with a group of people ask to see if folks have the medicines they take regularly, such as inhalers or anti-depressants. If you are going to be helping others, it is important that you take care of yourself. Also, have the cell phone numbers of all the people you will be with in case you get separated.

If you are going to going to be part of any demonstrations outside from the march you may be arrested. If there is any chance you will be detained, have support people know of your intentions. They should be folks who do not intend to get arrested.

Police at the RNC in Cleveland.
Police at the RNC in Cleveland.

Fire Cider

A popular remedy at these events are the various kinds of ‘fire ciders’. These are a combination of spicy herbs (notably cayenne and other hot peppers) in a base of vinegar. People drink them to feel a sense of warmth. But one should not drink too much as they can cause flushing and sweating. This can drop body temperature without realizing it. Small amounts are okay, but avoid drinking enough to become too hot or sweaty.

First aid patches
First aid patches


  1. Red Cross/Street medic patch-If you are working as a street medic or with a large group where not everyone knows you, it is helpful to have some kind of identification to let them know you are there to help. It is important to note that occasionally street medics, who are easily identifiable, are arrested or detained by law enforcement. This is a part of any street medic training. If you not specifically doing this kind of work, it is very unlikely this would transpire.
  2. Snacks-one of the most helpful things you can bring are snacks for other people. People are often forgetful about bringing food and get caught up in the march where it is difficult to find any. Bring lightweight, easy to distribute foods such as ‘power’ or candy bars or dried fruit.
  3. Water-Especially in cold weather, people forget to bring water, but all the walking can dehydrate people. It is helpful to pass out bottles of water.

Preparations-Type of Medicines

  • To-go bottles-If you are going to give liquid medicines (tinctures, glycerites, etc.) you will need to have containers to put them in. Consider bringing along small plastic bottles with leak proof caps to give away medicines.
  • Labels-to write the ingredients of whatever you give people in the bottles.
  • Disposable Cups-to dispense liquid medicines and teas.
  • Water-to dilute the medicines and for cough syrups so they don’t stick to the cup.
  1. Capsules-easy to distribute
  2. Compresses, poultices and other external medicines-these can be difficult to apply when people are bundled up.
  3. Cough drops-similar to cough syrups but easier to distribute
  4. Cough syrups-herbs in a demulcent base these feel good on sore throats as people may be shouting and also useful for coughs.
  5. Glycerites-helpful alternative to tinctures
  6. Teas-difficult to carry around, but warm tea is a wonderful thing on a cold day. Consider having a wagon with a cooler to keep the tea warm and have disposable cups
  7. Tinctures-make sure to ask people if they have difficulty with alcohol before administering
  8. Vinegars-the base of ‘fire ciders’ and an alternative to tinctures
Water and paper cups to dispense medicines
Water and paper cups to dispense medicines


Small plastic to-go bottles and labels
Small plastic to-go bottles and labels

Common Health Issues and a Few Herbs for Each

This is a basic list of some health issues and a few herbal medicines to treat them. If you are traveling with a group, it is helpful to know which complications you are most likely to encounter. Do a little research on each of the medicines you plan on bringing to understand how to best employ them.
Note that most of these are single herbs, it can be helpful to make some combination medicines as well.

There are many more that could be added, but hopefully this offers some ideas. ‘Spp.’ indicates a number of species of the genus can be used

Water coolers to keep tea hot
Water coolers to keep tea hot
  1. Allergies
  • Eyebright (Euphrasia spp.)
  • Lobelia (Lobelia inflata)
  • Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia)
  1. Anxiety/Stress
  • Anemone (Anemone spp.)
  • Blue vervain (Verbena hastata)
  • Kava kava (Piper methysticum)
  • Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca)
  • Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)
  • Skullcap (Scutellaria spp.)
  • Johnswort (Hypericum perforatum)
  • Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
  1. Asthma
  • Lobelia (Lobelia inflata)
  1. Cold– One of the most common problems during winter demonstrations is people getting cold, which can lead to discomfort and other health issues.
  1. Cough
  • Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis)
  • Slippery elm (Ulmus fulva)
  • Thyme (Thymus spp.)
  • Wild cherry (Prunus serotina)
  1. Dehydration
  • Tea
  • Water
  1. Digestive disorders– depending on what the condition is, there are various medicines to take.
  • Activated charcoal-adsorb unwanted substances in the GI tract
  • Catnip (Nepeta cataria)-calming for an upset stomach
  • Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla)-calming for an upset stomach
  • Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)-GI inflammation
  • Oregon graperoot (Berberis spp.)-any type of GI infection
  • Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)-nausea
  • Wild yam (Dioscorea villosa)-GI cramps
  1. Exacerbations of pre-existing condition
  • The medicine depends on the symptoms
  1. Antiinflammatories
  • Arnica (Arnica spp.)
  • Licorice (Glycyrrhiza spp.)
  • Willow (Salix spp.)
  1. Panic attacks
  • Anemone (Anemone spp)
  • Lobelia (Lobelia inflata)
  • Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)
  1. Pain-various
  • Black haw (Viburnum prunifolium)-antispasmodic
  • Jamaican dogwood (Piscidia piscupula)-general pain remedy
  • Kava kava (Piper methysticum)-skeletal muscle relaxant and sedative
  • Pedicularis (Pedicularis spp)-skeletal muscle relaxant
  • Silk tassel (Garrya spp)-menstrual cramps
  • Skullcap (Scutellaria spp.)-general pain remedy and sedative
  • Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)-general pain remedy and sedative
  1. Sniffles, Runny nose
  • Gumweed (Grindelia spp)
  • Wolfberry (Lycium spp)
  • Yerba mansa (Anemopsis californica)
  1. Soft tissue injuries (sprains and strains)
  • Antiinflammatory herbs
  • Elastic bandage
  1. Sore throats
  • Licorice (Glycyrrhiza spp.)
  • Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis)
  • Osha (Ligusticum porteri)
  • Slippery elm (Ulmus fulva)

Non-Herbal Supplies

  1. Bandana-in case of gas or pepper spray
  2. Disposable gloves
  3. Goggles-in case of gas or pepper spray
  4. NSAIDs-for headaches or other inflammatory problems
Disposable gloves
Disposable gloves

Carrying Your Supplies

  1. Organization is important, especially if you expect to need medicines or supplies in a hurry.
  2. Have medicines organized in a way that works best for you. For instance you might have all pain remedies in one bag or the tinctures may be in alphabetical order.
  3. Don’t put too many medicines all together. Keep them in separate plastic bags in cases any spill.
  4. Remember, anything you are carrying can be confiscated if you are arrested. This is only likely if you are practicing as a street medic.


  • Black Cross Collective– very useful information, especially about tear gas and pepper spray
  • Paper Revolution, street medic guide-There is useful information on this site, especially the links to other street medic groups. I would avoid the information on this page about the Rainbow Gathering CALM first aid area, it is very dated (circa 1989).
  • com-I have a number of handouts covering different aspects of first aid and herbal medicine.
4 Responses to "Ideas for an Herbal First Aid kit for the Washington DC March"
  1. Thanks for this post, including the lists of herbs, for more than a couple got me thinking, wondering, and inspired. For example, lobelia in the allergies list, gave me pause. I considered allergic reactions when breath is involved… and wondered why I had never thought of using it in this way. Though, your thinking may go someplace else.

    I really need to get out to Ithaca one of these days.

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