Peta Stavelli looks at some compact and potent remedies to add to your RV arsenal
As long as I can remember, I’ve kept a bottle of lavender oil on hand to ward off coughs, colds and insect bites; to clean and heal wounds; to assist sleep and diminish anxiety; and simply because I love the intoxicating smell of this magical floral herb.
I’m also an absolute convert to the power of eucalyptus oil and the magical properties of manuka or kanuka oils. I believe this terrific triumvirate of essential oils should find a place in every RV. Add to these a high-grade UMF honey and some naturally-brewed apple cider vinegar and you’ll have a reinvigorated medicine cabinet and cleaning cupboard with so much power to the pottle you’ll be able to dispense with a whole lot of other bulky products.
For those who remain dubious about this call to the wild, permit me to help you feel the power.
Let us begin with lavender
Lavender oil has been around since the beginning of time, with references to its efficacy dating as far back as AD1. It can be used topically or as an inhalant and is antiseptic, antibacterial, antiviral, anti-fungal and a mild anti-inflamatory. It can be used for headaches, insomnia, anxiety, depression and stress; it will soothe minor burns, sunburn and help with the healing of scars, bruises, blisters, insect bites, spots and pimples. But wait, there’s more! Athlete’s foot, cuts, stings, skin rashes and menstrual cramps will run for the hills when threatened with lavender oil.
The oil was used in hospitals during World War I to disinfect floors and walls. Lavender oil is safe, cost effective and widely distilled from plants grown throughout New Zealand. No wonder it is the most commonly-used essential oil.
Manuka and kanuka oil
The humble tea tree is God’s gift to Godzone. The derivatives of Leptospermum scoparium (manuka) and Kunzea ericoides (kanuka) have so many uses as both medicines and cleaners it would be impossible to list them all in the available space, so let us begin by simply saying this miracle oil is antifungal, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, an antihistamine and hypoallergenic.
It can be used as a deodorant, insect repellent and general relaxant; it can be used as an inhalant to soothe and cleanse nasal passages and it can also be used to disinfect all surfaces. My mother swears by it as a cure-all and puts a drop on her tongue at the first sign of a sore throat.
It is so versatile that a New Zealand website offers an A to Z of its uses, while our cousins across the ditch are making a mint from manuka in all manner of personal and household products, from commercial-grade cleaners to toothpaste. And manuka oil has recently entered the pet parade with uses in animal care from injury to illness.
But just to put ‘our’ discovery in perspective, Maori used manuka (kahikatoa) gum as a type of therapeutic chewing gum and it was well a known as a remedy for colds and fever, stomach complaints and skin problems. Captain Cook was offered tea tree tea by East Cape Maori to ward off scurvy. And here’s one for the birds: kakariki parrots eat the leaves and bark and make a paste to apply to their feathers to repel parasites – so maybe we need to rethink the term ‘bird brains’? Eucalyptus oil
It would be unfair to exclude eucalyptus oil from the top three just because of trans-Tasman rivalry. It is one of the most beneficial distilled oils for use in alleviating the symptoms of colds and flu. And if that was its only attribute, I’d still recommend it.
But it is so much more. Eucalyptus oil is widely used in pharmaceutical products as an antiseptic and also in cleaning products. It is broadly acknowledged as an excellent repellant and an antiseptic for topical or industrial use.
Eucalyptus oil was discovered by the Australian aboriginals and later used extensively by the first colonists to disinfect their rustic settlements. Subsequently, industrial and pharmaceutical applications continue to expand and eucalyptus oil is currently found in lozenges, ointments and inhalants. It is a known decongestant and can be used as a vapour to treat bronchitis and (in common with manuka oil) will also stimulate the immune system. It is a fine liniment with both analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. Eucalyptus oil can be used for dental hygiene and in soaps, washing powders and dishwashing liquids.
For those looking for a magic potion, eucalyptus oil is eureka in a bottle. Good on ya, cobbers! It might be time we gave those Aussies a break.
Sweet and sour
While the above three distilled oils will cover most bases for alleviating illness and cleaning the RV, I’d add two more things to my mini-medicine kit: a good, strong high UMF manuka honey and naturally-brewed apple cider vinegar.
Although the use of honey as a medicine has been recorded throughout the history of man, the health-giving properties of UMF manuka honey were discovered at The University of Waikato by Dr Peter Molan, MBE. Subsequent extensive tests have confirmed its ability to cure previously unresponsive skin ailments, wounds, boils, burns and ulcers by providing an optimal warm, moist bacteria and germ-free environment for healing.
UMF (10+) manuka honey has proven to also be effective against a wide range of bacteria, including helicobacter pylori – the bacteria which causes most stomach ulcers; the wound-infecting bacteria staphylococcus aureus and streptococcus pyogenes, which causes sore throats.
And finally, even if you don’t embrace the health-giving properties of naturally-brewed apple cider vinegar as much as I do, you’ll use it on your salads. But before you relegate this ancient remedy to the food cupboard, consider this: it can help reduce the stiffness associated with arthritic conditions, lower the glycaemic index of carbohydrates, assist with digestion, break down fat, reduce swelling faster than ice, clear up candida and banish dandruff. It’s also great on salads!
So there you go. Next time you’re passing through a town, pop into the local farmers’ markets and stock up on some of these potent home-grown remedies.
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