There’s one plant that grows almost everywhere that you definitely should know about for your herbal medicine cabinet. It’s one of the first plants most people consider weeds that I learned to identify. I became interested in it because it was literally growing right outside my door in the lawn, right next to my sidewalk.

There’s an herb shop in my town where I go to get dried and fresh herbs to make my own preparations, and the shopkeeper called plantain “white man’s footprint.” It was called this by the Native Americans because it grows so well in disturbed soil, so wherever settlers traveled this plant followed them. I’ve heard other herbs called this name or variations of this name before, but this herb definitely fits the profile: plantain

This is a superb herb for your medicine cabinet. The scientific name of plantain is Plantago major. It’s a species of flowering plant in the plantain family Plantaginaceae and not to be confused with the banana-like fruits that are sometimes found in the grocery store. There are two common varieties of plantain, both very easy to identify:

Look for either or both variety of plantain growing along roads, fencelines and probably right in your own yard if it’s not a manicured lawn.

And if you’re ever not sure, an easy way to find plantain this time of year is by its distinctive flowers:

Uses of Plantain

Plantain is excellent to put on minor scrapes, burns, stings and bug bites. Simple tear off a leaf, chew it up and put the wad on your skin. It works very fast. My own son knows that when he gets a bug bite or a scrape he can find plantain and either ask me to put it on him or he can do it himself. Leave the wad on your skin for 15 to 20 minutes and you’ll see a noticeable improvement. Once when we were at the beach, I happened to notice plantain growing near where we were picnicking. I didn’t think much about it except to note that it was there. A half hour later my son had a bug bite on his knee so I asked him if he wanted plantain. He didn’t want me to chew it up this time (he is getting older after all!) so I used a rock and a little bit of sea water in a bowl and crushed it up to release the plant juices. If you don’t want to chew the leaves, crushing it works just fine too.

I also like to gather fresh plantain leaves and fill a jar with them. Then pour olive oil over the leaves and allow them to infuse the oil for 6 weeks. After that, you may use the plantain-infused olive oil as it is or use the oil in your own skin lotion or balm recipe. You can then put that on irritated skin to get the same benefits.

Eating Plantain Leaves
You can eat the small plantain leaves, but after they get bigger they don’t taste too good. And to be honest, in my opinion they don’t taste that good even when they’re young! But they are edible. So that makes plantain a very desirable plant to know. If you have a natural area in your yard and you find plantain growing, leave it alone. I predict it will become one of your favorite plants just as it is mine.

Here’s plantain growing in a median strip near a road in a bed with dandelions and other weeds. The plantain is the pointy weeds in the corner by the yellow. I’ve even seen it growing out of a bed of gravel. If you’re harvesting it to eat or to put on your skin, you might want to avoid these high-traffic areas and try to find a source of it where it hasn’t been sprayed with pesticides or road dust. But the point is, these plants grow literally everywhere.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I would handle a traumatic situation. I interviewed Tom Kaleta of Blue Force Gear last week about the company’s Micro Trauma Kit NOW! and why he thinks it’s so important to have these tools on hand to deal with the three most common battlefield injuries: airway injuries, lungs that won’t inflate, and massive bleeding. I’ve always carried a few Band-Aids and a basic first-aid kit in my car, but the need to be prepared for injuries goes well beyond that and I more fully understand that now.

While I’m pondering all this, the publication of Dave Canterbury’s new book, written with the help of Jason A. Hunt, “Bushcraft First Aid: A Field Guide to Wilderness Emergency Care,” is announced. I’ve reviewed Dave’s past two books for this site and I highly recommend them, with some reservations. They are focused on resources on the East Coast, and I’m on the West Coast, so some of the edible foods and tree species he mentions, for instance, are not common here. But beyond that, highly recommended. Read the reviews here:

“Bushcraft Field Guide to Trapping, Gathering & Cooking in the Wild”

“Advanced Bushcraft”

The new book is just what I needed to learn how to take the crucial first steps to being able to help my family or someone I come across who is in distress. Like Tom said in the interview, being able to be a “hero” by stopping someone with a gun who is shooting up a crowd is unlikely, but stumbling across a hiker with a broken leg or a car accident victim is much more likely, and I might actually be able to help them if I had any idea what to do, and the tools to do it with.

If you can, call for first-aid from medical professionals as soon as possible. But if you can’t, follow the procedures in the book using the items you will likely have in a well-planned wilderness bag or advanced first-aid kit. As usual, Dave covers the basics very well, such as remaining calm and being prepared in the first place with the right kind of gear (which he covers). He covers basic powers of observation that you’ll need if you come across an injury scene: see if you can figure out what happened based on situational clues, and making your assessment of the victim. He covers how to safely move a victim, and how to signal for help if you are in a remote area.

Moving into the treatment chapters, Dave covers how to stop bleeding, and how to close a wound using Gorilla Tape. If you don’t have a tourniquet, you can use a piece of rope or paracord and a stick. Gunshot wounds to various body parts and knife and axe wounds are all addressed. Blisters and burns (and trenchfoot) and broken bones are covered in two separate chapters. This isn’t a medical textbook, so Dave doesn’t cover how to set a broken bone. He assumes that you will be providing treatment and then evacuating the patient to get professional medical care as quickly as possible. But I definitely feel that I now have a better understanding of how to deal with broken bones, even a broken thigh bone, by making a traction splint from a walking stick.

Further chapters deal with bleeding and shock, including internal bleeding and heart attack. Chest injuries and breathing (and choking) are covered. He addresses seizures and stroke, and headaches (if you can find willow bark or mint, that can be used to help). Like I said, Dave does a great job of covering the basics. You might not think you need to learn how to do anything to treat a headache, but what about a skull fracture? Dave doesn’t recommend treating many abdominal injuries without professional help as things like open wounds where the intestines are falling out or hernias can be too severe. But Dave does give basic advice that helps you to figure out what to do, such as signs to look for that things are becoming so severe that you need expert help.

After reading this book, you’ll know how to help with allergies or anaphylactic shock. If the issue is too severe to be helped with a basic kit, as with insulin shock (related to diabetes) he will tell you to evacuate immediately. Some of you will want more detailed information about what you CAN do if you CAN’T evacuate, or if you’re dealing with a SHTF situation and there is no 911 to call. In those cases, or if you know you have someone near you with a life-threatening chronic illness such as diabetes, you will have to earn more on your own.

One of the things I really appreciated is that Dave includes medicinal plants along with eight pages of photos. The book ends with a rather lengthy section on plant medicine, which is something I highly recommend everyone learn more about. In particular, learn what plants are in your state, your town, and even in your own backyard. Once you start really observing plants, you will discover that many plants you pass by every day have edible and medicinal uses.

Dave covers things that you might think you already know about, like frostbite or altitude sickness and animal bites (ticks, snakes, spiders). His “real life scenarios” vignettes help you think through what you might do in a real life situation. And what’s great is that many of his observations help you understand a situation more deeply, even if it is something you think you are already familiar with. For instance, did you know that a cucumber smell in the wild means that a snake might be nearby? I didn’t know that before reading this book. Still, pretty much every scenario in the book ends with knowing when to evacuate, or just evacuating at the first possibility. This is not a book for end-of-the-world scenarios where there is no help and you are the medical professional. This is a what to do until you can get to help book.

While it would be helpful to read this book through from cover to cover, an ideal way to use this book would be to keep it in your boat, your hunting cabin, your home bookshelf, in the trunk of your car, and in your bug out bag (or at least photocopies or notes of important sections), so that wherever you are you’ll be able to reference this information.

I particularly find the section on creating my own first-aid kit to be valuable. It lists bandages and dressings, ointments and medications, and tools in a checklist format that can help you be prepared for many of the scenarios in this book. And following Dave’s 10 most important ‘C’s that you need to have will help a lot too:

  1. Cutting tool
  2. Combustion device (fire tools)
  3. Container
  4. Cordage
  5. Cover (blanket)
  6. Cotton material
  7. Candling device (light)
  8. Compass
  9. Cargo tape (duct tape)
  10. Combination tool (multi-tool like a Gerber)

Bushcraft First Aid: A Field Guide to Wilderness Emergency Care, by wilderness experts Dave Canterbury and Jason A. Hunt, publishes June 13, 2017 by Adams Media, a division of Simon & Schuster). I highly recommend this book as a go-to first-aid resource for anyone headed out into nature. Learn more about the book or pre-order it from Simon and Schuster for $17. The book is available in Trade paperback format ($17) or as an ebook for (12). It is 256 pages long.

Would you rather carry a trauma kit that you picked out yourself and made from drugstore purchases, or one that was developed by special request from Delta Force Special Operations? Yeah, that’s what we thought. Most people can put together a first-aid kit, but a trauma kit is a second-level skill.

“We got a special request to create a trauma kit that soldiers could have on them in the field that was small and low profile,” says Tom Kaleta, marketing director of Blue Force Gear. “Turns out the trauma kits they were carrying were larger and more obvious, so it singled the guys carrying them out as medics and they were being targeted for that reason on the battlefield. We wanted to do something to correct that problem.”

The Blue Force Gear team spent the next month sourcing the smallest size packaging for the contents needed inside the trauma kit. Everything is made in USA and is the highest quality available on the market. The kit itself is so small that when on the belt it can look like a cell phone or wallet– it does not look like a trauma kit — and it contains items to help with what experts in the field have determined are the top three most common serious injuries.

The Micro Trauma Kit NOW! is sold in several variations with or without medical supplies. The “filled” versions come in basic and advanced.

Here’s what the Basic Kit includes:
1) Hemostatic dressing for wound packing/clotting (1 included)
2) 4-inch Emergency Trauma Dressing (1 included)
3) 9-inch Medical Grade Easy Tape (6 included)
4) Tourni-Kwik Compression Tourniquet (1 included)
5) Heavy Duty Medical Gloves in tan (1 pair)

Here’s what the Advanced Kit includes:
1) QuickClot Combat Gauze
2) HyFin Vent Chest Seal (2 seals included)
3) Cleer Medical Trauma Bandage 4-inch Flat Pack
4) Decompression needle
5) Six 2-inch-x-9-inch Frog Tape
6) Size 28 Nasopharyngeal Airway
7) Heavy Duty Medical Gloves in tan (1 pair)

The three injuries this kit is designed to treat are tension pneumothorax, which is when air gets into the lungs and the lungs can no longer inflate. Massive hemorrhaging is the second. The kit’s 4-inch Israeli bandage combines sterile dressing with the application of pressure to a wound. Finally, injuries to the head, nose or throat which prevent breathing can be treated with the kit’s nasopharyngeal airway.

Kaleta says some people have complained that the BFG Micro Trauma Kit NOW! advanced version doesn’t have a tourniquet. That’s because of two reasons. “Most people have a tourniquet on them in other ways, in the rest of their gear,” he says. “My guy Travis Hall always has one around his waist as a belt. Also, we just couldn’t fit all of this gear into the pack and a tourniquet too.” So, always carry a tourniquet on you.

Kaleta urges everyone to learn how to use the contents of the Micro Trauma Kit NOW!. People probably don’t want to use an aspiration needle in someone’s chest if they’ve never learned how to do it but the goal of the Micro Trauma Kit NOW! is that everyone will be prepared to handle severe trauma if needed.

“You know, you may have your EDC knife and pistol on you at all times and that’s great, but the chances of you being able to stop a situation where someone is a real threat are pretty slim. But with everything that is going on in the world today the chances of you coming across an injured person and being able to help them survive is a greater possibility. Even if you don’t know how to use these items, there’s a good chance that someone around you will.”

Kaleta feels so strongly about having a trauma kit on him at all times now due to a hunting accident he witnessed a couple of years ago. A friend’s black powder rifle exploded, severely injuring his hand. “We didn’t have anything with us,” Kaleta says. “It took my friend 2 1/2 hours to get the help he really needed. We went from being worried that he might lose his hand to being worried that he might not make it at all. And that was a scary, helpless feeling to see your friend suffer and not have anything with you to help him.”

His friend ultimately was ok, but they weren’t on the battlefield, or even hunting in the wilderness. They were in a remote part of the guy’s own property, and they still experienced a potentially life-threatening situation. Kaleta also stresses that had his friend been alone and had a traditional trauma kit that only opened with a clasp, he might not have been able to undo it.

If you ever experience a trauma and you’re muddy and bloody, you want something that opens quickly and easily. “It’s fine to think about packing a kit and knowing how to open it and what’s in it and where everything is when you’re safe at home,” says Kaleta. “But when you’re traumatized adrenaline sets in and you don’t think clearly.”

This kit’s ball handles make it easy to deploy with one hand on either side. Furthermore, when it opens, it falls open with the contents easily arranged and visually laid out in front of you. The kit was constructed with care, so that everything has its place and you don’t have to search for things. The kit opens, falls open, and reveals its contents in an organized manner.

Another advantage to this kit’s construction is the super strong Ten-Speed military grade elastic. “This is the high-quality elastic we always use in construction of our gear,” Kaleta says. “This elastic is like wearing a scuba suit or lycra and tucking something inside that. It holds it that close to your body. If you’ve got guys on planes or in the field, you can’t have your kit getting caught on anything and with this elastic it stays in place.”

So, yes, you could put your own kit together if you wanted, but why would you? Kaleta doesn’t mind, though, if you put your own pack together or buy a less-expensive version from another company. “Just get one,” he says. “I would much rather have someone carry a kit, any kit, than not carry a kit. It doesn’t matter whose. The goal of the Micro Trauma Kit NOW! is to change the mindset of everyday carry to include trauma care and to help our boys on the battlefield stay safe.”

But just know, if you get the Blue Force Gear Micro Trauma Kit NOW!, you’re getting the best quality products that a company the size of Blue Force Gear, with more than a decade of connections in the industry, can put together. Learn more now, or purchase the filled kit at

Summertime means more people are out and about, including bringing their four-legged friends along. While the weather’s warm and the living is easy, as they say, there are more things out in the environment that can cause problems with animals. Protect your pet with pet first aid and have a pet first aid kit on hand when you’re out in the heat.

Take a pet first-aid course.

The American Red Cross offers pet first aid classes. Find one through your local chapter. In this class you can learn how to treat basic wounds in your animals, how to help if your pet is choking, how to identify signs of heatstroke, how to handle poison, and many other situations that can arise out of the blue that you may not be prepared for.

Items for your pet first aid kit. 

The Humane Society has a list of items it recommends to have on hand in a pet first aid kit. We can’t argue with any of its advice, and we’re giving a basic outline here, but the one item the Humane Society does not list in its kit that we think is important is a bag of treats! If you have to use tweezers or pliers to get something out of your pet’s paw,or if your best friend gets stung on the face and nose by a swarm of angry bees as happened to my dog once, that poor animal sure deserves a treat afterward, don’t you think? Keep a kit at home as well as in your car, and prepare a travel-friendly version if you’re going to be away from your usual stash of supplies.

Here are some items for your pet first aid kit.

Extra collar, ID tag and leash

You never know when you might lose one.

Vet information and medical records

Note your veterinarian’s name and number, and print out the medical records in case you have to go somewhere where they are not familiar with your animal. If you’re traveling somewhere, take a moment to look in advance to locate a vet’s office as well as an emergency clinic, just in case. No one wants to be camping or somewhere where there isn’t phone service and be stuck trying to figure out where you can take your dog in an emergency when you have no one to ask.

Basic First Aid Supplies

Think of the basic items that you would pack for a human first aid kit. Pack basic bandaging items such as gauze and tape, a thermometer and petroleum jelly for lubrication and disposable gloves, antiseptic soap or cleaning solution.


In case you need to open packaging, cut off a collar, or cut off something the animal has gotten into.


You can use these items to remove bee stinger or ticks. The pliers might be useful if the animal gets into something bigger than what you can handle with tweezers, such as a nail or splinter of some sort stuck in a paw or if he or she gets wrapped up in a tangled piece of wire. You never know what’s out there.

Allergy medication

Ask a veterinarian for supervision on what medication might be good to keep on hand for your particular pet. A vet must determine the correct dosage. My dog once was walking on a leash with me along a lakeshore when he accidentally stepped on an underground bee nest. Both he and I got stung repeatedly. He was really uncomfortable and I was scared! If I’d had something on hand to help him, he would have felt better a lot faster.

Calming medication

This is another one to get your veterinarian’s advice on. You may end up in a place with a severe thunderstorm that could scare your dog as much as fireworks do. Or, if there is a weather disaster or other unexpected event, you may be grateful to have the calming medication on hand until you can get somewhere safe. Wouldn’t hurt to have some calming medication on hand for humans too, now that I think about it!


It’s not a bad idea to make booties to protect your dog’s paws a part of your every day attire, but at any event, keep a pair in your kit in case of emergency. You may spontaneously end up somewhere with hot sand, hot pavement or other uncomfortable conditions. Humans wear shoes, so we don’t usually think much about the surface we’re walking on but dogs are directly in contact. Booties help protect their paws from any weather condition or terrain.

Baking soda

A baking soda and water paste can be applied to soothe skin conditions from bug bites to skunk spray. You can also sprinkle baking soda on your dog to give them a freshening dry bath if they’ve gotten into something and you can’t properly bathe them.

Plastic baggies

Because you never know when you’ll need to collect something you don’t want to handle with your bare hands.

An emergency chew toy

What if his favorite chew toy gets lost? Or you forget to bring it? This way you won’t have to worry about him chewing on your sneakers or the expensive hotel towels.

Particular needs for your pet

If your dog is diabetic, you might need to keep on hand some sugar syrup, for instance. Perhaps eye drops or nail clippers would get used in your household.

If someone is taking care of your pet while you’re away, make sure they know where you keep your first aid kit and your records. If you’re going away and you’re not taking your animals with you, inform your veterinarian who you have left in charge of your animals, just in case there happens to be an emergency visit. Don’t lose valuable time if the vet has to track you down to make sure they have approval to treat your pets.

What do you keep in your pet first aid kit? Let us know!

Summer has several dangers for pets that people may not think about. Like humans, dogs and cats get dehydrated and overheated. Providing adequate water and shade are a given, but what about the hidden dangers that summer poses for pets?

1 – Heat stroke. It’s not unprecedented for animals to suffer heat stroke, and there are several types of dogs that have an increased risk for this. Breeds with shorter noses like bulldogs, Boston terriers, and boxers aren’t able to cool themselves as efficiently as other breeds. Active breeds, such as the Labrador retriever, get so focused on their rigorous activities that they don’t stop long enough to cool off.

Dogs have an normal body temperature that is already slightly higher than that of humans–100 to 102.5 F. Their internal temperature can rapidly reach 109 F in the summer months. When this happens, dogs may develop multiple organ dysfunctions and it can be fatal. Signs of heat stroke include panting, excessive drooling, lack of urine, and rapid heart rate.

If your pet shows signs of a heat stroke, cool them down by putting them in a shaded water and offer cool water. Don’t force them to drink, but offer it. Place a fan directly on your pet and put water or wet towels over their neck, back, underarm area, and groin area. Whatever you do, don’t put ice or ice water on your pet because it can cause blood vessels to shrink and not effectively cool the inner body.

2 – Other animals or insects. This is another hidden danger of summer for pets. Bee stings, spider bites, and venomous snakebites aren’t unusual this time of year. A bad reaction can leave a dog with a swollen muzzle and an untreated wound can lead to necrosis of the skin.

If your dog gets a bee or insect sting, attempt removing a visible stinger by scraping it out of the skin with a credit card. A cool compress to the area with a mixture of baking soda and water will aid in neutralizing the venom.

Keep an eye out for your pet swiping its paw across its face, which could mean it has a bite or other irritation that you can’t see. If your animal’s face swells or your pet has difficulty breathing, seek a veterinarian’s help immediately. In the event of a snakebite, a veterinarian can administer an anti-venom shot.

The number of fleas and ticks greatly increase during the summer months. Be sure that your pet is receiving effective flea and tick prevention treatment.

3 – Sunburn. Even though pets are covered with fur, pets aren’t immune to sunburn, especially when the sun is exposed to areas of the animal that has minimal hair, such as the belly and tip of the nose.

For dogs, there are specific types of sunscreen made for them. Human sunscreen can be dangerous since it contains zinc, which is toxic if it’s swallowed.

4 – Burned paw pads. Cats and dogs have a hard time handling extreme temperatures. We walk around wearing shoes, so we don’t often notice the temperature of the surfaces we walk on. Dogs and cats, of course, are walking right on the heated surfaces with no protection. With the sun baking hard surfaces like asphalt and cement, it can be painful for pets to walk on. Add to that, the potential of chemicals or hazardous objects like glass shards presenting a problem during summer parties.

If you notice your pet is limping or stumbling, take it to a veterinarian for examination. Try keeping your dog or cat on the cooler grass instead of hot surfaces like asphalt and cement.

5 – Bacteria or algae in still water and puddles. A danger to pets during summer in stagnant water or puddles is a condition known as Giardiasis. It results from a parasite known as giardia lamblia found in still water areas. Giardiasis is an intestinal illness with symptoms of diarrhea, dehydration, and upset stomach. Some lakes and small bodies of water can develop a toxic algae in the summer months that is toxic to both humans and animals if consumed. Be aware of any health reports that may affect water near you.

6 – Leptospirosis is another danger to pets as well as humans. It’s a bacterial infection that can affect many animals, including dogs. It may cause liver and kidney damage — and possibly organ failure. The Centers for Disease Control reveals that the occurrence of Leptospirosis is more commons in pets than it has been in the past. The bacteria that cause Leptospirosis are spread through the urine of infected animals, gets into water or soil and can survive there for weeks to months.

7 – Allergies. Animals are more likely to suffer from summertime seasonal allergies, which commonly cause ear infections and itchy skin. Dogs and cats can get hay fever like humans, but their symptoms are usually itchy skin and bad ear infections rather than sinus issues.

One way to treat ear infections is by cleaning the ears with a veterinary prescribed ear-cleaning solution once a month, or as recommended. The solution is meant to prevent wax buildup, which makes the infection worse. Refrain from using cotton swabs in your pet’s ears.

While you’re out having a good time this summer, keep an eye out for these hidden dangers, and keep your pet safe!

You could purchase one of many first aid medical kits on the market or you could build your own kit and be familiar with it. This is a good idea if there are special considerations as far as specific medicines you or your family requires.

4 Main Products for First-Aid Kit
Keep four main categories in mind as you create your first-aid kit. These will help you plan and guide you as you take inventory.

General Medical Supplies are the Foundation of Every First-Aid Kit.
These are supplies that are easy to find at any drugstore. They are handy for a variety of needs and are often re-usable and have a long shelf-life. They should form the foundation of your first-aid kit.

  • Include small tools like forceps, scissors, and tweezers. Make sure they are durable and easy to manipulate in the event of an emergency. Scissors that are able to cut clothes and seat belts are an excellent option as well.
  • Don’t forget protective materials like quality gloves, rubbing alcohol, a CPR breathing mask, and strong medical tape. These help you keep your distance from blood and other fluids that you don’t want to get on your skin.

Common Medications Make your First-Aid Kit Versatile and Effective. 

  • Pain medicines are absolutely crucial to keep in your first-aid kit. Common medicines like aspirin and ibuprofen can actually go very far to relieve pain associated with minor injuries.
  • Medicines that are effective against illness related symptoms like fever, diarrhea, and nausea are also essential. Include the common over-the-counter options and you’ll be able to make anyone in your group feel more comfortable.

Be Prepared for any Situation with Wound Care Items.
Cuts and scrapes are an inevitable result of time spent outdoors.

  • Band-aids and bandages of various sizes should be easy to find in your kit. Finding the sizes is the easy part. The challenge is keeping an updated inventory so you aren’t missing a bandage when you really need it.
  • Be sure to pair your bandage supply with items like gauze, trauma pads, medical tape, and antibiotic ointment. A bandage for a wound is only as effective as these other items. They help the bandage stay on and keep dirt, sweat, and bacteria out of the wound as it heals.

Prescription Medication
Doctors aren’t always able to give advance prescriptions, but if you have a long trip planned or know you won’t be able to visit the doctor for a certain period of time, they may be willing to work with you and your needs.


Once your first-aid kit is stocked, be aware of expiration dates, functions of the medications, and how much you have on-hand. Shelf-life of various items should be considered and replaced as necessary.

A wilderness survival first-aid kit is very different from the kit you keep at home.  Add these five items so that you’re better prepared for wilderness emergencies. The items aren’t expensive and don’t take up much space, so there is no excuse for not having them with you. Being trained and prepared for wilderness injuries is crucial to survival. Continue reading “Build a Wilderness Survival First Aid Kit” »