Health and Expats: Alternative First Aid

by | Feb 17, 2022 | Global | 1 comment

Living in Ecuador, we are surrounded by an embarrassment of natural riches.  The endless choices can make you feel like you have been handed a magic wand or just bewildered. Just about anything can trigger those feelings in such a different environment, not the least of which is how you feel physically on any given day.

Pack extra meds

When you’ve plopped yourself down in the middle of a small Ecuadorian restaurant and you can’t pronounce anything on the menu (much less recognize what it is,)your stomach may be in for an adventure.

Pack those meds Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash
Pack those meds Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

This is true for much of life down here.  There are a lot of surprises…some pleasant, some not so much.

Something that bears repeating is to be sure to pack extra prescription meds if you require them and know their Spanish names.

This may seem obvious but it’s surprising how many people neglect this detail.
You may not find a CVS or Walgreens in your small neighborhood and the pharmacy may be closed for lunch or a holiday when you least expect it and need it most.
To support your system and prevent the traveling blues, it’s a good idea to know some alternatives ahead of time and which ones work for you.

Look up their Spanish names and if they are available.


Multi-faceted essential oils

A good lavender essential oil is at the top of the list. Essential oils get a lot of attention for good reason. They usually live up to their reputation as multi-faceted wonder substances.  Lavender is my go-to as it covers so many situations. It’s antiviral and antimicrobial.

It’s good for burns (ie. sunburns or small kitchen burns), bug bites and bug deterrents.  It is relaxing and will help with jet lag when you think nothing will help you sleep.

When flying, a small amount on your collar or your wrist will help offset the nasty canned air during the cold season. If you don’t like the smell you can put it on your feet. I use lavender oil on my feet before going through airport security because it creeps me out to walk on those floors without shoes.

Need for dilution

Plan on diluting the oils you use. This goes for any essential oil and is helpful if you have sensitive skin.  Otherwise, you will want to use a carrier oil like coconut oil.  Lavender is almost the only one I use “neat,” that is without diluting it.

Lemongrass is great for sore muscles.

Rosemary, according to Shakespeare, “that’s for remembrance.” He was right.  It will help keep you mentally sharp.

A little bottle of eucalyptus oil is better than a bottle of Vick’s Vap-o-Rub  (Is that stuff still around?) if you feel a cold coming on.

Grapefruit seed extract to purify

Keeping it pure Photo by Bruna Branco on Unsplash
Keeping it pure Photo by Bruna Branco on Unsplash

Another ‘don’t leave home without it’ item is grapefruit seed extract (GSE). Citricidal is a common brand.

I have not found this down here but I make sure I have a stash of it. It will purify your drinking water of microbes.

But just drinking water you’re not used to can be problematic. I should clarify that it won’t eliminate chemicals from the water.

This is primarily for parasites or other microbial contaminants.

A local solution is dragon’s blood or sangre de drago.  It also helps with a miserable stomach or other digestive issues.

I don’t think Montezuma got this far south but his revenge gets around.

Colloidal silver properties

Colloidal silver is also a good choice but is controversial.  I think it’s because it has been misused.  For many of us, too much is never enough.

I know I have gotten into trouble with that idea but not with colloidal silver.  I have used it to good effect topically and as a mouth rinse especially when I’m somewhere where the water isn’t potable. Unlike grapefruit seed extract, it’s tasteless and mild.  GSE is very powerful and potent.  Use with care according to the directions.

It's tea time Photo by Sebastian Sammer on Unsplash
It’s tea time Photo by Sebastian Sammer on Unsplash

Simple things like herb teas, which are effective and ubiquitous, are good to remember in a pinch.  For the strongest flavors and your favorites, bring your own.

Herbs and spices are not as strong in Ecuador so when you are using local brands, you might want to double up on the tea bags.

Chamomile is manzanilla.  Mint is menta.  Lemon verbena is cedron and is common. It helps with sore muscles if you’ve gotten ambitious with your hiking.

Enjoy these at home as you pack knowing you’ll be well equipped for your new adventures.

Have you discovered some local herbs that have helped you? Please share them with the rest of us.