Alternative and Herbal Therapy
Alternative therapy in the context of my book and this site is not therapy prescribed by an osteopathic or allopathic physician—in other words, not by the usual medical system you have contact with throughout the grid.
It is not so “alternative” for many. Common household remedies that have stood the test of time are in this category. Some more ancient, yet probably effective, are also included. I am a traditional MD-type of doctor. I prefer proven, rigorously studied, outcome-based protocols to the case-study-influenced or historic, traditional healing folklore remedies, but there is a place for both when off the grid. Depending on the issue of being off the grid, or working after there is no grid, even the greatest achievements of big pharma will do us no good when their products are not available. Due to my many years of working in third-world countries and in remote wilderness situations, certainly off the grid in many regards, I have studied the best of the traditional remedies, and while I prefer many more proven methods, I list them throughout my book as alternative therapies when you are off the grid.
First, what can we bring with us from the grid? What is the most valuable? How do we obtain them?
With each item we must consider if we are doing a grab and go or staying put. If the former, can we reposition or stockpile items in a secure area, or is this not practical? What items are perishable, and do items have a realistic shelf-life?
To start this process, try to obtain the items in the Off-Grid Medical Kit. This section indicates that many are easily obtained over-the-counter medications and items, but some components of this kit are prescription—when used on humans. Some of these same items are available without prescriptions when purchased through pet stores for use on fish, for example.
While it seems it would be of interest to the reader to have a whole chapter devoted to alternative or folklore therapy, it would be of no real use except as a reassurance that the items you see being used are not something you need to consider beyond your normal provisioning. In other words, for the alternative therapies to be of potential use to you, they have got to be something you can improvise from stuff that is just lying around long after the grid is gone, items you did not consider beyond the normal necessities of life or knew that you could scrounge. In fact, herbal medicine is the earliest scrounging that humankind has endeavored, other than predator-killed carrion that prehumans scavenged.
Throughout my book and this site you will be advised when an item from the Off-Grid Medical Kit should be used and how to use it. Additionally, an alternative or field-expedient technique will be discussed to aid you during those moments when the support kit supplies are lacking.
The most compact kit will also be the one that contains both multifunctional and cross-functional components. This requires the minimal number of medications but provides in-depth coverage when a particular medication is consumed.
Taking the above into account, study the potential first aid material requirements, anticipate the most likely serious events that could conceivably occur, and tailor the kit to the medical skill level of the participants. Additional factors to consider are the weight, cost, bulk, and availability of components. Consider the number in the party, length of survival situation, degree of risk anticipated, and whether or not other people beyond those of the immediate party will be treated.
When companies design commercial kits, two additional factors must also be considered. One is what real estate agents call "curb appeal." It must look impressive at first glance. The other is to plan various price points to target different markets. These constraints give commercial kits a disadvantage over the kit you put together yourself.
Most injuries and conditions described in my book can be treated with very little in the way of kit components. But I have included here state-of-the-art items that would provide ideal treatment aid. As my book has been written for those who may be isolated without ready access to professional medical care, the treatments discussed go beyond normal first aid. The kit described in this chapter similarly goes beyond what would be considered a “first aid” kit, but the initial modules are easily usable under first aid conditions. The Off-Grid kit consists of 5 units: Topical Bandaging Module, Non-Rx Oral Medication Module, Rx Oral/Topical Medication Module, the Rx Injectable Medication Module, and the Rx Cardiac Medication Module. The Off-Grid kit is further divided with suggestions for components of a “bug-out bag,” items to carry in an emergency when needing to vacate your normal location, and for long-term stockage for your “settlement stock” with both one-year and five-year quantity suggestions.
As a minimum, the Topical Bandaging Module and Non-Rx Oral Medication Module will generally fulfill the vast majority of emergency treatment requirements. The prescription modules are designed for long-term and more advanced patient care. All items listed in the kit modules can be obtained without a prescription, except in the modules clearly marked "Rx."
All nonprescription medications have packaging that describes the official dosages and appropriate warnings or precautions concerning their use. Prescription medications usually have elaborate package inserts with this same information. When obtaining a prescription drug for your medical kit, request this insert from your physician or copy the information from the Physicians’ Desk Reference (PDR) or from the Tarascon Pharmacopoeia, which are available at libraries and even as smartphone apps.
All items should be obtained in stock bottles, which usually come in 90 or 100 count. Stock bottles of the items listed should last at least 5 to 10 years beyond their expiration date. Some medications listed are too expensive for a stock bottle or need to be ordered individually, such as the injection medications. Obtain what you can; having more than you require could prove useful if the grid collapses, as these items will be invaluable and might be useful in barter circumstances.
The quantities of all items can be split into minimal amounts that would be included in a bug-out bag lasting 2 to 3 weeks. Because the suggested list includes items with multifunctional capability (i .e ., the item can be used for more than one purpose) and items with cross-functional uses (i .e ., one purpose can be treated by several of the items), the quantities of items in the kit can be reduced. Cost is also a factor in recommending products. When significant treatments are required, such as implementing the use of antibiotics, the patient should be evacuated if possible. A patient with any injury, symptom, or infection that does not improve within 48 hours should be evacuated to definitive medical care. For those of you preparing for a situation where evacuation is unlikely or impossible, evaluate the stock requirements and plan accordingly.
Most medications will have an expiration date of 1 to 5 years from the date of purchase. The expiration dates have been calculated to guarantee the product will not have degraded more than 3% of the active ingredient. A study has reported than an evaluation of eight products stored in their original containers for 28 to 40 years past their expiration date retained greater than 90% of their potency. Storage affects shelf-life—generally heat and sunlight degrade products, but a study released in 2019 in Wilderness & Environmental Medicine evaluated a wide range of items that were stored in very unfavorable conditions over a year beyond expiration date and were found to have lost none of their potency.
Aspirin does degrade rather fast and will soon smell like vinegar, indicating it is losing potency. Epinephrine solution turns brown as it degrades into norepinephrine, which fortunately is an active metabolite but works to a lesser degree in treating anaphylaxis. Avoid capsules and choose tablets, since the former are very sensitive to heat and dampness. Liquids usually degrade faster than solids.
Brand names have been used to simplify spelling and product recognition or to minimize potential confusion between similar-sounding names and variations in generic names among American, Canadian, and British sources. Prepper blogs are a great avenue to find sourcing of many products that are otherwise available only via traditional physician prescriptions. Some items can be purchased from international, agricultural, or aquarium vendors. Always give the Internet a shot at it.
Alternative improvisation. Alternatives to the use of the medications listed below are outlined in the treatment discussions for various problems throughout my book. Alternatives to medical supplies are also discussed and are indicated by a check mark. Further, obtain the book Medicinal Plants of North America, 2nd edition, by Jim Meuninck, for a color-illustrated and concise book to help you identify an use herbal and plant remedies. See also my discussion on other useful references in The Preppers Medical Resource Bookshelf.