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  • Writer's pictureDr. Olivia Froehlich

Top 10 Items a Naturopathic Doctor Takes Camping

Camping could be THE ultimate naturopathic thing to do. It’s a chance to exercise… in nature... with friends and family… away from stressful things like traffic, work, and your email inbox. In an effort to make sure it’s exactly that, stress-free and totally naturopathic, here is a list of 10 things a naturopathic doctor brings camping:

1. Rescue medications!

Naturopathic principle fulfilled: PREVENTION

This probably doesn’t need to be said, but it is extremely important and one of the simplest ways to prevent a tragedy, so it couldn’t be left out. If you require a rescue medication such as an epipen, inhaler, or glucagon, bring it with you! You might also want to brief your camping buddies about how to help you use this on the (hopefully) rare occasion it’s needed to save your life.

2. Mineral sunscreen

Naturopathic principle fulfilled: PREVENTION and TREAT THE WHOLE PERSON

You should always consider your particular risk of exposure when choosing the proper sun protection for your trip. Below we’ve made a list of things that might help you in your decision between a chemical vs. mineral sunscreen. We even formatted it into a checklist.

Consumer Reports recommends California Kid's #Supersensitive Lotion SPF 30+ or Badger Active Natural Mineral Cream SPF 30 Unscented sunscreen for “natural,” aka mineral, sunscreens. Both got “good” scores in their testing, though did not exactly stack up to the chemical sunscreens tested.1

3. Essential oil based insect repellent

Naturopathic principle fulfilled: PREVENTION

N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide, also known as DEET, is and has been the gold standard for repelling insects. However, DEET has become controversial as there have been concerns of possibly neurotoxicity in humans.4,5 Furthermore, a study conducted comparing systemic absorption of chemical sunscreens applied alone, DEET applied alone, and both substances applied together found that the latter scenario increased systemic absorption of both products.3 Considering a camping trip, more often than not, insect repellent and sunscreen are being applied and worn together. This may persuade us to at least not combine DEET and chemical sunscreens.

Picaridin is a different chemical insect repellent. A 2018 review article found inconsistent data on picaridin vs. DEET efficacy, with trials showing picaridin superiority, DEET superiority, or no difference between picaridin and DEET.6 At this point, there has not been enough research to recommend picaridin over DEET. If you don’t want to spray or apply picaridin topically, there is camping clothing which is infused with picaridin. The clothing may come in contact with your skin and lead to unknown absorption, especially if you add that you'll be sweating which can further increase absorption, but it could be an option which combines sun protection AND insect repellent.

Topical essential oils are effective insect repellents and have been tested against many different insects, including mosquitoes and ticks.7,8 Everything from cinnamon, basil, lemon, eucalyptus, and clove, to many other less common essential oils, have been tested and show varying degrees of efficacy. Thujone eucalyptol and linalool, found in herbs such as sage, cinnamon, lavender and mint, bind to the same receptors in the insects as DEET.8 Furthermore, when looking for an essential oil product, look for one which also contains vanillin which has been found to “improve the longevity of EOs efficacy.”8,9 We checked... those don’t really exist for purchase at the time this blog is being written, but you may want to consider adding vanilla extract (which contains vanillin) to whatever essential oil repellent you purchase. The studies of vanillin showing increased longevity of essential oil repellency used 5% vanillin and there are currently vanilla oils on the market at 6% vanillin which should be comparable, though not what was tested, for transparency sake.9 Essential oils are powerful plant products, and while they confer benefits such as repellency, they can also become toxic when ingested or applied topically at high doses or repetitively at low doses. Keep this in mind when applying and using essential oils in any manner.

4. All-purpose healing salve

Naturopathic principle fulfilled: PREVENTION and THE HEALING POWER OF NATURE

Every naturopathic doctor will often be able to find certain herbs around them which will help them treat minor scrapes and injuries; however, most will be carrying some sort of all-purpose herbal salve. Some herbs to look for in your all-purpose salve include:

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale): supports inflammatory response and promotes wound healing

Calendula (Calendula officinalis): supports inflammatory response

Chickweed (Stellaria media): supports inflammatory response and decreases itch

St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum): supports inflammatory response, anti-microbial, and promotes wound healing

Plantain (Plantago major &/or lanceolata): supports inflammatory response and promotes wound healing

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium): supports inflammatory response, anti-microbial, and promotes wound healing

Additives which help product stability and longevity along with the healing process:

Beeswax: Serves as a film/barrier

Vitamin E: Supports wound healing

Vitamin A: Promotes collagen formation

Essential oils: Anti-microbial

5. Manuka honey

Naturopathic principle fulfilled: THE HEALING POWER OF NATURE

Manuka honey is also an effective wound healer, especially as a treatment for burns which may occur while camping.10 Furthermore, in vitro studies have shown it to have inhibitory effects on a strain of Giardia,11 and while this is preliminary research, it wouldn’t hurt to have it on hand just in case you’re planning on going camping for a long period of time and may contract Giardia before leaving the wilderness.

6. St. John’s wort oil

Naturopathic principle fulfilled: THE HEALING POWER OF NATURE

Usually St. John’s wort is mentioned in the context of treating depression; however, there are many topical and dermatological uses of St. John’s wort as well. You may have noticed it in the list of herbs for the all-purpose salve above. Naturopathic doctors will include a separate small container of St. John’s wort oil for the treatment of sunburns, cuts, and ulcers.12

7. Homeopathic arnica

Naturopathic principle fulfilled: THE HEALING POWER OF NATURE

Homeopathic arnica is useful for all types of soreness--muscles, strains, sprains, and bruises that may come along after long days of hiking. Or perhaps you can use it after you bump your head on that low hanging branch which you didn’t see when you got out of the tent in the middle of the night to, you know, go. There are both oral and topical preparations of homeopathic arnica on the market. DO NOT use an internal preparation of arnica which is not homeopathic, this will be bad.

8. Magnesium malate

Naturopathic principle fulfilled: THE HEALING POWER OF NATURE

Not interested in homeopathic arnica for your sore muscles? Bring along some magnesium malate. Naturopathic doctors use magnesium malate to combat muscle soreness as a result of lactic acid build up from prolonged anaerobic exercise (aka hiking for long periods of time). In addition to decreasing the accumulation of lactic acid in the blood and muscle during exercise, magnesium has also been found to increase the availability of glucose during exercise (this is good).13 It’s a win-win scenario.

9. Melatonin

Naturopathic principle fulfilled: PREVENTION

If you’ve ever had issues with sleep, you’ve probably already heard of and/or researched melatonin. If you haven’t had issues with sleep, you’ve probably already heard of and/or researched melatonin as well. Whether or not you have issues sleeping in your bed at home, with clean sheets, comfortable pillows, relatively controllable light and noise levels, you may have issues sleeping out in nature. Having some melatonin on hand could be supportive in getting you a good night’s sleep while camping. We wrote this as fulfilling the principle of “Prevention” because getting decent sleep will support a good mood and optimal physical function while you’re camping and hiking with your companions.

10. Electrolytes

Naturopathic principle fulfilled: PREVENTION

What even ARE electrolytes? Electrolytes are essential minerals like sodium, potassium, and calcium. These minerals serve critical roles in the body, and they naturally find their way outside of our bodies through sweat, spit, and going to the bathroom. With strenuous activities such as hiking and setting up camp, you're destined to lose more electrolytes than normal. With loss of electrolytes you may experience increased fatigue, muscle soreness, and dehydration. That's why NDs bring along some powder electrolytes as powder form is light and travel friendly!

11. BONUS... Leave the rest to nature!

Naturopathic principle fulfilled: THE HEALING POWER OF NATURE

One of naturopathic doctors' favorite principles is the healing power of nature, and camping is an opportunity for everyone to experience this principle in action! Main naturopathic modalities such as hydrotherapy and botanical medicine reign supreme. Pass a cold stream on your long walk? De-boot, de-sock, and stick those tootsies in the cold water! Besides the immediate cooling relief, submerging your feet in cold water for 30 seconds, removing them, and repeating three times is a sufficient hydrotherapy treatment to support circulation. You can do this for anything bumped, bruised, or injured as well. Twisted ankle? Submerge your foot up to mid-calf if you can.

Herbs such as plantain, yarrow (you’ll remember those from the list of all-purpose salve herbs above), pine resin, and old man’s beard, are quite common. You can use plantain for minor scrapes, twisted ankles, and even itchy bug bites. Yarrow is helpful for healing wounds and preventing infections of those wounds. Pine resin is also anti-microbial and its stickiness can be additionally helpful in creating a barrier and perhaps approximating the edges of a small, shallow wound. Old man’s beard, not quite an herb but a lichen, is also anti-microbial and can be used on small wounds.

Utilize these herbs by making a poultice either by manually grinding it with some water or by making a good old fashioned spit poultice by coarsely chewing the herb to make a slightly wet ball of herb. Before making a chew or spit poultice with an herb, make sure you’ve solidified your identification skills first. Pine resin need not be chewed or processed, just try to find the least contaminated sample to apply.


We hope you get out there and stay safe while doing it! Happy camping!


Dr. Olivia Froehlich ND


  1. Calvo, Trisha. "Shining a Light on 'Natural' Sunscreen." Consumer Reports, 18 May 2017,

  2. Calderone, Julia. “ The Truth About 'Reef Safe' Sunscreen.” Consumer Reports, 2 February 2019,

  3. Jocelyn, Rodriguez, and Maibach, Howard. "Percutaneous penetration and pharmacodynamics: Wash-in and wash-off of sunscreen and insect repellent." Journal of Dermatological Treatment, vol. 27, no. 1, 28 Sept. 2015.

  4. Swale, Daniel, and Jeffrey R. Bloomquist. "Is DEET a dangerous neurotoxicant?" Pest Manag Sci, vol. 75, 2019.

  5. Legeay, Samuel, et al. "Unusual modes of action of the repellent DEET in insects highlight some human side effects." European Journal of Pharmacology, vol. 825, 2018.

  6. Goodyer, Larry, and Steven Schofield. "Mosquito repellents for the traveller: does picaridin provide longer protection than DEET?" Journal of Travel Medicine, vol. 25, 2018.

  7. Benellia, Giovanni, and Roman Pavela. "Repellence of essential oils and selected compounds against ticks—A systematic review." Acta Tropica, vol. 179, 2018.

  8. Chellappandian, Muthiah, et al. "Botanical essential oils and uses as mosquitocides and repellents against dengue." Environment International, vol. 113, 2018.

  9. Auysawasdi, Nutthanun, et al. "Improving the effectiveness of three essential oils against Aedes aegypti (Linn.) and Anopheles dirus (Peyton and Harrison)." Parasitol Res, 2016.

  10. Burlando, Bruno, and Laura Cornara. "Honey in dermatology and skin care: a review." Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, vol. 12, 2013.

  11. Sinha, Shweta et al. “Comparative effect of manuka honey on anaerobic parasitic protozoans with standard drug therapy under in vitro conditions: A preliminary study.” Indian journal of pharmacology vol. 50,4 (2018): 197-203. doi:10.4103/ijp.IJP_227_18

  12. Wölfle, Ute, et al. "Topical Application of St. Johnʼs Wort (Hypericum perforatum)." Planta Med, vol. 80, 2014.

  13. Chen, Hsuan-Ying, et al. “Magnesium Enhances Exercise Performance via Increasing Glucose Availability in the Blood, Muscle, and Brain during Exercise.” PLoS ONE, vol. 9, no. 1, Jan. 2014, pp. 1–7. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0085486.


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