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Plant based medicines for a healthy natural van life

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Two passionate Vanlife cooks and the creators of Vanlife Eats.

Many of us living van life like to be at one with nature and plant based diets are very common in the van life community but have you ever considered plant based medicine? 

To some people this may seem obscured and irresponsible not to lean on years of medicinal research to cure and prevent illness but it’s useful to know about the natural remedies that carried us through generations and generations of human evolution. 


By no means am I a doctor and if you are unwell you should see a medical professional. This guide is for reference to those interested in herbal remedies and myself or this website will not be held responsible or accounted for in any health complications you have or develop.

What are herbal remedies?

Herbal remedies are natural treatments for health improvements from a plant based source. Whilst available to purchase from health stores there are many herbs and plants that can be picked from nature’s garden.

Herbal remedies are often referred to as supplements as not to deter from scientific and conventional medical treatment and are advised as a boost to your prescribed treatment or health in general. This isn’t necessarily because of the effectiveness, so it’s definitely worth having some knowledge on natural remedies for healing and keeping healthy.

Why use natural remedies?

The aim of using natural remedies is to cleanse and return the body to a natural state so that it can heal itself. 

Sometimes for a healthy mind you may not feel the want to ingest a synthetic based drug. For example you feel a headache coming on so instead of taking paracetamol you could first try a herbal remedy such as a peppermint tea.

Perhaps you are having trouble sleeping and a valerian tea will help rest your mind.

Herbal medicine is a great first step to help you feel revitalised. Should any symptoms persist you should seek medical advice. 

The risks of herbal medicine

It is important to understand that some herbal remedies may counteract your prescribed medication so if you are being professionally prescribed medication of any kind then you must consult your doctor or health professional to see if and what herbal supplementation is ok to take.

Second to the risks of counteracting synthetic medicine there is also the risk of poisoning from misidentified plant consumption. Always use a reputable source such as a herbal specialist store to purchase your natural medicines.

Although herbs and plants used for natural medication are generally referred to as safe, there are many plants used for medicinal uses that are actually very toxic and consumed with the wrong dosage can cause poisoning. 

Many medicinal plants are banned within certain countries as they are considered to have a “drug” type effect. Picture a rainforest tribal ritual to clear the demons! 

Why herbal medicine for van life? 

Herbal medicine can of course be used by anyone in any scenario but I’ve brought this subject up to coincide with van life because of the common health risks that can occur with van life. 


Van life, as dream-like as some of us see it, it can actually put a strain on both your body and mind. It’s not always fresh ocean air and the sound of calming waves to send us to sleep!

It can be a restless night for many of us sleeping in a van from the anxiety of parking up at night and potentially getting a knock on the window from the police or even worse, getting a break-in from criminals. 

Lack of sleep can cause a whole variety of health problems such as fatigue, headaches, sickness and even depression. 


Whilst we are traveling in our vans, living the van life dream, many of us like to be as sustainable as we can with as little dependencies on the urban life as possible.

Having a knowledge of readily available resources is a great way to maintain this lifestyle.

You already have medication with you, you just need to know what common foods and local herbs have the desires medicinal effects.


Van life often takes us out into the wilderness and away from chemists and the most basic of stores and sometimes it’s just not easy to get out to to buy medication. 

Whether you are parked up in the middle of nowhere or on a hike up a mountain you never know when you might start to feel unwell, but it could be a huge trek to get to synthetic medication. 

You may well have food on-board that can help and often there are herbs, plants and flowers  that will potentially help with many ailments.

It’s good knowledge to have and it may well save you the hassle of venturing back to the city.


Let’s face it, you are on a van life adventure and you want to make the most of it. Feeling strong and energetic is essential to make the most of hikes, swims and activities. 

Keeping yourself topped up with vitamins and minerals is a good idea and a lot of this can be sourced from natural food. 

What are the best plant based medicines 

Here are our top 10 best healing herbs that fit with van life living that are safe and effective but don’t forget to talk with your doctor about any herbs or plant based medication you intend to take.


Ladies, this is a known herbal remedy for relieving PMS. It’s a highly researched herbal remedy for a variety of gynaecological disorders and breast pain. 

Whilst not necessarily easy to forage it is a great herbal supplement to have stocked if you suffer from these symptoms. 

Dosage: Capsules: Take 250–500 mg dried fruit once per day.

Tincture: Take 2–3 ml each morning.


This is a well established treatment for water infections. A couple of glasses of cranberry juice a day can help get the bladder functions and ease the pain. 

Juice: Drink ½-¾ cup twice per day.

Capsules: Take 300–500 mg concentrated juice extract 2 times per day.


Garlic is often used to treat common colds and ease sinus congestion. It’s also a great treatment in preventing travellers diarrhea and for lowering blood pressure. 

Eat 1-2 raw cloves daily when you have a cold or are suffering from diarrhea. Anything to help settle the suffering of that in your van right? 


This is a known treatment for nausea but studies have shown that ginger is also a very effective treatment for headaches and sinus congestion. 

Ginger capsules and ginger tea are easy to obtain and a great way to take the twinges away when you are feeling nauseous.

There are known potential drug interactions with ginger and other blood thinning supplements so be careful not to mix the two.


With the sound of the road, the worries of a night time disturbance or emotions of being alone, it can be hard to sleep whilst living van life. 

Valerian is native to Europe, Asia and North America and is common in all health shops and is used as a treatment for insomnia and anxiety. 

The most common way to supplement Valerian is in a tea or by taking root capsules. 


Native to South America this nutrient dense herbaceous plant has some super stress relieving properties. 

Maca has also shown to have positive effects with hormone balance as well as increasing energy and improving mood.

Probably not the most accessible plant to pick in the wild but taking Maca in a capsule form is a great way to help relieve some of the stresses you may be experiencing with Van Life. 

If you suffer from any thyroid problems you should avoid Maca and consult your doctor to see if it is safe to consume Maca.


Whilst often confused with Maca, Matcha is a completely different supplement altogether. 

Matcha is a form of green tea yet one cup of Matcha tea can boost all the benefits of 10 cups of regular green tea. 

Matcha is an antioxidant and will help you detox your body as well as improving your stamina and concentration levels.

One to two cups of Matcha tea a day is enough to give you a slow releasing energy boost throughout the day. 


Whilst the thought of touching nettles may seem off-putting and the thought of eating them just pure craziness, Nettles are actually packed with nutrients and have a variety of health benefits.

The antioxidant effects of consuming nettles are said to potentially help improve cell damage and aging related effects. 

Nettles have also had positive results in studies for reducing inflammation and reducing inflammatory hormones. 

Other positive studies in the benefits of consuming nettles include lowering blood pressure, arthritis relief and helping with hayfever. 

The sting is easily removed by heating or rubbing the leaf. 

A great way to get these benefits is to boil some nettles up for a nettle tea. 

Perfect for the active outdoorsy van lifer. 

Evening Primrose 

The oil of these little yellow flowers has been said to help relieve PMS, breast pains and improve skin conditions such as eczema.

Named “evening primrose” because the yellow flowers emerge as the sun goes down.

The plant is native to North America and grows in some parts of Europe and Asia. Although there are benefits to using the whole plant, the most effective part is the oil that is obtained from the seeds. 

The recommended dosage is to take evening primrose oil in capsule form.

Take 6-8g of evening primrose oil daily to treat and relieve eczema or skin disorders. Reduced the treatment to 2-4g for children.

Take 3-4g of oil daily for menstrual problems.

You may need to regularly take evening primrose oil for up to three months to see the benefits.


Often considered a weed and a very common plant that can be found in just about every field yet an incredible source of vitamins and minerals.

Dandelion greens can be eaten raw or cooked and are a great source of vitamins A, C and K. They also contain vitamin E, folate and vitamin Bs. They are also rich in iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium. 

The root of the plant can be dried and made into a nutritious tea that is high in carbohydrate inulin which is a form of fibre that helps with bacterial flora within your intestinal tract. 

Dandelions are a powerful antioxidant and a great medicine for lowering blood pressure and cholesterol as well as cleansing the liver and reducing stress. 

A powerful free medicine on your van doorstep! 

Dosage: Fresh dandelion root: 2 to 8 grams daily.

Dandelion root powder: 3 to 4 grams mixed with 150 milliliters of warm water.

Dandelion tea infusion: 1 tablespoon of chopped root mixed with 150 milliliters of hot water for 20 minutes.

Fresh root extract: 1 to 2 tablespoons daily.

Dried dandelion extract: 0.75 to 1.0 grams daily.

The flowers can be sprinkled on a salad to taste.


Whilst not all of these natural medicines are easily accessible in the wild, most health shops will be able to supply you with a supplement. 

If you regularly suffer from a particular ailment they do make a really good addition to your medicine box and a potential alternative to a synthetic drug. 

Keep healthy and enjoy van life with a clear and focused mind. ….I’m such a hippie! ?

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