Survival Medicine 101

by Daniel Skipper

It has been two weeks since you bugged out and everything was going good, or as well as you could have hoped given the situation, until you found yourself so sick you could hardly function. It’s at this very point, your survival status went from stable to critical and everything you do or fail to do from here forward will ultimately determine life or death.

It is vital you improve your health ASAP just so you can function and fend for yourself in order to maintain the basic essentials you need to survive. Any survival situation is going to be hard in itself but add to that the fact you may be sick or injured and it may have just gone from hard to nearly impossible. Luckily we have access to drugs today which work rapidly enough we can feel improvement in short time and this is important when you have to keep functioning in order to survive.

The secret is knowing what survival medicine really is, what medicines will work best for certain ailments, how to obtain certain medicines, and what to do when you have no medicine available. Survival medicine is more than just taking a pill though; it is being able to treat any ailment and/or injury in a survival aftercare scenario. Like any other aspect of prepping, survival medicine requires a little common sense, some forethought, and just a small amount of time spent utilizing practical research will pay huge dividends.

There is no aspect of survival which is not important and yet survival medicine seems to be more over-looked than nearly any other. When people begin to prepare for an emergency situation they learn quickly to stockpile a laundry list of items but only a small number of preppers actually consider ‘actual medicines’ a prepping essential. Most preppers make the common mistake of stocking up with emergency ‘first aid’ items and very few people consider adding medicines to their caches.

First aid training is certainly valuable and having the knowledge and supplies necessary to stop bleeding is important and very useful, however, even after the bleeding has stopped the treatment has to continue and this is where first aid ends and survival medicine begins. In a normal non-survival situation injury scenario we would stop the bleeding, treat for possible shock, stabilize the victim, and transport for emergency medical care. Of course, in an emergency or especially a SHTF scenario that will simply not be an option and we will be responsible for everything necessary to provide the best possible chance of recovery. Your knowledge of what ‘survival medicine’ actually is and having availability to absolute ‘medicinal’ necessities is an important tool in any prepping arsenal.

What is Survival Medicine?

In any situation we find ourselves in we need to be able evaluate and react accordingly and in a survival scenario it is pertinent we be able to diagnose injuries and illnesses and provide initial and long-term treatment to ourselves or others in our party. Survival medicine entails everything done from injury/illness discovery to end of treatment. First aid, wound/illness treatment and care, medicinal care, and aftercare are all part of survival medicine which will be necessary for a full and successful recovery.

Survival Medicine is such a very broad subject which consumes so many possible scenarios and treatment possibilities it only makes sense to know as much as you can and prepare as well as possible. Don’t allow yourself to be limited by the term ‘first aid’ and simply believe everything can be cured with a box of bandages and a bottle of aspirin. By all means we need to stockpile as much medical supplies as possible because there is no idea how long we may find ourselves bugged out and unable to find more.

Simply put, one first aid kit will not be enough. If you find you need a roll of gauze to properly bandage a wound, you will eventually need more than just one roll of gauze. Be sure to have a better than adequate supply of anything/everything first aid and you will put yourself in a better position of survival but the knowledge of proper wound/illness treatment and care is essential.

All the initial emergency first aid in the world is useless if a wound/illness goes unattended and proper care is not given. A simple scratch, sinus infection, or even a bruised foot can be as deadly as a severed artery if not properly diagnosed and cared for; it is vital to your survival to be prepared for anything which may arise and be able to treat everything which may have an adverse effect on your health.

Also, always be ready to think outside the normal box of what we consider to be modern medicine. For thousands and thousands of years humans have been treating illnesses and injuries without modern medicine so there are other non-typical ‘medicines’ or remedies available if you know where to look.

medical supplies on pantry shelves paper towels napkins tampons ziploc bags cough medicine gas relief etc
Medical supplies on pantry shelves: paper towels, napkins, tampons Ziploc bags, cough medicine, gas relief, and more

What Medicines do I Stockpile?

First, you need to inventory every medication you and/or your family members take on a daily basis. If you have HBP (high blood pressure) and take medication everyday then you would need that medicine in a bug out/survival situation. If you have a child with asthma then you would need that medicine available as well, and so forth. E

very medicine which every member of your family takes and is absolutely essential should be listed. When I say essential I mean medications which are absolutely necessary in order to live. If you are taking Wellbutrin to quit smoking you probably won’t need a six month supply or if your child takes medicine for ADHD so he can make better grades in school, well you might not need it. Medicines which are also essential are antibiotics like Penicillin and Amoxicillin for viral infections, and Bactrim which works well for bacterial infections.

There are also drugs like Doxycycline and Minocycline which work well for urinary tract and kidney infections. Of course, you should have a good supply of common household pain reliever/fever reducer like Tylenol or Aleve and also over the counter flu and cold medicines are good to include in any medical supply cache. Atropine is included in my cache because I have a son who is extremely allergic to wasp and bee stings so special attention should be given to those types of situations. I would suggest everybody include it simply because of its accessibility and affordability and is vital in the treatment of anaphylactic shock caused by accidental poisoning from ingestion or exposure to poisonous substances and this includes a number of poisonous plants, animals, and reptiles.

Outside of these medications, be sure to stock up on multivitamins to compensate for any vitamin deficiency your body may be suffering which you may not be aware of until it’s too late. Proper vitamin intake is an important part of sickness prevention because of their effect on the immune system so it is essential you have them in any emergency survival situation. Finally, make sure you have plenty of rubbing alcohol/antiseptic, hydrogen peroxide, triple antibiotic ointment, petroleum jelly, ear drops and eye drops.

Now you need to do the math and determine just how long you want to be sure you have meds should something happen. If you take a pill a day and you want a six month supply then of course you would have to have 180 pill count. So, if you take six pills a day you would need 1,080 pill count to cover you for six months. As you can see by now we are talking about a lot of medicine when you only consider what you have to take on a daily basis, add to that all the other medicines you might need or want to include and it is a task to accomplish based on availability and affordability. However, it can be completed.

Where Do I Find the Survival Medicines I Will Need?

Of course, if you have meds you take on a daily basis you probably only have just enough to finish out the prescription which was written. In order to have the pill count you need in an emergency survival situation you will likely have to get creative and talk to your doctor about increasing your prescription count.

I take a medication I absolutely can’t survive without and have a physician who actually understood where I was coming from when I explained to him about survival preparedness. He increased my prescription by double and in six months I had a six month supply of that drug available.

If a physician writes you a prescription they know you need to survive then they should also understand your concerns and will certainly try to resolve the issue if he/she can. Anything is available on the internet in this day and age so you can find your meds online but personally I don’t recommend it; unless you are absolutely sure the site can be trusted then avoid it. Through a little research, however, you can find websites who are legitimate and can supply your meds. Do whatever you have to do to find your meds now or die trying to find them later.

The best starting point in gathering the other essential survival medicines you need is in your medicine cabinet. Approximately ten years ago I cleaned out a medicine cabinet and filled a shoe box with half full pill bottles of antibiotics, allergy meds, sinus meds, and pain meds. Since then that shoe box is now five boot boxes filled with medicines.

You may be under a little more time crucial pressure about prepping and not have ten years to forage your medicine cabinet so you can also try picking up antibiotics and diuretics through other sources. One place I have found to be a great place to pick up large quantities of medications is the local county cooperative (aka feed store). In most areas the local co-op is the go to source for farmers and animal enthusiasts for their feed, tack, and yes medicines. In most cases, many of your co-ops supply both small and large quantities of animal medicines so the more you buy the better the deal.

There are certain Sulfa drugs which I have purchased to treat Salmonella strains in calves in both pill form and injectable; the same drugs are given to humans to treat the same bacteria. Be sure to read everything about the medicine on the flip-out before buying it; not all do but some injectable medicines for animals may also contain other drugs. Besides your local co-op you can also find medicines in some of your nationwide farm supply chain stores and pet stores, though they seem to be a little strict with policies regarding medications and availability.

There are very few drugs which are given to humans which are not also given to animals though the dosages may be somewhat higher and quantity is likely to be fewer. If you have a good relationship with your vet and he is fairly busy you can walk in and tell him you need an antibiotic for your dog and he will likely hand you a bottle with the dog’s name on it. Of course, you will certainly have to bring your dog in a few times before he will begin to treat you this way.

My vet literally told me he didn’t need to see my dog unless it was life or death or something which I couldn’t tend to myself. As long as he knew the dog was caught up on shots and heartworm treatment he had no problem ‘helping’ me treat my dog. Take into consideration a canine or feline will probably take less of a specific medication at a lower dosage so access to a high pill count may not be quickly attainable.

There are medication sources where you can find the medicines you need if you put in a little research and footwork. Also, you will pay half the price buying the animal version instead of the human version even though chemically it is the same drug. Take your time and do your homework and do whatever it takes within reason to find the survival medicine you will need to ensure success in any emergency survival situation.

What If I Don’t Have Any Medicine?

Don’t panic! First, take a deep breath and evaluate your situation, diagnose the symptoms, and then we will know what you need to do to treat the illness. Sure, it would be great if you had taken the time to prep properly and had thought to stock up on your medicines; unfortunately you have no medicines at all and you have been without almost a week.

The first few days it had been on your mind you were without meds but you had not really felt any different, but after five days without your meds you had begun to suddenly feel really ill. Of course, you had never been a week without meds so you had no idea what a hypertensive crisis would feel like until now; you had never experienced any of the normal symptoms associated with unmaintained HBP when it reaches crisis level.  With a very severe headache, severe anxiety, shortness of breath and a nosebleed you realized you were in dire need of medicine and if not soon you would be in an extremely life threatening situation.

Luckily for you, sometime in the past you had learned of a natural remedy which also works for HBP. You had never tried it because it was an old Native American remedy but you remembered it was from a plant called Hummingbird Blossom or Buck Brush. You remembered exactly what the plant looked like from the very unique hanging fragrant blooms and you had seen some earlier this morning as you were out looking around; realizing what it was, you picked the flowers and leaves and continued on your way.

Later you boiled some of the flowers and leaves and after steeping for about five minutes, you drank the tea you had made. In just a short time you began to feel better and your symptoms began to improve and a dangerous medical crisis had been diverted. Relieved form knowing you had found a medicine you needed you were free from the worry of not having your normal medication and able to focus on survival.

This is just an example of what is available to us if we simply study the Native American’s uses of certain plants and their healing properties. Not only is Hummingbird Blossom used in treatment of HBP, but the Cherokee also used it to treat cysts, fibroid tumors, inflammation, and mouth/throat problems. Present day research has concluded that this plant does indeed work greatly for treating high blood pressure and lymphatic blockages. Hummingbird Blossom is just one of hundreds of plants the Cherokee learned was essential to good health and extremely valuable treatment for certain illnesses.

If you know you are going to bug out to specific position then it is wise to do some field study in that area and inventory specific plants you have available to you. Research the plants and see if they are among the plants used in natural medicine by Native American tribes; you will be surprised at what you learn you have in your own backyard and amazed at how these plants were used to treat illnesses.

Knowing there is a medicine available for any illness in a survival scenario is extremely valuable and is key in your success; anything you can add to your prepping arsenal which greatly improves your chance of survival should be studied, understood, and utilized if needed. Study your bug out location, find and mark these plants if they are available and learn what they are used to treat and how to properly prepare them. When you are wet, cold, and running a 102 fever is not the time to be learning how to make a medicine through trial and error. Preparation is key in survival and essential in successfully treating illnesses for you and your family. Learning the following plants in your area may save your life.

Pull Out a Sticker aka (Greenbriar)

Full of vitamins and minerals, the leaves of the Greenbriar can be boiled and steeped to make a tea which assists in blood purification and urinary tract infections; modern researchers have also noted the positive affect the tea also has on arthritis. The leaves and bark can be boiled and mashed into an ointment which can be used in the treatment of minor cuts and burns. Note the roots of the Greenbriar are full of starch, the berries are very sweet, and like many other plants listed here may also be used as a food source.

mullein plantMullein

This plant was used by Native Americans because of its power to help treat asthma, chest congestion, and other respiratory issues. By burning the roots and leaves of Mullein and inhaling the smoke you can ease breathing and congestion problems by expanding the airways. Modern research has shown the Mullein has a soothing effect on mucous membranes. You can also boil the roots and leaves and use to soak feet, legs, hands, and arms to reduce swelling of painful joints. Because of these anti-inflammatory properties, it also assist in soothing painful and irritated skin and muscles. The flowers may also be boiled and steeped to make a tea which can be used as a mild sedative.

yarrow plantSquirrel Tail aka (Yarrow)

Known widely for its blood clotting properties, the fresh crushed leaves of the Yarrow can be applied to open wounds to stop bleeding. The juice extracted from the plant’s leaves and stems can be mixed with water and ingested to stop internal stomach and intestinal bleeding. The tea from the leaves was also used to help ensure proper digestion, correct abdominal issues and function, and kidney and gallbladder problems. Ointment made from the leaves and stems also help clear acne and works great for calming minor skin irritations such as itching, rashes, sunburn, and chapped skin.

roseJisdu Unigisdi (Wild Rose)

For thousands of years the rose and members of the rose family have been used for their natural healing abilities; the Wild rose was a particular favorite of the Cherokee. The fruit is a great source of vitamins and especially Vitamin C and is known as a great cold and flu remedy. The tea steeped from boiling rose hips would be used to stimulate bladder and kidney function. Tea made from petals can be sued to soothe a sore throat and tea steeped from the root of a wild rose can prove to help with diarrhea. The wild rose petals are a great food source and often used in jams, jellies, and preserves.

SumacQua lo ga (Sumac)

One of the most versatile plants when it comes to natural healing properties, the Sumac offers medicinal value from literally every part of the plant. Ripened berries can be made into a tasty beverage extremely rich in Vitamin C and the tea steeped from leaves is an outstanding fever reducer. Sumac leaves can be crushed and mashed into an ointment which aids in the relief of poison ivy and poison oak rash. Reports have been made pharmaceutical companies are developing drugs and supplements which will be used in lowering and maintaining cholesterol levels.

Big Stretch (Wild Ginger)

The Cherokee used the root of the wild ginger to make tea which was used to aid in digestion and other stomach related issues such as intestinal discomfort caused by gas, upset stomach, and colic. Another Native American tribe, the Meskwaki, use the crushed stems to steep and make drops which relieved earaches.


Besides what we know of the Blackberry as a delectable food source, it is also the oldest known Cherokee remedy for stomach aches. The root can be boiled and made into a tea which will help reduce swelling in joints and tissues. The root can be mashed and sweetened and used as a cough suppressant and also helps soothe a sore throat. The leaves of the Blackberry plant can be mashed and rubbed on gums to help stop bleeding; some say this can also be attained by simply chewing the leaves.

These are just a small number of what literally could be hundreds of plants in your area which have a legitimate benefit to you in an emergency and/or survival situation. As I noted earlier, many of these plants are multipurpose and can be used for medicinal purposes and as a food source as well as other uses.

Also take note I used the term plant throughout this article although many of these plants and others are considered to be herbs. When you begin to research natural remedies or Native American medicine be sure to look for information under a variety of search topics.

There is a near endless amount of information available on the internet on this subject so get in there and see what you can use to help ensure you are covered in the event of injury or illness in a survival situation.  Peterson’s Field Guides are a very helpful tool in the identification of plants in the field; they are available online and are well worth the cost. Get the guide, get out in the field around your bugout position, find these useful and valuable sources of natural medicines and learn how to use them.

In the scope of preparation and knowing ultimate survival literally depends on you and what you know, there is no excuse for dying because of lack of medicine; medicine is available if you know where to look, what it looks like, and how to use it.


The information in this article is provided “as is” and should not be mistaken for or be a substitute for medical advice. Always consult your physician before trying any of the advice presented on this page. Always seek the help of a professional when delivering a baby. Neither the autor nor or the company behind the website shall be held liable for any negative effects of you putting into practice the information in this article.

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7 thoughts on “Survival Medicine 101”

  1. Thank you for that info. However, except for a pet store, feed store etc the methods you describe for getting meds are more difficult than you imply.
    If you don’t have a personal relationship with your vet/doctor they (at least mine) won’t just write the prescription increase just like that. Wild stuff is good, but you aren’t going to find most of it in any urban environment. Heck, not even in more rural areas anymore. I continue to get what I can when i can, but it is never ending since expiration is a problem. Nonetheless a good reminder and starting point.

  2. Just for clarification, neither Penicillin nor Amoxicillin will treat viral infections. They are effective only against certain bacterial infections.

    • I appreciate the correction as I am by no means a medical professional and only as smart as people who let me know when I am mistaken. You are correct that the meds listed will not treat viral infections although they are sometimes still prescribed in conjuction with illnesses commonly associated with bacterial infections. In a bug out situation if you are running a fever and have a sore throat you may not have an idea if it is related to the flu you’ve had or it may be strep, so you cover your bases. Thanks again for the correction.

  3. Whoa this is a mine field to walk into… too many factors to cover. Though if I could add my 2 cents worth from decades of mountaineering in third world countries. Make sure you have plenty of antibiotics that cover all spectrums of infection both anaerobic and aerobic infections. Plus have a plan for what you will do if you have a terminal patient, a lethal dose of morphine is by far the most painless way with maybe some sedation also. I am surprised often that no bug out / prepper groups cover what to do if you have a terminal case to deal with. Just leave them behind? Knock them on the head with a rock? Just how are you going to handle this situation is worth some thought and research. Think about it if a fellow band member is critically injured that you are unable to treat what are you going to do. Great prepper tip if you or friends travel to countries where meds are available over the counter at pharmacies stock up!

  4. hummm, where’s any mention above of a Tourniquet, (2 is 1, 1 is none rule applies here) Medical Scissors, Kerlix, Coflex or Rubber Gloves that make up the basic Trauma Kit – if YOU don’t bring it, IT don’t get there……. and the information above will do no good – that’s 101 to me…………

    • Thanks for this helpful info. Is there a book that you’d recommend which contains detailed info to help locate & identify as well as dosing/measurement info? Thanks


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