Herbal wisdom has developed throughout humanity’s existence. After herbs and homeopathics run their course, they leave the body’s systems stronger than they were before. This is a wonderful alternative to conventional over-the-counter drugs or prescription medicines that leave the body wiped out and more vulnerable to ailments. Of course there are times when stronger, more direct treatments are needed, but these situations can be prevented with early care using natural remedies. Having some basic natural medicines in your home, on hand for even the slightest hint of an ailment, allows you to be proactive and combat a problem when it is small and still manageable. Below are some alternative medicine basics to get your cabinet started, or to keep building on what you already have. They are gentle remedies for common non-emergent complaints. If your community has traditionally used different herbs for similar problems, opt for those local remedies over the ones listed here.
Some tips for buying and using natural remedies:
- Do your own research on each item before purchasing so that you are the expert making a fully informed choice.
- Buy organic herbs and remedies when possible, as organic soil yields healthier, more effective plants free of toxic pesticides.
- Take the amount indicated on the bottle or from your research.
- Effectiveness is enhanced when accompanied with great nutrition, invigorating exercise, sound sleep, and a joyful state of mind.
- Talk to your doctor, nurse, or midwife about these items if you are concerned about use.
HOMEOPATHIC ARNICA PELLETS
Arnica is a wonderful tool to reduce swelling and inflammation. It always seems that I am in need of arnica whenever it isn’t around. So keep it around! Arnica is safe for anyone, including pregnant mothers and babies. Make sure to avoid eating or drinking 20-30 minutes before and after taking the pellets orally!
Use for sore muscles, bruises, cuts, sprains/strains, or any inflammation.
Every household should have Echinacea. This plant is a powerful immune system booster. The polysaccharides and phytosterols in Echinacea activate macrophages which in turn combat bacteria, viruses, and any other type of infection. The herb also triggers natural killers (NK) cells, which do exactly what they sound like they do; take down bacteria, viruses, and infections.
Use Echinacea to your lower risk of catching colds or sicknesses, speed recovery of colds/flu/cough/strep throat, fight internal and external infection, reduce inflammation, speed wound healing, and battle growth of yeast.
NOTE: If Echinacea is taken over a long period of time, supplement Vitamin E, as it can deplete Vitamin E stores. Avoid Echinacea in the presence of an autoimmune disease or a chronic infection such as HIV/AIDS. Also avoid when trying to get pregnant.
AN HERBAL DEFENSE COMPLEX
This is a general term for a multi-herbal supplement that is geared towards boosting the immune system. An herbal complex could be taken regularly in the smallest dose to maintain wellness, or when needed to strengthen the immune system in the highest dose. These are great to have on hand to take at the first sign of colds, coughs, bacterial or viral infections, and more. Find them at a health food or natural store, or online. An immune supporting complex should contain:
- Vitamin C
- Propolis extract
GARLIC (FRESH OR TABLETS)
Garlic is a strong herb used around the world in cooking and natural medicine. It is well known for its cardiovascular benefits, such as lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, and lowering the risk of stroke and heart attack. It has many, many uses, as it increases the production of macrophages and thus possesses antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties.
Use to combat the common cold, cough, flu symptoms, infection, UTI, yeast infection, cancer, and diabetes.
NOTE: Raw garlic can cause heartburn and/or flatulence. Do not take if on blood thinners or about to have surgery.
Oregano oil is made from the leaves and flowers of the oregano herb. It has a strong smell and powerful antiviral, antioxidant, antiparasitic, antiallergenic, antibacterial, digestive properties. Some people take oregano oil regularly for the continuous benefits of it, as it provides many essential nutrients as well. However, taken in response to an ailment, oregano oil is a strong remedy. Be sure to purchase oil or capsules that are intended to take internally. Internal oil can be applied externally, but not the other way around.
Use oregano oil to fight any infection or internal ailment from a cold to a UTI, lessen allergies, aid digestion, and support aching joints. The oil can be applied to skin as a strong antifungal and antibacterial agent to combat eczema, warts, athlete’s foot, and more.
NOTE: Do not take if pregnant or intending to get pregnant. If you are allergic to oregano, avoid oregano oil.
Ginger could be one of the most widely used medicines in the world. It grows as an underground stem of the ginger plant (Zingiber officinale). Tea can be made from dried herbs or freshly grated ginger.
Ginger tea can be used for an aggravated stomach and bowels, allergies, indigestion, relieving chest and nasal congestion, nausea and vomiting, and cold/flu/strep throat.
NOTE: Pregnant women should limit ginger to 6 teaspoons per day. Individuals taking prescription medications to prevent blood clots should consult with their physician before taking ginger. Anyone suffering from gallstones should avoid large amounts of ginger.
TEA TREE OIL
Tea tree oil is made from the leaves of the tea tree, which grows to about 20 to 25 feet tall and is covered with paper-like bark. The tea tree loves swampy areas and is native to Australia. Tea tree oil is a wonderful antiseptic, antibacterial, and antifungal.
Use diluted as a gargle for sore throats, or for acne, combating dandruff, insect bites, boils, or fungal infections of the skin and nails.
NOTE: do not take internally! And do not take if allergic to celery or thyme.
ALOE GEL (OR FRESH ALOE PLANT)
Aloe is a light green succulent that can be grown almost anywhere. The arms of the plant hold a gel that is a wonderful healing remedy for skin ailments. It helps prevent infection, reduces pain, speeds recovery, and minimizes scarring.
Use aloe on burns, scrapes, cuts, eczema, psoriasis, insect bites, sunburns, frostbite, hemorrhoids, and for radiation exposure.
NOTE: If opting to buy aloe gel rather than keep a plant, be sure to buy good quality aloe, as some may be watered-down and containing very little aloe.
Chamomile is a wonderful all-around calming remedy. Chamomile, originally from Europe, is an herb that grows teeny flower heads with white petals and yellow centers. It is used for its antihistamine, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti- anxiety, and antispasmodic capabilities.
Drink chamomile for allergic reactions, anxiety, headaches, muscle pain, insomnia, IBS, morning sickness, and stress.
NOTE: When buying chamomile tea, choose only German chamomile and opt for the flower-only tea.
The willow tree can be found in North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. The bark is taken from young trees to use for pain relief. The compound in willow bark that relieves pain is similar to the developed synthetic one in aspirin, however, willow bark does cause the same negative side effects. It may not be as fast-acting as aspirin, but it remains in the system for a longer time. Willow bark can be taken in capsules, though other forms have been developed for certain purposes.
Use willow bark to relieve headaches and pain, fever, colds, and minor infections.
NOTE: Do not take willow bark and aspirin at the same time. The effectiveness of willow bark is improved with the presence of healthy gut bacteria. If pregnant, consult with your care provider before taking willow bark. Do not give to children under 16 with a viral infection. Willow bark is not recommended for consistent long-term use.
Ginseng is native to China, North Korea, and Siberia. It is labor intensive; it is harvested in the fall and is washed, steamed, and dried before it is used. It is an adaptogen, which means it enhances the body’s capabilities to tolerate stressors. It has many uses—it is an aphrodisiac, reduces pain, and can increase energy. Take it in a tea, tincture, or capsule.
Use it in your medicine cabinet for a hangover! It helps break to down alcohol in the body.
NOTE: Do not take ginseng if you are pregnant or nursing, and be sure to ask your doctor about interactions if you are on prescription medications.
BACH’S RESCUE REMEDY
Bach’s Rescue Remedy has been around since 1930 but has gained a lot of widespread legitimacy only recently after recent studies. It is an all-natural remedy made from flower essences used to provide relief from situational stress and anxiety. It comes in a small bottle and drops can be taken directly into the mouth or diluted in water.
Take for stress, anxiety, panic, worry, nightmares, impatience, and inability to focus due to racing thoughts. It can even be given to worried pets!
LAVENDER ESSENTIAL OIL
Lavender oil is a gorgeous remedy made from the flowers of the lavender herb that is native to the Mediterranean.
Use lavender essential oils to relieve headaches (apply to the forehead), soothe the body and mind of stress and anxiety (aromatherapy), and alleviate restlessness/insomnia.
NOTE: Lavender essential oil is not for internal use! Avoid using if pregnant or nursing. Not all families of lavender are calming, such as Spanish lavender. Try out a lavender oil to make sure it has a calming effect.
HEALING COMBINATIONS USING YOUR BASICS
For colds, coughs, flu, infections, etc.:
- Herbal Complex
- Oregano oil
- Ginger tea
- Lots of fluids!
Swelling, pain, soreness, and inflammation of the body:
- Homeopathic Arnica pellets
- Aloe vera gel
- White willow bark
- Lavender essential oil
- Chamomile tea
- Ginseng (especially if caused by alcohol!)
- Chamomile tea
- Oregano oil
Situational Stress and Anxiety:
- Bach’s Rescue Remedy
- Chamomile tea
- Lavender essential oil
Skin issues such as infection or fungal growth:
- Tea tree oil
- Oregano oil
Many of these remedies are great to have around because they have many uses. If you have an ailment or discomfort that requires different remedies, add them to your cabinet. Pretty soon you may find yourself seeking more and more herbs, oil, and homeopathics, and increasingly relying on them when you get sick. Enjoy exploring the fascinating world of natural medicine!