I’ve spent a lot of years building my knowledge of natural remedies – and I’m still learning, but I am so glad I made the effort to acquire a basic understanding of how to apply natural substances to the goal of helping people in my family to feel well again when they are not feeling good.
It is a good idea to replace items every so often to make certain the contents have not spoiled or gone rancid (such as olive oil or sesame oil), or lost their potency. But for the most part, many of these items stay in my cupboard for months or years, and I don’t have to replace them very often.
Here are my “medicine cabinet” staples:
Activated charcoal – a natural detoxifier and remover of waste, charcoal is a substance that is used to carry out undesirable substances from the digestive tract. Make certain you find a variety that does not use petroleum as a base for the charcoal preparation and is considered “food grade” and comes from a source such as coconut or bamboo. Excellent to use when experiencing abdominal cramping, bloating, gas, upset stomach, or diarrhea. This supplement is normally effective when taken one to three times in a row, depending on the severity of the symptom. Baths – can also be used as poultice, compress or bath treatment for pain, infection, swelling, or detoxification purposes. We use Nature’s Way activated charcoal. Safe for children.
Aloe vera – aloe vera juice is great for digestion and immune system function and support, and can be taken daily between (at least two hours after) or ahead of meals. Take 1 to 2 ounces daily. It is also great for the skin (both externally and internally used) and is a good base in making homemade cosmetics (think deodorant, tooth cleaners, soaps, shampoos, etc.) A good brand available from the health food store is George’s. You can add your aloe vera juice to water (it basically tastes like water), juice, smoothies, or just drink it straight.
Apple cider vinegar – besides a great natural cleaning agent (dilute with water and use anywhere in your home), ACV is great as a daily supplement added to salads, water, or juice. When you are sick or have a cold or flu, it can be taken several times a day to add essential amino acid compounds and good bacteria to support your body and immune system. It is best to drink it with a straw, as repeated use of ACV can wear away the enamel on your teeth. I recommend raw apple cider vinegar that has not been processed nor pasteurized. Bragg’s is an excellent brand and contains the “mother”, a gelatinous substance formed during the final step of fermentation containing valuable minerals, enzymes, and nutrients.
Arnica – a perennial species belonging to the sunflower family, can be used for pain and bruising. It is a plant that has been shown in clinical settings to reduce inflammation by dilating blood vessels and capillaries to assist in transporting fluids and blood accumulations. In the cream form, apply it full strength topically (to the skin) to heal wounds and cuts, and reduce swelling. Its use internally should be avoided unless used in an official homeopathic herbal preparation where it is diluted down with guidance from a knowledgeable practitioner.
Castor oil - useful for detoxification (for liver and other organs), sore muscles, strains, sprains, or bruising, and PMS. It is a versatile, natural oil used for many different needs. Castor oil packs are widely recommended by practitioners for patients, and especially for complimentary care in cancer treatment. Castor oil packs are also used to shrink tumors and cysts, as applied directly to the affected area. Keep castor oil in the refrigerator when not in use. If it becomes cloudy or discolored, discard.
Use a small piece of fabric (wool or cotton flannel is best); cut a square, tripled or quadrupled over – can be as small as 4 x 4 inches or larger, depending on the area you are treating. Get a small dish (such as a casserole dish) and pour castor oil over the fabric and saturate, taking care not to get oil on other fabrics, upholstery, and clothing.
Get a water bottle and fill with hot water (not over 120 degrees). Apply fabric pack directly to skin and place the water bottle over the pack. You can use an old towel or t-shirt to make sure castor oil does not spread to your furniture or bed. The best time to do castor oil packs is in the evening before bed, and you should leave the pack on for 30 minutes to an hour. Try to remain quiet and in a resting state, without interruption.
Cayenne pepper – a great remedy for sore throats, colds, flus, and respiratory infections. It is rich in minerals and vitamins, and also a good digestive and cardiovascular aid. Great for digestive woes like bloating, gas, constipation, stomach cramping, allergies, poor circulation, chronic pain, headaches, and toothaches. It actually works to expand blood vessels to aid in carrying nutrients contained in pepper and other foods to the cells in your body. Cayenne can help stabilize blood sugar and cholesterol levels. It is also a powerful, natural detoxificant agent for the whole body. Dr. John R. Christopher’s (well-known herbalist) School of Natural Healing (book) and web site discusses many effective herbal remedies, including cayenne pepper.
To use cayenne pepper internally, add 1/4 to a 1/2 teaspoon to a cup of about 6 ounces or more of warm water. The mixture will be spicy, so use caution. Sip or drink as able until gone. For added detoxification benefit and taste, you can add some Grade B maple syrup and lemon juice. It can also be used topically to wounds or cuts. You can apply the pepper directly to the wound or use 1/4 cayenne in a home-made solution with salt water. Use a small amount of water and salt to make a paste and apply. If necessary, cover with bandages or gauze.
Coconut oil – a natural antifungal and antiviral oil that can kill yeast (it’s great for those experiencing candida), use on skin for body moisturizing, abrasions, sunburn, chapping or chaffing, cuts, bruises, scrapes, conditioner for hair, diaper rash, use in cooking as a healthy, medium chain triglyceride fat, and is also a great digestive aid and because of its caprylic acid content, can be used to help control candida issues – for use alone or with any meal.
Colloidal silver – this substance has many uses and can be taken internally as well as applied topically. We use silver mostly for cuts and wounds. It heals very fast. Just apply a small amount and cover with a bandage or gauze strip. Some people use it successfully as a nasal spray or in a neti pot preparation for sinus and respiratory issues and allergies. I have found it works best on cuts and wounds. We use Natural -Immunogenics Sovereign Silver.
Cranberry juice (unsweetened, concentrated) – this is a great juice to take every day for lymphatic health and detoxification. I use about 8 ounces to 64 ounces of filtered water and drink daily. If desired, you can add fresh squeezed lemon or orange juice to the mixture, and Stevia or raw honey if the natural tartness is too much. It’s great for kidney health and contains many trace minerals and vitamins. I enjoy mine straight.
Dental/tooth/gum -Tooth and Gums Tonic – an all-natural, highly concentrated preparation made from ecologically-produced and sustainably harvested wild herbs echinacea and gotu kola, and oils of peppermint, red thyme, cinnamon bark, eucalyptus and lavender. This is one of the only substances I have ever found that works on canker sores (even over lysine), and is great for a mouthwash or substitute for brushing your teeth if you find yourself without a toothbrush. As it is highly concentrated, only small amounts are needed for use at a time, and depending on how much you use it, a bottle could last for months. Tastes amazing! You must have a consent form faxed or mailed from a dentist prior to purchasing these products.
One of the best preventative measures I can think of for dental health for our family is to avoid grains. Some people question this (my parents insist on feeding my son these things when he is with them), but without fail when my son eats a lot of grains, he is sure to have terrible plaque build-up and gets frequent canker sores. We don’t eat a lot of processed grains in our home; most of what we consume is the soaked and sprouted grains, and they are eaten sparingly. On weekends we might have sprouted pancakes and during the week sometimes we eat sprouted toast. Rarely do I make hot cereals, even, anymore. But when we do, I soak them overnight, cook, and serve with lots of butter, milk or yogurt, homemade granola with sprouted nuts, and fruit.
Carrier oils – pressed from the fatty portion of a plant or food (such as nuts, kernels, and seeds) and are used with essential oils (see below). These oils do not impart their scent as strongly as essential oils. Used to carry and dilute stronger oils which alone can cause irritation or burning. Here are some examples of carrier oils: sweet almond, avocado, borage, apricot kernel, jojoba, hemp seed, sunflower, sesame, pecan, macadamia, olive, or coconut oil.
Carrier oils go rancid fairly quickly (except for coconut oil) and should be used up or replaced often. You can use approximately a 5 to 1 ratio of carrier to essential oil mixture for topical use on the skin, or follow the directions on the package. Therapeutic grade oils are the best quality to use.
Essential oils – are distilled from the bark, roots, and other aromatic components of botanicals, herbs, and plants. I use doterra therapeutic grade oils.
Here are some of the mixtures I use:
Digestion: ginger, peppermint, tarragon, fennel, anise, caraway, and coriander. When someone has an upset stomach, use a carrier oil and a few drops of these oils to massage gently into abdominal area and on the bottoms of the feet. You can also add a few drops to hot water and sip.
Respiratory/Allergies: eucalyptus, lavender, lemon, melaleuca, laurel leaf, and tea tree oil. Use a few drops in hot steam as aromatherapy (breathing preparation) or in a neti pot or saline spray wash with a home-made saline solution and/or add some of the contents of a probiotics capsule as well.
Headache/stress/tension: lavendar, lemon, peppermint, or melaleuca are all good oils to use – combined or alone. Use 2 – 3 drops essential oil to 3-4 drops carrier on a cotton ball and apply to affected area. We use essential oils on our foreheads and temples for headaches, which works quite well. Also make certain you a hydrated with filtered water that has minerals, or add some unsweetened cranberry juice to your water. Minerals are essential in staying hydrated.
Immune Boosting/Prevention of flus/colds, and other illnesses: wild orange, clove bud, rosemary, eucalyptus, and cinnamon. Dilute and use as a gargle for prevention or when you feel a cold, flu, or sore throat coming on. Dilute in spray bottles with purified water to clean doorknobs, floors, countertops, and other public-use surfaces. Use a few drops in an empty gelatin capsule for immune support.
Respiratory/sinus: Oil of oregano, one of the most powerful, natural antibiotics can be used for various issues like stomach upset, diarrhea, colds, flus, and respiratory or sinus infections. You can buy good quality wild, Mediterranean oregano from most health food stores. The preparation is often contained in a carrier mix such as olive oil. You can also mix your own saline at home with sea salt and filtered water and mix oil of oregano along with clove bud oil, bay leaf, and sage for use in a neti pot or a nasal spray in a bottle.
Another great way to clear congestion and mucous out of your sinus and nasal passages is to put a few drops of eucalyptus and tea tree oil on a cotton ball. Put the cotton ball in a clean, empty bottle such as an old vitamin or mineral supplement container. Plug one nostril at a time and breathe deeply from the bottle multiple times. Tea tree oil is a natural antifungal, antiseptic, and disinfectant and its fumes are powerful enough to ward off an infection in your respiratory tract if started quickly enough.
Taken orally, I just add the Oil of Oreganol P73 by North American Herb & Spice to filtered water (read bottle directions, usually no more than 3 -5 drops) and drink it down. It has a strong, spicy flavor. Use a slice of lemon to remove the taste in your mouth, if desired, afterward.Fermented cod liver oil – this is a food as well as a great remedy for colds, flus, and other illness. Although we take FCLO everyday, if someone in my family is sick, we load up on this important food which is packed with nutrients like Vitamins A and D. We use Green Pastures Blue Ice Royal.
Garlic – a great, natural antifungal, immune booster, and detoxifier. Eat raw (if you can stand it). Or, crush a few cloves of garlic and add to 4 cups water, bring to a boil and then sip. Garlic is good for infections – bacterial and viral. Also good for sinus infections and is good for digestion. Garlic oil is great mixed with other essential oils like eucalyptus, tea tree, and echinacea and a carrier oil (see above) for ear infections and stopped up ear canals.
Goldenseal root – this herb is a bitter tasting potent and used for aiding digestion, curing infections and inflammation, and can be purchased in powder form from the health food store. Although I have never used it for this purpose, it is apparently useful for canker sores and as an earwash as well, when added to warm water as a gargle or washing agent. It can also be applied topically to cuts, bruises, and infected areas of the skin. Because it is expensive and concentrated, you only need small amounts at a time when purchasing from the store, and it is wise to remember that a little goes a long way.
I have used it successfully for conjunctivitis. The preparation you can make for multiple uses (see above) is about a 1/4 teaspoon to about 16 ounces (half a quart) of boiling water, and then drained the powder out with a cheesecloth. The remaining “tea” can be used as a wash for the eyes, ears or skin, or to sip several times a day. The “tea” can develop mold sometimes within a day or two, and should be kept in the refrigerator and until discarded and then remade until the infection is gone.
Olive oil – use on your skin and body for moisturizing, eat on salads and light cooking (low temperature heat), and for oil pulling. Oil pulling is a useful way to detoxify your body and remove dangerous substances. Use 2 tablespoons of oil, first thing in the morning before eating, drinking, or brushing your teeth. Swish the oil in your mouth for 10 minutes and then spit out into a garbage can. Oil pulling should be done multiple times for maximum effect. Improves mouth or gum disease, chronic infections and many other health issues.
Probiotics - if you are a person who regularly eats fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, lacto-fermented vegetables, etc. you are probably getting a good supply of friendly bacteria from real food in your diet, which is essential to health. Sometimes though, we all need a boost. I keep therapeutic-grade probiotics in our house at all times, which we take daily, but also for when anyone is not feeling well – whether it’s a common cold, sore throat, flu, upset stomach, diarrhea, or anything else. Here are the brands we use: BioKult, Biotics Research, Prescript-Assist, Advanced Naturals. It is a good idea to switch brands every few months to ensure diversity of bacteria in the gut.
Good quality probiotics are essential to your health; it’s not a good idea to skimp on quality because the majority of products on the market do not actually contain the strains nor the numbers of bacteria shown on the label, contain genetically-modified material, and some products are made from toxic sources such as (gasp!), human bowel waste.
For sinus and upper respiratory infections or issues, break open a capsule and add some of the powder to your neti pot or to a sinus spray bottle. Read my testimony here of how I cured a serious sinus infection with probiotics in my neti pot.
Probiotics are safe for children to take. My son takes them every day of his life, and when he’s sick, I give him more. I can’t think of any instance where he has had an upset stomach or diarrhea and probiotics didn’t improve his condition.
Raw honey – Honey is a natural as a dietary supplement and as a topical application for infections, flus, and colds and supports digestion and immune function. Dissolve 1 tablespoon of raw honey in warm water with 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon or take straight several times daily for coughs, colds, and related ailments. You can also take raw honey and cinnamon with lemon in water as well for health.
Sesame oil – is useful for massaging into the skin and for oil pulling (see olive oil above) to remove impurities and toxins from the body.
Last but not least, my home medicine cabinet wouldn’t be nearly as effective without the fact that our kitchen is always stocked with plenty of nourishing, real food. Come take a peek and find out what our staples are – foods we rely on for continued health and well-being.