Medicine Chest Essentials
Beyond Toothpaste and Bandaids; Must-haves for the alternative medicine chest
by Erin Geesaman
Local alternative health care providers share ideas on essentials to keep on hand.
Walking through the supplements aisle at a health foods store can be daunting—rows and rows of pills, tinctures, gels, salves, powders and liquids all promising better health. When putting together a non-toxic, natural medicine chest, where do you begin? I decided to ask several of our best local alternative health care providers to share their ideas on essential alternative remedies. Before reading their lists, remember a basic principle of most alternative health methods: One size does not fit all. Remedies beneficial to one person may be harmful to another. If you are interested in using these remedies, I recommend working with a practitioner to tailor the remedies to your unique constitution.
Store your remedies away from heat and moisture, and make sure they are somewhere you’ll remember to look when you need them!
Eastside Natural Health Clinic staff— This list combines the brainstorming efforts of Dr. Leslie Peterson, Dr. Uli Knorr (both doctors of naturopathic medicine) and their naturopathic/ acupuncturist resident, Dr. Rachel Burnett (Eastside Natural Health Clinic, Tel. 474-3684)
Epsom Salts—Epsom salts are essentially magnesium sulfate. Magnesium has antispasmodic properties and is very relaxing for the musculoskeletal system. They recommend two cups of epsom salts in a bath.
Traumeel Ointment—This scentless homeopathic cream is used to relieve muscle aches and inflammation.
Charcoal Capsules—Charcoal absorbs toxins in the digestive tract. Especially useful for diarrhea and food poisoning.
Neti Pot—Dr. Knorr likes to call this the “watering can for your nose.” An ancient ayurvedic remedy for cleansing the sinuses, you use a neti pot by adding a pinch of salt to warm water in the neti pot. Standing over the sink, you insert the spout into one nostril; tilting the head to the opposite side, you irrigate one nostril and sinus. The liquid will flow out the other nostril. Repeat to the other side, then blow out through both nostrils, eliminating whatever liquid remains. For congestion and for those with chronic sinusitis.
Homeopathic Arnica—For acute trauma, or muscle soreness. This oral remedy is also useful for micro-traumas and recovery after surgery.
Calendula-based Herbal Salve—Used on the skin for burns, sunburn, and children’s diaper rash. Reduces inflammation.
Echinacea Tincture—A great herb for immune support. Useful in the initial stages of a cold or flu or other infections. If you buy a premade tincture, you should feel a tingling in your throat when you take it—that will let you know it’s potent. The tincture in glycerine is useful for children as it’s a little sweeter. You can also use the tincture topically for infection or insect bites.
Vitamin C—For warding off colds and flu, use up to four grams per day. You’ll know you’ve had too much when the bowels are loose—then back off on the dosage a bit. For general use, 500-1000mg per day is good. In addition to supporting immune function, it can repair microtears in the collagen and also supports the adrenal glands. Humans are the only mammals that don’t produce their own Vitamin C.
Rescue Remedy—This is a combination of many Bach Flower Remedies. It’s good for shock, good for kids when they are beside themselves, good after a car accident or similar trauma. It calms the nervous system. It’s helpful with fear and is very grounding. It’s also safe to give to animals.
Aspirin or Acetaminophen—Aspirin is good for fevers and is anti-inflammatory. Acetaminophen (like Tylenol) is not as anti-inflammatory but is anti-pyretic (reduces fevers) and is good for treating pain.
Homeopathic Itch Ease—This topical remedy is great for insect bites.
Benadryl—This is good for those who have hypersensitivity reactions, like hives or other allergic responses. It’s anti-inflammatory, but it does make one drowsy.
Merry Lycett Harrison, herbalist and educator. (Millcreek Herbs. Tel. 466-1632. www.millcreekherbs.com)
Much of the information Merry shares here is drawn from a course she teaches, “The Herbal Medicine Chest.” She teaches courses on therapeutic uses of herbs, herb gardening, and leads herb trips in the wild.
Aloe Vera—Good for burns. If you buy a gel, try to get one without any alcohol. You can also cut one of the chubby leaves of the plant and put its gooey juice directly on the burn.
St. John’s Wort Oil—This is used topically for severe bruising. It helps to relieve pain. Also, I put a drop of this oil on my children’s splinters. Without ever having to use a needle, the oil works the splinter out.
Echinacea—This is used internally and topically as a tincture. It strengthens immunity and can be used topically to prevent infection in scratches and insect bites. It reduces swelling, itching and inflammation.
Calendula—An easy flower to grow—you can dry the heads and once they’re dried, warm them in oil. (I use very cheap olive oil which doesn’t have much flavor but holds well to heat.) It’s good for any skin roughness, diaper rash, dry and cracked skin, and is great for moisturizing eczema patches.
Herbal Teas: Teas are great because anyone can make them. Great for kids, adults and the elderly. They have great flavor, are nutritious and warming.
Chamomile. This gentle sedative really works. It’s good for wound-up kids. It is calming specifically to the digestive system, so it’s good for stomach upsets, but also for the whole mind and body.
Mint. This combines well with chamomile, but is also great on its own. It relieves colic, flatulence and nausea. Peppermint and spearmint are interchangeable. Mint, externally, can relieve itching and inflammation. You can rub mint leaves on insect bites. It’s a mild vasodilator and is warming, so it helps to sweat feers out. For elders, it brightens the mind. It’s very easy to grow.
Lemon Balm. This is another herb that’s very easy to grow in Utah. It has a wonderful flavor. Lemon balm relieves stressand is great for kids with anxiety and busy minds. Prescriptions antidepressants and sleeping pills can interfere with digestion. Lemon balm is a nice remedy to try before turning to pharmeceuticals.
Garlic—Garlic is ubiquitous—you can find it in any grocery store. It can help with inflammation, cure warts, eliminate nail fungus. It’s great in soups. You notice that garlic gets excreted through the lungs and the skin. It’s very good for clearing congested lungs. It lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It’s both antiviral and antibacterial.
Marshmallow Root—This herb soothes the digestive tract. As a tea, it gets rather mucilagenous. It’s good for scratchy irritation on the mucous membranes, sore throats, diarrhea, and ulcers.
Cranberry—For preventing urinary tract infections. It inhibits E. coli bacteria from adhering to the urethra. If you drink cranberry juice to treat a UTI, make sure it’s unsweetened or sweetened with fructose because sugars can exacerbate UTIs.
Cascara sagrada—For constipation. It’s a bark from a tree in Africa. It’s important to use this at night before going to bed.
Skullcap—To relieve central nervous system pain. It relieves menstrual cramps, helps with injury and muscle spasms.
Lavender—Use as essential oil or as flowers. I recommend keeping a bowl of lavender flowers at desk or workstation. You can rub a few flowers between your fingers to release the scent—it’s very relaxing. Lavender tea helps eliminate stress headaches.
Eucalyptus essential oil—This oil can disinfect a sick room. It’s great for relieving congestion.
Tea Tree oil—Use for infections on the skin. It’s also anti-fungal and can help eliminate nail fungus.
Dave Card, Certified Homeopath, Certified Nutritionist, Herbalist. (Dave’s Health and Nutrition Stores, Tel. 483-9024)
Blessed Thistle—This herb for women helps to regulate hormones for pre- and peri-menopausal women. It’s also a liver tonic for men and women.
Arsenicum Album—This homeopathic remedy is nontoxic. Homeopathics are safe even for pregnant and nursing women. They won’t interfere with prescription medication either. This particular remedy is the top remedy for food poisoning. It works in 5-10 minutes.
Cantharis—This homeopathic remedy is multipurpose—it’s made from the blister beetle. It relieves the sensation of burning, whether from a burn, sunburn or a burning urinary tract infection.
Arnica—This homeopathic remedy helps heal soft tissue injuries.
Peppermint tea—Relieves indigestion.
Chamomile tea—Soothes indigestion as well as sleeplessness. Very calming.
Cayenne pepper—Dr. Christopher said it will stop a heart attack. If you feel symptoms of a heart attack, mix 1 teaspoon in a cup of hot water—it will relieve symptoms after a minute. However, don’t be stupid. Take this while you call the paramedics. You can dip a cut finger in cayenne pepper and to stop the bleeding. If you cut yourself badly, it doesn’t hurt after the initial sting. You can also put 1/4 teaspoon in your socks in winter, and it will keep your feet warm.
Wellness Formula—This herbal tincture by Source Naturals is great for supporting the immune system and preventing and shortening colds and flus.
Cuprum metallicum—Another homeopathic remedy that relieves leg cramps, especially nighttime leg cramps.
Dr. Kory Branham, Doctor of Chiropractic and Applied Kinesiologist. (Tel. 268-8090)
Dr. Branham uses muscle testing to determine which is the most appropriate remedy for a given situation.
Golden seal and myrrh are best used for antibacterial purposes.
Echinacea and elderberry are useful for their antiviral purposes.
Garlic works in both antibacterial and antiviral ways and is easy to use.
Acidopholus supplements are useful for intestinal upsets. This works particularly well for treating yeast overgrowth or food poisoning.
Iodine solution is used often at my home as a topical antiseptic and a throat-rinse for sore throats.
Chlorophyll liquid (mixed in water) soothes the intestines, and interestingly, can stop a bloody nose.
Cayenne pepper is useful for treatment of hemmorhaging or bleeding. Cayenne can be taken orally, mixed with chlorophyll.
Vitamin C is useful for acute infections and for healing from trauma.
Bromelain, a pineapple enzyme, is really useful for bruising and trauma.
Acute homeopathic kit: You can purchase these premade, and they usually have at least 15 items in them.
Natalie Clausen, Licensed Acupuncturist and Herbalist. (Acupuncture Associates. Tel. 359-2705)
Yin Qiao—This Chinese herbal remedy is excellent for the common cold.
Vitamin C—as ascorbic acid or ester-C, which has bioflavonoids.
Calcium/magnesium—For relaxation of the muscular and nervous systems. It’s also useful to improve sleep. This mineral supplement can also be useful for muscle cramps—to treat or prevent them. It’s also useful as a support for heart health.
Arnica—Arnica is useful both as an oral remedy and as a topical cream. Great for muscle soreness and strain.
Homeopathic first aid kit—This has about 100 things in it! You can get these kits premade.
Echinacea—For immune support, particularly antiviral.
Beneficial flora—such as acidopholus and bifidus, to support the health of the digestive system.
Zinc—Zinc is a precursor to many neurotransmitters. For this reason, zinc is good for depression, ADD and anxiety. It is also helpful for respiratory congestion, it fights colds, and as it is used in many biochemical pathways, it helps the body to utilize other vitamins and minerals. u
Erin Geesaman is a yoga and meditation instructor who writes about health regularly for CATALYST.