Easy everyday health solutions
Article first published in Alive Magazine
Salves? Essential oils? Herbs? Learn which natural remedies you should have on hand in your medicine cabinet.
A natural medicine chest can consist of an assortment of remedies such as herbal teas, essential oils, homeopathic remedies, salves, and supplements. They’re handy to have on hand in case of illness or injury, or for prevention of sickness.
Arnica (Arnica montana)
The active constituents of arnica stimulate and dilate the blood vessels near the surface of the skin. This in turn improves circulation to an injured area and promotes the healing of bruises, sprains, strains, muscular inflammation, aches, pains, rheumatic joint pain, inflammation from insect bites, and swelling due to fractures. Arnica can be used topically as a poultice, or in a cream or salve.
Note: arnica should not be taken internally except as a homeopathic preparation to help minimize bruising, pain, and trauma.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
Calendula cream, ointment, or salve is an effective topical treatment for wound healing and helping relieve skin inflammations and irritations such as rashes, cuts, itchy skin, abrasions, and insect bites.
Camomile (Matricaria chamomilla)
Camomile can be enjoyed in a fresh, mild tea or in a tincture. Because of its carminative properties, camomile relieves gas, heartburn, diarrhea, and/or mild gastrointestinal upset. Drinking the tea before bed will help you get a restful night’s sleep as it soothes the nervous system. Camomile is also used as a remedy for menstrual cramping. Topically, camomile can be used in a poultice, wash, oil, salve, or cream to help alleviate the inflammation of a wound or for achy, sore muscles.
Cayenne (Capsicum annuum)
Ask most chefs what they keep in the kitchen for cuts and most likely their answer will be cayenne pepper. Cayenne powder is a natural styptic and will work quickly to staunch the bleeding of a wound and start the healing process immediately. In ointment or cream form, cayenne offers relief for joint, muscle, nerve, and low back pain.
Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea)
If you feel a cold coming on, a popular herb used in traditional herbal medicine is echinacea. It can be used as a tincture or a tea to help combat infections, relieve cold symptoms, and support the respiratory system during a bout with the common cold. Research shows echinacea may slightly shorten the duration of a cold.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Ginger root is something that many people have on hand in the kitchen. It has been clinically shown to prevent and relieve nausea and vomiting. A fast and effective digestive aid, ginger root tea helps with indigestion, lack of appetite, and flatulence (gas). The tea is also effective as an expectorant to help with congestion from bronchitis, the common cold, and the flu.
Nettle (Urtica dioica)
Chlorophyll-rich nettle leaf is a tonic herb that strengthens and supports the whole body, specifically the digestive, respiratory, urinary, and glandular systems. Its antihistamine properties make it effective for symptoms of eczema and allergies such as sneezing and itchy, watery eyes. Nettle can relieve the inflammation of arthritis and gout, and soothe kidney irritations. It helps the kidneys and liver operate efficiently and is a mild laxative and diuretic. It can also be made into a nourishing tea infusion to treat anemia.
Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
Traditionally used as a herbal tea, it helps relieve nausea and vomiting. Enteric coated peppermint oil capsules that dissolve in the intestine may relieve abdominal pain, gas, and bloating associated with irritable bowel syndrome. Inhaling the essential oil of peppermint can help deflect an oncoming headache.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
Turmeric is an ancient culinary herb that is used in the kitchen for its flavour and for its multiple health benefits. Antioxidant-rich turmeric in capsule form may help cleanse and protect the liver, aid the digestive system, and relieve gas. Studies show turmeric helps with pain and inflammation when used orally or topically for wounds, cuts, burns, and skin irritations. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is used to help with pain associated with menstruation.
Willow (Salix alba)
Willow is nature’s pain reliever! White willow bark tincture or tea will help relieve headache or fever associated with the common cold. Its analgesic properties provide short-term relief of lower back pain when used topically as a poultice, oil, or cream; or it can be taken internally as a tea or tincture. Its anti-inflammatory properties also ease joint pain due to osteoarthritis.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Yarrow tea or tincture is an immune stimulant for fever, cold, flu, excess phlegm, sore throat, inflamed gums, or mouth infections. Although it tastes bitter, it aids digestion, lowers blood pressure, increases circulation, and stops topical bleeding immediately. This pain reliever is antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and clears wounds of infection. Yarrow helps reduce heavy menstrual flow, relieves pelvic congestion, reduces cramps, and cleanses the liver so hormones such as progesterone and estrogen are processed efficiently in the body.
Tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)
First aid in a bottle! Tea tree oil disinfects with its powerful antiseptic and immune-stimulating properties. It can be placed directly on cuts and scrapes to clean, disinfect, and reduce pain. Tea tree oil can be used for blisters, athlete’s foot, burns, cold sores, infected wounds, insect bites, rashes, and warts. It may be used directly on skin or with a carrier oil. Generally nontoxic and non-irritating, tea tree oil may cause skin irritation in sensitive individuals.
Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
Oil of oregano is taken orally to treat a variety of disorders, such as coughs, bronchitis, colds, flu, asthma, allergies, and intestinal parasites. As a topical oil, it can be used to treat a variety of skin conditions, including dandruff, acne, athlete’s foot, and psoriasis.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Lavender essential oil is an exceptional remedy to use on burns, cuts, and stings. Its healing and antiseptic properties stop pain and speed up the skin’s healing process. Its analgesic properties help soothe tired, sore muscles and relieve the inflammation of insect bites. Relaxing and balancing for both mind and body, this essential oil aids sleep and benefits the immune system. Avoid using it during the first trimester of pregnancy. Do not take orally.
Probiotics help support intestinal and gastrointestinal health by rebalancing the flora found in the gut. Generally, probiotics are recommended after a round of antibiotics to help bring back the good bacteria that help the digestive system operate at its optimum. Research has explored the benefits of probiotics for treatment of diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, intestinal infections, obesity, anxiety, depression, and brain functioning. Probiotics can be used to prevent and treat vaginal yeast infections, colds and flu, and eczema in children.
A well-rounded multivitamin/mineral supplement is good to have on hand if you feel you aren’t getting the nutrients you need from your food. A multivitamin will ensure you are getting your daily recommended nutrients to keep yourself nutritionally balanced.
Living in Canada, we need to supplement our vitamin D in the winter months, as the sun is not strong enough for us to produce vitamin D naturally in our bodies. Vitamin D3 helps in the development and maintenance of strong teeth and bones and helps with the absorption of calcium from our diet to help prevent osteoporosis. Several studies have found that adequate amounts of vitamin D may be associated with a lower risk of cancer, particularly breast and colorectal cancers.
An antioxidant, vitamin C is essential for the maintenance of good overall health. Vitamin C helps the body metabolize fats and proteins and is helpful in maintaining healthy bones, teeth, gums, and cartilage. If you have a wound that is healing slowly, try taking a vitamin C supplement to help speed up the natural healing process.
Before taking herbal or other supplements, always check with your health care practitioner, especially if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking medication or other types of supplements.
Natural first aid kit
When on the go this summer, whether camping or travelling, it’s a good idea to have a few essential remedies on hand. Stock your natural first aid kit with
- homeopathic arnica
- herbal healing ointment
- tea tree and lavender essential oils
- ginger tea or tincture
- camomile tea or tincture
- vitamin C lozenges
- heat-stable probiotics
Don’t forget to add some witch hazel for cleaning a wound and some bandages!