When it comes to staying well, prevention through a healthy lifestyle goes a long way. But we all know that despite our best efforts, we still catch cold, and get cuts, bruises, and the occasional headache. And if you’re me, get into a patch of poison ivy. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep your medicine cabinet stocked with some natural home remedies.
I’m not a health care professional. I’m a wife, a mom, and a grandmother who has faced lots of minor ailments over the years. Please use common sense when caring for your family. Home medicine can be very safe and effective, but educate yourself and know when to see your doctor.
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Coughs, Colds and Flu
Thymus Tap: Something I do on a daily basis is tap my thymus, a small gland located behind the sternum. Doing so helps to strengthen the immune system. If I’m around someone who is sick, or I feel a cold coming on, I double up on my efforts. Nine times out of ten, I can stop that cold in its tracks.
Occasionally, I still do get a cold, or even the flu. For those times, I like to keep a few herbals on hand to lessen the severity, and to relieve symptoms.
Elderberry Syrup: First on my list is elderberry syrup. It has been used for years in folk medicine for colds and flu, and in this study researchers found that patients with the flu who received elderberry extract were free of symptoms four days sooner than those who received a placebo.
During times that the cold and flu are going around, we take elderberry syrup daily. Otherwise, we take it when we are feeling run down, or feel that we are fighting a cold.
Fire Cider: Another amazing herbal to use in your fight against the cold and flu is fire cider. Fire cider is made using ingredients like raw apple cider vinegar, raw honey, horseradish root, ginger root, and a few other ingredients. It’s wicked stuff, guys, at least in my opinion, but it really does work to kick that cold to the curb.
Nasal Irrigation: Another very helpful natural way to help relieve nasal congestion that is soothing and moisturizing is to irrigate your sinuses with a saline solution. When mucus builds up in your nasal passages it can lead to infection.
Nasal irrigation helps to keeps your nasal passages clean. I personally find a neti pot difficult to use, but love the Neil Med Sinus Rinse Kit. It comes with everything you need to irrigate your sinuses, including complete instructions. The pre-measured packets contain just sodium chloride and sodium bicarbonate.
Salt Water: For a sore throat, it can be helpful to gargle with salt water. Mix 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt into a glass of warm water. This helps to reduce swelling and is antibacterial.
Herbal Teas: In addition, Traditional Medicinal has a line of herbal teas that are nice to keep on hand for cold care:
Coughs often go hand in hand with colds and may be treated with some of the same preparations. Something to calm your cough may be needed as well.
Mullein: Mullein leaf tea has anti-spasmodic, expectorant, sedative and astringent properties which can be helpful in treating coughs, bronchial congestion and chest colds.
Helpful Posts for Coughs, Cold and Flu
Earaches may be associated with the common cold, especially in children. But there are many other conditions which may cause earache from Swimmer’s ear to infection, or even dental problems.
The natural remedies for earache which I recommend are for minor conditions. Please use wisdom and see a health care professional if there is high fever, ear drainage, intense pain, or loss of hearing.
Warm Compress: To make a warm compress, soak a washcloth in warm water, wring, and hold over your ear. The warmth often relieves congestion and provides relief from pain. If a fever is present, you may use cold water instead.
Chiropractic Care: A Chiropractic adjustment can help the Eustachian tubes to drain, relieving pain in the process.
Elderberry Syrup: As mentioned in cold care above, elderberry helps to support the immune system, our first defense in fighting any infection.
Mullein Oil: A gently warmed mullein oil infusion can be quite effective in treating an earache. (Not for swimmer’s ear). If you prefer not to make your own ear drops, these organic Garlic Mullein Ear Drops are available.
Hydrogen Peroxide: Hydrogen peroxide can help to clean the ear canal and provide relief. While lying on your side, place several drops of 3% hydrogen peroxide (nothing stronger) in your ear. You may leave the drops in your ear for a minute or so, but if burning or stinging occur, it is time to drain. Have a dry washcloth ready, and turn your head so that the peroxide runs out onto the washcloth.
Helpful Posts for Earache
Aches and Pains
It seems that there are as many causes of pain as there are people. And even in the world of pharmaceutical drugs, no one pain medication can take care of all types of pain. But there are some amazingly effective natural treatments for pain out there for those willing to persevere.
Chiropractic, Massage, & Physical Therapy: Several years ago, I hurt my back gardening, resulting in a bulged disk. Since I was already a proponent of chiropractic care, I immediately began treatment. After several months of treatment with no relief, I began physical therapy treatment and massage, but again, I remained in pain.
My doctor began to discuss steroid shots and surgery. I decided to try another chiropractor who has a Cox table that is used to provide traction to the lower back where my bulged disk was located. For the first time in almost a year, I was getting relief from constant pain, and have now been pain-free for over a year.
All this to say that while I am a strong proponent of both chiropractic care and physical therapy, sometimes you have to find just the right practitioner with just the right style of treatment.
For times when my pain had a less serious cause, chiropractic adjustments virtually always provided relief. I’m a believer.
Ice or Heat?
Both ice and heat can be very effective in the treatment of pain. They are simple remedies that people often overlook.
I remember falling on ice and landing on my tailbone many years ago. I was sore and in pain and that evening, I took a hot bath hoping that it would relax the muscles and provide relief.
But instead, I ended up in more pain and the next day I called my chiropractor. He explained that I should have used ice since there was swelling (inflammation). Heat is generally reserved for muscle tightness. This post clearly explains when to use heat and when to use cold therapy.
Arnica: Arnica is an herb in the daisy family that reduces swelling and therefore eases the pain of cuts, bruises, sore muscles and sprains. It is for external use only and is most easily used by making it into a salve.
White Willow: Before there was aspirin, there was white willow. The bark of the willow has been used for centuries to reduce inflammation, relieve pain, and lower fevers. The active ingredient in willow is salicin. Aspirin is acetylsalicylic acid, the synthetic form of salicin.
You can find instructions for gathering and making your own willow bark medicine here, or it is available in capsule form here. If you are allergic to aspirin, please do not use willow for pain relief.
Anti Inflammatory Herbs: Pain is quite often associated with inflammation and therefore adding anti-inflammatory herbs to your protocol can be quite helpful. A few to try include turmeric, clove (traditionally used for toothache), capsaicin from hot peppers, ginger, and feverfew (many who get migraines swear by this herb).
I’m blessed in that I don’t get many headaches. Often when I do, it’s because I’ve allowed myself to get dehydrated. A few glasses of water will generally relieve the pain; adding a little sea salt to the water can be quite helpful. Lack of sleep can also cause headaches, so be sure you are getting enough rest.
For tension headaches, try Traditional Medicinal’s Cup of Calm Tea.
Helpful Posts for Aches, Pains, and Headaches
Seasonal and Environmental Allergies
The Neil Med Sinus Rinse Kit I mentioned under cold care is a must have for seasonal and environmental allergies. It does a wonderful job of removing pollen, dust, animal dander and other irritants from nasal passages helping to reduce symptoms.
Herbs for Seasonal Allergies: My two go-to herbs for seasonal allergies are pine needles and stinging nettle. Both are natural anti-histamines, and pine needles are decongestant and high in Vitamin C.
The pine needles are chopped and used to make tea. They may be used fresh, but I also keep dried needles on hand. The stinging nettle is also used for tea, and I often combine the pine needles and nettle.
Rootology’s product Breathe Free is also very effective. It’s 13 herb formula relieves congestion, runny nose, sneezing, itchy watery eyes, cough and headache associated with seasonal allergies.
Helpful Posts for Seasonal Allergies
Cuts and Bruises
For minor cuts, the first step is to clean the wound with soap and water, or hydrogen peroxide.
Yarrow: To stop bleeding use yarrow, a styptic herb. Fill the cut with yarrow powder and then cover with a bandage, if desired. The yarrow will also help to relieve pain. Yarrow may also be used to stop a nose bleed.
Ice: To reduce the swelling of a bruise, apply ice for 15 minutes several times a day, if necessary. Be careful not to damage the skin with overuse.
Many of the tips under the heading Aches and Pain above may also apply to cuts and bruises.
Drawing Salve: A drawing salve is used to remove splinters that are not easily removed with tweezers, or to heal boils. Pine Resin Salve acts as a drawing salve, or you might prefer an old fashioned Pine Tar Salve.
Helpful Posts for Cuts and Bruises
Rashes, Bites, and Skin Irritation
Sigh. So, I don’t walk out the door without getting a bite. It’s just part of life for me. Even though I definitely know what poison ivy looks like, I manage to get into some every now and then and, yes, I’m allergic. And this year alone I’ve had 5 imbedded ticks; we live in the NE where they are epidemic!
So much of my problem is that I know what to do to prevent bites and poison ivy, I just don’t always take the time to do so. I like to think it’s my enthusiastic personality that sees a plant I want to look at or harvest, and I just dive right in without examining the surrounding plants first. Or has an idea and rushes out the door without first applying herbal bug spray. Or more likely, just forgets.
Plantain Leaf: If I had to name one medicinal plant that I couldn’t do without, it would probably have to be plantain. This one does it all. It relieves the pain of insect and bee bites, and calms poison ivy and other rashes, including eczema. It soothes chapped lips, diaper rash, and even acne. (I even use it to brush my teeth!) I recommend making it into a healing balm and keeping it on hand at all times.
A few years ago, I gave my niece some of my Plantain Leaf Healing Balm to keep on hand for rashes and skin irritations. A friend of hers had a 3 year old with a rash on his back that would not go away. The doctor had prescribed a steroid lotion which did not help, and then antibiotics, which also did not touch the rash. She gave some of the balm to her friend hoping that it would at least give some temporary relief to the little guy. Lo and behold, it completely healed his rash. An amazing testimony for a weed that gets stepped on every day without ever being noticed.
Tea Tree or Plantain for Poison Ivy: I know more about this than I care to admit, but I’ve thankfully never had a major outbreak of poison ivy. I can generally nip it in the bud fairly quickly. The two main products that have been very helpful to me are Tea Tree Oil and my Home Remedy for Poison Ivy Rash. With either apply frequently with a cotton ball.
Insect Repellant: The first line of defense with insects is an all-natural insect repellant. Better to prevent bites than have to treat them, right? There are lots of recipes online for making your own insect repellant, but I purchase this one (not an affilate) because 1. it works and 2. I adore the fragrance.
Itch Relief: Again, plantain is the remedy of choice for me. My homemade remedy for poison ivy rash is wonderful at relieving any kind of itch.
Helpful Posts for Rashes, Bites and Skin Irritations
Minor Burns and Sunburn
As with all ailments, please use common sense. If you have a serious burn, please seek immediate medical help.
For minor burns, or sunburn, there are several home treatments that effectively relieve pain, and help your skin to heal.
Cool Water: Your goal here is to cool your skin as quickly as possible by running it under cool water, or applying a cool, wet compress.
Aloe Vera: After cooling your skin, remove a stem from an aloe plant and collect the gel from inside the stem. Apply the gel generously to the burn or sunburn for soothing relief.
Lavender Essential Oil: There is some dispute as to whether lavender essential oil is effective in relieving the pain of a minor burn. I have found it to be extremely effective. If you’d like to try it, mix a few drops of the oil with a teaspoon of carrier oil such as olive oil or coconut oil and apply to your burn.
Helpful Posts for Minor Burns and Sunburn
Everyone gets an upset stomach here and there. It’s no fun, but there are some simple herbs that you may already have on hand that can help to relieve the distress of occasional stomach upset.
For any stomach distress that is prolonged or severe, please see your health care practitioner.
Activated Charcoal: Activated charcoal helps to relieve stomach distress and can even treat food poisoning by binding with toxins in the stomach, preventing them from being released in the body. It is available in powder form, but the easiest way to take it is in capsule form. It is for occasional use only as it also binds to nutrients, preventing their absorption.
Peppermint: Mint is well known to calm an upset stomach. Fresh or dried peppermint leaves may be used to make a tea. Alternatively, just inhaling peppermint essential oil may be helpful. Please do not add essential oil to water since water and oil do not mix. Over time the oil may cause damage to your esophagus or stomach lining resulting in stomach problems – the exact ailment you have been trying to alleviate. Please see the post What’s So Bad About Drinking Essential Oils for more information.
Ginger: Ginger has been used to soothe the digestive tract for thousands of years. A tea may be made from fresh ginger by thinning slicing about 1″ of ginger root. Gently simmer in a cup and a half of water for about 10 minutes. If no fresh ginger is available, a teaspoon of ginger powder may be used instead. Strain and sweeten with honey if desired.
Ginger is also available in crystalized form and is a nice option to keep on hand.
As a child, we were given ginger ale to relieve stomach ache. Today’s version contains little if any ginger and lots of questionable ingredients. Instead, consider making your own healthy version of ginger ale.
Fennel: Fennel seed is particularly helpful in relieving gas and heartburn. Chew a few seeds, or use them to make a delicious tea.
Herbal Teas: In addition, Traditional Medicinal has a line of herbal teas that are nice to keep on hand for stomach upset:
Helpful Posts for Stomach Upset
Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide by Rosemary Gladstar
Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health by Rosemary Gladstar
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