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When I was growing up, the medicine cabinet was a forbidden place.
As I got older, I could be trusted to be in the bathroom and not eat, drink or otherwise mess with the various pills, creams, oils and liquids that lived in there.
We’re talking about things like Ben-Gay (that smelly ointment for sore muscles), ibuprofen and prescription medications my parents took for high blood pressure.
It wasn’t until the 1990s that Complementary and Alternative Medicine began to take hold.
If my folks were to fill their medicine cabinet today, they’d have so many options they didn’t have then, or at least that few people knew about or believed in… remedies that aren’t pharmaceutical in nature, but that do the job well and safely — and now, years later, have much more research behind them.
In addition, it’s becoming more and more commonplace to find out that the medicines we’ve thought all along were safe, aren’t. In fact, some of them are downright dangerous — like the recent warning about carcinogens in your heartburn medication.
Today, if you’re looking to stock your medicine cabinet with natural treatments for headaches, cuts, stomach aches and more, you’ve got plenty of choices.
Here’s a list of seven staples to keep on hand…
Natural ways to treat indigestion, skin troubles and more
Arnica is a daisy-like flower native to Siberia and Europe.
Instead of that smelly ointment you can get at the drugstore, keep some arnica gel on hand to relieve stiff and aching joints of osteoarthritis.
The arnica plant should never be taken by mouth, as it is poisonous. Instead, use homeopathic arnica tablets, which are safe because they’re extremely diluted. Always follow manufacturer’s guides on dosage. They may help with post-surgical bruising and swelling.
If you’re allergic to ragweed (if you have hay fever), you’ll probably want to stay away from arnica in any form… it can cause an allergic reaction.
Magnesium. Research has shown that people who get migraines often have lower levels of magnesium than those who don’t. One study showed that taking magnesium regularly decreased the frequency of migraines by 41.6 percent.
The fact is that most of us don’t get enough magnesium and that a deficiency in this mineral can be a cause of depression, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and osteoporosis.
Echinacea is a flowering plant in the daisy family best known for its ability to prevent the common cold or to shorten its duration if taken at the first sign of illness.
In fact, a review of 14 studies found that taking echinacea may lower the risk of developing colds by more than 50 percent and shorten the duration of colds by one and a half days.
Echinacea can be consumed as a tea or in supplement form.
Evening primrose oil. The benefits of evening primrose oil may derive from its gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) content. GLA is an omega-6 fatty acid found in plant oils. It has been used in traditional medicine to treat bruises, digestive problems and sore throats.
This is one alternative remedy you should probably consult with your doctor about, only because it has been used to treat such a wide variety of conditions, including:
- High blood pressure
- Rheumatoid arthritis (inflammation)
- High cholesterol
- Neuropathy (nerve pain associated with diabetes)
One thing to note, if you’re already taking a medication that lowers your blood pressure, you’ll want to tell your doctor if you also take evening primrose oil capsules.
But if you’re more of a coffee drinker, keep some green tea capsules in your medicine chest. The caffeine content (less than coffee) can help with mental alertness.
Peppermint oil. An antispasmodic that’s also known to reduce the production of gas in the intestine, peppermint oil is used to relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, as well as for more everyday relief of gas and stomach pain. Enteric-coated capsules can be found for stomach issues.
Tea tree oil is extracted from the leaves of a small tree native to Australia and has been used as a traditional medicine for centuries by native Aboriginal tribes there.
It contains a number of compounds, including terpinen-4-ol, that have been shown to kill certain bacteria, viruses and fungi when used topically.
Keep a small bottle on hand to mix with a carrier oil to use as a hand sanitizer, natural deodorant, topical treatment for nail fungus and antiseptic for minor cuts and scrapes. Tea tree oil shouldn’t be consumed orally.
Natural still requires caution
Your natural medicine cabinet should be kept well away from any little ones in your home, just as my parents kept me from their pharma-filled one.
Natural may mean fewer side effects and negative reactions, but instructions for using natural remedies should be followed and always pay attention to recommended applications or dosing.
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- Stock your natural medicine cabinet — WebMD
- Arnica Overview — WebMD
- Magnificent magnesium — Easy Health Options
- Evaluation of Echinacea for the Prevention and Treatment of the Common Cold: A Meta-Analysis — PubMed
- The Effect of γ‐Linolenic Acid on Human Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy: A Double‐blind Placebo‐controlled Trial — Wiley Online Library