10 Useful Remedies for the Medicine Cabinet
Having a few key over-the-counter medicines and remedies handy can shorten healing time for minor sprains, strains, bruises, stings, cuts and stomach ailments, as well as arthritis flare-ups, allergic reactions, headaches and PMS.
CORTISOL CREAM (hydrocortisone)
A 1% hydrocortisone cream is available at any drugstore. This is natural cortisol, or hydrocortisone, a human bioidentical hormone, not a harmful synthetic steroid.
Uses: Even though this is a low dose, cortisol is potently anti-inflammatory, making the cream very useful for arthritis flare-ups, sprains and strains.
Cautions: Cortisol cream should not be used in excess or long-term, as it can have all of the side effects of excess steroid use, including fragile skin, bone loss and weight gain.
Virginia Recommends: Cortizone-10 Max Strength Cortizone-10 Crme, 2oz Boxes (Pack of 2)
ALOE VERA GEL
Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis) is a semitropical succulent plant native to Africa. The fleshy leaves contain a gel that has become a standard in natural cosmetic products.
Uses: A wondrous healing and soothing agent for burns, rashes and cuts, aloe is also drying and astringent. Works best when applied frequently. The plain, clear gel is preferable for medicinal purposes.
Cautions: Look for products that are free of harmful ingredients. Some aloe vera gels contain methylparaben which should be avoided. Plain aloe vera gel with natural preservatives is ideal.
Virginia Reccomends: Aubrey Organics - 100% Pure Aloe Vera , 4 fl oz
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) painkiller.
Uses: Headaches and all manner of aches and pains related to inflammation. Also thins the blood. Two full-strength aspirin (e.g. 325 mg) taken at the first sign of a heart attack may save a life while the ambulance is on the way, which is why it’s a good item to have in the medicine cabinet.
For menstrual pain and muscle relaxation, NSAIDs that contain ibuprofen work better and aren’t as likely to increase bleeding.
Flowers will last longer if you dissolve an aspirin tablet in their water.
Cautions: Used long-term can cause gastrointestinal bleeding. Bleeding caused by NSAIDS causes more than 10,000 deaths ever year. See Buyer Be Aware: An Aspirin a Day? Not so Fast! Aspirin should never be given to children under the age of 12, or any teen who is recovering from a virus such as a flu or chicken pox, due to the risk of Reye’s Syndrome. If you’re taking prescription drugs, check with your doctor before using aspirin, as it can interact dangerously with many medications.
Antihistamine; comes in liquid, pill and cream forms.
Uses: Insect stings, hives, motion sickness, nausea, allergies, sleep aid. Benadryl (or any generic form of diphenhydramine) is an indispensible remedy to have handy in case of insect stings and allergic reactions such as hives. It is fast and effective, especially applied directly in cream form or taken as a liquid. It will help you sleep but be forewarned, you may have a foggy brain the next morning.
Cautions: Not recommended for long term use such as a sleep aid or seasonal allergy remedy. See Buyer Be Aware: Benadryl is a Serious Drug. Do not mix Benadryl and any activity that would be made dangerous by drowsiness, such as driving.
BISMUTH SUBSALICYLATE (e.g. Pepto Bismol)
Like aspirin, a salicylate, but this one soothes the gastrointestinal tract and kills bacteria, and is now the standard of care for treating ulcers, along with antibiotics.
Uses: Upset stomach, heartburn, nausea, diarrhea. Liquid Pepto Bismol is a fast and effective remedy for most kinds of gastrointestinal distress, including mild food poisoning.
Cautions: Not a medicine to be used long-term. If you’re using it a lot, you need to change your eating habits! If you have chronic digestive problems, look for causes and use soothing herbs such as slippery elm. See What Your Doctor May Not Tell You about Heartburn.
Some people are allergic to salicylates. Like aspirin, this medicine should never be given to children under the age of 12, or any teen who is recovering from a virus such as a flu or chicken pox, due to the risk of Reye’s Syndrome. Children’s Pepto Bismol is calcium carbonate, an antacid. Pepto Bismol can cause constipation, and can cause the tongue and the stool to turn black for a day or two. If you’re taking prescription drugs, check with your doctor before using Pepto Bismol, as it can interact dangerously with many medications.
EPSOM SALTS (magnesium sulfate)
Bath salts. Research has shown that both the magnesium and the sulfate are absorbed by the body during an epsom salts bath. Most Americans are deficient in magnesium, an essential mineral.
Uses: An epsom salts bath may be one of the great all around tonics. It helps prevent muscle soreness, swelling and inflammation caused by injuries or overwork (weekend warriors take heed). In fact, magnesium is a muscle relaxant. Use 1 to 3 cups in bathwater.
Epsom salts can also be used as a poultice and applied to sprains, strains, bruises, rashes, acne and boils.
Injectable liquid magnesium sulfate is used in emergency rooms to treat heartbeat irregularities and severe asthma attacks. It is used to treat eclampsia in pregnant women, and to delay the onset of labor.
Cautions: Magnesium sulfate is a laxative, so don’t drink the bathwater unless you’re constipated! Well, probably best not to drink the bathwater in any case. (Magnesium hydroxide is the active ingredient in Milk of Magnesia.)
An astringent extracted from the leaves and bark of the common North American shrub (Hamamelis virginiana) of the same name. Not as harsh as straight isopropyl alcohol, and doesn’t stain like iodine.
Uses: Use it to clean cuts, scrapes and to soothe insect bites. It’s a mild styptic (stops bleeding) and as an astringent, tightens and tones the skin. An effective remedy for hemorrhoids, and is available in pharmacies in creams and towelettes for that purpose. Witch hazel can also be used as a poultice for eye inflammations—for example, wet some cotton with it and hold it over the closed eye.
Cautions: Most witch hazel formulas contain alcohol, which should be avoided around the eyes.
Recommendations: Thayer’s has a line of alcohol-free witch hazel products with aloe vera, including an unscented version.
Hormone that balances or opposes estrogen, in both men and women.
Uses: Women and men may use progesterone to treat hormone imbalances, but it can also be used occasionally. In men and women, progesterone protects the nervous system and hits GABA receptors in the brain, which is calming and helps relax the muscles. In its role of opposing the effects of estrogen, progesterone can help reduce edema (bloating) and inflammation, and counteracts the effect of excess estrogen in promoting blood clots. Women can use it to prevent and treat PMS and premenstrual migraines, and it can be a useful sleep aid. For more details see Progesterone and Estrogen Effects. For more information on progesterone’s effects in men, please read Hormone Balance for Men.
Cautions: Both men and women who use progesterone long term should educate themselves about its effects and how to use it. Excess progesterone can cause sleepiness and bloating, and will eventually shut off progesterone receptors, leading to estrogen dominance. See Introduction to Natural Progesterone and Bioidentical Hormones for Men.
Recommendations: See List of Progesterone Creams.
OSCILLOCOCCINUM HOMEOPATHIC FOR FLU
Homeopathic remedy for preventing influenza.
Uses: If used as soon as flu symptoms are present, oscillococcinum can be a very effective preventive. The Boiron version comes in handy little one-dose containers that are easily carried in a purse or briefcase.
Cautions: Homeopathic pills are tiny and meant to be dissolved on the tongue. Don’t eat or drink for twenty minutes before or after taking oscillococcinum, and don’t eat or drink mint or strong spices such as cinnamon while taking it.
Virginia Recommends: Boiron Oscillococcinum
Homeopathic cream made by -Heel. This is a formula that includes arnica, the classic homeopathic for treating bruises.
Uses: For the temporary relief of muscular pain, joint pain, sports injuries and bruising. It works best when applied right after the injury. It can work wonders combined with a cold pack.
Cautions: This is a white cream, and shouldn’t be used directly on wounds, cuts and scrapes. It also shouldn’t be used with other creams.
Virgnia Recommends: Heel Inc Heel/Bhi Traumeel Ointment