25 MARCH 2015 / LEARN

How to stock a natural medicine chest

All of us have some sort of medicine cabinet or bag in our cupboard. You know the one, the hold-all container with the bandaids, cough mixture and applications for everything from stings to bites or sunburn. It has become such a feature in our homes, probably inherited from our parents and grandparents when self sufficiency in minor illnesses and injuries was more common.

However in our grandparents’ day there was also a wealth of knowledge that involved the use of more natural ingredients and remedies, a more “natural medicine chest” that tapped into old healing wisdom handed down through the ages. 

But guess what? This healing tradition has made a comeback in recent decades as people become more aware of the side effects of using modern medicine. If you were to keep an alternative medicine chest to complement your existing supplies …. what would you keep? Here’s a few of the most commonly used natural remedies that are perfect to keep on hand!

Vitamin C. One of the great standbys, Vitamin C helps to promote and repair tissue growth in all parts of the body. Rich in antioxidants, it helps in wound healing and is a “must” for any alternative medicine chest. Vitamin C is found in high concentrations naturally in oranges, watermelons and broccoli.

Echinacea. A herb plant from the daisy family, Echinacea has backing from anecdotal evidence that suggests it may be used to combat the symptoms of a common cold and also able to boost the immune system. Echinacea may also be helpful in helping mitigate the effects of hay fever if taken prior to the allergy season to build up the body’s immunity.

Arnica. Used in cream and ointments, Arnica is a herb plant from the versatile sunflower family. Arnica may be applied to the skin to help reduce bruising.  

Comfrey. Comfrey is a plant that is used in organic gardening, helping to break down compost and act as a super mulch. However the leaf, root, and stem are also used as medicine. When applied as an extract externally comfrey may help alleviate back pain, osteoarthritis, sprains and may help to reduce swelling. However the latest scientific advice is to avoid using it for internal use.

Calendula. Calendula (or marigold) is a species of the daisy family. As an oil, can be used as a remedy for healing wounds and as an anti-inflammatory agent. Tinctures, ointments and washes are used for healing burns and bruises and to fight the minor infections they cause. 

Manuka Honey. Manuka Honey comes from the nectar of the manuka tree, and is one of New Zealand’s most famous exports. However not only does it have exquisite taste (ask any Kiwi bee!) but important claims are also made about its healing properties. These include the honey’s use as a salve for the treatment of burns and wounds and to fight off infection.

Rescue remedy. A famous homeopathic treatment, Rescue Remedy is a combination of Bach flowers (special tinctures of flowers with healing properties), brandy and water. Adherents claim the flowers retain the properties of the flowers in dew and retain healing powers.

Eucalyptus oil. Quintessentially Australian, eucalyptus oil has been a staple of Aussie medicine chests for many years. As well as its uplifting scent, the oil has been used as a disinfectant and to help relax the muscles. Eucalyptus oil is also used to help treat respiratory problems and relieve the symptoms of colds and flu when used as a vapour. Claims are also made that the oil will help with poor circulation and dental care.

Apple cider vinegar with “mother”. Made from crushed or aged apples, apple cider vinegar is considered one of the finest anti-bacterial remedies. When it contains the “mother of vinegar”, as is with most organic ciders, it is particularly potent. Lovers of ACV claim it can help in weight loss, reducing blood sugar levels after meals and as a cleansing mouthwash. Truly one to have in your alternative medicine chest!

Aloe vera. Aloe Vera is a species of succulent plant which can be used as a gel or cream to treat sunburn and to soothe skin. However it also has many uses as a soap, massage oil, or as a diluted drink. It is used to boost the immune system, to improve digestion and improve blood flow.

Chamomile. Chamomile is a daisy-like plant that is commonly used in herbal teas. It is known for a wide range of medicinal uses, including easing nausea and vomiting, treating insomnia and anxiety, or treating eczema and skin irritation when used on the skin.

Ginger. While well known for centuries as a flavouring herb, ginger has also been used in a number of non-Western traditions as a herbal medicine. In various forms, such as in the popular candy form, ginger has been used to treat nausea and morning and motion sickness. It is also used as a digestive aid; to treat coughs and to treat headaches and sore throats. 

Our alternative medicine chest is far from comprehensive but should give you an idea of what to add as a starter boost for health and aid in helping to fix problems. As always, take care when using these alternatives and always ask a professional’s opinion. Do you have any more that you’d like to add to our suggested list? Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.

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