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9 Holistic Remedies You Need in Your Medicine Cabinet
Concerned about overuse of prescription meds? Wary of ingredients in over-the-counter cold medicines? Pharmacy sections are being stocked with more and more natural remedies that can provide gentle yet effective relief for everyday ailments. But the sheer number of holistic healthcare products that line your pharmacy’s shelves can be overwhelming.
We consulted Dr. Jen Johnson, a naturopathic doctor in Westport, Conn. and Rebekah Azarelli, a homeopath in Brooklyn, N.Y., for the remedies they use at home and most recommend to their patients. They list these nine all-natural remedies as effective essentials in a well-rounded first aid arsenal.
Stock your medicine cabinet with these holistic health remedies and rest assured that the next time you feel a cold coming on, your child falls off her bike or you have trouble sleeping, you’ll have just the thing on hand to ease your ills. You’ll find most of these products at your local health food store, natural pharmacy, or vitamin store.
1. Vitamin C
Treats: Cold and flu
Directions: 3-5 grams per day at first sign of illness
Why it works: Vitamin C specifically targets and nourishes immune cells, better preparing them to fight off invaders..
2. Hot water bottle
Treats: Upset stomachs, menstrual cramps and insomnia
Directions: Fill with hot water, lie down and apply to abdomen.
Why it works: The insulated bottle retains heat well while radiating it into tissues, gently relaxing muscles and calming the nervous system.
3. Neti pot
Treats: Stuffy nose and allergies
Directions: Dissolve one teaspoon non-iodized salt in warm water in the neti pot and rinse both nostrils every day at bedtime or in the shower until symptoms subside.
Why it works: Flushing the nasal passages opens, cleans, and tones them. A neti pot is specially designed to make it easier to get the fluid into the nasal passages, and it's easy to clean.
4. Vitamin B-complex
Directions: Take one capsule a day of the highest-quality supplement you can find. (Look for a mark that says “USP verified” on the label, which indicates that the supplement’s purity, potency, and quality has been rigorously researched by the United States Pharmacopeia, a non-profit public health organization.)
Why it works: B-complex provides energy at the cellular level to your glandular system — which regulates your hormone levels and the overall functioning of your body.
5. White vinegar
Treats: Athlete’s foot
Directions: Soak feet in 50/50 solution of white vinegar and water, 15 minutes daily for one week.
Why it works: White vinegar is a natural anti-fungal.
6. Elderberry syrup
Treats: Colds and flu
Directions: Follow the instructions on the label. Azarelli recommends Honey Gardens Apitherapy Elderberry Syrup, but advises that it shouldn’t be given to children less than one year old, because it contains honey, which carries a small risk of botulism for young babies.
Why it works: The elderberry plant's antiviral properties and antioxidants boost the immune system.
Treats: Bruises and swelling; great for pain relief after childbirth
Directions: Apply arnica oil or arnica gel or cream to the skin at the affected area. If there is any broken or abraded skin, Azarelli recommends taking the homeopathic remedy Arnica 30c in pellet form (available at The Vitamin Shoppe and many health food stores), as topically applied arnica can irritate an open wound.
Why it works: Arnica (Arnica montana) has been used for pain, inflammation, bruising and other conditions since the 1500s and remains popular today. Arnica should only be taken internally in the highly diluted form common to homeopathic remedies.
8. Chamomile tea
Directions: Drink a cup of chamomile tea, taking the time to savor its aroma and enjoy its taste, before bedtime. Chamomile tea bags are readily available at most major food and drug retailers.
Why it works: The herb chamomile soothes the mind and the nervous system to help you get to sleep.
Treats: Cuts and dry skin
Directions: Apply to a cut or scrape just as you would antibacterial cream. Also works as a moisturizing facial mask — apply it to clean skin, allow to dry, and rinse with warm water.
Why it works: Honey has natural antibiotic properties and acts as a humectant, drawing moisture to the skin.
Kate Hanley is a freelance writer who specializes in exploring the mind-body connection.