The Natural Medicine Cabinet
FOR WOUNDS & BURNS
Avoid ointments and creams that contain the antibiotic neomycin—a potential cause of allergic dermatitis.
>GO NATURAL. Keep handy some Califlora Calendula Gel (vitaminshoppe.com), which contains 10 percent tincture of calendula, a homeopathic medicine prepared from fresh Calendula officinalis (marigold). The herb is used to treat minor wounds and soothe burns.
>DO IT YOURSELF. Mix 50 percent each of pure gotu kola powder and the astringent herbal formula triphala, found in most natural food stores or herbal clinics, and sprinkle on your burn or cut, says Alan Tillotson, Ph.D., author of The One Earth Herbal Sourcebook.
The painkiller ibuprofen (found in Advil) can damage your kidneys when taken in heavy doses (six to eight tablets a day) or over a long period. Plus, it can aggravate your stomach and cause diarrhea and nervousness.
>GO NATURAL. A study found that a combination of the herbs feverfew and ginger eliminated pain in 48 percent of subjects who suffered from migraines. New Chapter Headache Take Care (newchapter.com) contains both, and also includes rosemary and lavender to relieve oxidative stress known to trigger headaches.
>DO IT YOURSELF. Put two drops of ghee (clarified butter) in each nostril and sniff. Apply twice a day when you have a headache. Ghee, found in most health food stores, is used in Ayurvedic medicine.
FOR MUSCLE ACHES
Most drugstore muscle creams contain methyl salicylate, a pain reliever similar to aspirin. One teaspoon equals about 21.7 adult aspirin tablets; using too much cream can expose you to the same dangers as acute aspirin toxicity. (That, in turn, can lead to stomach irritation, vomiting, hyperventilation, and, in extreme cases, even death.) Methyl salicylate may also interact with blood-thinning prescription drugs.
>GO NATURAL. Try Boiron Arnica Gel (boiron.com), made with 8 percent tincture of Arnica montana, a natural remedy for sprains, pains, and bruises that dates to the 1500s. Topricin (topricin.com) cream contains 11 homeopathic medicines and no additive chemicals.
>DO IT YOURSELF. Make a rosemary oil mix by adding two drops semisolid or liquid rosemary (a natural muscle relaxant) to one tablespoon base massage oil, like sweet almond oil or jojoba, and work into sore muscles. Both oils can be found at health stores.
FOR COLDS & FLU
Since 2005, the FDA has taken steps to remove phenylpropanolamine (PPA) from all drug products, including cold medicines where it's used as a decongestant. A Yale University study found that women who took PPA were up to 15 times more likely to suffer a hemorrhagic stroke (bleeding into the brain). The recall is in effect, but some medication still may contain PPA.
>GO NATURAL. There are 19 healing herbs, including echinacea, in ZAND Insure Immune Support (zand.com). University of Connecticut researchers recently concluded that echinacea decreases the odds of developing a cold by 58 percent and reduces its duration by 1.4 days. Nature's Way Umcka Cold+Flu (naturesway.com) is made from the roots of Pelargonium sidoides, a South African plant used in traditional Zulu medicine to treat coughs and respiratory ailments.
>DO IT YOURSELF. Drink a cup or two of ginseng tea every day, says Laurel Redmon, L.Ac., Chinese herbalist and owner of Red Sage Health in Madison, Wis. A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in 2005 found ginseng could reduce your risk of catching the common cold and decrease its severity and length. Boil a medium-sized root in a full pot of water. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 30 to 45 minutes. Pour out and save the tea. Fill the pot again and repeat the boiling and simmering process. Then combine the first and second batches to make your decoction.