I sat down to write Resources for Getting Started with a Natural Medicine Cabinet part TWO, and in scouring the internet, pinning natural remedies, reading blogs on natural healing and remedies, as well as research articles on the most potent herbs and salves, I started to notice something…
There’s not much middle ground. It seems as though the authors assume that you WANT to be a hippy (or you already ARE!) and you regularly make weird concoctions in your kitchen while standing there barefoot in a broom skirt, burning patchouli incense and drinking green tea.
[side note: I hate the smell of patchouli.]
That’s all well and good, but for those of us just starting out, it can be SO intimidating! There is SO MUCH information available to us now, that we can’t remember which blog said what, which one had the cold remedy post, and why on earth can’t I just use tylenol?
Dear friends, if you are just starting out and the thought of researching one more cold and flu remedy while your sick toddler is crying through the night is prompting the growth of gray hair, then PLEASE, for the love of patchouli, GIVE THAT POOR KID SOME TYLENOL AND GET SOME SLEEP. It’s OK. You won’t get kicked out of the “all natural” club. promise.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with using a mixture of natural remedies and OTC drugs, ESPECIALLY as you are starting out and researching natural alternatives.
2 things you must keep in mind:
First, if you are searching for natural remedies because you feel guilty, then stop. Decisions made out of guilt never stick and only foster resentment towards yourself for not quite getting it right, and you’ll burn out and end up disillusioned.
And second, if you are searching for natural remedies because you’re afraid, then stop. Fear will only breed more fear and that will lead to yet more confusion, frustration and self-condemnation. “But, Suzy makes her own cough syrup and grows her own echinacea and I don’t even know what to do if my kid has a fever”. That’s ok. if your kid has a fever, here’s what you do: give them Tylenol. Until you are more comfortable using herbal remedies, 3am with a sick child and a 104 degree temperature is not the time to google “natural fever remedies”.
Now it’s safe to reason that you are reading this post because you are interested in herbal and natural remedies, so, without confusing you more and contributing to the gray hair…
…here are some SIMPLE, LOW STRESS tips as you set out on your journey:
1. Don’t go overboard. And by that I mean, don’t go out and buy burdock root, astragalus, primrose oil, or nettles leaves (because there was a sale at the health food store, and these things are good for me…right?) until you know what they do. It will be a waste of money and the source of confusion and extra clutter around your kitchen.
2. Don’t buy anything from the health food store until you’ve researched it. (See #1) There are 100’s of “natural remedies” at the regular old grocery store, so don’t spend money on specialty items until you’re already using some of the basics, like we talked about last week.
3. ASK! Ask questions! Don’t just research it on your own, but find other people through forums, facebook and pinterest that are on the same journey as you and then pick their brains! You will find a wealth of information all around you, so don’t be afraid to ask!
4. Find 2-3 “remedies” that you have bought (and maybe even made!) that you are comfortable with, before you move on. Below, I have a recipe for homemade Baby Vicks. Yes, it took me a few minutes to make it, but it’s already there, sitting in a jar in my kitchen medicine cabinet, so that if my little ones are sick at night, I can reach for it easily. The substitution between the homemade/natural version and the commercial version was easy. After I had it made and knew what it was and how to use it, I moved on to other items and slowly built my Herbal Medicine Cabinet using baby steps.
5. Find a place to store your “Medicine Cabinet”. This sounds like a no-brainer, but as you slowly start to accumulate various herbs, supplements and oils, keep them in one central, organized location. When making natural remedies, you will be dealing with herbs and oils, both of which are best kept in cooler, dark areas. I have dedicated the bottom shelf of a kitchen cabinet, as well as a basket in my fridge to hold all of my “hippy concoctions” (as referred to by my hubby). I highly recommend finding a place in your kitchen for your newly acquired medicine cabinet, because many of the ingredients that you’ll be working with for common illnesses are actually normal, everyday foods and menu items, such as honey, vinegar, garlic, ginger, coconut oil, olive oil, various herbal teas, cayenne, onions, rosemary, sage…and the list goes on.
6. Start by substituting one natural remedy for one commercial drug. Similar to #4, don’t get excited and spend a Saturday afternoon making 30 different home remedies. You’ll get lost in the process and burnt out by doing it all at once. *sigh* trust. me. Start with one remedy before you make another, that way you have time to digest all that you’re learning and you’ll start to feel more comfortable. Then, when your little munchkin starts coughing at 3am, it’s second nature to reach for the honey, ginger and cinnamon, and you are familiar enough (and comfortable enough) with them to use them appropriately.
7. Don’t get discouraged and throw in the towel! Maybe the only “natural” remedy you’ve tried is drinking more tea. That’s AWESOME! Just because you can’t do it all does not mean that you shouldn’t do some. Any steps that you can take to making your own home remedies (or at least buying them pre-made when possible) is a HUGE step, so don’t look at how natural you AREN’T.
Many of the bloggers that are writing about natural remedies and homemade this-and-that did not wake up one day and have a house stocked with herbs and vitamins. They built it slowly and fumbled along until they found what worked, so don’t be ashamed or toss the ideas aside – it’s much easier than you think and totaly worth it!
Below is a “home remedy” that serves as a natural replacement for Baby Vick’s /Vapo-Rub. Right now, on amazon, you can get it for $4.79 for just under 2oz. (that’s without shipping). I’m sure prices will vary across the nation (and world, for those of you reading this on the other side of the Pond), but let’s assume its within the $4 range. My recipe below costs approximately $0.50, but many of the ingredients come in large enough quantities, that I could make jars upon jars of this for a fraction of what the store-bought version costs. Plus, I know that I am not smearing petrolatum (source) on my developing child. In and of itself, petrolatum is not dangerous, but if it is refined cheaply and not high-grade it contains PAHs, which is a carcinogen and is banned in the EU and Canada. (source, from the Environmental Working Group)
That’s why I like to make my own…
So here is an easy recipe to substitute for the drug-store version. (side note, I’m sure I found this online somewhere, so if you have this particular recipe on your blog, I would love to give you credit for it, so please comment below with your link!)
Homemade Chest Rub for Babies
2oz (1/4 c.) of oil (I prefer to have a Vick’s-like consistency, so I use coconut oil with just a few drops of olive oil to soften it. Coconut oil is solid when cool, but has a melting point of 76’F, so if you are storing it someplace warm, just wanted to give you a heads-up!)
5 drops of eucalyptus oil
3 drops of peppermint oil
1-2 drops of lavender (optional)
-mix thoroughly and store in a small jar. Depending on the age of your child, you can adjust the essential oils and increase the strength, but do not go any higher than this for infants without first researching. Essential oils are VERY strong and a little goes a long way. If your child’s cough/congestion is especially tight and you’d like to increase the effectiveness, start by adding more eucalyptus oil, in 2-drop increments, until you’ve reached your desired strength.
NOTE: yes, you are going to spend a little more up-front if you do not already have essential oils on hand. However, one small bottle of essential oils will provide dozens of jars of this salve, and they’re also great for the humidifier and bath. It’s money well spent!
What home remedies do you currently use??
And for the record: I’m not a doctor, I’m just a mama, so everything that I list here comes from my own experience and research. Please consult with your doctor if you have a serious or lingering illness, and talk with a naturopath/holistic practitioner for certified herbal recommendations.
This post was part of Fat Tuesdays at real Food Forager, Traditional Tuesdays at Whole New Mom, Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist, Homestead Barn Hop at Prairie Homestead, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways at Frugally Sustainable, Healthy 2Day at the Humbled Homemaker, Real Food Wednesday at Kelly The Kitchen Kop and Women Living Well Wednesdays at Women Living Well, Home and Homemaker’s Challenge: Accomplish at Homemaker’s Challenge and Your Green Resource at Live Renewed, Simple Lives Thursdays at GNOWFGLINS, and Fresh Bites Friday at Real Food, Whole Health and Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade and Sunday School Blog Carnival at Butter Believer and the Welcome Home Link Up at Raising Arrows, Mostly Homemade Mondays, Healing with Food Friday at Purposeful Nutrition
image amended by me, but originally from this great photographer