Monday, December 5, 2011

Detox Series #9 -- Rethink Your Medicine Cabinet

This post is finally done!  Sorry it took so long -- there are a lot of links and information.  I'm sure I forgot something, so let me know if you have any questions!

As the cold weather sets in and we spend more time indoors...we also tend to spend more time fighting minor illnesses.  Now is a great time to clean out your medicine cabinet and stock it with natural remedies for the upcoming cold and flu season!

First we began our journey into natural cleaners, then we switched to "real food", now I'm working on natural-izing our medicine cabinet.  I was kind of forced into it last winter when Asher started teething -- teething caused a runny nose which caused fluid build-up in his ears which caused a major ear infection!  After one round of antibiotics (which I HATE to use) and with the next set of teeth coming, I knew I needed to do something!  Also at about the same time, Ruthie work up in the middle of the night with a tight, croup-y sounding cough.

We had Ruthie in the ER the winter before for croup -- it came on so fast and she was having such a tough time breathing.  The doctor in the ER diagnosed her with asthma and sent us home with a neb machine...which didn't really help anything!  So early the next morning we were back in urgent care; the urgent care doc was wonderful!  He walked in the door and said, "Oh, you guys are the croup case I heard from down the hall."  After a dose of steroids, she was beginning to breath easier.

Since I didn't want to deal with croup or ear infections, I got on the internet and looked for some natural remedies.  I made my list, bundled Asher and myself up and headed into town (a 30 minute drive).  I came home with a few things that worked great to get us through the winter cold and flu season.  Since then I've done a bit more research and here is what is in our natural medicine cabinet:

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional trained in the use of natural remedies.  I am sharing with you what I have learned and what our family uses.  It is your responsibility to do your own research and make your own decisions for you and your family.

1. Homeopathic Teething Pellets -- there are several brands out there and they are all pretty much the same.  We order ours from Azure Standard for a great price.  They seem to do a good job of calming teething pain.

2. Homeopathic Earache Tabs/Drops -- these have worked great to prevent ear infections!  When Asher's nose started really running from teething and he started to tug at his ears, I would use these for 48 hours (the direction say to only use them for 48 hours -- if there is still a problem, you should get it checked out further).  Each time after 48 hours he seemed much better and we didn't have any more ear issues...until the next tooth!  Thankfully as he has grown this issues has resolved itself!

3. Garlic Ear Oil -- you can make your own but all the tutorials I saw online gave different amounts of garlic and oil to use.  And they all said to store in the fridge and use within a couple of weeks.  I didn't want to question what I was putting in my baby's ears and I didn't want to have to make a new batch all the time, so I just bought one.  It has worked great and lasts a LONG time and can be stored in the cupboard -- so worth the money!

4. Ultra-Sonic Cool Mist Humidifier -- these seem like a lot of money but they are so worth it!  Whenever the kids get a cold, we just fill it up and plug it in next to their bed.  It helps to put a towel on the floor next to it so you don't have a wet floor in the morning.  We just found a second at a garage sale -- for only $2!

5.  Essential Oils -- we have a few in our stash and plan to add more in the future as we learn more about various ones and their uses.  We have:
      Lavender -- for calming, teething and for stuffy noses
      Peppermint -- for headaches, for stuffy noses and for nausea
      Lemongrass -- mixed with peppermint for stuffy noses, also mixed with peppermint as an insect repellant (put a few drops on clothes or on your dog's collar -- re-apply at least once each week).
      Thyme and Oregano -- great natural antibiotics, can clean the air, be rubbed on the body and taken internally (make sure your essential oil is "therapeutic grade"; it is also easier to take if placed inside empty capsules first!)

Update: Only some essential oils are safe for kids!  Do your research!  Check out Plant Therary's Kid Safe line of essential oils.

6. Elderberry Syrup -- Elderberry Syrup is a great immune booster!  It is also BETTER at preventing and treating influenza than the flu shot!

From the Mountain Rose Herbs website: Extensive research show that elder stop the production of hormone-like cytokines that direct a class of white blood cells known as neutrophils to cause inflammation, especially in influenza and arthritis. On the other hand, elder increases the production non-inflammatory infection-fighting cytokines as much as 10 fold. Elder berries are known to be effective against eight strains of influenza. This suggests that elder be superior to vaccines in preventing flu, because flu vaccines are only effective against known strains of flu, whereas the virus is continually mutating to new strains. Vaccines have another draw back: over half of people who get them report side effects. Dr. Madeleine Mumcuoglu, of Hadassah-Hebrew University in Israel found that elderberry disarms the enzyme viruses use to penetrate healthy cells in the lining of the nose and throat. Taken before infection, it prevents infection. Taken after infection, it prevents spread of the virus through the respiratory tract. In a clinical trial, 20% of study subjects reported significant improvement within 24 hours, 70% by 48 hours, and 90% claimed complete cure in three days. In contrast, subjects receiving the placebo required 6 days to recover.

It even tastes great!  You can buy it at health food stores, but it is pretty spendy, especially if you plan on taking it daily during the flu season.  The good news can make it yourself: here is one tutorial, but there are many out there.  The recipe I use calls for dried elderberries, rose hips and echinachea (I don't use the echinachea since it is not supposed to be used as a preventative).  This recipe is from Herbal Nurturing, an e-book.  Dried elderberries can be found at many health food stores, Mountain Rose Herbs or from Amazon.

7. Probiotics -- We eat about one gallon of yogurt each week.  I make my own from a gallon of milk.  Here is a good tutorial, but I'm not quite so detail oriented (sometime I'll have to document and post my method)...and I use my oven with the light on to culture my yogurt. I hope to add water kiefer soon!

8. Calendula Salve -- the recipe is HERE.  This is what I use most often instead of TAO (triple antibiotic ointment) for minor scrapes and scratches.  It also works well on dry chapped skin.  You could even use it on baby's bum!

9. People's Paste -- I got this recipe from Frugal Granola HERE.  I made it without the myrrh powder because I couldn't get a hold of any.  We've only used it a few times and not for anything serious...but I like to have it on hand just in case.  FYI -- store it in the fridge or it will mold!

10. Homeopathic Arnica Montana Tabs  -- Arnica is great for sore muscles, bumps and bruises.  I've given it to Ruthie and Asher after especially nasty falls -- mostly to Asher since he seems to be the accident prone one -- black eye, falling down the stairs, etc.  There are some topical preparations available especially for kids but I haven't found one made without petroleum, so we've been taking it orally.  Tony also took it for a couple days after tripping over the baby gate and taking a tumble down the stairs -- he thinks that it helped with the muscle soreness.  Many women also recommend it for after childbirth instead of ibuprofen.  

11. Cod Liver Oil -- full of fat-soluable vitamins A and D; a great immune system booster!  We use Twin Lab Cod Liver Oil. It is inexpensive and recommended as "good" by the Weston A. Price Foundation (their "best" recommendation is this one but it is expensive!)  It does taste like fish but it is tolerable and the taste washes away easily.   Asher REALLY likes it!  He asks for more and gets upset when we won't give him any more.  Ruthie doesn't like the taste but takes it without a fuss because we made a deal with her that she only "gets" to take it on Monday - Friday and not on Saturday or Sunday unless she "asks really nicely".  This has worked well for us!  Read more about cod live oil HERE.

12. Homeopathic Spongia Tosta -- We've use this for the kids when they have coughs.  We have found it especially effective for the coup-y coughs...when given at night at the first sign of the croup-y cough it has loosened everything up by morning and after a day or two of runny noses and a loose cough, things are greatly improved!

14. Echinachea -- we have the dried herb to make into a tea as needed.  Here is the info from the Mountain Rose Herbs website:

Echinacea is herbal medicine's first choice of treatment for colds. Stimulating the immune system, the herbs can also be used to treat chronic yeast infections in women and to prevent urinary tract infections in both sexes. Administered in times of need, this helpful ally can assist the body's immune system in treating a wide range of disorders. There has been some doubt over the ability of the body to absorb the medicinally active ingredients orally (intravenous injections being considered the only effective way to administer the plant), but recent research has demonstrated significant absorption from orally administered applications. The roots and the whole plant are considered particularly beneficial in the treatment of sores, wounds, burns etc, possessing cortisone-like and antibacterial activity. The plant was used by North American Indians as a universal application to treat the bites and stings of all types of insects.

15. Self Heal -- we have the dried herb to make into a teas as needed.  Here is the info from the Mountain Rose Herbs website:

There is a German saying, "He needs neither physician nor surgeon who has self heal to help himself?, and that sentiment seems to be confirmed as modern medicine studies one of the most commonly used healing herbs in the world. Chemical analyses have shown that heal all has antibiotic and antiseptic properties that are effective against herpes and e. coli, among others. It is astringent, and helps slow and stop bleeding both internally and externally. It has shown promise in treating AIDS and tuberculosis and some forms of cancer.

I'm sure I'm forgetting something...and most of this stuff we don't use very often.  We focus on keeping ourselves healthy with garlic, yogurt, cod liver oil, elderberry syrup and limiting our sugar intake.  This has been working well for us.  I encourage you to do your research and to find alternatives to "regular over-the-counter" medicines for minor illnesses.

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