Note: Views, opinions and recommendations given in this article are based on the author’s personal experience, and are not intended to evaluate or treat any disease, nor to substitute a professional medical or nutritional consultation.
People often ask me, “What is in your medicine cabinet? What supplements do you take?” “Do you give antibiotics to your children?” In this article I’ll try to answer questions about my view on drugs, natural remedies and supplements for general health, first aid and most common minor ailments.
As I choose supplements and remedies, I am guided by a few simple principals:
- Antibiotics for a children’s Ear infection have never been proven to work, yet they are prescribed commonly. (see Ear infection section below). But, for example if your child tested positive for strep throat (Streptococcal pharyngitis), antibiotics are necessary. In this case, administer the drug correctly. Keep your child on a good diet and well hydrated, and supplement the prescription with probiotics (see probiotics section below).
- Corticosteroids are a group of drugs that are widely prescribed for a range of conditions from mild allergies to arthritis and asthma. They have strong side effects, especially when taken in oral form and for a prolonged period of time. I would not, for example, use steroid based nasal sprays for allergies because they do not address the underlying cause, and there are safer alternatives. But for people with moderate to severe steroid controlled asthma, it is wise to stay on steroid therapy until the cause of asthma is addressed as with Buteyko therapy. Even a slight change in dosage for those patients can cause asthma aggravation and put their bodies through enormous stress. With Buteyko therapy steroids are regarded as drugs of choice until the breathing is corrected and in many cases dosage can be decreased gradually with a doctor’s consent.
Going back to the title of the article, I’ve looked into my medicine cabinet and noticed that since I’ve learned the Buteyko Method and my last prescription drugs (asthma inhalers) are gone, there is not much there. Chamomile tea, a couple of homeopathic remedies, tea tree oil together with a few bottles of vitamins and supplements is all that is left. Based on my experience, I will recommend these and other simple and safe remedies for first aid and most common minor ailments.
If you’ve attended our workshop, you’ve learned that if your breathing is addressed, your immune system will fight viral infections more effectively. Even if you get a cold you’ll be able to shorten its duration significantly and prevent complications. You’ve also learned how to unblock your nose naturally, how to cough, shift mucus and blow your nose correctly. That alone should eliminate the need for nasal sprays, cough and other OTC cold medications.
“Americans spend over 2 billion dollars a year for cough and cold remedies, although these drugs have no effect on the length of the disease. …Well over a million prescriptions a year are written for antibiotics for colds. Yet, colds are caused by viruses, and antibiotics have no effect against those marauders. The professed justification is prophylactic: to treat any bacterial infection that might arise. The problems with this theory are that if an infection does develop, the bacteria will have had an opportunity to become resistant to the antibiotic; and the patient runs unnecessary risk of developing an allergic reaction to the drug.” (Nature’s pharmacy by dr Lynne Paige Walker, Ellen Hodgson Brown, j.d.)
The only drug I still keep just in case is a bottle of Children’s Motrin.
What I would likely use for colds:
Homeopathic cold/flu medicine
These two are popular
Boiron Oscillococcinum for flu
Boiron Coldcalm Cold for cold
At the first sign of the cold or flu, or if I am in close contact with a sick person, I’d take Echinacea for 3 days. Echinacea is proven to work as an effective immune booster if taken at the very first sign of the symptoms and continued only for 2-3 days. It is not intended for long term use.
Vitamin C, Elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra) and Colostrum are other immune boosters which could be taken for the duration of the cold/flu. Elderberry is a berry that also has antiviral properties and might be taken as preventative supplement during flu season. The most popular elderberry brand (including the children’s version) is Sambucol. Zinc gluconate has also been shown in clinical studies to help at the first stage of a cold.
To sooth a sore throat and relieve congestion herbal teas like chamomile with honey and lemon are excellent.
For a sore throat a rinse with calendula before bed does wonders. Put two droppers full of Calendula tincture in one pint of water. After brushing your teeth gargle for a few seconds 2-3 times. Do not eat or drink anything after that. I have found that the pain is usually gone in the morning.
Spices like ginger and horseradish work as mild decongestants.
Licorice root tea is a good decongestant, but should be limited to a couple cups a day.
Saline sinus rinses are beneficial, and recipes usually include pure sea salt (no iodine, anti-caking agents, or preservatives) and optional baking soda dissolved into water.
According to American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology guide
In a clean container, mix three heaping teaspoons of iodine-free salt with one rounded teaspoon of baking soda and store in a small airtight container. Add one teaspoon of the above recipe to eight ounces (one cup) of lukewarm distilled or boiled water. Use less dry ingredients to make a weaker solution if burning or stinging is experienced. For children, use a half-teaspoon with four ounces of water.
Get a soft rubber ear bulb syringe, infant nasal bulb or a commercial nasal saline rinse product from your drug store and administer the rinse by following these steps:
• Draw up saline into this product and instill approximately four ounces of solution gently into the right nostril with your head tilted downward and rotated to the left. Breathe normally through your mouth and in a few seconds the solution should come out the other nostril. Repeat the process by rotating your head rightward and instilling four ounces of solution gently into the left nostril.
• You may need to adjust your head position so the solution does not go down the back of the throat or into the ears.
• To prevent the solution from going into the ear and causing discomfort, blow the nose very gently.
Raw garlic and onion are both effective antiviral foods.
Fever mobilizes your body’s defenses against infectious organisms. But a quickly rising fever in children can be dangerous as it could lead to seizures. The best approach is not to reduce it if it is below 100.4F (38C), just make sure your child is lightly dressed and drinks plenty of liquid. If over 100.5F point is reached, OTC fever reducer medication could be given.
From my experience, there were times when fever reducer medication just failed to work. Or, for example, children often vomit during flu or high fever, and medication becomes impossible to administer. In this case natural fever reducer is a lukewarm bath. Hold your child carefully while in the bathtub and gently rinse their face. If a young child resists taking a bath, substitute with a sponge bath with slightly cool water.
Be sure to drink plenty of liquid during a fever. Herbal teas are the best.
Try homeopathic remedies, like Source Naturals Migraine Blocker or Natural Care Migraine. Note, that in order to be effective, homeopathic remedies should be taken strictly according to directions, e.g. on a clean mouth, at least 15 minutes after eating. To clean your mouth, do not brush your teeth with toothpaste, just rinse with water. For better absorbency tablets should be slowly dissolved in the mouth. Do not eat or drink for at least 15 minutes after taking homeopathic remedies.
The herb Feverfew has been found to not only cut the frequency and severity of migraines, but also reduce the nausea that comes with them. Search for supplements containing Feverfew.
The herbal cousins of aspirin are Willow Bark and Meadowsweet tea.
Taking Magnesium supplements could lower the risk of getting migraines.
Ear infection is one of the most common problems in young children in America. And antibiotics are the treatment of choice. However, in a study reported in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1987 over 500 children with middle ear infection were given either an antibiotic alone, antibiotic together with a decongestant and an antihistamine, or placebo. After four weeks, no significant differences were found in the children‘s conditions. Other studies confirmed that a majority of otitis media cases were resolved by themselves without any treatment.
Vitamin C, Children’s multivitamins and probiotics are beneficial.
My mother would always use few drops of slightly warmed oil of camphor in the ear, then gently plug with small cotton ball. This could be repeated every 4-6 hours.
Effective natural remedy is Mullein Oil. It is a painkiller and it soothes inflammation. Find ear drops that have Mullein Oil among its ingredients.
Homeopathic ear drops can provide relief. A product called Similasan Earache Relief is available in most drugstores.
Cuts, bruises, burns
Tea tree oil is an irreplaceable antiseptic. It can be used as antibacterial rinse for a sore throat and gums. It can be used as anti-fungal for athlete’s foot or fungus in the mouth. It is a scalp cleanser for such problems as lice and dandruff. Use it topically for cuts, acne, cold sores.
For minor cuts, scrapes, burns, and skin irritation try homeopathic calendula gel.
The very best folk remedy for minor burns (that always saves me in the kitchen) is to apply vegetable oil liberally over burned skin. To be effective it should be done immediately after the burn. Wait for a couple of minutes, then apply a generous dash of baking soda over oil. Do not rinse for about 15 minutes.
For swelling and bruising homeopathic arnica gel is very effective.
Arnica homeopathic 6x or 30x tablets taken orally will soothe sore muscles, aches and sprains.
Chamomile tea and mint are two wonderful herbal remedies for calming almost any stomach discomfort. Ginger tea is also helpful.
If you suffer from occasional constipation magnesium and fiber supplements are of great help.
If you anticipate a heavy meal for a special occasion, digestive enzyme supplements taken with food will aid your digestion. (Caution: Digestive enzymes should not be taken if the stomach is inflamed as from ulcers or NSAIDs). Enzyme rich foods are papaya, avocado, apples, grapes, kiwi, banana, pineapple, mangos, raw honey and extra virgin olive oil.
For diarrhea from mild food poisoning drink plenty of fluids, but stay away from caffeine and alcohol. Diarrhea is another defense mechanism to rid your body of viruses and bacteria, so try not to stop it too aggressively. Ginger tea can ease cramps and pain. Oregano oili is an antibacterial, anti- parasitic and anti-viral.
Charcoal may be used for relieving indigestion, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and intestinal bloating. Its disadvantage is that it also can interfere with absorption of nutrients.
A good folk remedy for diarrhea is to boil rice (brown is better than white), a dash of salt and water until just done. Eat the rice with water.
To avoid antibiotic related diarrhea, supplement with probiotics during and after a course of antibiotics. Probiotics are live microorganisms that are “friendly bacteria” similar to microorganisms found in a healthy human digestive system. Yogurt is also a good source of friendly intestinal bacteria.
For hangovers homeopathic Nux Vomica 6c or Charcoal are popular.
Vitamins and supplements
I do not think that blindly overloading ourselves with dozens of vitamin pills is going to solve any health problems. First of all, if you have digestive issues (and according to the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA), Americans report more than 81 million cases of chronic digestive problems each year) you won’t benefit much. In fact, supplements can compound digestive issues. Some supplements could be harmful if overdosed, many work only in synergy with others, and some counteract.
Let me repeat again, if you correct your breathing and adhere to the basics of a healthy lifestyle, your digestion and metabolism will be in its healthiest state and you’ll naturally become less deficient in necessary vitamins and minerals.
On top of that, since our modern dietary choices do not provide enough of essential nutrients and minerals, assuming healthy digestion and good quality supplements, I would advise that you determine through research which nutrients you may not be getting, or the ones which might be helpful for your particular health problem. I would recommend either to educate yourself with a good book (e.g. Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements by Michael T. Murray, N.D.) or to get a consultation with a professional nutritionist or naturopath. Books, like Dr. Murray’s, could also help with recognizing the quality of supplements, because factors like vitamins and minerals ratios, absorbency and processing methods could greatly effect supplement’s potency. And of course, look for ones without unnecessary fillers and preservatives.
As for my personal choices, I do not take anything religiously every day. These are the ones I am taking either a few times a week or occasionally:
I usually stock up on good multivitamin / antioxidant supplements for the long Minnesota winter. Lack of sun and fresh locally grown produce, endless hours indoors, loads of holiday food and decreased physical activity take their toll on the immune system. The majority of naturopathic doctors would recommend taking good quality multivitamins/antioxidants daily.
● Calcium, Magnesium & Vitamin D
Calcium is a building material for the bones. If you are or ever have been on prolonged steroid use, either inhaled or oral, chances are your bone density has decreased. Additionally, as we age, bone density decreases.
Many studies have been done on Magnesium, and its deficiency has been linked to impressive number of “diseases of civilization” like asthma, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, migraines, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue.
Vitamin D stimulates the absorption of Calcium.
● Fish oil (Omega-3 Fatty Acid) or Flaxseed oil (Omega-3 Fatty Acid and Omega-6 Fatty Acid)
I am sure you’ve come across numerous praises for these wonderful nutrients. They are shown to reduce inflammation, improve brain function, cardiovascular health, skin conditions and more.
● Glucosamine Chondroitin
In medical studies a combination of glucosamine hydrochloride and chondroitin sulfate has been shown to work at least as well as NSAIDS for osteoarthritis, without harmful side effects. These nutrients are the building blocks of cartilage and are thought to work by stimulating the production of new cartilage cells. There are no food sources for glucosamine.
Despite substantial information about the effect of regular exercise on our joints, evidence does exist that high impact aerobic activities done regularly over many years could contribute to some wear of cartilage. As I exercise a lot, I have found Glucosamine Chondroitin to be beneficial even if you don’t have arthritis.
Probiotics are live microorganism that are “friendly bacteria” similar to microorganisms found in a healthy human digestive system. Medication like antibiotics could significantly decrease its population, causing upset stomachs and candida overgrowth. Probiotics are also thought to be beneficial for strengthening the immune system.
● Vitamin B complex (when not taking multivitamins)
Refined wheat flour (used in breads, cereals, pasta, etc.), refined carbohydrate products, overcooked meats and seafood fail to supply most of the B vitamins required by the body. On the other hand, foods like refined sugars, artificial ingredients and coffee can deplete the body of B vitamins. They are essential for energy production, nervous system support and proper heart function.
● Eye support complex
I work on my PC extensively. Hours of screen stares could add to eye strain. Two essential eye health nutrients, lutein and zeaxanthin could be found mostly in raw green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, turnip greens, collard greens and Brussels sprouts. It is not a secret, we are not eating nearly enough of it.
I hope my choices will inspire you to revise your medicine cabinet and to do your own research in order to find a few good quality natural remedies and supplements that might be beneficial for you based on your particular health history or lifestyle.
**May I suggest two great budget friendly websites that I regularly order my supplements from – www.vitacost.com and www.luckyvitamins.com. They both have an excellent selection of good quality supplements, health and beauty products, herbal and homeopathic remedies and more.
Buteyko Clinic USA offers unique breathing rehabilitation programs that result in long term drug free control over asthma, allergies, COPD, rhinitis, chronic cough, snoring, sleep apnea, anxiety, panic, chronic hyperventilation syndrome and other chronic conditions. Contact us today for a free consultation.