What’s in My Medicine Cabinet

How to make a natural herbal medicine chest for first aid and illness

The season that brings warm tidings and visions of sugarplums often brings sniffles, fever and flu, too. In my family, these things seem to only hit at night, on weekends, or on holidays. Since doctors are not always a viable option at those times, and because I prefer to avoid prescriptions if possible, I keep an A-Team of herbs, vitamins and supplements around for these occasions. These are also my most common recommendations to clients to keep on hand, and to take regularly.

Arnica Tincture

Made from the flowers of the Arnica plant, this tincture has amazing benefits for bruises, strains, sprains, and muscle soreness, especially when used quickly. Arnica can also be found in cream or gel form.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Likely something everyone has around the house already, this germ buster is not just for scraped knees. A few drops in each ear when you or your child feels a cold or ear infection coming on can often stop the illness all together. A few drops in each ear during an illness or infection can speed recovery. Simply use a dropper to put a few drops in each ear and stay still until the bubbling stops. Some bubbling is normal and good and some people experience very minor stinging.

Vitamin D3

More than just a supplement in times of need, this power vitamin (really a hormone precursor) can often reduce your risk of getting sick in the first place when taken properly. The best way to get Vitamin D is the sun, but in winter, this is often impossible. Only a blood test can help you figure out exactly how much you need to take, but for most adults, the daily dose is above 5,000 IU. If you suspect you are deficient in Vitamin D (and you probably are) get your doctor to test your blood to see your levels. There are two tests you can get, request a test of 25 Hydroxyvitamin D (also called 25(OH)D. Ask your doctor to tell you what your number is, as the range considered “healthy” is actually a sign of deficiency. Your range should be between 50-70. Anything lower, and you need serious supplementation. Most adults require a substantial maintenance dose. On average, the maintenance dose for children is 35 IU per pound of body weight and 5,000 IU per adult.

Vitamin C

Another powerhouse, Vitamin C packs a powerful punch against illness. There are even cases of people dying from influenza who made complete recoveries with high enough IV doses of Vitamin C. It is water soluble, and much more difficult to overdose on than Vitamin D. We keep powdered Vitamin C around at all times. At first sign of illness, we take 500 mg every hour until bowel tolerance (you will know this when it happens!) and then reduce dose to half. The powder is easy to add to a smoothie or applesauce and it really seems to help me bounce back more quickly.

Peppermint

I keep this around in various forms. I keep peppermint essential oil as a topical treatment for muscle ache, headache, and nausea. The loose leaf herb makes an excellent calming tea that helps with digestive problems and fever. I also make a gel with aloe vera gel and peppermint oil to rub on when needed. Peppermint is a great herb that is awesome for kids (just don’t use the oil undiluted on kids skin!) Rubbing the oil on kids feet (diluted) helps reduce fever and relieve nausea. A tincture made with peppermint leaf, ginger and fennel is a very effective remedy for heartburn, nausea and stomach flu.

Chamomile

My favorite herb for children. I keep the loose leaf herb around by the pound or more. It tastes great, is soothing, calming and relaxing. A warm chamomile tea helps sooth colic, digestive problems, anxiety or sleep difficulties. Rubbing this tea on a newborn’s skin helps the baby sleep soundly. Also great for adults who have trouble sleeping or who just want more restful sleep. Did I mention it tastes great?!

Cayenne

A powerhouse for a natural medicine cabinet. I keep it in tincture and powder form. For bleeding that won’t stop, the powder can be rubbed into the wound (yes, it will sting) until the bleeding stops, and then washed out with cool water. Though thankfully, I’ve never had firsthand experience with it, a few teaspoons of cayenne tincture will increase circulation rapidly and dilate the blood vessels, this can save the life of someone having a heart attack. Cayenne also increases the effectiveness of any herbs or supplements taken with it (be careful with medicine interaction!) so it is great to take with vitamins. It increases circulation and can help speed recovery during illness.

Aloe Vera

Most are familiar with this one. I keep it around in plant and gel form. The plant is the most effective immediate treatment for burns and I use the gel in most of my homemade cosmetics and beauty recipes. If you get the gel, look for one with no added chemicals or preservatives.

Elderberry

Elderberry has gained popularity lately as a prevention and treatment for the flu. I make my own syrup with pure elderberries, cinnamon and honey as a preventative for the flu. It tastes great and kids love it too. If flu does strike, large doses of this syrup can chase away the flu in a day or less. (Recipe to follow for the syrup. Also available under several different names in natural health stores.)

Lavender

A calming, soothing and relaxing herb that smells great. I keep lavender essential oil around for wound treatment, relaxation and pain relief. It is gentle enough to rub directly on the skin and has a soothing effect. Rubbing the oil on the feet and neck of a sick person helps him sleep better and recover faster.

Eucalyptus

I keep around as a tincture, loose leaf herb and essential oil. It is great for any kind of coughing illness and is very soothing to the lungs. It can be rubbed on the feet or (diluted) on the chest. A face steam of eucalyptus leaves helps clear the lungs and sinuses, and on the go, a few drops of the essential oil rubbed on the hands and then inhaled helps congestion and cough. Has antibacterial and antiviral properties.

Sea Salt/Saline Spray

Saline nasal spray is a great way to help decongest kids without the drugs. It is gentle enough for tiny babies and it works. It is available in drug stores. I make my own by adding a tablespoon of Himalayan sea salt to a cup of warm water. Once the salt dissolves, it can be sprayed, dropped, or poured (with a Neti pot) into the nose to loosen congestion. A couple drops in a congested baby or child’s nose will really help. For really little ones use a bulb syringe to remove the saline and snot mixture.

Red Raspberry Leaf

This is my most used herb by far. It boasts a huge nutrient profile and is great for the body. It is especially useful for female problems like PMS, Endometriosis, and cramps. It is often recommended during pregnancy for its strengthening effect on the uterus and for nursing moms because of its nutrient profile. It tastes very similar to regular black tea and with a little stevia, tastes like sweet tea. I drink it daily and haven’t had cramps or PMS since I started!

Ginger

I keep ginger capsules and usually fresh ginger root around at all times. The capsules are the most potent natural remedy for stomach difficulties and nausea. Ginger helps heartburn, nausea, indigestion, ulcers,etc. The root is wonderful added to recipes and can also be made into a tea for treatment of acute stomach problems. Can also help with motion sickness and morning sickness.

Those are the basic herbs that keep us healthy at Casa de Wellness.

Have any others you use? Let me know below!

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Reader Comments

  1. do you use colloidal silver? i hear wonderful things about it, and saw it work wonders before.

    • We do use it some. My mother in law has a machine to make it, and while I keep it on hand and we take occasionally, I haven’t personally seen it work quite as well as things like garlic or high dose vitamin C.

      • Hello Wellness Mama,

        Another great herb supplement that one would want to try and keep in your herb cabinet is “Ashwagandha.” It comes from India where they boast of their natural remedies.

        It’s great for overall health and especially stress. It has restorative benefits for your body and strengthens the immune system. It also helps with memory, lack of concentration, anxiety and depression to name a few!!

        My Vitamin D count was 15 when it’s supposed to be 30!! I had blood work done because I had the worst all over body pain after going out or walking. So, the Dr. prescribed 2,000 counts daily but here you have mentioned that one should take 5000. Any suggestions?

        I also take B-12 organic spray under the tongue – sublingually – for energy and B-6 as well.

        Hope all this helps our friends here. I absolutely love, love your site and all the wonderful advice and tips you give to us.

        Please don’t ever stop!

        Thank you for keeping us healthy.

        Blessings,
        Sasha

  2. What ratio do you use of aloe gel and peppermint oil?

  3. Where can you get clean versions of vitamin c, ginger capsules and saline spray? Whole food?

    I’m about to begin student teaching and need lots of ways to battle of the kiddos germs! Thanks in advance 🙂

  4. Does vitamin c work once you become sick?

    • It does, you will just need higher doses… usually up to 10,000 mg per day when you are actually sick.

      • Hi, thanks for this whole great reference. Question about your Vit C write up though. Did you really mean to say that there are people who have died and been brought back to life with a Vit C IV? Thanks!

        • As the post says, it was people who were considered to be dying, not who had actually died. Vitamin C is awesome, but I’m not aware of its ability to bring someone back to life! That being said, this is considered high dose therepeutic use and should only ever be attempted under the care of a doctor

  5. An additional note regarding herbs and pregnancy, since you give a few such notes: While peppermint is usually great, from what I’ve read it’s also an emmenogogue and shouldn’t be used in medicinal amounts by pregnant women as it can cause a miscarriage. Also, it can decrease or dry up a nursing mom’s milk supply (handy for weaning!), and I haven’t been able to find any info on how much is safe to have without affecting milk supply.

    Could you include any notes on what isn’t recommended for nursing moms (not just pregnant), that could affect milk supply or get passed to the baby with negative effects?

  6. What brand of red raspberry leaf do you usually use? Bigelow Teas has a red raspberry tea that is very good, but I’m worried its not the same thing

  7. What books/classes would you reccommend to learn more about herbal remedies?

  8. How does on die of influenza and then make a complete recovery with vitamin c?

    • dyING, not dead. They were dying of influenza and recovered, they hadn’t already died.

  9. It’s a great help that this info is all in one post…Thanks!

  10. I have read that Vit c from ascorbic acid is derived synthetically from GMO corm syrup and has harmful side effects for those with food sensitivities. What do you think about whole food sourced Vit c from ascerola or cassava?

  11. Are you using one tablespoon of coarse or fine salt? Most of my books say no more than a pinch per cup for a baby, but do you find your ratio mild enough for little ones?

    • As I understand it, you use the same ratios regardless of age. The point to a saline solution is to create a solution that matches the salinity of the body’s own fluids. However, children and babies may need less of the solution, since their nasal passages and sinuses are smaller.

  12. Hello,
    Great article. I am wondering if you heard of supplement form onega three negatively interacting with vitamin D? I read somewhere that the Vitamin D can get trapped in the Omega 3 fats and eventually cause a toxicity. Any info in this? Thanks very much, love your site

  13. Do you happen to have a list of general ‘medicines’.. For example..Headaches take 2 pills of Tylenol<so obviously the natural version of that. I'm looking for a list like that that would be a great general rule and posting it on the inside of the cabinet door for reference. Thanks!

  14. Hi wellness Mama..I have a question..Is there a natural/homemade version of Head n shoulders? I have extremely dry scalp, have been using natures gate moisture shampoo and it WORSE…way worse in fact. I read that the “natural shampoos” are sulfate free and sulfate is necessary to keep your scalp moisture balance. Is this true? Please help me, would rather use an herbal remedy if possible. Thanks Mama…..Sincerely,Kim D.

  15. Hi Katie!

    A few questions about the saline solution:

    – I have fine Pink Himalayan Sea Salt, should I mix this with warm distilled water? How long does it keep?
    -Is this ratio of water to salt safe for babies as little as newborns?
    -Would you recommend storing this in a glass bottle with squeeze dropper top for administering?

    I’m happy to find this, last time my baby was sick I used Little Noses. I’m slowly replacing things with homemade stuff or things with very little ingredients. Thank you so much!

    Shannon

  16. I have problems with yeast. What is a good natural way to get ride of it for ever. Will vinegar work? If so which kind?

    • Natural probiotics help with yeast problems. I use kefir, but you could also use homemade yogurt, kombucha, or other fermented products.

    • Garlic also kills a infection. I was told by my doc that if one should happen that I cud use a clove of garlic inserted. Just take a very large heavy needle and thread with cotton string and pierce the garlic by the root end. Tie off and insert. Should be done at night cuz u cud get a garlic taste in ur mouth. For a mild infection that is all till gone. For more advanced infection pierce the garlic a few times or for a really bad one cut off the end. It must be flushed or thrown in trash after. Load up on probiotics and a vit e capsule can be instered durning the day( wear a liner) it will burst on it’s own and sooth irritated tissue. Also drink raw apple cider vinegar in water. Eat plenty of raw garlic to help and raw onion will help for pain. Oh and this will also help for a uti. Tea tree oil in a carrier oil applied with a swab will also greatly help kill infection. Don’t douch as that sends bacteria up and if it’s just a simple yeast infection it will turn into a uti as well. Cut out sugar as much as u can as yeast feeds on sugar and starch as well.

  17. I am interested in adding Aloe vera gel to some of my homemade beauty recipes. If I do willl I need to refrigerate that recipe? Also will it decrease the shelf life of that recipe?

    Thanks 🙂

  18. I have continual nasal drip, after turning thirty you’d swear I were my great grandmother, a tissue in every pocket. I went to my doctor, he gave me a spray which I’ve been using for years now, I am 43, and I want to stop. Is there any natural remedy for a drip that won’t quit??

  19. I also make my own “Fire Cider”. It is a bit costly to get the best ingredients, and takes a month or more to make, but I feel it is WELL worth the time, effort and cost. Search the Mountain Rose Herb website blog and you should find the recipe. I will also include it here. I went to the local thrift store, and found several shot glasses, and use them to take my FC ”shot” each morning from fall through spring. I made an extra large amount this year: one gallon! I hope it gets me through until next spring.

    I also add it to salads as a dressing, put it in soups, on rice, etc. I also take the remains (after straining) and freeze to put in soups and stews. You can adjust this to your own taste. :
    Ingredients
    1/2 cup fresh grated organic ginger root
    1/2 cup fresh grated organic horseradish root
    1 medium organic onion, chopped
    10 cloves of organic garlic, crushed or chopped
    2 organic jalapeno peppers, chopped
    Zest and juice from 1 organic lemon
    Several sprigs of fresh organic rosemary or 2 tbsp of dried rosemary leaves
    1 tbsp organic turmeric powder
    organic apple cider vinegar
    raw local honey to taste
    **1T dried Echinacea root
    Directions
    Prepare all of your cold-fighting roots, fruits, and herbs and place them in a quart sized jar. If you’ve never grated fresh horseradish, be prepared for a powerful sinus opening experience! Use a piece of natural parchment paper or wax paper under the lid to keep the vinegar from touching the metal. Shake well! Store in a dark, cool place for one month and remember to shake daily.
    After one month, use cheesecloth to strain out the pulp, pouring the vinegar into a clean jar. Be sure to squeeze as much of the liquid goodness as you can from the pulp while straining. Next, comes the honey! Add 1/4 cup of honey and stir until incorporated. Taste your cider and add another 1/4 cup until you reach the desired sweetness.
    Ingredient Variations
    These herbs and spices would make a wonderful addition to your Fire Cider creations: Thyme, Cayenne, Rosehips, Ginseng, Orange, Grapefruit, Schizandra berries, Astragalus, Parsley, Burdock, Oregano, Peppercorns
    Fire Cider is a traditional cold remedy with deep roots in folk medicine. The tasty combination of vinegar infused with powerful immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, decongestant, and spicy circulatory movers makes this recipe especially pleasant and easy to incorporate into your daily diet to help boost the immune system, stimulate digestion, and get you nice and warmed up on cold days. Website says it should last at least a year.
    I never have it that long!

    • Thanks!! A lot of gathering of quality ingredients for sure, but it might be worth making to try.

  20. In a report I read some time ago that hydrogen peroxide in the brown bottle on the supermarket shelf will more than likely contain traces of metals. Do you use this type or the food grade type, diluted down to 3%?

    • Yes I would like to know also. I have copd and have heard that you can nebulize Hydrogen Peroxide with Distilled water. Have you ever heard of this or any more suggestions?

  21. Do you have any low salt recipes

  22. Turmeric for stomach. I use it for gastric reflux and have given up prescription medication for the condition.

  23. Love these suggestions! I use essential oils quite a bit (lavender is a fave), but the daily go-to natural help I reach for every morning is a plant—Moringa Olefeira. Most nutrient rich plant on earth. Google it! I use the Zija brand because of their high quality. I wouldn’t go a day without all those vitamins, nutrients and anti-oxidants!!!!

  24. For the saline spray is it a tablespoon or is it suppose to be a teaspoon? I have never seen a recipe call for that amount of salt. Is it because it is the pink salt? I’m needing to blast my little ones cold.
    Thank you!

  25. Hi there. I am such an avid follower of your blog and I really appreciate the time and enormous effort you put into sharing your knowledge and experience. I have used many homemade recipes including the pregnancy tea and household cleaning recipes and have always found them greatly beneficial. This list is super helpful but I just wanted to report back on the saline solution. My 7 month old is congested so I prepared this recipe and tried it out on myself first and my word it in intensely strong. 20 mins later and I’m still feeling a niggling sting. Most recipes say 1/4 tsp of salt to one cup. Could that be more appropriate but still do the job?