I’ve written about my extensive natural “medicine cabinet” before, but I’m always asked what my favorites are, and which remedies are really worth the money if you have a limited budget.
When I thought about it, it wasn’t hard at all! These are the go-to staples I always have on hand no matter what.
These easy natural remedies are inexpensive, practical items that you probably already have in your kitchen, or can buy on Amazon, Thrive Market, or at your local health food store without breaking the bank. No fancy supplements on this list (although those can be helpful in certain circumstances!).
My Favorite (and Easy) Natural Remedies
As the question goes… if I was stranded on a desert island, which natural remedies would I take with me?
The choice was easy.
Before we start, I’m not a doctor and don’t play one on the Internet, so always check with a qualified health practitioner before using any remedy, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, or giving them to children.
Let’s start from the bottom, working up to my #1 natural remedy…
Chamomile is definitely one of my favorite herbs. It’s a great natural source of magnesium, so it comes along with plenty of relaxing benefits. It’s also great for pain relief (I love to use it in place of Tylenol).
Plus, chamomile contains anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and anti-parasitic properties that make it great for a variety of usages.
Here’s how we use it:
- Brewed in a strong tea to color my hair (it’s even better if you can sit in the sun for a bit)
- As a homemade cough syrup
- In a sleepytime tincture for restless kids (or insomniac adults!)
- To soothe aches and pains (see tincture recipe below)
- In homemade baby care recipes like diaper cream and baby oil
I also make this tincture to keep on hand to soothe a variety of ailments, like menstrual cramps, headaches or stomach bugs. It’s my favorite herb to use with kids, and it’s even safe for infants (which is great news for teething!)
Learn more: Read all about benefits of chamomile in this post.
Where to get it: I buy chamomile online in bulk here.
4. Activated Charcoal
Activated charcoal is a must for anyone with a family. It works for upset stomachs, food poisoning, and even whitening teeth! It’s well studied for safety and relatively inexpensive to buy.
And no, this is not the same as the charcoal you use on the grill! The activated charcoal is made from coconut shell, heated in a particular way and put through a multi-step process to make it very porous. This is the “activation” part of the process.
Because of its porous nature, the increased surface area of the molecules can bind powerfully to any substance. This makes it useful as a poison and toxin remedy. This is also why you’ll find it in everything from air filters to water filters, for its purifying abilities.
How we use activated charcoal:
- In charcoal gummies for when one of the kids is sick or has an upset stomach. Or, I mix the contents of a charcoal capsule into applesauce (but it doesn’t look as delicious).
- As a purifying face mask (recipe here)
- In a drawing salve for bug bites
- To whiten my teeth, either by mixing in my natural toothpaste or using this natural tooth whitening kit
- In our water filter and air filter
- To keep on hand for accidental poisoning emergencies, BUT I would call the Poison Control Center first and only administer at home if instructed to do so, since activated charcoal is not recommended for every situation.
Note: In my personal experience, do not give activated charcoal to a child you suspect is about to throw up… unless you want black vomit everywhere!
Learn more: Read about how activated charcoal works here.
Where to get it: I buy this brand made from coconut char.
3. Elderberry Syrup
If I could choose only one natural remedy to have for the rest of my life, elderberry syrup would be it. It is the first thing I administer when trying to avoid colds/flu in the winter. From my full post on the benefits of elderberry:
Elderberries naturally contain vitamins A, B, and C and stimulate the immune system. Israeli researchers found that the complex sugars in elderberries support the immune system in fighting cold and flu. They developed several formulas based on these complex sugars that have been clinically shown to help ameliorate all kinds of cold/flu. From the study: “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.”
I order elderberries in bulk (links below) and make elderberry syrup in my Instant Pot. It lasts for weeks when refrigerated.
(Many thanks to Dr. Madiha Saeed for reviewing this article and noting that elderberry can be most effective in the early stages of viral infections, as it can significantly increase cytokines, but should be discontinued with symptoms of infection.) source
Here’s how we use it:
- We take 2 teaspoons of elderberry syrup daily during cold and flu season, and up to 4 times a day when we have symptoms of illness. Here is my recipe.
- As elderberry gummies for easy dosing when traveling and extra benefits from gelatin.
- In elderberry tea when feeling illness coming on
- Added to marshmallows for a fun, immune-boosting treat! (Note: They are not just any marshmallows.)
- In kombucha for extra health benefits and flavor
- In the form of elderberry popsicles when the kids have sore throats
Kids also love the taste (it’s similar to a strong grape or blueberry flavor with a hint of cinnamon) and I love the benefits!
Read more: I go into more detail about the benefits of elderberries here.
2. Apple Cider Vinegar
Is there anything apple cider vinegar can’t do? From cleaning the house to boosting health, we use ACV just about every day. When taking for health purposes, it’s important to use apple cider vinegar with “the mother” — the cloudy substance in organic ACVs that supposedly holds all its potent benefits.
If you have a bunch of apples lying around, you can even make your own! Save the cores and peels, then use them to make this homemade apple cider vinegar recipe.
Here’s how we use it:
- Add a teaspoon to a glass of water for indigestion, heartburn, or stomach upset (or make this ginger honey switchel!)
- In a bath to soothe skin problems or reduce body odor
- Grab a washcloth and apply a 25% ACV and 75% water solution to a sunburn for quick relief
- Add to a foot soak to help relieve athlete’s foot
- Apply a 50/50 ACV and water solution to bug bites
- Dab on acne to get rid of zits
- As the base of an herbal hair rinse to strengthen hair and nourish the scalp
Learn more: I go in-depth on ACV here.
Where I get it: Make sure you buy raw and unfiltered apple cider vinegar (not pasteurized). I usually stick to this brand.
And next, the award for best natural remedy goes to…
If I had to choose a favorite supplement, it would definitely be magnesium.
I’ve learned that a good night of sleep is my #1 factor for feeling great and staying healthy. Since magnesium supports sleep and relaxation, it’s been a gamechanger for myself and my family.
Many people are deficient in this important mineral (here’s how to know if you are). This is unfortunate since it’s responsible for 300 reactions within the body! That means it is vitally important to have adequate magnesium in your system — you literally can’t survive without it.
Getting enough magnesium was also instrumental in avoiding morning sickness in my last pregnancy.
Both my kids and I take magnesium as a supplement daily (link below), plus we use it in homemade recipes for the whole family since it can also be absorbed through the skin.
Here’s how we use it:
- I rub a homemade magnesium oil spray on my kids’ feet each night to help with sleep
- Applied as a homemade magnesium body butter for softer skin
- As a stress-relieving foot soak
If you’ve wanted to start using more natural remedies and haven’t been sure where to start, hopefully this helps! All of these remedies are versatile, easy to find, safe for a family, and go a long way to supporting a healthy lifestyle.
Just remember… the best natural remedies are a full night of sleep, active time outdoors, and a healthy diet! These are just a few extra helps along the way.
A few other favorites that almost made the list:
- A soothing honey propolis throat spray from Beekeepers Naturals. The kids love how it tastes and it really helps a sore throat.
- A Neti-Pot (this one is non-plastic) or nasal saline spray. I love both the one from Genexa and this Xlear xylitol nasal spray.
- The Germ Defender essential oil or any of the kid-safe blends from Plant Therapy
Here is my full list of natural remedies that I keep in my herbal medicine cabinet.
This article was medically reviewed by Madiha Saeed, MD, a board certified family physician. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.
What natural remedies do you always have on hand? Share below!