Mother Nature’s Pharmacy
Updated: Jan 30
Home medicine kits consisting of natural remedies aren’t as antiquated as you might think, it really wasn’t that long ago that these were a staple of every home. Your mother or grandmother may well have used some types of herbs or plants to aid your healing when you were ill as a child, without you even realising it!
Before the advent of drugs, plant medicines were the go-to remedies, and they can still serve you just as well today. Herbal medicine is the oldest form of medicine with early records describing the use of medicinal plants dating back thousands of years. Many mainstream drugs owe their existence to the plants that we use as medical herbalists.
When injury or illness strikes, typically our first instinct is to reach for over-the-counter medications to mediate symptoms, forgetting that there is a safe, affordable and effective pharmacy right in front of us, Mother Nature’s pharmacy. Our natural pharmacy offers an incredibly expansive and diverse range of medicinal herbs and plants that can help ease uncomfortable and limiting symptoms, while promoting healing without interfering with the body’s own immune response.
Pharmaceutical medications rarely provide a complete cure, with a focus on treating symptoms separately rather than the illness as a whole, and they almost always help one condition at the expense of creating another, with a host of damaging side effects. Holistic medicine enables full recovery with the underlying causes being treated and the entire body being healed. Conventional medical treatment is certainly warranted in some instances however, such as physical trauma, but with non-life-threatening cases of illness or injury, nature really does offer everything we need.
With thousands of medicinal plants available, with some better known and more readily available than others, it can be difficult to know which to choose. I’ve set out below some of my favourite remedies, which can either be purchased ready-made or prepared at home. There are lots here so just pick and choose the ones that are most suitable for you and your family’s needs.
Home natural medicine kits really do make great additions to any home and being able to heal yourself and your family members can be very empowering so I’d suggest you give it a try!
Activated Charcoal - by binding to toxins and heavy metals, activated charcoal is great for acute use in food poisoning, digestive illness, vomiting, diarrhoea, bloating and toxin ingestion (don’t forget to contact the poison centre in serious cases of poisoning though!) Take in capsule or powder form with plenty of water.
Aloe Vera – an excellent addition to every medicine kit due to its wide-ranging healing, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties making it great for skin conditions such as burns, rashes, cuts and scrapes, eczema and psoriasis. Obtaining some fresh plant sap is the best option but if you don’t have access to any aloe plants then it’s quite easy to obtain aloe vera gel from high street shops or online, just check that it’s a natural product without added preservatives etc.
Apple Cider Vinegar - a centuries-old home remedy used to treat numerous health ailments, whilst also functioning as a disinfectant and natural preservative. Proven to regulate blood sugar levels and aid weight loss, ACV is also great to have on hand for digestive discomfort, indigestion, hiccups, sore throat, body odour, dandruff, sunburn, acne/pimples and bites/stings. Always choose organic products that come with “the mother” to ensure that you obtain all these health benefits. Limit your intake to about 1tbsp at a time, and dilute with water to reduce potential enamel erosion.
Arnica – with impressive wound healing, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and pain-relieving properties, arnica is an excellent first aid treatment for physical traumas such as muscle soreness, strains and sprains, swelling, wounds and bruises. It can significantly reduce the healing time when applied immediately after injury. For topical use only.
Baking Soda – offering a myriad of uses in the home for cooking and domestic duties, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) also has several health benefits including treatment for acid reflux and indigestion/heartburn, mouth ulcers/canker sores, itchy skin, sunburn, calluses and urinary tract infections. Either dissolve ½ -1 tsp in water to take orally or prepare a bath soak or topical paste.
Calendula – also known as pot marigold, calendula makes an excellent topical cream with anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and wound healing properties. It is a great option for cuts, scratches and scrapes, burns, bruises, insect bites, conjunctivitis, skin rashes and ulcerations, eczema and for easing muscle spasms, menstrual cramps and irritable bowel syndrome.
Castor Oil – first used by the Ancient Egyptians, this simple vegetable oil provides a host of health benefits including anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, lymphatic and circulatory stimulant, immune system support, wound healing, constipation relief, treating infections and skin conditions such as acne, relieve menstrual cramps and promoting healthy hair. Castor oil can be applied topically; applied directly to skin, with a castor oil pack or mixed with other oils; or taken orally with milk or warm water. Ensure you follow dosage instructions as excessive consumption can be dangerous.
Cayenne Pepper – one of the best circulatory stimulants available, cayenne effectively increases blood flow to help expedite recovery, lowers blood pressure, aids digestion and increases metabolism. Topically, cayenne powder helps to reduce muscle and joint aches and pains, such as with osteoarthritis.
Chamomile – one of the best carminative (calming) herbs, mostly known for helping with sleep, stress, nervousness and anxiety, and with childhood health conditions such as teething, colic, fever and irritability due to its gentle properties. As an anti-inflammatory, Chamomile is also a great option for easing allergies, inflammation, infections, muscle spasms, nausea, flatulence, gastritis and irritable bowel syndrome. Chamomile tea makes a very relaxing drink before bed, which can also be cooled for topical applications and bath soaks. Just be careful if you have allergic tendencies as these flowers can be allergenic.
Coconut Oil – another incredibly versatile product, with numerous uses in the home. As part of the medicine kit, coconut oil is great as a skin/lip salve, antifungal treatment, gingivitis (inflamed gums), skin irritation, eczema, cuts and wounds, and damaged cuticles. Consume 1-2tbsp of raw, virgin coconut oil daily or apply topically, either alone or as a carrier oil for essential oils.
Cranberry: the best urinary antiseptic available, countering the effects of cystitis and other urinary infections. The strong antibacterial properties are also effective against other infections such as H.pylori and food-borne illnesses. Choose either juices with no added sugars or high-quality supplements.
Dandelion – one of my favourite herbs due to its wide range of benefits particularly for detoxification, skin and gastrointestinal complaints including eczema, acne, rheumatic conditions, liver congestion, fever, swelling, bloating and constipation. The leaf offers diuretic, mild laxative and digestive aid properties, while the roots exert detoxifying effects. Both make a really yummy tea, just be careful with allergies to flowering plants of the same family such as chamomile and marigold.
Echinacea – a very effective immune-boosting herb with anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. Before antibiotics, echinacea was used as a general cure for various infections and wounds. Today it is mostly used for respiratory illness, colds/flus, herpes, lymphatic swelling and skin ulcers, and is most effective at relieving colds when taken at the onset of symptoms rather than days later. Topically echinacea is also helpful for wound healing and is useful for stings and bites, as well as skin infections so should be a staple for the home medicine kit. Echinacea can be taken in several forms, one of the easiest being a tea tincture, made from dried echinacea flowers (or a tea bag!)
Elderberry – the high vitamin and antioxidant content provides support to the immune system and is one of the best options for treating viral infections including colds and flus, respiratory ailments and fevers. Make sure you don’t eat them raw though as they can be poisonous!
Epsom Salts – the high magnesium content, which promotes relaxation, makes it excellent at relieving tight and sore muscles when used in a bath soak.
Eucalyptus – the essential oil is great in a face steam for respiratory congestion, sinus conditions and coughs. It can also be applied topically when diluted with coconut oil or olive oil to help relieve respiratory congestion.
Garlic – arguably the best medicine of all! A powerful broad-spectrum antimicrobial, with a wide-range of uses, particularly for the immune and cardiovascular systems. It is used to treat viral, fungal, parasitic and bacterial infections including colds/flus, candida overgrowth, athlete's foot, ear and skin infections, worms and respiratory conditions as well as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and blood clots. Crushed raw garlic is ideal, so try to include a clover or two into your daily diet is a key part of keeping your body healthy and your immune system functioning at optimal levels.
Gelatin – an important household staple, with numerous health benefits and a useful first aid option due to its high amino acid content and strong healing properties. Gelatin is easily obtained from homemade bone broths (organic or grass-fed) and is extremely nourishing during illness. It can also be used to make home-made jelly, gummy sweets, soups, sauces, smoothies and teas.
Ginger – a great anti-inflammatory and digestive aid, considered a longevity herb in Asia. Ginger is useful for a wide range of ailments such as nausea (including morning & motion sickness), reflux, diarrhoea, colic, arthritis/rheumatism, poor circulation, colds/flus and headaches.
Peppermint – the herb is another effective digestive aid, useful for indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome and stomach upsets. The calming properties can also help to relieve menstrual cramps, skin irritation, colds/flus and headaches, particularly when used topically as an essential oil (diluted), which also makes a great addition to home-made natural toothpaste.
Plums: packed with vitamins, antioxidants and dietary fibre, plums are a great source of nutrients, and effective as an immunity booster and laxative, helping to relieve digestive discomfort and regulate digestive function.
Probiotics – good quality probiotics offer a number of important benefits to the body, particularly for gut health, to help restore a healthy microbiome following antibiotic use, for immune strengthening and for skin conditions such as eczema. Specific probiotic strains are required for particular conditions however so I would suggest consulting a health professional to advise you on the most appropriate strain and brand of probiotics for your particular health needs.
Slippery Elm – as a potent demulcent, this herb is great for soothing digestive discomfort including irritable bowel syndrome and constipation, as well as soothing a sore or irritated throat. Take with plenty of water and at least 2 hours away from supplements/medications.
St John's Wort – although mostly researched for its effective anti-depressant and nervine tonic benefits, SJW is also one of the best topical anti-inflammatory and wound healing herbs making it excellent for ailments including bruises, wounds, varicose veins, burns including sunburn, nerve damage/pain including sciatica, haemorrhoids, herpes sores, rheumatism and arthritis.
Tea Tree – this commonly used essential oil is a must for the medicine kit as a strong anti-microbial and natural disinfectant with antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties, making it very effective against acne, dandruff and athlete’s foot. Tea tree oil should only be used topically mixed with a carrier oil, and never ingested. Inhalation is also very effective at relieving congested sinuses and respiratory complaints.
Turmeric – mostly known for its potent anti-inflammatory properties, this wonder herb also offers pain relief, antioxidant, anti-cancer, digestive aid, and liver and immune support so is a really great addition to both your culinary and medicine kits! Available as a root, powder, tea and tincture!
Vitamin C– an incredible immunity booster so useful for the prevention and treatment of pretty much all illnesses due to its antioxidant and immune-enhancing effects. The powder form generally contains less excipients (fillers) and can be easily mixed with food or drinks so is always my preference. As an essential nutrient for collagen production, it also helps with wound healing and tissue repair. Kiwis, berries, peppers, guavas, broccoli and citrus fruits are great food sources!
Witch Hazel – very helpful for topical use on cuts, scrapes and irritated or sensitive skin. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties make it an effective remedy for treating haemorrhoids, acne and sensitive scalps.
Self-treating mild ailments using these basic natural remedies is usually very safe and effective, however they should only be used on a short-term basis and for non-life-threatening conditions. Over the counter remedies are typically not as strong or effective as those prescribed by a Naturopath or Medical Herbalist, and they can also vary in efficacy and quality. Without the necessary knowledge, it can be difficult to know which remedy to use so I would recommend consulting with a qualified medical herbalist in the first instance for some guidance. As highly trained health professionals, Medical Herbalists and Naturopaths are very well-equipped to undertake an assessment of your health and select the most appropriate herbal prescription, with referrals to other health specialists such as your GP if deemed necessary.
During my four-year degree in Natural Medicine, we were trained in several orthodox medical disciplines including pathophysiology, clinical examination, diagnostic skills, contraindications and interactions with allopathic medication. This was all combined with in-depth studies of nutrition and medicinal plants, and their specific effects on the biochemical processes within the human body….so we have LOTS of knowledge to share!! Please be in touch if you’d like any further guidance 😊