Aloe: use the gel from the plant (I just grow one in my kitchen) topically for minor burns, sunburns, skin irritation or inflammation or keep a prepared aloe gel in your cabinet

Arnica oil: applied topically, it’s magical for quickly healing bruises and sprains

Black cohosh: the liquid extract works like a natural Tylenol for aches and pains without the potential for serious side effects; it’s excellent for headaches, menstrual cramps, and body aches from flu (and I bet you thought this herb was just for menopause!)

Chamomile tea: for “belly aches,” difficulty falling asleep, fussy babies or kids, gas and bloating, and colic; also anti-inflammatory for the bowel for people with inflammatory bowel problems

Comfrey leaf and root: used in salves and ointments for irritated skin, minor cuts, and abrasions (of course, only after minor wounds have been cleaned well with water)

Cramp Bark: Another great herb for menstrual cramps and body aches, keep an ounce of the liquid extract in the medicine cabinet.

Echinacea and Elderberry Syrup: The dynamic duo for coughs, colds, and flu symptoms, to help prevent and treat them. Also tastes delicious. I recommend the combination products – the taste of the elderberry makes the Echinacea go down easier for kids (yes, Mary Poppins would agree).

Garlic: use to make Garlic Honey Lemonade for colds, coughs, and ‘what ails ya’

Garlic-Mullein Oil: the go-to remedy for earaches, a few drops of oil are put into the affected ear (as long as there is nothing draining from the ear canal and the ear drum is intact).

Ginger (fresh root): use hot tea for fever, colds, nausea, indigestion, menstrual cramps, and the capsules for headaches and arthritic joints. Crystallized ginger candy is fantastic for motion sickness.

Jamaican Dogwood: nature’s pain reliever, the liquid extract is one of the strongest botanicals we have! Great for headaches, muscles aches and pains, menstrual cramps – really, if there’s pain, it often helps. I love to combine it in equal parts with liquid extracts of Cramp Bark and Black cohosh for the triple threat pain treatment. A usual adult dose is 20-60 drops of any of these, or the combination, 4-6 times/day. Avoid with sedative medications and do not exceed this dose.

Kava kava: this is nature’s best medicine for anxiety. Only 5-20 drops of the liquid extract, or a low dose capsule is needed (start low and go slow ‘cause it’s strong stuff and can knock you flat if you take too much!) Avoid if you have any history of liver problems and if you are operating any machinery or driving.

Lavender essential oil: a few drops applied to the temples and voila! Bye-bye tension headache. Five to seven drops in your hot bath and sleep well.

Licorice: the DGL form is a safe and natural alternative to medications for heartburn and reflux (GERD). Licorice tea is also a very effective natural anti-inflammatory that soothes sore throats and coughs.

Mentholated Chest Rub (yup, like Vic’s): helps quiet coughs in kids (= more sleep for mom and dad) and in adults as well. Only use on the chest (never on the face).

Passionflower (liquid extract or capsules): take before bed as directed for less stress and better sleep.

Peppermint oil: rub a few drops into each temple for tension headaches; inhale the aroma for morning sickness or to increase concentration while studying.

Quercetin and Freeze Dried Nettles: classic for preventing and treating allergies and hives, this combo comes in capsules and can be taken before or when allergy season starts or when you notice symptoms. Avoid quercetin in pregnancy.

Slippery Elm: the lozenges are soothing and healing for sore throat discomfort.

Tea tree oil: a natural antiseptic and antifungal herbal extract that can be applied to the skin to treat a variety of skin infections including ringworm and athlete’s foot, and can also be used to treat yeast infections. Make sure to use a diluted product, because full strength is irritating to the skin.

Additional Natural Medicine Cabinet Must-Haves

Digestive enzymes: made with plant enzymes; help with gas and bloating

Honey: keep in your kitchen or medicine cabinet for minor burns, drying up zits, and for a cough in anyone over 1 year old.

Magnesium citrate: from 150 mg to 800 mg before bed to treat constipation

Probiotics: helps get the gut flora back on track when you’ve had a cold, taken antibiotics, or have gas and bloating.

Sea salt: One of the best remedies for a sore throat is a sea salt gargle

Zinc lozenges or tablets: helps boost the immune system during cold season and helps shorten the duration of respiratory infections; also helps prevent and treat seasonal allergies.

Saima Jehangir, MD/MPH, FACOG Dr. Jehangir is dedicated to providing holistic care and protecting and maintaining the health and wellbeing of her patients' body, mind, and emotions. After earning a bachelor’s degree in zoology and a master’s degree in public health, Dr. Jehangir completed her medical degree at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

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