When I was pregnant with my first child at the age of 22, I had NO clue about my views on natural versus conventional medicines and health care. As an asthmatic child with a weak immune system, I had been on round after round of antibiotics, steroids, allergy shots, and pretty much every over the counter medication known to man. When I was 4 months pregnant, I was teaching at a Montessori school and contracted a nasty cold with a barking cough followed by pink eye. I went to see the doctor, and she told me that the medication she needed to prescribe could possibly cause deafness to my baby.
I left the doctor’s office in tears, shocked and feeling powerless. It was this instance that sent me to Google to search for natural remedies with no side effects. From that moment on, I have done my best to use natural remedies on myself and my children before turning to conventional medicine. Because of our plant based diet, healthy sleep, low/non-toxic hygiene habits, and the use of safe, natural remedies, it is a rarity that we need to use medication.
Below are the items that I include in my Holistic Medicine Cabinet and have used on myself and my children for years. I have not included any vitamins or supplements that the adults of the house take when battling illness or any of the specific foods that we eat to support the immune system during that time (please let me know if you’d like a follow up post). My children are all over the age of 5, so please do your own research in deciding if these or any other natural remedies are safe for toddlers or babies.
Please use your common sense and parental judgement when choosing natural remedies. I am not a doctor, just a mom who has done lots of research and successfully treated many common ailments at home. You can read my disclaimer here and talk to your health care practitioner about using natural remedies to treat your family.
Thermometer– My general rule of thumb is to watch the child, not the thermometer. However, in the event that one of my family members does have a sustained fever, I find it useful to have an instant read thermometer handy.
Cool Mist Humidifier- A staple in every household. Humidifiers are wonderful in the event of a cold, congestion, or any respiratory illness. I also use a humidifier during the winter months to add some moisture back in the air to help with dry nasal passages and dry skin.
Neti Pot- An Aryuvedic tool, the Neti Pot is used to clear out and soothe the nasal passages during colds, sinus infections, and when experiencing seasonal allergies. Simply boil 1 cup of water on the stove and allow to cool to a slightly warm temperature. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt and add the water to the Neti Pot. Place the spout in one nostril, tilt the head and allow the water to flow out the other nostril. Repeat on the other side. Blow the nose gently when finished.
Xlear- My children are still tentative about using the Neti Pot. So when they experience nasal congestion, we use Xlear. It is a saline nasal spray that contains xylitol which helps prevent sinus infections. It has a slightly sweet taste, so they don’t mind if some of it runs down their throat in the process.
NoseFrieda- In our home, we call the NoseFrida the “Snot Sucker.” While my kids are now (thankfully!) old enough to properly blow their own noses, this little device was a sanity saver when they were little. I used this in conjunction with the Xlear spray to help clear out snotty noses when the need arose.
Garlic Mullen Oil- Ear aches can often accompany congestion in kids and adults. A few drops of Garlic Mullen Ear Oil helps ward off ear infections and help soothe achy, stuffy ears when used with a warm compress over the affected ear.
Onion- Night time coughs are common with a cold. The action of laying down tends to allow the post-nasal drip to irritate the lungs and cause coughing. Cutting the top off of an onion, scoring little hatch marks in the flesh, and leaving it near the bed of the sick person helps thin the mucus, thereby causing much less coughing at night. Slice off half an inch of onion every night to reactivate the sulfur compounds and replace when the onion is no longer fragrant.
Elderberry Syrup/Tablets- At the first sign of illness, everyone in the house takes Elderberry. The kids use syrup, whereas the adults prefer tablets. Elderberry is a powerful immune stimulant. When taken every 3 hours at the first sign of illness, it can rally the immune system enough to reduce the severity of symptoms greatly, if not completely ward off the oncoming virus altogether.
GSE- Husband introduced me to GSE, or grapefruit seed extract, when we were dating back in 2004. When taken at the start of a scratch throat or cough, it can clear it up quickly with it’s antibacterial and antiviral properties. For the kids, we use about 3 drops in a shot glass full of orange juice 3 times per day. For adults, 12-15 drops in orange juice 3 times per day. If you’re brave, you can gargle with 10 drops in a bit of warm water. It is highly effective, but it tastes like tire rubber.
Mustard Bath- Based on Ayurvedic warming spices, Dr. Singha’s Mustard Bath helps support the body’s natural detoxification systems during illness. During your 20 minute hot soak, the combination of mustard, wintergreen, ginger, and rosemary will cause your body temperature to rise, allowing you to sweat while it relaxes achy muscles. Following the package directions, you’ll rinse in cool water, roughly towel dry, wrap yourself in warm clothes, and go to bed. This is another remedy I’ve used since I was a teen. Trust me when I say, you will sweat all night! You’ll feel much better in the morning. I do not recommend using this with children.
Camomile Tea Bags- Commonly used to calm the body and mind before bed, camomile tea is used in my house for treating pink eye. Conjunctivitis is a common childhood ailment and a huge pain in the rear for parents because whether it’s viral or bacterial, it’s SUPER contagious (and let’s face it, goopy, swollen, cloudy red eyes are NOT cute on anyone). With the overuse of antibiotics, it’s best to try a natural approach to treating pink eye before going to the doctor for antibiotic eye drops. I’ve always used camomile tea bags to treat pink eye in my kiddos. In fact, I’ve yet to have a case of pink eye pop up that I couldn’t squash in 48 hours or less with Camomile! Camomile is anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, and anti-microbial. It’s soothing to the itchy, puffy, irritated eye and can wipe out the infection in a snap!
Simply steep the tea bags in hot water for 3-5 minutes, squeeze out the excess liquid, allow to cool a bit, and place on the affected eye for 10 minutes. Repeat the process with a FRESH tea bag 3-4 Times a day until it’s gone. Of course, follow all other common sense home care rules such as efficient and frequent hand washing, avoiding touching the eyes, washing the pillow case every morning until the infection is gone, and disinfecting toys and surfaces regularly (don’t forget door handles, light switches, faucets, and car seat buckles!).
*please note: if you or your child suffer from a ragweed allergy, you should avoid Camomile. Try Goldenseal Tea bags instead
Mint Tea Bags- Mint Tea is wonderful for upset tummies or indigestion. Served lukewarm, it’s also cooling for the body when fighting a fever.
Slippery Elm Tea– SIippery elm is a powerful anti-inflammatory and contains mucilage, which creates a slippery gel when mixed with water. It’s very soothing for coughs and sore throats. It’s also useful for constipation and acid reflux. I prefer using slippery elm via Traditional Medicinals Throat Coat Tea. There is also a Just for Kids version of this tea that contains marshmallow root instead of the slippery elm for younger children.
Colloidal Silver- Colloidal Silver is a powerful antiviral and antibacterial agent. It can applied to wounds to keep them clean, reduce inflammation, and speed healing. Colloidal Silver can also be gargled with for a sore throat and it can be taken under the tongue for immune support.
Manuka Honey- This powerfully antibacterial honey is made by bees in New Zealand that pollinate the Manuka Tea Tree bush. Manuka Honey been shown effective against MRSA infections and ulcerated skin in hospital settings. Since it is very potent and expensive, we reserve Manuka Honey for illness only to be used medicinally. It can be used in cooled teas to soothe sore throats and coughs, as well as on cuts, scrapes, and pimples to heal them quickly and reduce the risk of infection.
*Please note: Consuming honey is a controversial topic in the vegan community. My family chooses to use it as medicine, believing that by doing so, we are reducing ourselves and consequently our environment to less conventional chemical medicines. If you feel that consuming honey medically is unethical to you, please do not do so. Also, please never give any type of honey to children under the age of 1.
Apple Cider Vinegar- Diluted ACV is wonderful for upset tummies, acid reflux, indigestion, and coughs or congestion. You can add one cup of Raw Apple Cider Vinegar to the bath to help reduce a fever or to help treat a yeast infection. Straight ACV placed on a cotton ball and secured with a band-aid (changed 2-3 times a day), cured a wart on my finger in under a week after failed dry ice treatment at the doctor’s office.
Coconut Water- We use coconut water as an electrolyte replacement when recovering from stomach illness. I allow the kids little sips beginning 1 hour after the last vomiting episode. I allow them to drink it freely in the event of diarrhea with no vomiting.
Oats- Oat baths are very soothing to the skin. We place 2 cups of rolled oats into an old, clean sock and tie it shut before placing it in the bath. I allow the kids to squeeze and play with the oat soak in the water to help with dry winter skin, viral rashes, allergic skin rashes, or bug bites. This was also a weekly routine for us when my son battled eczema as a baby.
Epsom Salt- Epsom Salt is a mineral compound (magnesium sulfate) often used internally as a laxative, or alternatively, as a gardening aid to produce more flowers and improve crop yields. Adding a cup or two of Epsom salt to a hot bath as a way to soothe achy muscles, relieve tension, support natural detoxification during illness, and treat constipation. Our skin is our largest organ absorbing about 60% of what is placed on it, so transdermal use of Epsom salt is a fantastic way to help achieve optimum magnesium levels in the body.
Rice Bag- A rice bag is a lovely natural way to treat muscle aches, pains, bruises, headaches, cramps, or cold feet. We keep ours in the freezer so that it’s always cold, but it can also be put in the microwave when needed for a hot compress.
Hemp Cream- This cream is a soothing blend of arnica, healing oils, vitamin B5, and hemp extract that is great for moisturizing dry, itchy winter skin. The arnica and hemp extract also help relive minor muscle aches and bruises.
Aloe Vera- Aloe vera is a time-honored sunburn remedy, but it can be used for so much more. It’s soothing to all skin types, can be used to treat dandruff, and can be taken internally for reflux, constipation, and digestive upset. If you plan to take it internally, I recommend getting an organic aloe plant or buying Organic Aloe Vera Gel Juice.
Witch Hazel- A natural astringent, witch hazel is useful for treating oily skin, spot treating pimples, soothing dry skin, healing the perineum after child birth, shrinking hemorrhoids, calming itchy bug bites, reducing bruises and varicose veins, and treating razor burn. Make sure to find a natural, alcohol-free version to reap all the skin-loving benefits.
Natural Calm- A fruity-tasting magnesium supplement, Natural Calm is great to have on hand for times of stress. It helps relax the muscles, reduce anxiety, support restful sleep, and treat constipation. There is also a kid-friendly version!
Diffuser- For those interested in essential oils, a diffuser allows you to gently disperse essential oils throughout your home for aroma therapeutic use. Some essential oils can also help disinfectant the air, reduce the spread of illness in the home, support restful sleep, or open the airways during illness. Please do your research when diffusing oils around the home to make sure you choose ones that are safe for children and pets.
Essential Oils- Not a day goes by that I don’t apply or diffuse essential oils. I began using Edens Garden essential oils over 6 years ago and have used them from everything from mood boosting to treating planters warts! If you would like a more detailed post on how to use essential oils (dilution, safety, recipes, application, blends, my thoughts on ingestion, etc.) please let me know in the comments! For now, I will just touch on the oils that I always keep stocked in my medicine cabinet and some of their many (many!!) uses.
Lavender: cuts/scrapes, minor burns, pimples, bruises, bug bites, seasonal allergies, restlessness, stress relief
Tea Tree: disinfecting (cuts, surfaces, air), pimples, bug bites, dandruff, lice repellent, treats athlete’s foot, treats ringworm
Eucalyptus: cough, congestion, lice repellent,
Lemon: sinus issues, ear aches, sore throats, seasonal allergies, lymphatic drainage (p.s. a drop of lemon oil works WAY better than GooGone 😉 )
Rosemary: Itchy/flaky scalp, hair growth, bloating/gas, boosting memory retention/focus
Thyme: coughs, congestion, expectorant, muscle aches, joint pain, bloating/gas
Peppermint: headaches, muscle aches, nausea, stomach aches, congestion, fever reducer, alertness, seasonal allergies, lice repellent
Frankincense: cough, PMS, warts, age spots, wrinkles, indigestion
Clove: toothaches, athlete’s foot, headache (Note: Be very cautious with clove oil! It’s a “hot oil” and can burn if not well diluted).
Guardian Blend/Healthy Hero: This blend is my go-to for immune support during cold and flu season. I apply it to myself when I know I’ll be around many people and I apply it to my children before school when I begin hearing that “so and so” got sent home sick.
Do you use any natural home remedies to treat your family? Or are you interested in getting started with natural remedies? Share with us in the comments below!
**I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV! Please read my disclaimer and consult your doctor before trying any new remedies, natural or otherwise.
Full disclosure: This blog post contains some affiliate links. Meaning, basically, if you make a purchase from any of these links it doesn’t cost you anything extra, but I may make a little money. So thank you in advance for supporting my family 🙂 I am not sponsored by any products or brands featured.