Natural-based remedies are often looked at as pseudo-science that doesn’t work. In reality, a lot of pharmaceutical products are derived from natural ingredients. For many people, drugs bought at a pharmacy can not only be too expensive, but may also have detrimental side-effects and minor non-urgent symptoms can often be alleviated with natural remedies that can be found at home.
Mild illnesses like colds and digestive issues can be resolved easily and safely with natural remedies. Most of these ingredients are things that you would already have at home, they’re easy to find, and affordable as well. For people with a green thumb, growing your natural remedies is both a relaxing hobby and a good investment for your health.
However, it’s very important to do your own research about this subject before experimenting with natural ingredients. Plants can be toxic at certain dosages, and it’s important to know the ingredients you’re using and how to use them. That’s why we bring you this informational list, with things that you need to know and consider about natural remedies for some of our most common maladies.
What is herbal medicine?
Herbal medicine is the practice of using products made from plants to treat diseases or simply to maintain good health. These are called herbal or botanical products, but are also known in the scientific community as ‘phytomedicines’. Herbal medicine also includes the use of herbal supplements.
Herbal medicine is an ancient practice that has been discovered to be used as far back as thousands of years. However, the use of herbal supplements is still controversial, and they should not simply be used by anyone without the proper medical approval and recommendations. It’s best to learn about the ingredients we are using and to consult with your general practitioner before consuming any of these natural remedies.
Prescription and over-the-counter medicines are made, for the most part, from natural ingredients, but these are purified and need to be regulated in the US by the Food and Drug Agency (FDA), while natural supplements are not regulated the same way. This is because herbal supplements are considered by the FDA to be food and not medicine.
Because of this, herbal supplements are not allowed to directly refer to treating any specific condition on their labels. They can, however, explain the different effects the supplement has on the body, like energy or immunity boosts, or pain relief. Herbal supplements are also not subject to the same rigorous testing and manufacturing as medications.
Often natural remedies can be made at home using ingredients already available to hand. Typically these might be things that you are already using for cooking or other things. Other supplements can come in a wide variety of presentations, such as:
- Tablets or capsules
- Gels, creams, or lotions
- Brewed to make tea
We highly recommend consulting with a doctor before using any natural remedy or herbal supplement. Some ingredients can have unwanted interactions with certain medications, or may cause adverse effects when taken at a certain dosage, especially if there are any underlying conditions such as liver or kidney failures. Educate yourself and do talk to your doctor for further advice.
Natural Remedies for the Top 5 Most Common Illnesses
1. Cold symptoms
The common cold is the most frequent viral infection on the planet. Like many viral illnesses, this is a self-limited infectious disease that can be caused by several types of respiratory viruses.
The most common ones involved include rhinovirus, adenovirus, and respiratory syncytial virus. The most common symptoms include coughing, sore throat, congestion, sneezing, and runny nose. Common cold cases tend to increase during the coldest winter months, typically between November and January in the northern hemisphere and June to August in the southern hemisphere.
Since this is a self-limited disease, treating the symptoms is often enough in most cases. Hot beverages relieve sore throats and congestion, so tea is generally a good natural option. Mixing honey into your tea has an extra beneficial effect by soothing the throat and having antimicrobial properties. Equally, a warm brew of honey and lemon is a potent way to relieve cold symptoms.
For congestion, aromatherapy is great to decongest the nose and the sinuses, making it easier to breathe and for a good night sleep. Peppermint or eucalyptus are great aromatherapy agents. You can use them as essential oils in drops on your pillow at night or on a hanky that you keep close by. Another effective way is to put a few drops of the oil in to a hot bowl of water which you can then inhale the vapours from.
Additionally, vitamin C is also very important in terms of prevention. This vitamin boosts the immune system, making it harder for you to catch a cold. Eating foods that are rich in vitamin C include oranges, papaya, cantaloupe, mango, watermelon, and strawberries are a great way to boost your vitamin C count and increase your daily intake of fruits.
Echinacea is also often recommended as a great natural remedy for colds both as a preventative and to reduce the typical duration of a cold. Like many other natural remedies, it is not without side effects and definitely something to avoid if pregnant. That said, many people swear by it and anecdotal evidence does point to it being a very effective alternative to both preventing and reducing the durations of cold symptoms. Scientific conclusions vary here. Some studies suggest that there are no overt benefits while others point to a clear positive outcome.
2. Digestive ailments
Digestive symptoms can be very varied, and have many different causes. They are also very common in the general population, especially women. Heavy meals and strong spices can upset the stomach of your kids or yourself. Children are also prone to get motion sickness very easily.
Digestive issues can be a sign of bigger health problems, so you should consult with your practitioner first. But, if you’re sure you’re just having mild and benign symptoms, natural remedies work wonders for this. One of the most used natural ingredients for alleviating digestive symptoms in ginger. You can consume it in tea form, as an infusion from the root, or grate it and mix it with lemon juice or honey.
Ginger root has been used to alleviate upset stomachs and nausea for a long time. Ginger protects and helps the gastrointestinal tract heal, helping with digestion after copious meals. It helps with the movement of the food and prevents bloating and reduces gas accumulation.
Peppermint and spearmint tea is also a great soother for upset stomachs. Mint is well-known as a natural remedy for gas and indigestion. The analgesic properties in mint also work to relieve stomach pain and aches naturally. Mint tea is readily available as tea bags. Alternatively use 3-5 stalks of garden mint steeped in a cup of hot water as a great way to enjoy mint tea.
Probiotics are also really helpful to prevent any stomach issue, helping your digestive system work properly. It can help with diarrhea caused by any infectious disease or bad food. You can get probiotics naturally by consuming yogurt, kombucha, kimchi, miso paste, or raw sauerkraut.
3. Dry skin
The dryness of the skin can be caused by a wide variety of causes. Extreme weather conditions, dehydration, and other more serious skin conditions can cause the skin to become dry and thick. Luckily, this problem can be solved with a wide variety of natural ingredients you might already have at home.
Skin irritation also has various causes, that can be either harmless or serious illnesses. Be it a simple allergic reaction, or contact dermatitis, or something related to more serious problems like infectious diseases, itching and irritation can be treated with natural ingredients as well.
Coconut oil, with known emollient properties, can deeply hydrate dry skin when applied directly to the skin. Oatmeal baths are great for both dryness and hydration. The anti-inflammatory properties of oatmeal can soothe any itching or pain, while also hydrating the skin.
Aloe vera is one of the most helpful plants you can grow. It’s easy to keep alive, and its properties make it a very versatile plant that can be used for many different remedies. The antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral properties of aloe vera are useful for deeply itchy and irritated skin, to reduce the inflammation and prevent scratching injuries from getting infected.
4. Sleep and anxiety
The fast-paced world we live in is a major source of stress and agitation. Anxiety is one of the most reported mental health disorders in the world. Jobs are getting more and more strict and moving more quickly, and the world never stops for a moment. Deadlines, economic problems, fears, and many other thoughts roam around our heads constantly, without any breaks to breathe.
Likewise, sleep disorders are very common. Anxiety leads to poor sleeping habits, and these two problems lead to a poor-quality lifestyle. It’s also a vicious cycle, where sleep deprivation can increase significantly anxiety levels, which in turn, lead to more sleep problems.
Luckily, there are many natural and affordable ways to reduce anxiety levels and improve the quality of your sleep. Aromatherapy and essential lavender oils have proven to be very successful in relaxing and improving rest. Also, valerian root is one of the most used natural treatments used for sleeping, anxiety, and even depression.
Chamomille tea has some great benefits as well. Aside from soothing stomach pains, it can also help to put the mind to rest at night. Another great natural supplement to keep around the house are melatonin supplements. Melatonin is one of the most studied and known hormones related to sleep, and these supplements can help you fall asleep faster and getting into a deeper sleep.
A warm drink of milk and honey before bed is also a great way to ensure a soothing and calm transition to sleep. While not recommended for some with lactose intolerance, individually milk or honey are also known provide benefits for better sleep.
Headaches are another common and annoying thing most people experience daily. Stress and anxiety can build up and the tension manifests as a headache or migraine. There are other causes for headaches that can be more serious, so if they’re too frequent or too strong, you may consider going to a doctor.
But, for mild and sporadic headaches or migraines, especially those that come from stress and tension, there are many natural and easy ways to alleviate them. For example, aromatherapy is a great option to decrease headaches. Essential oils like peppermint or lavender are great ways to soothe the body. Massaging them into the scalp, behind the ears, and the temples are a great way of using them too.
Another major contributor to headaches is often dehydration. It is important that enough water is drunk throughout the day to keep sufficiently hydrated. Tea and coffee while often mistaken as ‘liquid’ are really diuretics, this means that they actually draw water from the body rather than replenish it. So, if you’re a great coffee or tea drinker, do also make sure you get enough water in to your system. The average recommendation for water is 8 cups per day.
If you work in front of a computer screen, do remember to take a break from staring at the screen every now and then. Eye strain and close focus on a computer monitor is well known to cause headaches. These can be somewhat diminished if you remember to look away, ideally in to the distance every now and then. This allows your eye muscles to change position reducing eye strain.
Staying healthy is now easier and cheaper. With these natural remedies, you can take care of minor symptoms or inconveniences, as long as they’re not a sign of a greater health problem. We would like to remind you to always check with your general practitioner first to make sure these remedies are safe for you, and that your symptoms aren’t a sign of a greater risk.
NOTE: Natural remedies should always be used with prior consultation and orientation from your primary health care provider. Natural remedies and supplements can cause interactions with certain medications, decreasing their effectiveness, and potentially causing adverse effects. Consult with your health care provider before using any of these remedies.