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With cold and flu season upon us, the advertisements and marketing campaigns are in full force to get our health care dollars for the latest and greatest remedy for the cold or influenza. Browse any drug store and you'll quickly be overwhelmed at the dizzying array of products that are "guaranteed" to unstuff noses, silence coughs, eliminate fevers and put an end to the discomfort sickness brings.
Unfortunately, as most moms are aware, these products have unpronounceable ingredients and do little more than mask symptoms.
The best medicines are the ones that aid our bodies' God-given immune systems and provide comfort care.
In the interest of time, I limited this list to 9 items that are absolute essentials for me to keep on hand during cold & flu season. Some of them have actual medicinal properties that aid or speed up healing. Others keep the kiddos comfortable.
In the Fall, I stock up on these items and try never to be without them until Spring. One reason for this is that you never know when illness will hit. (How often has one of your children woke up in the middle of the night vomiting or with a high fever? It seems like Murphy's Law that they can't get sick mid-morning!) It's nice to be prepared.
The second reason to stock your "medicine cabinet" is to save time and money. If you plan ahead to stock up on these items, you can take advantage of sales and coupons. Also, you won't have to run to the store (sometimes at an inconvenient time) to get things when illness strikes, which saves gas and time.
Finally, I like to keep these things on hand because natural remedies are best administered frequently as soon as illness hits. Some people wait until an illness becomes acute before trying to administer a natural remedy and then wonder why it doesn't work. As mentioned before, natural remedies are meant to aid our bodies' immune systems. They aren't like traditional medicine that has an immediate, noticeable effect. Keeping these items on hand means I can begin using them right away before the illness becomes acute.
So, these are my top 9 Must-Haves to stock a family medicine cabinet:
1. Tea & Honey
It's easy to dismiss tea as a comfort measure, but it actually helps thin mucus, soothe a dry, irritated throat, and calm a coughing fit. Adding honey is an extra boost due to the incredible medicinal properties of this super food.
I like to keep Celestial Seasonings tea samplers on hand. The Peppermint tea is excellent for upset stomachs, the fruity teas I use to make Trim Healthy Mama-style Good Girl Moonshine (more about this later), the chamomile teas are good for soothing someone before bed and the other teas are available so that everyone can have his or her "favorite" flavor when they're ill.
Lemons are another beneficial ingredient in a healthy cup of tea due to the vitamin c content, but it's hard to keep fresh lemons on hand. Either I use them all up (because I love them in my water) or I save them for an illness and they turn into sad, shriveled little lumps that barely resemble lemons and possibly have no nutritional value left before they are needed. :-(
2. Netti Pot
This was an absolute life-changer for me! I used to struggle with constant sinus infections. Congestion lingered in my sinuses for weeks or months unless I took an antibiotic, which I did not care to do.
Then I discovered the humble netti pot.
The first time someone told me about it, I thought they were crazy. Pour salt water through my nostrils to help clear my sinuses? Um, no thank you. It sounded uncomfortable and possibly somewhat similar to torture strategies used in dark rooms during covert military operations.
But then I was miserable enough one day to try it. And it worked! By using the netti pot about 3 times a day during a head cold I not only do not get sinus infections any more, but I have also found that it shortens the duration of the cold.
Although I don't use it on young children (it's too difficult to do it correctly and their nostrils are too small), my older children will often heat up water and use the netti pot themselves when they get a cold.
Although there are nice ceramic ones available, I find this little cheapy does the trick just fine. Something like this should be available in any Wal-Mart or drug store.
For children who are too young for the netti pot, I use a simple saline solution like the one below. It's not exactly the same thing as a netti pot, but it does help clear congestion out of the sinus passages, preventing ear and sinus infections, provide comfort, and help them breathe better.
Note: Be sure you get one that is just water and sodium chloride (salt); many saline solutions are medicated.
3. Vitamins E, A, and C
First, let me say that vitamins are not a substitute for good nutrition. You can't get that from a bottle. However, as a supplement to a generally healthy diet and lifestyle, they are great.
For a long time, we didn't see any results from vitamin use, but then I read The How-To Herb Book and learned how to use them properly. The reason many of us don't see results is because we don't take them in the right quantities and combinations.
The authors recommend a vitamin combination (Vitamins E, A, and C) that works synergistically to boost the immune system. They also have herb recommendations for pretty much every household illness your family will encounter and some interesting material on helping the body heal itself.
By taking Vitamins E, A, and C when exposed to illness, we can often lessen the symptoms/duration or avoid it altogether!
When I first read about and started to use this particular combination, my husband scoffed. Then the influenza struck our home and everyone (except little old me who was the only one taking the vitamins) got sick. Even hubby. In fact, that entire winter I rarely got sick. When the next winter hit, hubby was asking for the vitamins! lol
4. Multi-Purpose Essential Oils
Let's face it: Quality essential oils are expensive.
Ideally, I'd have my medicine cabinet stocked with a neatly labeled little bottle of oil for every illness. But, where I live (a little place I like to call Reality), I can't spend several hundred dollars on dozens of essential oils. Luckily, we don't have to. Do a little reading and you'll find that there are a few remedies that can be used for multiple things. These are the ones I like to keep on hand.
When I order oils, I might throw in one non-essential essential oil (Get it? That was a pun.) to stock my medicine cabinet. However, there are a few multi-purpose essential oils that truly are essential. (Okay I'll stop now.)
Not only is Lavender calming and helps aid sleep (which can be very helpful with a sick child), but it is also a multi-purpose skin treatment, including
I love this stuff with all my frugal little heart! My favorite applications are putting it directly on the skin for stings and poison ivy during the summer months and adding it to the bath water or diffusing during cold season. I've even put a few drops under a restless child's pillow to help them sleep.
This is a proprietary blend offered by Young Living essential oils that is a great immune booster. (Other producers of high-quality oils probably have something comparable, but I've never looked into it.) It can be applied to the back of the neck or taken internally* to prevent illness and boost the immune system. It also smells great (and this is coming from someone who generally avoids most scents and scented products) and so can be used as an air freshener or in cleaning products, like this DIY natural foaming hand soap.
There are too many uses of peppermint oil to list here, so I'll just give my couple of favorites:
It can also be used as a breath freshener, which has nothing to do with health, but might be important to maintaining friendships. ;-)
*When using essential oils for medicinal purposes and especially when taking internally, it is very important that you choose a high-quality essential oil. (Yes, unfortunately, this means more expensive. There is no such thing as "cheap" quality oils; you get what you pay for.) Not all essential oils are therapeutic grade or safe to take internally.
DoTerra is one essential oil company that I know to be reputable. Personally, I use and recommend Young Living oils. (You can read about their quality guarantee here.) Originally I became a member distributor a number of years ago simply to take advantage of the wholesale pricing (24% off retail) for my own family. You do not need to actively sell essential oils to maintain this account. If you regularly use essential oils or would like to, it is financially advantageous in the long run to pay the membership fee and be able to save the 24% off every purchase you make, rather than going through a distributor, who is making a sales commission off each and every purchase.
Should you decide to join Young Living, you can do so through this referral link.
Also, for the next 5 days, we are doing a Young Living Essential Oil Giveaway of my two favorite oils: Peppermint (15 ml) and Lavender (15 ml), plus a roller filament for topical easy topical application. This is a $60 value! Be sure to enter the giveaway at the bottom of this post.
5. Epsom Salt
It's a favorite joke in our family that, when I was a child, my dad's only remedy for everything was to eat a peanut butter sandwich and take a warm bath. Have a fever? Eat a peanut butter sandwich and take a warm bath. Stomach upset? Nothing a little peanut butter sandwich and a warm bath won't fix!
The peanut butter sandwich might have had more to do with his love of peanut butter, but the warm bath actually can go a long way toward promoting healing, especially when combined with Epsom salts.
Soaking in a bath with Epsom salts is a great way to draw toxins out of the body and relieve the muscle aches that accompany colds and flu. It also helps open airways and relieve congestion. Adding essential oils (like eucalyptus, peppermint, lemon, tea tree, or lavender) to the Epsom salts makes dad's warm bath remedy even more powerful and effective! (Just make sure you do it with a peanut butter sandwich.)
This is just barely scratching the surface to all the uses of this often-overlooked and simple natural remedy. There are entire books devoted to Epsom salts. I highly recommend that you check some out from your local library or do a google search.
6. Bone Broth
I cannot say enough about bone broth. It is a gut-healing super food that used to be a staple in every kitchen and is now a rarity. Homemade broth ranks head and shoulders above anything from the store, but bone broth, due to the slow cooking process which removes the minerals and amino acids from the animal bones, is especially nutritionally dense. If you have never read Sally Fallon's book Nourishing Traditions, she has much to say on the topic.
Broth is excellent during illnesses like colds and flus because, like tea, it soothes mucus membranes and opens nasal passages, but with the added bonus of delivering dense nutrition.
For the stomach flu, I like to use it as a "first food" once the person has stopped vomiting. During the hours when someone is actively vomiting, we only allow sips of water or ice chips. Once the vomiting has subsided and they can hold down water, we try a little tea or broth. If they can hold that down for an hour or more and feel like it, we might progress to something else. Often, though, the person prefers to keep sipping on bone broth throughout the day. It is gentle on the stomach and easy to digest.
Making one's own broth is one of the easiest, least expensive things you can do to promote good health and introduce excellent nutrition into your family's diet. Maybe some day I'll get around to making a video tutorial. For now, click here to see my simple method for making bone broth.
7. All-fruit popsicles
This might seem like a silly one, but as a mother of soon-to-be 7 children, I can't tell you how many times I have made a run to the store for popsicles during a prolonged illness!
When the influenza hits, most people don't feel like eating or drinking, but it's important to keep up the intake of fluids. Little ones, especially, are at risk for dehydration; the longer the fever/illness lasts, the greater the risk of dehydration.
Normally we allow very little sugar when people are sick because it weakens the immune system. However, I have found all-natural, sugar-free fruit popsicles (I like Outshine No Sugar Added bars) to be a great way to keep little ones hydrated when they don't want to drink anything. They are also great for soothing sore throats.
A couple of years ago, my younger three children were exposed to hand, foot, mouth disease. I had never heard of it before. They developed ulcers inside their mouths (on the tongue, in the back of the throat, under the tongue...basically everywhere). It was incredibly painful and they could not eat anything for days. It even hurt to drink water. The popsicles, although acidic because of the fruit, were cold and would temporarily provide enough numbing that they could get it down. They were a life-saver!
You would have to live under a rock to not have heard at least something of the benefits of probiotics. The benefits are so universally recognized, that even the mainstream medical professionals tout their use. If you do live under a rock, you can find out about probiotics here and here.
What's important to understand when giving a probiotic, is to find a high-quality one.
Although it's ideal to use them regularly, probiotics can be expensive. If you can't afford to keep your family on a high-quality probiotic year-round, you can just use them during cold and flu season or use them once you've been exposed to the stomach flu to lessen the symptoms or avoid them altogether. If you're using them after exposure, I recommend doubling up (one capsule in the morning; one in the evening) and combining with apple cider vinegar (see below). For little ones who can't swallow pills, I break open a capsule and dump it onto a spoonful of natural applesauce.
If your family isn't on a probiotic year-round, it's especially important that you use other ways of regularly introducing friendly bacteria to their diet (unsweetened yogurt, kefir, kombucha, etc).
9. Apple Cider Vinegar
So, I mentioned keeping Celestial Seasonings fruit-flavored teas on hand for making Trim Healthy Mama Good Girl Moonshine (GGMS). If you haven't heard about it yet, you can read about GGMS here.
Although it's used as a weight-loss drink (for curbing the appetite) by Trim Healthy Mama followers, I find it is the best way of making apple cider vinegar (ACV) palatable to kids. You can read about some benefits of ACV here and here as a place to start. Again, like Epsom salt, there are entire books written on the subject!
I once read a book about a small, rural community in Vermont that had a disproportionately high number of centenarians (people who live to 100 years). Not only had many of the folks lived well past 100 (one lady the author interviewed was 120 years old!), but they had experienced an unusually good quality of life, health and vitality. Almost all of them attributed it to the habit of taking 1-2 teaspoons of ACV daily. I'm sure there were other factors involved, but it's still something to think about.
Back to the Good Girl Moonshine. My kids love this stuff. It's a healthy drink for any time, but when we have been exposed to the stomach flu, I brew a gallon pitcher and have the whole family sip on it all day. The ACV keeps the stomach alkaline, which is an inhospitable place for bad bugs to grow, and introduces good probiotic to boost gut immunity/health.
Here's how I make my GGMS for the kids:
Place the tea bags in a clean, quart jar. Bring a quart of water to a boil; pour over the tea bags. Allow to steep until the desired potency. (I usually steep for about 30 minutes.) Pour ACV and honey into a gallon pitcher. Remove the tea bags from the tea and then add it to the pitcher. Fill the remainder of the pitcher up with water, stirring well to mix the honey. Chill until ready to use.
Notes: Although Trim Healthy Mama doesn't allow honey, we prefer the taste of honey to stevia. Since we're not using it as a diet drink and honey has many medicinal properties, I made this switch. The ginger in the original recipe would certainly be beneficial to warding off the stomach flu, aiding digestion and boosting the immune system, but it gives a little too much zing for my kiddos. You can add it if you want. You'll also want to experiment with how much ACV and honey your family needs to make it palatable.
I'm sure I could think of dozens more items that might come in handy from time to time when treating common illnesses; however, these are the 9 tried-and-true items that I try never to be without during cold and flu season.
I am not a doctor. The information contained in this article is not medical advice, but just some things that have helped me and my family with common ailments like colds and flu.
And now for the fun part.......Our Young Living Essential Oil Giveaway!!!
And the winner is:
Congratulations to Kerry P. for winning the Young Living Essential Oils combo pack!!
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