This medicine-cabinet makeover will replace your pharmaceutical or OTC drugs with healthier natural remedy options. Whether you’re plagued by headache pain or only occasionally bothered by a case of the sniffles, your medicine cabinet is probably the first place you turn to for relief. But, are its contents the best choices for your health?

Medicine Cabinet MakeoverConsider replacing some of those myriad pills (especially acetaminophen, ibuprofen and antihistamines), sprays, and bottles in your medicine cabinet with natural alternative medicine such as Vitamin C, tea tree oil and capsaicin. Some can reduce unpleasant side effects, save you money, or simply give you a leg up on your own wellbeing.

Read on for tips on what to keep, what to toss, and why. Be sure to consult your health-care provider before you change your regimen, and always disclose everything you’re taking, whether natural or not.

Pain Relief

Before: Analgesics, including acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin (Bayer, Bufferin), and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Nuprin)
Analgesics, magnesium, riboflavin, feverfew
Why: Aspirin and ibuprofen are tough to beat for rapid headache relief, so hang on to them in your medicine cabinet for emergencies. But, natural remedy approaches can help prevent migraines. That’s good news since overreliance on analgesics can make the brain’s pain sensors overly receptive and cause rebound headaches.

For migraines, the National Headache Foundation says two dietary supplements may be helpful:

  • Magnesium (500 to 750 mg daily) to relax the brain’s blood vessels, which swell during headache
  • Riboflavin (400 mg daily) to reverse energy loss in cells during migraines.
  • In addition, feverfew, a member of the daisy family, is believed to stave off migraine attacks; try a starting dose of 50 mg a day.

Common Cold

Before: Sprays (Sinex, Afrin, Dristan), tablets or caplets (Sudafed, Actifed, Drixoral)
After: Eucalyptus oil, neti pot, echinacea, Vitamin C
Why: Traditional nasal sprays can be useful in the short term, but when their effectiveness wanes, you’re likely to spray more often, creating a cycle of dependency. Pseudoephedrine, the active ingredient in most oral decongestants, has a lengthy list of potential side effects, including nervousness, restlessness, and trouble sleeping.

For a safer alternative medicine, add a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil to a bowl of steaming water. Drape a towel over your head, then breathe steam deeply to gently clear your nasal passages.

Or try a natural remedy nasal wash: Make a warm salt-water solution, lean your head over a sink, pour the water into the palm of your hand and inhale through the nose, one nostril at a time (or use a neti pot, a teapot-like device especially made for nasal irrigation). Spit out any remaining solution and gently blow your nose. The herb echinacea can also help shorten the duration of colds.

Vitamin C for the common cold: Dr. Andrew Saul (teacher in Food Matters) recommends Vitamin C megadosing for the common cold. The key is to start early, so when you first start to feel blocked up and sniffly, take Vitamin C supplements until you reach bowel tolerance; take 1 gram or 1000mg of Vitamin C (Wholefood or Ascorbate) in powder form or tablet form every 15 minutes until you start to feel loose in the bowels. As he says, “take enough C to be symptom free whatever the amount might be.”


Before: Antihistamines (Allegra, Benadryl, Claritin, Zyrtec)
After: Quercetin, stinging nettle, butterbur
Why: Allergy symptoms arise when your immune system kicks into overdrive, calling armies of itch-and-swell-inducing histamines to battle generally harmless substances. Antihistamines can relieve a runny nose and quell a sneezing fit, but they do little to convince your body that a peanut, mold spore, or whiff of pollen is not, in fact, an invader.

Although more studies prove allergies can be removed by eating an allergy-free-diet, quercetin supplements as a natural remedy (500 mg twice daily between meals beginning one month before allergy season) may certainly help prevent allergies. If symptoms have set in, try butterbur (75 mg twice daily) or stinging-nettle capsules (3 g twice daily). These herbs can ease symptoms without the drowsiness associated with many antihistamines.


medicine cabinet redoBefore: Liquid treatments (Pepto-Bismol, Bismatrol, Maalox, Mylanta)
After: Ginger, probiotics, digestive enzymes
Why: Ginger as a natural remedy has long been touted as a way to calm nauseous stomach due to seasickness or morning sickness. To use, try chewing a quarter-ounce piece of fresh ginger or grating and steeping it in just-boiled water to make tea. Probiotics, available in supplements or in foods such as yogurt, may also help with nausea and aid digestion by restoring the balance of bacteria in the intestine. Similarly, digestive enzyme supplements may help natural enzymes in nutrient absorption and limiting gas or discomfort.


Before: Extra-strength analgesics (Midol, Pamprin, Premsyn)
After: Calcium, pine bark, and Agnus castus (chaste-tree fruit)
Why: The extra-strength analgesics use additives such as caffeine, pyrilamine maleate (an anesthetic), and pamabrom (a diuretic), all highly artificial approaches to help alleviate PMS-related cramps, bloating, backache, and fatigue. Try more natural approaches like:

  • Calcium (1,200 to 1,500 mg per day from food or supplements) can help fend off aches.
  • Pine bark is also promising as a natural remedy: A recent study in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine found that women who took 60 mg of pycnogenol (pine bark) each day for three months reduced their cramps and breast tenderness by up to 100 percent.
  • Similarly, 20 mg per day of Agnus castus (chaste tree) fruit extract has been shown to be more effective than widely prescribed fluoxitine (Prozac) in treating physical symptoms of PMS.

Muscle Strains and Bruises

Before: Topical rubs (BenGay, Icy Hot, Deep Heating)
After: Arnica gel (derived from the perennial alpine herb Arnica montana), capsaicin ointment (from hot peppers).
Why: Natural remedy approaches, arnica in particular, are gentler yet can be just as effective as the menthols and methyl-salicylates (chemical cousins to aspirin) found in conventional ointments.

Cuts and Scrapes

Before: Antibiotic salves (Neosporin, Bacitracin)
After: Tea tree oil
Why: While most cuts and scrapes heal on their own, antibiotics can help speed the process. But using a “triple antibiotic” cream for minor cuts is like using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut. A simpler  alternative medicine is tea tree oil, distilled from the Australian Melaleuca alternifolia plant, which can be applied straight to the skin and is a natural antiseptic, germicide, antibacterial, and fungicide. A recent study published in the Journal of Hospital Infection found the natural remedy tea tree oil as useful as standard antimicrobial soap for healing wounds caused from infections from the antibiotic-resistant hospital superbug Staphylococcus aureus.

Sunburn and Stinging

Before: Commercial Aftersun lotions
After: Aloe Vera plant
Why: Aloe vera is applied topically for relieving sunburn, minor burns and other skin inflammations. It is obtained from the fresh leaves of plants or is available as a commercially prepared gel or lotion. If commercially prepared, the percentage of aloe vera should be in a very high concentration order to be effective as a natural remedy.

So, whether you suffer from headache or backache, migraine or allergy, clean out your medicine cabinet of acetaminophen, antihistamines and ibuprofen.  Choose instead to stock up on natural alternative medicine such as Vitamin C, tea tree oil and capsaicin. Don’t let OTC and pharmaceutical drugs take the life out of you.  A natural remedy options it the best choice for your health.

What are your essentials for a naturally healthy medicine cabinet? This is perfect for those who want to learn to use more natural remedies, but aren’t quite sure where to start. Use the social share buttons and recommend this article to a friend so they too can bring natural healthcare back into the home.

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By Jennifer Pirtle, Adapted from: