Simple Steps for Creating a Natural Medicine Cabinet
By Tiffany Terczak, Contributing Writer
When my family first started transitioning to real food, I was so overwhelmed with all the different “start here first” options that nearly gave up. I ended up writing “22 Days to a Fresh Start”– a (free) short guide to help other families transition to real food on a budget. In that eBook I shared that the easiest way to get rid of the junk was to eliminate hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup.
Fast forward a few years when one of my kids wasn’t feeling well. Being a much more conscientious label reader, I went to the medicine cabinet and naturally turned a bottle of medicine around.
I was shocked to read what was inside:
High fructose corn syrup. Hydrogenated oils. Parabens. Aspartame.
Wait a second… all this stuff I had eliminated from the kitchen was still in our medicine?!
I was disappointed, frustrated and angry (which ultimately lead to me to write “Kinda Crunchy” – another (free) short guide to help families transition to natural living on a budget).
I knew the dangers of hydrogenated oils. I knew high fructose corn syrup was worse than sugar and could be contaminated with mercury. And I did not feel comfortable with my kids having either of them.
But what was I supposed to do? I can’t afford to throw away the money I had already spent, and then spend even more replacing everything. Especially when a single bottle of natural cough syrup costs upwards of $15 each!
Instead of getting overwhelmed with the whole thing, I came up with a simple yet systematic approach: Replace one thing at a time.
But how exactly does that work when you have a medicine cabinet full of contaminated products?
Simple Steps for Creating a Natural Medicine Cabinet
#1. Take stock of what you have.
Before you buy anything, take a good look at what you already have. Many of our medicines had icky ingredients, but not all of them. You may only have to replace or two, or none at all.
For the medicines that are contaminated, consider how often you actually use them. If you find a few that are expired with only a little bit used, chances are you don’t need to replace it right away since you didn’t use it all up in the first place.
Be sure to read every label thoroughly, including the ingredients, safety precautions and dosage recommendations. Some infant medicines can work for older children if you adjust the dosage, and some adult medicines are actually safe for children. You might be able to get away with replacing one less item if some medicines can pull double duty.
#2. Ask yourself – is it really necessary?
Now I’m not a doctor or anything, but in my experience, most commercial drugs mask the symptoms rather than provide healing.
Have you ever taken just one dosage and POOF, you felt better?
Or did the medicine just make the symptoms temporarily disappear for 4 to 6 hours, leaving you with a cloudy head instead?
For the average healthy person, it just takes time for an illness to run its course and for the body to fight back. Taking medicine can’t speed this up.
Since you’ve got time to kill, consider natural remedies to help with the symptoms instead of over the counter medicines.
Stuffiness and congestion can be eased with steam (from a hot shower), saline rinses and diffusing essential oils. Coughs can be soothes with honey and lemon while a sore throat can benefit from gargling with apple cider vinegar.
Of course, rest, hydration and nutrient dense foods always make a difference too.
#3. Replace only what you use most often.
If that expired bottle of pink medicine was only opened once, two years ago, and hasn’t been needed since, then why replace it?
Don’t bother replacing items you don’t foresee needing anytime soon. If a time comes when you need it, replace it then. But for now, concentrate only on the items you use most often.
For us, that meant finding a better alternative for cough syrup, a pain reliever without high fructose corn syrup and a decongestant that wasn’t made from petroleum. These three medicines covered our medicine needs at the time, and since we’ve been eating real food since then, we haven’t had to replace anything else!
Frugal natural living
If you’re overwhelmed and struggling with where to being in real food or natural living, I encourage you to join our 31 day challenge to frugal natural living. You’ll get daily challenges sent via email and it’s designed for all levels of natural living, from beginner to the advanced. It’s a great way to take a seemingly out of reach goal and turn it into smaller goals you can achieve in just a few minutes each day!
Years ago I started going through my medicine cabinet and getting rid of ingredients that I didn’t think were health promoting (and, of course, all that were downright unhealthy). Slowly, in their place, I’ve collected various homeopathics, herbals, and essential oils. I’ve also learned about lots of things in my kitchen that work well in supporting our immune systems as our bodies heal. Earlier this year I wrote about decluttering my medicine cabinet (HERE: http://everydaymindfulliving.com/simplify-saturday-4/ ), but by that point, it was mostly a matter of cleaning out other more-healthy products that we didn’t end up liking as much as we thought we would.
I also felt completely overwhelmed when I realized how much I needed to switch over – in the bathroom, medicine cabinet and kitchen. My husband and I decided to spend a year switching over. Since we didn’t have the money to switch everything immediately, we decided that as we ran out of things we would buy a new, healthier version. There were a couple of things that we switched over to right away, but allowing us time to make the change helped it feel doable and ultimately, we did change our entire house.
That is really a great way to approach this Rebecca! It keeps your budget in line, stops overwhelm and achieves the goal. I also think that taking time to do it allows you to really consider what you’re doing and why, so you’re doing it for YOUR reasons, and not just because someone else said you should. 🙂
What pain reliever did you find? I use essential oils for my own pain but I’m looking for something safe for my small kids, especially for things like teething, headaches, and body aches.