Gemma Hurditch from the College of Naturopathic Medicine helps you heal naturally.
Having some handy natural remedies in your kitchen cupboard and learning how to use them can offer a sense of empowerment and relief to more than frazzled nerves! Here’s a selection of our favourites:
This succulent can live quite happily as an indoor plant, in well-drained soil and a sunny position. The mucilaginous gel in the centre of the leaf has anti-inflammatory and healing properties. Well known for use on burns and sunburn, it is also excellent for helping with eczema, psoriasis and acne, applied to the affected area three times per day. The cooled gel from a freshly cut leaf (stored in the fridge) is particularly soothing. Preferably keep a plant at home, or source the most natural version you can.
For first aid treatment of sprains, strains and bruising, arnica is applied topically as ointment, oil, gel or cream, or taken internally as the homeopathic remedy Arnica montana. Keep a jar or tube of good quality arnica cream for speedy healing of any external tissue damage. Homeopathic tincture or pellets in 12C or 30C potency are safe in pregnancy and useful for internal use such as recovering from dental work and bruising from surgery and childbirth. Topical applications should not be used during pregnancy or when breastfeeding or applied to broken skin.
Use as an eye bath to soothe sore eyes from mild conjunctivitis, blepharitis and eye strain. Be sure not to use the same cup to drink from. Brew an extra strong cup of organic chamomile tea (2-3 tea bags or a heaped tablespoonful of loose herb) and, once cooled, keep covered in the fridge for a day, decanting what you need for each eye-bath. Tepid chamomile tea’s mild antiseptic properties will soothe irritated skin (excellent for baby nappy rash) and can be used as a mouthwash for inflamed gums or a gargle for sore throats.
Chamomile tea infusion is a useful relaxant and can be drunk to soothe a gassy, colicky or upset stomach in both adults and children. It is also a recommended tea for menstrual cramps and to promote relaxation.
Headaches, sinus trouble, colds and flu, and muscle aches and pains all respond well to the uplifting and invigorating scent of pure eucalyptus essential oil. A few drops of the essential oil in a steamy shower is a great relief from colds and flu and can help clear the airways.
Steaming over a bowl of hot water with 3-5 drops of eucalyptus oil, using a towel over the bowl and your face to trap the vapours can provide additional relief for asthma and sinus infections. Add the essential oil to a diffuser or oil burner to clear the air when ill. A few drops of the essential oil in a moisturiser base or carrier oil is great to rub onto aching legs and muscle strains, and can help speed the healing of a cold sore. Always patch-test before use. Never ingest eucalyptus essential oil, except in commercial preparations such as throat lozenges.
Feverfew has been shown to reduce symptoms of migraines, including visual disturbance and nausea, and lessened the frequency of migraines in chronic sufferers. A standardised extract is preferable to fresh herb as there can be some unwanted side effects from eating the fresh leaf. Those sensitive to ragweed and chrysanthemums should avoid feverfew altogether. Magnesium is also very useful for alleviating migraine, so keep magnesium citrate in your migraine/headache relief arsenal. 500-600mg daily in divided doses is advised.
In the same family as turmeric and cardamom, ginger in tablets or fresh grated root is an excellent nausea remedy for morning sickness, motion sickness and stomach bugs. It can also help warm and revive you if you’re feeling chilled to the bone from a cold or the flu.
The uplifting and relaxing qualities of pure essential oil of lavender make it a perfect antidote to shock, stress, nervous tension and depression. Add its antibiotic, antiviral and insect repelling properties and it’s a great scent to diffuse. Use neat on insect bites, cuts and grazes. A few drops on the pillow is great for promoting sleep. Some studies have also shown lavender has pain relieving properties in migraine sufferers.
A thick paste or poultice made from the pure powdered bark can be used as a drawing agent for foreign objects, splinters and boils. Use boiled water and add a few drops at a time to your powder to get to the right consistency. If possible, leave it on the affected site for a few hours or overnight with a plaster or muslin wrap. Add a drop of tea tree or lavender essential oil to the poultice to help keep the site disinfected. Internally, a ‘porridge’ made from slippery elm powder and water (unsweetened) can help soothe inflamed gut membranes.
Pure neat essential oil of tea tree is a wonderful antiseptic and anti-fungal for tougher skin, such as the soles of the feet, whereas a diluted solution is more appropriate for sensitive areas. Wound care, fungal rashes and insect bites respond well to tea tree.
Sore throats call for thyme. A great tincture to have to hand for the first signs of a cold or flu, use as per manufacturer’s instructions. The fresh or dried leaves can be taken as medicinal tea – 1 tsp per cup for dry and 2 tsp per cup for fresh; take 3 cups per day. The cooled tea can be used as a throat gargle, although, as with all herbs, the tincture is stronger than the tea and therefore more likely to have a profound effect on a sore throat in appropriate dilutions.
Turmeric can provide great pain relief for both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups. It combats post-operative inflammation, is a digestive support and can be useful during episodes of colitis, indigestion and Crohn’s disease. A teaspoon of the powdered root with a pinch of black pepper for enhanced absorption is considered a therapeutic dose. The ‘golden milk’ recipes online using coconut or other milk alternatives can be a great way to take this herb. Tablets, capsules and tinctures are also available.
White Willow Bark
Works in a similar manner to aspirin. Take a standardised extract of 240mg of salicin per day for pain relief, heeding manufacturer’s instructions.
This has a high concentration of tannins, is mildly antiseptic and will help stem bleeding. Use it in cases of cuts, scrapes and shaving burns. Used to reduce swelling and inflammation, it can soothe tissue trauma such as a grazed knee. It’s useful against insect bites and stings, to dab on blisters and sunburn and to treat haemorrhoids.
Gemma Hurditch is a CNM (College of Naturopathic Medicine) lecturer. CNM trains successful practitioners in natural therapies, online and in class with colleges
across the UK and Ireland. Visit naturopathy-uk.com or call 01342 410505.