These are simple strategies and remedies that I recommend to clients to help manage everyday complaints without having to resort to medication.
If in doubt about suitability of use for you then please consult a registered healthcare provider.
Cystitis or urinary tract infection
This remedy should not be used by anyone with a heart condition and may be contraindicated when taking other medications. Bicarbonate of soda is usually well tolerated and I recommend this remedy to people who are generally in good health but are suffering the very early stages of urinary discomfort including frequent/urgent desire to urinate, burning pain before, during or after urination, irritable bladder.
Fully dissolve 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda into 1 pint of cold water. Drink 1/3 pint every 20 minutes. Repeat a maximum of 3 times over 3 hours and for 2 days only if some relief is being felt. Stop the remedy immediately if symptoms resolve.
This is a short term intervention. Recurrent UTIs and cystitis and prolonged symptoms of irritable bladder should be subject to a thorough medical examination.
Head lice are very easy to treat naturally if you know how. There is only one thing that will unstick the nits (unhatched lice) from the hair follicles and that's vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is the best to use because it smells the nicest and will also give the scalp a beneficial cleansing and moisturising treatment at the same time it gets rid of the lice and their eggs. You will also need a lice comb and some coconut oil.
Comb the hair with the lice comb which has been thoroughly wetted with the cider vinegar. Comb, comb, comb for several minutes. Wash the nits out of the comb every so often as you go. Then warm some coconut oil in the palm of the hands and massage it through the hair. Comb again to remove any remaining lice or nits. Leave the coconut oil on overnight if possible using old bedding which can be removed and washed the next day. The oil can stain your best sheets.
This is the important bit. When you need to remove the coconut oil add shampoo directly to the scalp and hair (no water at this point as oil and water do not mix). Massage the shampoo into the scalp and use the lice comb to make sure it completely covers the oil then rinse with water to remove. Shampoo again as normal.
Repeat this process every few days initially then every week, every 2 weeks, and every month until you completely break the cycle. Head lice are generally more of a problem for women and girls (not because they have longer hair but because the lice are attracted to certain hormones). However, if one person in a family is affected then everybody should be treated.
Cold sores are usually caused by the Herpes Simplex virus and are highly contagious. More of the population carries this virus than not but not everyone who has it gets cold sores or suffers from them on a regular basis. Those people who do may find that an outbreak is triggered by certain foods, stress, fever, colds, allergies, sunburn or menstruation. Most outbreaks affect the lips, face or nostrils.
Before a cold sore erupts it is often preceded by a day or so of tingling and this is a sign that it is time to take action. Keeping the area well moisturised is crucial but if using a lipsalve apply it using the fingertips to avoid reinfection.
In practice I find that when organic witch hazel or lemon balm are applied as soon as a tingle is felt they may be enough to ward off the outbreak or at least to minimise the symptoms and to promote speedier healing.
Lemon balm is way too easy to grow and can quickly turn into a garden thug rampaging through your flower borders if you don't keep a careful eye on it. It does smell delicious though and the bees love it so if you are prepared to cull it from time to time then plant away. Otherwise grow it in a large pot (be warned though it will drop seeds and self sow given even half a chance). For cold sore treatment you simply pick a handful of leaves and steep them in some hot water then drain and use the liquid to dab on the emerging sore. Relief from the tingling is often quite spectacular. You can keep the liquid covered in the fridge for several days before making up a new batch.
Organic witch hazel is easier to use as it is available all year round. Only buy the pure product. It will work the best and not be diluted with superfluous ingredients or chemical additives.
Recurrent or chronic constipation should be fully investigated and treated by a healthcare practitioner.
For quick relief of occasional constipation drink natural prune juice - 120ml (adult dose) each morning until normal bowel habits resume. Infants and young children can be given a 1/4 of this amount. To ensure regular evacuation whole prunes can be added to the diet daily along with plenty of water.
Blackstrap molasses are also a good natural remedy but the taste is too strong for many people. As above, you can try them as a quick fix - dissolve 2 tablespoons warm water and drink first thing each morning. For longer term use do not take everyday but stir small amounts into porridge or yoghurt or mix with honey or cider vinegar and take by the teaspoon. Molasses are high in iron, B vitamins and calcium and are effective at alkalising the body.
Viral Infections (coughs, colds etc)
You can trawl the internet for no end of natural remedies for helping ease the symptoms of common coughs colds and viral infections. These are the ones I have found most beneficial in practice:
For colds and sore throats, warm honey and lemon is the obvious 'go-to' remedy. However, much of the immune boosting response of citrus fruit comes from the pith so eating oranges, satsumas, clementines etc with lots of pith still attached is a useful strategy (not so easy to do these days with easy peelers which have been bred to remove most of the pith with the peel).
Coughs are usually the last thing to resolve when getting over a virus and they can persist for weeks or even months. Hydration with plain water is very important and can be enhanced by allowing a small grain of Celtic sea salt to dissolve on the tongue every few hours. Baked apples mashed together with a knob of butter and a teaspoon of honey make a great home remedy. Their quercetin component (an antioxidant mainly found in the skin) helps cut through mucus and provides a good boost of dietary fibre which helps remove toxins from the body.
Of course, there is always mustard on brown paper and baked onions applied to the chest to relieve cold and flu symptoms but let's be honest, there aren't many people today who are going to be willing to try those.
If you do some basic research you will find that most toothpastes are made with some fairly toxic ingredients. I don't intend to go into details here because formulas change all the time but there are a couple of things that it is worthwhile being aware of. A lot of toothpastes are marketed as 'natural' but how 'natural' they really are is questionable. To give you a rough indication of degrees though you will actually find details printed on the tube. Around the base you will see a block of colour which will be - Green = ‘Natural’, Blue = Natural plus medicinal compounds, Red = Natural + some form of chemical composition, or Black = pure chemical.
The colour coding is an indication that will help you make an initial choice but if you want to drill down further then one ingredient that is worth looking out for is glycerine. This is added as a hydrator to help the paste glide more smoothly across the teeth. However, in the process it coats and remains on the teeth which blocks the naturally-occurring remineralisation process. Saliva in the mouth naturally strengthens enamel but it can’t do its job when teeth are coated in glycerine.
There are loads of natural toothpaste recipes available. This is my current favourite. I recommend it to clients who are generally in good health. The bicarbonate of soda component is generally well tolerated and is only used in very small amounts that are spat out after brushing. People with heart disease or on long term medication need to check for any contraindications. Our teeth and mouths are constantly under attack by acids thanks to the foods we eat and the bicarb is included to naturally neutralise these and to protect the enamel from decay. Contrary to popular belief it is not too harsh or abrasive as long as brushing remains gentle. A high intake of vegetables and water are also essential for maintaining a proper pH balance in the mouth.
And one more thing, teeth should be brushed before meals while the mouth is in an alkaline state. Acid is produced in the mouth rapidly after eating and brushing spreads it around which increases the likelihood of decay.
Mint Choc Toothpaste Recipe
2 tablespoons bicarbonate of soda - 4 tablespoons coconut oil - 3-4 drops peppermint extract - 2 teaspoons cacao powder - unrefined sea salt and a ¼ teaspoon of ground cacao nibs (if desired). Directions 1. Mix the bicarbonate of soda, cacao powder and unrefined sea salt together 2. Add peppermint extract and slightly warmed coconut oil, stirring well 2. Keep in a sealed jar or other sealed container. 3. Scoop a pea-sized amount out with a spoon and place on the bristles of your brush. 4. Brush teeth gently. 5. Spit out excess paste into the bin if you are worried about coconut oil clogging your drains.