Natural remedies can be very effective in soothing common ailments. But with hundreds of products lining health store shelves, it's hard to know where to begin. What's more, you don't want to waste your hard-earned money only to find out that a pricey pill didn't live up to the hype. Nobody wants to pay for a chemically enhanced medicine that will give side effects that are just as bad, if not worse, than the symptoms that sent him or her to the pharmacy in the first place. As with any health solution, it takes time to find what's best for your body. To make things easy, here are some tried and true alternatives that really do work.
Natural Essentials for the Common Cold
Echinacea boosts the immune system by stimulating white blood cell activity and increasing the body's production of antiviral substances such as interferon. The absolute key is to start treatment at the earliest sign of cold symptoms. It's available in liquid or capsules, and for added relief, look for formulas that contain elderberry, another powerful anti-viral.
Zinc lozenges help us utilize immune-boosting vitamin A and increase disease-fighting T-cell activity. They work best when taken at the first sign of a sore throat or cough. Lozenges are easily found in natural health stores as well as traditional pharmacies. Look for zinc gluconate varieties that are flavored with fruity, natural ingredients.
Vitamin C works by regulating immune system function and acts as an antihistamine and anti-inflammatory agent, resulting in milder nasal swelling and less congestion at the onset of a cold. For greater benefit, try a product that contains bioflavonoids, which are naturally found in citrus fruits.
Soothing Stomach Remedies
Peppermint is very effective in calming an overactive digestive system and acts as a muscle relaxant. It also helps alleviate nausea, stomach cramps and other symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome. Herbal teas and coated capsules both work well.
Acidophilus is a probiotic that promotes the growth of healthy, disease-fighting bacteria in your intestinal tract. It also helps you absorb nutrients and strengthens general immune function. Acidophilus is especially useful in restoring beneficial microorganisms after you've finished a course of antibiotics or if you're suffering from a case of diarrhea. Acidophilus is available in tablets, capsules or powder.
Ginger Tea eases nausea, cramps and other symptoms associated with poor digestion. It helps the body break down fatty foods, acts as a natural anti-inflammatory and is also an excellent natural remedy for motion sickness. While you can steep freshly grated ginger root in hot water, tea bags have a long shelf life.
Gentle Skin Solutions
Tea Tree Oil is a natural, topical agent used to fight the bacterial associated with acne. It has proven to be as potent as benzoyl peroxide but with fewer irritating side effects. It's also highly useful in treating burns, cuts and other skin ailments. Look for 100 percent pure tea tree oil in 5 to 15 percent solutions.
Aloe actually inhibits a peptide that causes pain associated with burns, wounds and abrasions. It also helps prevent bacterial infections, reduces skin inflammation and promotes healing. Opt for pure gel or creams that contain at least 70 percent aloe.
Baking Soda is still the natural favorite for treating insect bites, poison ivy or other itchy skin conditions. It appears to work by temporarily changing the skin's pH from acid to alkaline. Baking soda is an effective emollient either mixed as a paste with water or used as a soaking agent in a warm or cool bath.
Alternative Headache Treatments
Magnesium is an essential mineral that feeds the brain, helps tone blood vessels and keeps them relaxed and open. Several studies point to its ability to prevent or relieve migraines. Magnesium citrate has performed well in numerous trials and is easily absorbed by the body.
Feverfew has been studied since the 1980s, and researchers believe it contains powerful plant compounds that prevent the constriction of brain arteries. Feverfew is available in pill form, but a liquid extract containing 0.2 percent of the active ingredient parthenolide works best.
Butterbur contains phytochemicals that diminish inflammation and relax muscle spasms. It has proven useful in treating various types of headache pain, including migraines. Butterbur is available in capsules or extracts and is most effective when taken at the onset of a headache.