May 08, 2010

What about meds?

People who visit our house feel like they've hit the jackpot when they see our "pharmacy" container: "Ah, ah! Do I spot packaging over here?" they ask teasing.
Medications have been hard to eliminate of course, but we've found ways to reduce our packaging here too. In the process, we went thru some trial and error. One of them was finding natural medication in bulk at Good Earth, where you fill your jar and pay by the ounce for decongestant, flu relief or echinacea. Besides the fact that these were really expensive, they did not even work! Well, at least not as well as the regular drugstore stuff.
Since then, we have found a balance between natural alternatives and drugstore products. Here again, it's all about paring it down to essentials (you knew I was going to write that). Sincerely, is there a point in keeping medications that do not work or are expired?
Every family has different medical needs, but here is what we did in our home:
  • We took expired meds to our pharmacy
  • We now keep only a minimal supply
  • There is no way around the occasional plastic prescription bottle and it's illegal for pharmacies to refill them in CA, but our pharmacy takes them back to recycle them (#2). I figure they have a better chance of getting those recycled than we do thru our household recycling.
  • We choose tablets (pain reliever, for example) in a glass or at default a plastic jar (usually a recyclable #2), instead of the tablets individually wrapped in aluminum/plastic and then a box (that's what I call obnoxious packaging).
  • Although they are cheaper by the count, we do not buy jumbo size medication jars, they expire way before we can finish them.
  • We choose metal tubes instead of plastic (Arnicare is magic on bruises)
  • We invested in a Neti pot (Santa gave one to Scott this year, picture above): Great to clear out your sinuses with just water and sea salt.
  • We researched and tested a few natural alternatives: I forage Yerba Santa in the winter for its decongestant properties (tea), but many plants are available in bulk at health food stores also. For example, you can make a corn silk tea for prostate relief, a senna leaf tea for constipation relief or an oatmeal bath for skin relief. By the way, you can also roll a fresh California bay leaf in your nose to relieve a headache – I agree, it's a great look:) or eat a small amount of local honey each day to relieve allergies. I also found this cough suppressant recipe (all ingredients available in bulk), but we have yet to try it (Knock on wood that we won't need it for a while): 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/4 tsp ground ginger, 1 T honey, 1 T apple cider vinegar, 2 T water mixed in small sterilized jar.
  • Instead of plastic band-aids, gauze and surgical tape work fine. We use hydrogen peroxide as an antiseptic on small scrapes and cuts before we let them air dry or apply surgical tape directly on deeper cuts. How often do you really need a band-aid? My son thinks that band-aids are a cure to any "owie"... but a smoothie works just as well. Update: Per a nurse's email: "Hydrogen peroxide is not recommended on wounds anymore. It may (with reservations) be diluted and used to clean, initially a very dirty wound but is actually damaging to healthy tissue. Tea tree oil or honey products are a natural antimicrobial alternative". Old fashioned Lugol's iodine has also been mentioned on the forum.
  • We do not use everyday antibacterial products, most contain Triclosan, and only make bad bacteria stronger. As Mayo clinic warns: "Antibacterial soap is no more effective at killing germs than is regular soap. Using antibacterial soap may even lead to the development of bacteria that are resistant to the product's antimicrobial agents — making it harder to kill these germs in the future."
  • To answer a question from a couple of readers, we do not take vitamins. Like Michael Pollan (in his book, "In Defense of Food"), we believe in a varied diet instead... but I did take them while pregnant and we might reconsider them when we're older.
  • We believe in moderate sunscreen use (we worry about skin cancer as much as vitamin D deficiency). I do use it on my face everyday, for vanity reasons;), but we use clothing as sun-shield as much as we can (the rays penetrates it in a small percentage), and use sunscreen for prolonged exposures on our bodies. When we're out of my favorite, we'll give this recipe a try. I just have to find zinc oxide in bulk...
Do you have some natural remedies (that work) to share?