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Your natural medicine cabinet

The natural helpers to keep in your medicine cabinet to help common ailments such as heartburn and reflux to cuts, bruises, headaches and flatulence

Heartburn and reflux

Heartburn and reflux are very unpleasant and can cause great discomfort," says Sian Eustace from health store Healing Harvest in Kinvara, Co Galway. "Some relief can be found using peppermint, whether in tea, oil or capsules. Centaury herb can be very helpful for acid indigestion and heartburn in a herbal tincture. Slippery elm or aloe vera juice can reduce inflammation and line or repair the mucous membrane."

"For heartburn, digestive enzymes can be used to help break down your food," says Bernadette Cass from Fruit ‘N Nut Health Store in Portlaoise.

"Aloe vera juice can also help. If you can drink freshly made potato or cabbage juice this would alleviate heartburn. It has to be fresh though! Manuka honey is good to soothe your stomach, one teaspoon of it three times a day will heal up irritation. Try not to exercise shortly after and avoid lying down after eating."

"Acid reflux happens when the sphincter or valve between stomach and oesophagus doesn't close properly, allowing highly acidic stomach contents to rise up the oesophagus, sometimes as far as the mouth," says Jill Bell of health store Well and Good in Midleton, Co Cork. "It's very common and very unpleasant. If reflux occurs regularly more than twice a week it should be checked by a health professional. Keep an eye on liquid intake at mealtimes as too much can dilute digestive enzymes, and bear in mind that as we age stomach acid levels tend to fall. Bitter herbs such as dandelion, yarrow and centaurium promote the production of digestive gastric juices. Some find a couple of teaspoons of apple cider vinegar ‘with the mother' in a glass of water taken before eating supports digestion."


"Herbal teas can help when you're feeling very windy," says Bernadette Cass. "Yarrow, ginger and fennel tea are good. If you have fennel seeds you could chew these too. Remember to drink water away from meal times. Charcoal is effective at absorbing excess gas and can be taken as a capsule or powder."

"Adding a small strip of kombu seaweed whilst cooking beans and pulses can help to make them more digestible," says Sian Eustace. ‘This means there is less flatulence to begin with."

Cuts and bruises

"Tea tree oil is a natural antiseptic, I find it's best as an essential oil which should be diluted and the area washed with this mixture," says Bernadette Cass. "If it's washed and dried then you could apply a tea tree cream. Colloidal silver is also useful to spray on a cut or wound. For bruises take arnica internally, vitamin C and zinc. Eat fresh pineapple, the benefit of the enzyme bromelain will also speed up the healing of the bruise. Any natural anti-inflammatory would be good to take too, like turmeric."

"If you suffer a bang have a glass of water or cup of sweetened tea, Rescue Remedy and homeopathic arnica for shock and pain relief, and a spray of colloidal silver to deal with any potential infection in the wound before it is covered," says Jill Bell. "Sterile manuka honey has powerful skin-granulating properties once healing has started and a wound isn't oozing. As a rule of thumb, bruising which doesn't reduce in three days should be checked by a health professional."

"The three remedies I think of for these first aid situations are arnica, calendula and hypericum (aka St John's Wort)," says Sian Eustace. "These can be taken internally in homeopathic form, or used externally in creams. Calendula is particularly good for cuts and grazes as it speeds knitting of the wound. Arnica is top for bruises but the cream shouldn't be applied to open wounds."

Headaches and migraine

"There are several brands of essential oils who make rollerball blends for applying to the temples," says Sian Eustace. "Feverfew tincture would be something to think about."

"Drink enough water or make yourself ginger tea," says Bernadette Cass. "Use diluted peppermint oil around your temples and the nape of the neck. Take magnesium on a regular basis if you suffer from headaches or migraines. The best form for this complaint seems to be magnesium bisglycinate. Apply a warm compress to your forehead and fill a basin of warm water for your feet. CBD oil can be used internally for pain-like headaches."

"It's often difficult to differentiate between symptoms of people suffering from frequent headaches and others with migraine, though severe migraine is unmistakable," says Jill Bell. "Not drinking enough water and certain foods can trigger headaches, particularly foods high in histamine such as red wine. Also fermented foods such as aged cheese and cured meats, caffeine, citrus fruits and MSG. A food diary can help with detective work, or an appointment with a nutritionist to have a food intolerance test.

"Headaches can sometimes be caused by the drop in oestrogen levels before a period which a herbalist could advise on. Supplements to reduce headaches include vitamin B2, and magnesium which helps to dilate blood vessels. Health stores stock turmeric and devil's claw herbs which have anti-inflammatory properties. Supplementing with l-carnitine and co-enzyme Q10 can help some migraine sufferers. Cayenne pepper, in solution or as a tincture, can stimulate body healing and recovery, and for some people it can also alleviate the pain and frequency of migraine and cluster headaches."

Top medicine cabinet must-haves

"As a gel, cream or massage oil arnica has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and antioxidant properties," says Jill Bell. "Homeopathic pilules are excellent for treating shock, pain and bruising."

"The dried petals of calendula – marigold – are used in soothing ointments, creams and tinctures to treat bruises, cuts and minor infections," says Jill Bell. "Fresh orange marigold petals add a touch of sunshine to a salad."

Epsom salts
"Epsom salts are wonderful for sore feet and aching muscles," says Sian Eustace. "They can be used in a foot bath or a regular bath. Soaking skin with a splinter in warm water with Epsom salts can help to draw the splinter out."

"Dissolved in bath water or foot baths, Epsom salts release magnesium to relax tired and aching muscles," says Jill Bell.

Manuka honey
"Manuka honey is antibacterial so can be really useful to fight off infections," says Sian Eustace. "Take it straight from the spoon for sore throats or tickly coughs. Sterile manuka in tubes is available to use as an ointment for stubborn wounds which are slow to heal."

"Genuine Manuka honey is certified because of its antibiotic activity," says Jill Bell. "Different strengths are used according to a person's need, from maintaining well-being to killing off antibiotic-resistant bacteria."

"Silica can be used in gel form to help with tummy upsets or in capsules to help strengthen skin, hair and nails," says Sian Eustace.

"In our body silica supports the health of hair, skin, nails, bone matrix and connective tissue," says Jill Bell. "As a gel or liquid, it is used internally to ease digestive issues."

Tea tree
"Tea tree oil or cream is a must for the first aid kit as it is antiseptic and antifungal," says Sian Eustace. "Use oil diluted in water to clean cuts or direct onto a fungal nail infection."

Helpful hemp

"Understanding the connection between our gut and brain is increasingly understood as the secret to long term good physical and mental health," says Marc McDonald from The Hemp Company Dublin. "The hemp plant is a nutritious and easily digestible food. It contains all 20 amino acids, including the nine essential fatty acids, including omega-3 and -6, which are essential for brain health. Rich in antioxidants, hemp products can help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body and mind by neutralising harmful free radicals.

"The healthful ratio of omega-3s in hemp seeds and their omega-3 to omega-6 ratio work together to help reduce inflammation which is linked to pain. Hemp seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, particularly alpha linolenic acid (ALA). Hemp hearts are the raw seed with the hull removed, giving them more protein and EFAs. Hemp protein powder is produced by grinding and sifting the de-fatted cake created after cold-pressing hemp seeds. Hemp seed oil is rich in EFAs, vitamin E, antioxidants and minerals."

Quercetin for hay fever

"Hay fever season is well and truly upon us," says Dr. Paula Gaynor, nutritionist and co-founder of Irish health supplement brand Somega. "Also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis, hay fever affects people who are allergic to grass, tree or plant pollen. It occurs when the immune system misidentifies pollen as a threat and directs an inflammatory response against it. This leads to the classic symptoms including a runny nose, sneezing, nasal congestion, sinus pressure and pain, and itchy red eyes.

"Fortunately, there are natural remedies available to help deal with hay fever, with one of the best known being quercetin. Quercetin has anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic properties. As a natural antihistamine, it reduces the release of histamine and other inflammatory mediators that contribute to allergy symptoms. Research shows that Quercetin supplementation causes a significant improvement in allergy symptoms like itchy eyes, sneezing and nasal discharge, and also improves quality of life in people with hay fever.

"Quercetin supplements are poorly absorbed. Liposomal quercetin is designed for better absorption and comes in a liquid format suitable for adults and children."

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