Stocking a natural medicine cabinet for the entire family

I have thought of writing this article for at least a year, but always felt I needed to do more research and prepare a comprehensive list to be sure I wouldn’t omit some important items. Somehow I never could find the time to do this and have finally decided to just write it from memory. I’ll probably be forgetting one thing or the other, and I will write updates down the road whenever I think of something I missed.

I have also not provided references in this section because of time constraints and also because my intention is to make this a practical guide rather than a scientific discussion. I have learned much of what is contained in this section from a variety of sources and it would be hard for me to retrace each one of them. Certainly Jonathan Wright, MD has taught me many “tricks of the trade.” In my opinion, he is the ultimate expert on nutritional medicine. For more information on Dr. Wright and his work visit and

Although I believe that all of the products and procedures described in this section are effective, results may vary from person to person due to the many variables that make each one of us unique. It should be obvious that this section is only meant to supply a list of natural products that can be of use in a medicine cabinet, not to advise anyone on any cures.

All of these products are available to my patients through my office. For others, I have included information to assist in locating similar products at health food stores or on the web.

Vitamin C
Your daily supplement plan may already include some vitamin C. Leading experts, including Dr. Wright, hold that everyone should take a vitamin C supplement on a daily basis. Unlike other mammals, humans are not able to produce vitamin C in their bodies, and our average intake has fallen sharply due to soil depletion and other factors.

It also makes sense to have vitamin C in the medicine cabinet for special needs. The most desirable type of vitamin C for this purpose is pure buffered ascorbic acid. Look for a product that contains calcium, magnes ium and potassium as buffering agents, but no other ingredients.

Higher-than-normal doses of vitamin C can be taken for short periods of time to help your body fight viruses. For this purpose, higher doses definitely perform better than lower ones. A dose of 10 to 50 grams a day is safe for adults and proportionately less should be used in children. Too much vitamin C causes diarrhea and taking as much as you tolerate without loose stools is a useful dosing guideline.

If you or your child has a tendency to become ill in the winter months you may consider increasing your intake to an intermediate level, 2 to 5 grams per day in adults or children, for the entire cold and flu season.

Another good use for buffered ascorbic acid is to do a so-called vitamin C flush, an excellent procedure to help clear your body of a wide range of toxins. This flush is safe and should be done regularly if you or your child have chronic health problems, especially affecting your immune system (like allergies) or auto-immune disease.

A vitamin C flush involves taking 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of vitamin C every 15 minutes until you experience a strong purging effect (not just loose stools). Keep track of how much vitamin C it took you to get there. You should be able to take 75% of this total on a daily basis without unpleasant side effects, although our need for vitamin C fluctuates over time and this amount will require periodic adjustments.

Even though the vitamin C flush is a safe procedure, there is a minor risk of side effects and it is best to do it under professional supervision – especially if you are not in good health.

Xylitol nasal wash
The only nasal wash containing xylitol that I know is one called Xlear that is now widely available at health food stores or on the Internet. It is a simple saline nasal wash containing a natural sugar, xylitol. Xylitol has the benefit of making membranes inside the nose and throat “slippery” to bacteria so that they become unable to attach and grow in the area.

This may sound like a joke to the skeptical reader, and I also had trouble believing it at first, but it really works. Several months ago I wrote an article on this product. If you missed it, you can read it by going to the Newsletters page on my website and click “Allergies” in the topics column, then scrolling down to the second article.

Xlear can be used three times a day or more if you or your child have allergies and/or have a tendency to get sinus or ear, nose and throat infections. Use it throughout the allergy season, or whenever infections are more likely – for example, when everyone else at your child’s school is fighting something. It can also be used to combat an infection and can be combined with medications, but it far more effective as a preventative measure.

Grapefruit seed extract
This product is one of the least expensive and most useful ones to keep in your home. It is a natural antiseptic and antifungal that can be used for almost anything, from truly disinfecting fruits and vegetables to cleaning kitchen counters. It can also be taken internally (if properly diluted) and is very helpful to prevent and kill parasites, yeast and intestinal bacteria

It can also be used when traveling to Mexico or other parts of the world to prevent traveler’s diarrhea and almost every intestinal parasite.

As with any product, when using grapefruit seed extract be sure you follow directions on the label. I emphasize this because I know of a lady who used it by mistake as eye drops for her dog with disastrous consequences.

It usually comes in a liquid or in capsules, but can also be found in nasal sprays and ear drops. In many cases, combining grapefruit seed extract nasal spray with Xlear nasal wash has helped resolve chronic sinus infections, including some that did not respond to standard antibiotic treatment.

Colloidal silver
Colloidal silver is unquestionably the strongest natural “antibiotic” available. Unlike antibiotics, it does not favor yeast overgrowth and it kills yeast as well as bacteria. Even though it is a very effective product and I have been a witness to this many times, colloidal silver is simply not as strong as antibiotics and it may or may not work depending on the severity of each case. In some instances colloidal silver is best used in combination with other products like Xlear or grapefruit seed extract for optimal results.

Most colloidal silver on the market is simply too weak to do much of anything and this has led people to think that this product is useless. Unfortunately this type of problem is common in the field of nutritional supplements and results primarily from greed in an unregulated industry.

When shopping for colloidal silver look for a product that is potent enough and is made of very small silver particles, otherwise it will not work. A minimum standard should be 500 parts per million (PPM) and a guaranteed particle size no larger than 0.001 microns.

There has been some discussion regarding the safety of this product and it should be noted that silver is a heavy metal that can become toxic if taken in large quantities. In reality, silver is only mildly toxic – especially when compared to metals like mercury or lead – and silver toxicity has not been linked with problems like ADHD or autism.

As with everything else, potential benefits and risks should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and compared to those of alternatives, especially considering that silver can help control yeast at the same time as bacteria. In any case I do not recommend using this product for longer than one to two consecutive weeks.

Mannose is very similar to xylitol. It looks like sugar, tastes like sugar, and actually is a natural sugar. It could be used as a sweetener if it wasn’t so expensive. Unlike sugar, mannose cannot be digested but is absorbed and eventually finds its way out of the body unchanged through the kidneys and the bladder.

In doing so, this natural sugar has the amazing ability to clear most urinary tract infections. It is still a mystery to me how it actually works. The accepted explanation is that it makes the walls of the bladder slippery and bacteria simply slide off and end up in the toilet.

I am not sure whether this is really accurate, but the fact is that mannose works and often does so in a matter of two or three days. Not only this, but people who tend to get repeated bladder infections can take as little as a teaspoon every day and never suffer another recurrence.

We used to think that mannose only worked if E. coli was responsible for the infection. Even in this case it would be quite impressive since E. coli causes an estimated 80% of all bladder infections, but we are now finding that it also sometimes works when different bacteria are involved. Certain reports suggest that it can even help a condition called interstitial cystitis that isn’t even supposed to be caused by bacteria at all.

Most people know that Echinacea is a strong immune system enhancer but there are many false beliefs surrounding this herb, among them that it cannot be taken regularly over time and that children should not take it.

None of this is true. Echinacea is safe for adults and children and can be used on a daily basis over long periods of time, if needed, without losing its effectiveness. I recommend always keeping some on hand. Take it at a first sign of a cold or flu; if you a re particularly vulnerable you can take it for the entire season.

The efficacy of this herb varies tremendously depending on the part of the plant used, the manufacturing process, the species and the quality of the raw material. As an example it is a well-known fact that only the roots work, but the leaves are cheaper and widely used in health food store products.

Look for an extract containing only the roots of the species Echinacea angustifolia or Echinacea purpurea. The strongest extracts have an alcohol base, although water extracts may also present similar benefits (this point is controversial at the present time).

Some parents might be uncomfortable giving herbs in an alcohol base to their children. My opinion is that the amount of alcohol is so minute that it is completely safe even for very small children. Such tiny amounts of alcohol are present in many foods and can also be made in the body in the process of normal digestion.

Because allergies to Echinacea are not uncommon, I recommend that you try taking it and letting you child take it to make sure it is well tolerated before you actually need it.

DMSO is a liquid with very particular characteristics. I think it belongs in every natural medicine cabinet for two primary reasons: 1) it can be used as a topical anti-inflammatory and 2) it is absorbed through the skin and can be used to carry vitamins and other substances with it.

Apparently DMSO has been also used internally with beneficial effects, especially for arthritis and allergies. In my opinion the extremely unpleasant odor and taste make this use impractical. However, a different form of this same molecule, called MSM, can be swallowed in capsules or powder and has been shown to have the same benefits.

DMSO has a controversial history, although I believe that most of the controversy has now been resolved. To read more about DMSO, studies on it, uses and history go to

The DMSO you buy should be labeled US pharmaceutical grade (usually 99.9% pure). It can be found at some health food stores or from the Internet.

Use it topically for arthritis, sprains or muscle aches. Make sure to only apply it with clean hands on clean skin, otherwise it may carry impurities with it through the skin. Other uses of DMSO are discussed below.

Tea Tree Oil
Tea Tree oil is an essential oil with topical antibiotic and antifungal actions. It can be used for most skin infections, toenail fungus, ringworm, diaper rash, etc. but should never be taken internally.

In the case of toenail fungus the infection is rooted deep down in the nail bed. The only way Tea Tree oil can kill the fungus is if it can find a way through the superficial layers of the nail. To achieve this mix it in equal parts with DMSO and apply it to affected nails twice a day.

Digestive enzymes
In addition to the primary use of enzymes, which is to help digestion, they can also be used topically to treat insect bites. Use enzymes containing the pineapple enzyme bromelain or pancreatin. Open a capsule and mix the contents with water to make a paste, then apply to the red swollen insect bite area as needed.

SSKI is a saturated solution of iodine that usually supplies 50 mg of this mineral per drop. It can be obtained by prescription or over the counter, although it may take some searching to find it.

SSKI can be used internally for many therapeutic purposes, but this should only be done under expert supervision because high doses of iodine can block the thyroid in some people. It also has many other uses described below.

SSKI has antibiotic and antifungal actions similar to those of Tea Tree oil. Use it as an alternative or find the one that works better in your case. Tea Tree oil has a pungent odor and may burn the skin slightly. SSKI has a bright yellow color that might permanently stain clothes although it’s safe once it’s dry.

SSKI is also effective for herpes, especially if applied to the affected area several times a day early in the outbreak. Mix it in equal parts with DMSO and apply to the area several times a day. Use this same mixture of SSKI and DMSO to dissolve sebaceous cysts, applying it twice a day for several weeks.

Any scar, thickened area of skin or a condition known as Dupuytren’s contracture will improve with a mixture of DMSO, SSKI and vitamin E applied to the area twice a day. It will take several months to see a difference but patience pays off.

Finally, when soaking raw beans, add a few drops SSKI to the water and leave overnight. The SSKI helps inactivate chemicals in beans that make them difficult to digest. After soaking, drain the beans and rinse them before you cook them. Eating those beans may just become more pleasant!

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