Nature's Medicine Cabinet

by: Sara on 07/08/2015

Summer is here and here on the West Coast, we missed out on our usual rainy spring and headed straight into one of the hottest and driest June on record. With no snow pack melting and no rain in sight, we are looking at early drought conditions. Yes, the sun is beautiful and the water warm, but we know that we will pay for these seeming luxuries in the long run – or even in the short run. Forest fires are early and rampant, and water use is already being monitored.  

Our summer reading sale highlights books that, while still light enough in topic for a good beach read,  encourage us to reflect and look inward; empowering us to make choices that will sustain us through the coming long hot summers. From a climate memoir about one woman's lifestyle changes to lower her carbon footprint, to another woman's push for local medicine and another's digital fast; we celebrate the ideas and ingenuity of five strong women leading us through trouble times into a vibrant future.

In today's post Dawn Comb's outlines how to stock a natural medicine cabinet, excerpted from her new book, Heal Local, 20 Essential Herbs for Do-it Yourself Home Healthcare. All of our summer reading books are 35% off until July 19th.

The medicine cabinet in our bathroom occasionally holds remedies that we are using at the time, but most people who open that door will see homemade toothpaste and a bar of soap instead of pills and ointments. To peep at our medicine collection, a visitor must open the hall linen closet instead. It is only here that I have the room necessary for both my medicines as well as my tools.

The natural medicine cupboard is incredibly different in scope than its modern equivalent for a few very important reasons. First, a natural medicine cabinet is not static. For a couple of years, ours contained a large number of pregnancy and birth related remedies. That time of life has moved on, and we see changes as little ones progress from infant rashes to scraped knees. The natural home medicine cabinet is as fluid as the family it represents. It is personalized to the pathology found in the home.

Some families may not need all the things our family finds useful.


Those families may have more digestive issues or more respiratory issues. Peeping in the natural medicine cabinet really does tell you a lot about the family that lives in the home. Personalization does not always mean in the way of need. Sometimes it is preference that determines personalization. If you live in a household where no one will drink tea, it is hardly useful to stock your medicine cupboard with a full line of first aid teas. Not only is medicine selection and variability individual, but the method of application is as well. Someone who can’t seem to swallow pills will need more syrups, teas and foodways. The family who likes everything encapsulated will want to lay in a supply of herbal powders and empty capsules.

You need more room in a natural medicine cabinet because there are simply more therapies to be applied. When we got away from taking responsibility for our own health in the home, we were sold a bill of goods that these therapies were dangerous to undertake. It would now be seen as ludicrous, perhaps even irresponsible, to perform an enema at home. That is reserved for the medical specialist, and sometimes the salon practitioner, if it is an option at all.


Nevertheless, the home health care practitioner will need to know how to use poultices, compresses, enemas and more if they are truly going to understand how to apply herbs properly.

My medicine cupboard contents that follow reflect everything you would need to treat all the ailments in this book using the herbs in the apothecary available.

A Natural Medicine Cabinet

A. Instruction Manual

Always remember that you may not always be the person treating the ailment or emergency.

It is critical that you provide a good enough instruction manual that even the novice may find what they are looking for in your cupboard. If you keep this manual on the shelves with your tinctures and pills, you might also want to add a map or inventory of what someone may expect to find.

B. Labels

Always, always, always label your medicines.

Here are the important bits of information:

1. Ingredients

2. Title

3. Reason it may be used, e.g. “For Diarrhea”

4. How to use it, e.g. “2–3 drops under the

tongue every 15–20 minutes”

5. Instructions on how to make it if it is not

ready to use, e.g. “Pour boiling water over

tea, cover and steep 15 minutes, strain and


6. Date the medicine was made. Natural medicine

often has a shelf life. Sixteen-year-old

sage may not provide the benefit you were

hoping. If you have jars of herbs in the cupboard,

make sure you know when they were

harvested. If you’ve blended a tea or started

a tincture, note the dates.

C. Tools

1. Apple cider vinegar

2. Antiseptic spray — sage, plantain, calendula

and honey in vodka

3. Green clay

4. Lavender essential oil

5. Peppermint essential oil

6. Eucalyptus essential oil

7. Yarrow flower essence

8. Liquid chlorophyll (e.g. ChlorOxygenR)

9. Castor oil

10. Enema bag

11. Cotton/flannel strips for compresses and


12. Pre-chilled headache washcloths

13. Heating pad

14. Ice pack

15. Bread flour

16. Rescue RemedyR

17. Homeopathic Arnica pills

18. Raw honey

19. Small tub for foot and hand baths

D. Powdered Herbs

1. Cayenne

2. Comfrey

3. Yarrow

4. Ginger


E. Dried Herbs

1. Hops

2. Yarrow

3. Wild Bergamot

4. Sage

F. Tinctures

1. Fever — boneset

2. Infection — one part plantain, two parts boneset, one part ginger

3. Diarrhea — one part plantain, one part sage, one part mullein, one half part ginger

4. Muscle Relaxant — two part hops, one part calendula, one quarter part lobelia

5. Headache/pain — two parts St. John’s wort, one part hops, one half part ginger

6. Urinary Tract Infection — one part parsley, one part bee balm, one part plantain

7. Respiratory Emergency/Emetic/Hiccups — lobelia

8. Bitters — three parts hops, one part boneset, two parts lemon balm, one part sage, one part ginger

G. Teas

1. Colds/Congestion — one part plantain, one part ginger, one part boneset, one eighth part lobelia, two parts mullein

2. Headache — three parts lemon balm, one part hops, one part calendula, one half part ginger

3. Sore Throat — one part plantain, one part sage, one part mullein

H. Capsules/Pills

1. Headache — two parts lemon balm, three parts hops, one part calendula, one half part ginger

I. Salves/Balms

1. All-Purpose (bites, bruises, wounds, burns) —

Equal parts calendula, echinacea, plantain, comfrey infused in cold pressed extra virgin olive oil.

2. Vapor Balm — one part yarrow, one half part cayenne, one part comfrey infused in cold pressed extra virgin olive oil. To each cup of oil add two tablespoons of menthol crystals.

J. Oils

1. Mullein/garlic ear oil

2. Calendula oil

3. St. John’s wort oil




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