Thursday, May 6, 2010

Just Say No to Drugs - Thanks, Nancy

Not long ago, and then, again today, someone in my homeschool e-list posted the most recent recall warning. It was for Tylenol, specifically the infant formula suspension drops.

Food recalls are bad enough, but, as a parent, the medicine recalls really terrify me. Most of us are so out of touch with our bodies that the first thing we do when we feel bad is to pop some pill. When my children get sick, I end up feeling completely impotent, and need to do something to make them better, but what happens when the 'cure' makes them sicker ... or worse, when the thing I've given my babies to make them better, doesn't make them better ... ever (which is the case with this recall. Apparently, there have been some deaths attributed to the recalled batch of Tylenol)?

It's too awful to even contemplate.

There are certain things I like to stock-up on when I see them on sale. Medicines are not one of them, because:
1. We just don't use a lot of medicine around here, even pain killers, which is the only one we usually have in our cabinet; and
2. Too often these medications are subject to recalls (this is the second recall for children's medicines recently), and I'm always afraid that I won't know. I mean, I don't watch television or read the papers, and I didn't see anything about the recall on the news headlines I read regularly (including the New York Times, the Wallstreet Journal, the Guardian, NPR news, and Yahoo news), although I know when a celebrity dies or buys something odd even though he's bankrupt.

I never did finish (or really even start) the Medicinal Herb course I signed up for, but I have been engaging in independent study for years.

I know that Jewel weed, which grows prolifically in my back yard, is effective for treating poison ivy, but it's also good for insect bites (or really most skin irritations).

I know that comfrey is good for sprains and has reportedly fixed broken bones and it's useful as a compress following child birth (and my rabbits like to eat it ;).

Hemlock tea is good for colds.

Garlic has antiseptic properties and is good for stauching infections (we use a bit of warmed garlic oil to sooth an earache).

Sage is good for sore throats, as is honey. In fact, the other day Precious had a sore throat and asked for a spoonful of honey. I didn't hear anything else from her regarding pain in her throat. So, either the sore throat just went away, or the honey did something.

For most of us, though, we tend to trust the drugs more than the plants, which is just crazy given the fact that most of the drugs that we can buy without a prescription - and even most of those for we need a prescription - are derived from plants. For example, the chemical used in flea and tick preparations (and is, incidentally, the same chemical used to treat head lice) comes from the chrysanthemum flower. Who knew?

I am far from an expert, and I would never recommend a course of treatment for anyone not living in my house, but for those who live with me, my first choice for treatment is something that is growing in my yard or that I can forage from the nearby woods, because most of the time, I've used it myself before, I know the history of the plant, because I planted it, and I know the treatment won't kill me, because somebody, inadvertently (or on purpose) added something in the process of making the medication that shouldn't have been there.

We still have aspirin and (generic) acetaminophen (next to the arnica lotion, clove oil, lavendar oil and tea tree oil ;) in the medicine cabinet, and for general aches, those OTC pain relievers are what we use after we've tried heat/cold, rest and fluids.

But I'm looking for an alternative for store-bought pain relievers.

I just have to figure out how to identify, harvest and store willow bark (from which the active ingredient for aspirin, acetylsalicylic acid ;), is derived.


  1. Willowbark tea. Ahhh, that's the stuff!

    Something that works really well for sore throats, as well, is ginger-honey tea. Just a teaspoon or so of ground ginger and honey to taste in a mug of hot water. I have been using it since high school, and never fails to soothe.

  2. I was going to say willow bark also. We always liked the fact that both our goats and our cow LOVED willow, and wondered if we might get fewer headaches from drinking the milk. Hard to say for sure.

    Jewelweed is also fantastic for stinging nettle stings, and I think even bee/wasp stings.

  3. I agree... it's kind of scary to realize that there are very few Americans who aren't on some sort of prescription medication. I'm glad I'm not, and hope I don't need to, especially since all of these wonderful herbal remedies are abundantly available.

  4. I have friends that would gasp at the sight of my bare medicine cabinet-- there really isn't much in there except for bandages, nail polish remover, alcohol and hydrogen peroxide.