I’ve been home from work today with a killer sinus infection, and it has got me thinking about some of my favourite natural home remedies. I’ve already shared my love of colloidal oatmeal, but here are some of my other top picks.
Tea Tree (Melaleuca) Oil
Replaces: Vick’s Vapour Rub, decongestants, antiseptic, rash/anti-itch cream, aloe vera, anti-fungal cream
Melaleuca oil is one of my standby essential oils that I always keep to hand. I was so grateful for that today with my clogged up sinuses – inhaling the vapours either just from the bottle or from a bowel of steaming water with a few drops added is like heaven, and the astringent scent is one of the few things I was able to actually smell today.
It also has antiseptic and anti-fungal properties – dab a bit on cuts and abrasions and fungal infections like ringworm and athlete’s foot. Some people even add it to their soap, which I plan to try when I eventually get around to making my own.
Finally, it helps sunburn and bug bites, and does wonders for dry skin – I add a few drops to my hair conditioner to combat a dry and itchy scalp, and it works wonders.
Be careful when using melaleuca oil though – it is poisonous if ingested, so don’t swallow it (it is, however, very popular for use as a mouthwash), and be careful using it as an antiseptic for pets – it is poisonous to them too, so don’t let them lick it.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Replaces: hair conditioner, cortico-steriod eczema creams, dry-ear drops, dishwasher cleaners (normal vinegar), mayonaise (ha ha)
I’ve only recently jumped on the ACV bandwagon, but so far I am a fan. I recently completed a month of washing my hair with baking soda (see below), and conditioning it with AVC, in place of shampoo and conditioner. AVC makes a fantastic conditioner – I’ve literally never used something that gets rid of tangles so well, and as I get really tangled hair, that is a huge plus. I put it in a spray bottle with equal parts water, and added a few drops of melaleuca for my scalp too. The downside is, it STINKS. It stings the nostrils. Pungent is a nice way to put it. But the fantastic part is that once your hair has dried, you can’t smell it at all. I didn’t believe it until I tried it, but it’s true!
Many people take a spoonful of AVC everyday for digestive health and use it generously in cooking. My favourite use of it, however, is as a remedy for a really annoying skin condition I have, called dyshidrotic eczema (also known as pompholyx). No one knows what causes this type of eczema, which affects your hands and feet, and, unlike other types of eczema, it does not really respond to cortico-steroid creams. So far, out of a large range of products, I have found two that work – colloidal oatmeal cream, and ACV soaks. The colloidal oatmeal cream soothes the eczema, while the ACV combats and heals it. Doing the soak is not a pleasant experience. It stinks, and for some reason, unlike the hair treatment, your skin smells like vinegar for the rest of the day. In addition, it stings like crazy, and turns the rash white for a few minutes, which is kind of cool, kind of creepy. But it feels great, stops the itching, and heals the skin!
After Tough Mudder, I had a really bad blocked ear, and I used a few drops of AVC in my ear to help dry out the water. It didn’t work, because as it turned out, there wasn’t any water in there (I don’t know what was blocking the ear, and I don’t like to think about it!), but it made a great alternative to the expensive ear drops that you get to dry out swimmer’s ear – the alcohol content of the vinegar works just as well as the alcohol which is the active ingredients in those drops, plus ACV is a moisturiser that can soothe sore ears.
When picking an AVC, it is absolutely essential that you get a non-processed type – it needs to be cloudy and kind of gross looking, not clear. This means that it still has the “mother of vinegar” in it, which is thought to contain all the benefits of AVC.
I also use normal vinegar a lot in cleaning – it is a fantastic deodoriser, and I often run a few cups of it through the dishwasher to leave it sparkly clean and smelling great.
Olive Oil and Coconut Oil
Replaces: moisturiser, turpentine, other types of oil.
I have already extolled the virtues of coconut oil as a fantastic moisturiser (that also smells great!) and olive oil as an oil paint cleaning agent. I have also been known to use straight olive oil on my hands as a repairing moisturiser, which feels amazing. My dry skin soaks it up like crazy.
Coconut oil, on the other hand, is known as a superfood, and makes a great healthy replacement for other types of unhealthy vegetable oil. It has a very high smoking temperature, making it a great stable cooking oil. It contains medium chain fatty acids, which are apparently better than other types of fatty acids for cholesterol and weight loss. It eases digestion, and has effects on insulin (although these are still being studied).
Coconut oil is also a viable alternative to palm oil, in addition to being better for you. The production of palm oil is contributing to the deforestation of vital rain forests, and the Bornean Orang-utan (one of our closet relatives) is facing extinction due to unsustainable production of palm oil. Palm oil is found in many popular foods, and is often deceptively labelled as vegetable oil. Read more at the Melbourne Zoo website and Palm Oil Action.
Replaces: shampoo, abrasive cleaning agents such as Jif and deodorisers
As I mentioned above, I recently spent a month using baking soda as a replacement for shampoo. It is a little more difficult to use, being in powder form, and it does not lather like shampoo does – you have to work it into your hair and scalp. Baking soda is a pretty popular choice for those wishing to avoid the chemicals found in shampoo for health, skin, allergy or other reasons. It also has an added benefit – it doesn’t strip the oils from your hair like traditional shampoos. What this means is that your hair will not feel as clean when you have washed it, but over time, it will help regulate your hair’s production of oil, which generally increases to compensate for the use of shampoos. I get super oily hair, and need to wash it every day usually. Using the baking soda was therefore challenging, as it meant I had to deal with oily hair almost all the time. After a month though, I could really notice the difference in my hair – I could go for up to three days with non-oily hair (although not quite as squeaky clean as with shampoo). I intended to continue the experiment, but ended up running out of baking soda (and was too lazy to buy more). One day though, I plan to make the switch for good.
Baking soda is also great for cleaning – make a paste with water, lay it on your grimy surface, scrub, rinse and repeat. It works on grease, and particularly well on metallic grime, such as you would find on coins. It even makes a great dent into rust. When you have something stubborn you would like to shift, leave your baking soda paste on for a while, before scrubbing off with a toothbrush. Magic.
Finally, baking soda also makes a great deodoriser – leave some in your shoes, sprinkle it on your clothes, it works wonders.
So those are a few of my favourite natural remedies – I hope they are useful for you as well. I would love to hear about yours – please leave a comment below!
Enjoy some more September Short Projects: