6 complementary medicine must-haves

What do you do when someone in your household goes down with something nasty? Reach for the paracetamol, or run down to the chemist for the most suitable pharmaceutical offering?

However pretty the box, or the promises, there are often additional side effects for every condition they guarantee to heal. Did you know that if you pop those aspirins, Anadin and Neurofen too regularly, you end up with a 50% higher risk of a heart condition, and probably worn out cartilage to boot? So you start with an ache in your joints, but end up with no cartilage, and irreversible pain instead. And all because you took the shortcut. Instead of trying to find out why your joints were playing up, and identifying the cause of your problem, you got by by masking the symptoms with drugs that don't make you better.

Try holistic health remedies instead. Fill your medicine cabinet with effective, inexpensive and most importantly, non-invasive solutions.

Here are my top 6. The ones I wouldn't be without. They really, really work.

Apple cider vinegar

Cider vinegar: great for weightloss and an alternative medicine staple
Cider vinegar: great for weightloss and an alternative medicine staple

This is my number one go-to product. Take two teaspoons a day in warm water when you first get up to combat the excess acid in your body. Research shows that the more alkaline you are, the healthier you will stay, and although it's an acquired taste, once you have acquired it, it's hard to start the day with anything else.It is said to speed up weight loss. It's also a cure for hiccups. Just drink one neat teaspoon for an instant recovery. Sore throats also vanish quickly if you gargle with a 50% apple cider vinegar/50% warm water solution. Best of all, it sorts piles/haemerroids in a few days. Soak a cotton wool ball in neat apple cider vinegar and apply it for 5 minutes or so to the afflicted area. Repeat a couple of times a day. Any pain or itching miraculously vanishes, and the inflammation reduces and eventually disappears. Make sure you only buy the organic, raw, unprocessed apple cider vinegar, and it must contain what they rather peculiarly call 'the mother', which is the cloudy version with the bits at the bottom. The bits are strands of proteins, enzymes and good bacteria. Try Braggs apple cider vinegar.

Bach Rescue Remedy

Ever wondered how the remarkable Bach Flower remedies work? It's hard to get your head around how a few drops of distilled flower essence can pack such a powerful punch and change your emotional state in a matter of seconds. Created by Dr Edward Bach in the 1930s they should be a stalwart in your medicine chest. Little more than a molecule of each flower remains in the tincture, but it is said to hold the vibrational essence, or frequency, of that flower and contain all its healing properties. Inconceivable? Maybe. But I can tell you that illogical though it may sound, they do work.

Pick your remedy according to your state of mind, and watch your emotions change. Dose your family and friends accordingly. Larch is for lack of confidence, beech for intolerance, holly for hatred and jealousy, heather for self-centredness and willow for resentment. The list goes on, and there are 38 individual remedies in total.

The one in my cupboard, however, is the all-encompassing rescue remedy. This is a combination tincture of 5 of the single remedies, and specifically for use in emergency situations.

Have you ever gone into a state of shock? Heard terrible news, or learnt something difficult out of the blue? A few drops in water, or a spray under the tongue, brings you out of that state, calming and relaxing you, and enabling you to carry on. Keep a bottle close by at all times. You never know when you will need it.

Tea tree oil

Naturally antiseptic tea tree

Naturally antiseptic tea tree

I love the smell of tea tree. Even as I unscrew the lid of the bottle, I can feel my body - and my mind - preparing to get better. There is something automatic about its healing properties. Made from the leaves of the Australian tea tree, it has anti-fungal and antiseptic properties. You can use it for a huge variety of ailments. It stops infection in cuts, burns and blisters. Helps psoriasis and acne, and has even been shown to stop MRSA in its tracks. Tea tree oil works as effectively as any over the counter cream for ringworm and athlete's foot. Are lice an issue? If you have small school age children in the house, tea tree oil has been shown to be more effective at clearing headlice than it's pharmaceutical cousins. Gargle with it to stop a sore throat, or inhale a cloud of tea tree laced steam to clear your sinuses. It's a remarkable all-rounder.

(Never swallow it though, in any form, and if you have sensitive skin, always dilute tea tree in a carrier oil such as olive oil or coconut oil)

Oregano oil capsules

Reach for these the second you notice yourself flagging. Oregano oil, made from the oil of the oregano plant, is one of the most potent immune boosting medicines out there. A capsule a day will wipe out any bacteria or viruses trying to take hold anywhere in your body. It has been shown to be effective against salmonella and other germs in repeated tests. Are you worrying about graceful ageing - or frankly, just ageing? Oregano oil is full of anti-oxidants that fight the free radicals that so damage our system. It is said to keep you younger - worth a shot if it can fight off the horrors of a facelift! It helps with weight loss and even reduces cholesterol and triglyceride levels. If you are approaching, or in the middle of, a difficult menopause, oregano oil reduces and eases the symptoms.

I met an elderly arthritic doctor in a health clinic one day, and it was he who first introduced me to the remarkable healing properties of oregano oil. He had written scores of books and theses on every medicine and protocol you could imagine, but the only thing he carried with him at all times was a small bottle of oregano oil. He rubbed it religiously into his aching joints every few hours and claimed it was the only remedy he had found to stop the pain. He used it for every symptom that he had. He presented it to me as the Holy Grail of healing.

Reader, all I can say, in the eternal words of Frank Abergnale (the doctor in Catch me if you Can) is 'I concur '. Add this to your medicine cabinet essentials without fail. 

Colloidal Silver

This is another medicine cabinet stalwart. In this world of ours where antibiotics are more and more failing to protect us from the strongest forms of pathogens you need to have something up your sleeve should things go wrong. Colloidal silver is your answer. It wipes out most of the worst offenders. One test pitted 650 different virus against it, and not one survived to tell the tale. Its list of other benefits runs on - psoriasis, eczema, fungal infections, cuts and grazes, sinusitis. It also works for ear infections.

Best of all, it works for that irritating red/pink eye infection that nothing seems to stop in its slow tracks. A friend rang me last week to complain about how uncomfortable and obvious her infection was. She was going on a date in two days time and really needed it to go. Did I have any suggestions? A few sprays later, the inflammation was down and she made it clear-eyed to her dinner.

HealGel

Last, but certainly not least, is the amazing (there really is no other word for it) HealGel. This is a clear gel developed by a team of plastic surgeons for a range of skin issues. I first came across it because one day last year, entirely out of the blue, a raised red lumpy thing appeared on my chest, just underneath the area where I wear my favourite necklace. Hugely obvious and not very pretty. I immediately thought it must be skin cancer, and took myself off to the doctor for a closer inspection. She assured me it was fine, and then depressed me a lot, giving me its long Latin name and telling me that there was nothing whatsoever that could be done to improve its appearance. I was apparently stuck with the fluorescent red lump.

Not being one to settle for a bad situation, I ran the problem past a number of wise friends. One of them told me about HealGel. I googled it and promptly bought a small pot to give it a go. I kid you not, after 3 days my lump was flat, and no longer bright red. There is still a slight discolouration of the skin where it sat, but it's not obvious at all, and I have a feeling that in a month or so it may well be gone entirely.

The same team also make a product that reduces signs of ageing in the face, and one that reduces dark circles under the eyes. For men too, there is something that eases skin dryness after shaving.