Inside Medicine Cabinets – From Weird to Worse

by Martie Whittekin, Certified Clinical Nutritionist
Originally created for Doug Kaufmann’s newsletter

Even the inventor of the medicine cabinet couldn’t have been imaginative enough to envision what it would hold in years to come. In the early 1900’s there was some shocking stuff in there, but what’s in there now might be even more dangerous. As you will see, I propose trading those worrisome meds for non-toxic remedies.

Aspirin first appeared in the cabinet starting in the late 1890’s. Aspirin brings relief from pain or fever and chewing one at the first sign of a heart attack could save your life. However, aspirin is one of the Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs that cause 30% of stomach ulcers and account for 16,000 deaths per year, mostly from bleeding.

I wasn’t kidding about the “shocking” and “weird” stuff. Besides aspirin, the Bayer company also sold a cough suppressant concocted from heroin. In the early 1900’s, someone’s cupboard might have held a cough syrup made with marijuana, a toothache remedy made from cocaine and a teething remedy for infants featuring opium. Until the 1970’s some common products, even toothpaste, contained chloroform. Mercury is the most toxic non-radioactive element on the planet and yet it wasn’t until 1998 that the mercury-based antiseptic, Mercurochrome, was finally banned. Also, before antibiotics came along, mercury was actually used as a treatment for syphilis—hopefully killing the bacteria before it killed the patient. Many injectable vaccines contained mercury. Oh, wait…many still do!

The FDA does eventually pull a med from the market if it kills more consumers than it was expected to. And the agency has even begun to crack down on cold and cough medicines that help little but pose serious risks especially for children. I contend that that the biggest danger lurking in medicine cabinets today is the so-called “approved and safe” symptom-suppressing prescription drugs. They are used as a substitute for finding and fixing the imbalance that caused the symptom targeted by the drug.

Besides the fact that such imbalances when ignored continue to cause other problems, studies show that over 100,000 people die every year in hospitals from the side effects of drugs given as prescribed. That is a stunning number given the controlled environment! Then there are the deaths from prescription errors; from side effects experienced outside the hospital; those from drug/drug interactions; the under-reporting of drug deaths and the deaths from side effects that show up indirectly or too slowly over time to be easily blamed on the medicine (antibiotics for instance). Sadly, prescriptions are now killing teens that take them from the medicine cabinet as their contribution to deadly potluck pharma parties. Combine all those categories of drug fatalities and they rival heart disease and cancer each year as a top cause of untimely deaths in the US.

Death isn’t the only side effect of drugs. In my book* I devote a whole chapter to the side effects of just the supposedly “safe” drugs used for heartburn and acid reflux—dementia, hip fracture or erectile dysfunction anyone? I also explain how all drugs function and what to watch for. Drugs affect even those of us who don’t take them because they are being flushed into the water supply—both from improper disposal and just from passing through the patients.

So, what should be in the medicine cabinet besides the fluoride-free toothpaste, the tea tree oil dental floss, the Q-tips®, the Band-Aids®, and the chemical-free shaving cream? My experience with clients has taught me that, if you follow Doug’s advice about diet; get rid of yeast; exercise; and take the supplements you need, chances are that you will resolve your imbalances and won’t need prescription medicine for cholesterol, blood pressure, arthritis, depression and the like. Below are some alphabetical highlights of what is in my medicine cabinet. You’ll see that they are mostly of the first aid variety:

  • Strain and injury. The homeopathic Arnica Montana in both oral and gel forms. The topical magnesium mentioned in “cramps” above can be used along with Arnica.
  • Bug bites-homeopathic** gels like Sting Stop and Sting Gel give fast relief.
  • Canker sores and fever blisters-L-lysine is an amino acid (that’s a building block of protein) that quickly resolves these problems. There are also creams that contain l-lysine for topical use.
  • Colds and flu-Your natural stomach acid should dissolve any potential pathogen (that’s why acid-blocking drugs increase the risk of fatal pneumonia). If you have kept your immune system tuned up (i.e. avoided sugar and taken vitamin D, beta glucans and colostrum) you are much less likely to need cold and flu remedies. However, someone in the house will probably need help. The natural remedy Oscillococcinum (another homeopathic**) has been shown to give good relief if taken early. I also recommend zinc lozenges and for viruses, elderberry extract and olive leaf extract.
  • Cramps-I always think first of magnesium for any kind of spasm-be it monthly abdominal cramps or a charley horse. I keep capsules and powder (which in high doses can serve double duty as a laxative) but also a topical magnesium spray because that gets quickly to the right spot. (It can also be used as a daily supplement).
  • Heartburn and indigestion-If heartburn is a chronic complaint, you should research the cause. (My book is an inexpensive resource.) I always carry Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics with me because you never know when a meal isn’t going to sit well. I just soften a couple of capsules in my mouth and then chew them. As a regular supplement it helps with constipation and diarrhea too.
  • Muscle strain, bruising and pain from overwork or injury-Always have the homeopathic** remedy Arnica Montana on hand. It both provides relief and reduces damage such as swelling. I keep both the topical gel (don’t put on an open cut) and the tiny pellets that dissolve in your mouth.
  • Sleep-Melatonin is a natural substance that controls sleep cycles-that’s why it is useful for jet lag. Supplementing melatonin not only supports restful sleep, it acts as an antioxidant and is being researched for other benefits. (People often take 3 to 5 or more milligrams. That may be more than you need to get the job done. Try 1 mg to start. If that works, then try ½ tablet.) Also the homeopathic Coffea Cruda which works the opposite of coffee, to quiet a busy mind.
  • Sunburn and kitchen burns-Nothing beats good Aloe vera. If you have a real plant (not technically in the medicine cabinet), handle the leaf carefully. Slice the leaf and take out the get without getting any of the yellow sap that oozes from the peel. Beware of “aloe” products found in the mainstream stores. You get what you pay for and they may have only a whiff of the good stuff. I suggest getting Lily of the Desert brand products at a health food store because they have the highest amount of active ingredients.

There are more but this is a good start. Why didn’t I list the healing vitamins, minerals and other daily supplements? That would make the list way too long and besides, those shouldn’t be in the medicine cabinet. The bathroom gets too humid for supplements that may be opened daily. They should be kept in a cool dry place but, unless marked otherwise, not in the refrigerator. On my radio website I offer suggestions on creating a supplement program. Please join my nutritional “war on drugs”. Hint: it is one that will greatly reduce the disease care crisis—eliminate your need for prescription drugs.

**Homeopathics are natural remedies based on extremely diluted substances prepared in a unique process that increases their benefit. They signal the body to react in a healing manner. They’ve been proven effective; are used widely in Europe and are extremely safe.

These statements have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. The information is provided for general educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Nor does the article replace the guidance of a healthcare professional. For best results, seek healthcare advice regarding any illness from a medical professional trained in nutrition.

Copyright 2012 by Martie Whittekin, CCN