Budget Herbal Alternatives to Common OTC Medicines

Dr. Vaughn Lawrence
Mar 27, 2011

All of us know that both over-the-counter and prescription drugs have side effects. These OTC products that are used for common cold, flu, heartburn, allergies, aches and pains are loaded with a dangerous combination of synthetic chemicals. It is no wonder why the FDA has pulled literally thousands of cold & flu products off the market, especially those products marketed for children. Most of these medicines suppress the natural healing mechanism of the body. While they may relieve the symptoms temporarily, they can have long-term negative implications.

This article provides several herbal alternatives to ten common illnesses. Herbs have been used for thousands of years to treat several illnesses. They work by assisting the body in its healing effort with very minimal side effects. They are also less expensive than over-the-counter drugs. So if you are on a budget and concerned about health, herbs are great alternatives to traditional OTC medicines.

Herb Pictures - alternative to over-the-counter medicines

1. Heartburn, GERD, Acid Reflux

OTC Drugs:

Tums, Maalox, Mylanta Prevacid, Pepto Bismol, Zantac, Tagamet, Alka Seltzer, Rolaids

Natural Alternatives:

Aloe Vera Juice, Apple Cider Vinegar, Grape or Swedish Bitters, Digestive Fire Herbs, Digestive Enzymes

Why?

OTC medicines block digestion completely by offsetting your stomach acid. This weakens digestion, causes constipation and increases risk for bone loss due to poor mineral absorption.

2. Headaches

OTC Drugs:

Aspirin, Tylenol, Advil, Bayer, Motrin, Ibuprofen

Natural Alternatives:

White Willow Bark, Ginger, Feverfew

You can also apply essential oils such as peppermint and lavender on your temples. Natural magnesium supplement can help relieve headaches.

Also, lying on the grounding pad for 15 minutes will work wonders for the headache.

Why?

OTC medicines for headaches increase the risk of internal bleeding and can damage the kidneys and the liver. Herbal alternatives are cheaper and they provide a natural way to treat your headache.

3. Allergies

OTC Drugs:

Claritin, Zyrtec, Allegra, Nasonex, Clarinex

Natural Alternatives:

Stinging nettle; Aller-Free which has herbs like Bentonite Clay, Horseradish, Wild Cherry Bark, Mullein, and Eyebright; Neti Pots

Why?

Most OTC drugs suppress the production of mucus. Mucus production is a clear indication that the body is trying to get rid of something. We need to assist the process, not hinder it.

4. Sinus Congestion

OTC Drugs:

Nasonex, Clarinex, Sudafed, Decongestants, Antibiotics

Natural Alternatives:

Sinu-Orega Herbal Spray, Neti Pots, Probiotics, Combination of herbs like oregano, cayenne and horseradish

Why?

These alternatives are not only cheaper and readily available but also they strengthen the immune system.

5. Cold & Flu

OTC Drugs:

Tylenol Cold & Flu, Aleve, Vick’s, Antibiotics

Natural Alternatives:

Echinacea, Goldenseal, Licorice Root, Oregano, Astragalus, Garlic

Colloidal silver and other homeopathic remedies help as well.

Why?

Hundreds of cold & flu products have been removed from the market due to their danger and ineffectiveness. While OTC products suppress the immune system and natural defense mechanism to relieve the symptoms, the natural remedies strengthen your immune system and help the body recover faster.

6. Cough and Sore Throats

OTC Drugs:

Hall’s, Vick’s, Robitussin

Natural Alternatives:

Combination of honey, cayenne and lemon makes a great cough syrup. You can also make your own herbal cough syrup with wild cherry, honey and mullein. Wild cherry throat spray works great as well.

7. Laxatives and Fiber

OTC Drugs:

Metamucil, Ex-Lax, Milk of Magnesia, Fibercon, Fiberall

Natural Alternatives:

Slippery Elm, Marshmallow, Cascara Sagrada, Senna, Cape Aloe, Aloe Vera

Natural fibers in chia, flax, psyillium, oats, apples and other fruits will work great as well.

Why?

Harsh laxatives can cause weakness and dependency, especially with long-term usage. Using natural treatment not only saves you money but also help you stay healthy without side effects.

8. Dental Care

OTC Drugs:

Toothpaste, Fluoride, Chemical mouthwash products

Natural Alternatives:

Natural toothpaste with herbs like clove, myrrh, oregano, etc and without any synthetic chemicals

Other natural alternatives are to use colloidal silver, hydrogen peroxide and baking soda.

Why?

Natural alternatives will help strengthen your gums. Also, you don’t have to worry about contacting poison control if children swallow clove, myrrh or oregano (unlike swallowing artificial toothpaste).

9. Sleeping Pills

OTC Drugs:

Nytol, Unisom, Night time sleep aid, Nyquil, Tylenol PM

Natural Alternatives:

Calming herbs like chamomile, holy basil, passionflower and valerian.

A good natural non-herbal alternative is to sleep on a grounding pad.

Why?

You don’t have to worry about the side effects of synthetic chemicals. Some of the herbal alternatives are affordable for any budget-conscious individual.

10. Painkillers

OTC Drugs:

Tylenol, Asprin, Excedrin, Motrin

Natural Alternatives:

Ginger, Holy Basil, Turmeric extracts, Boswellia, Yucca

Why?

The herbs listed above are anti-inflammatory and help reduce pain. They do not have any side effects. On the other hand, most synthetic pain-killers can cause damage to the kidneys and the liver with long-term use. For example, FDA has recently limited the amount of acetaminophen allowed in prescription products and added a warning due to liver toxicity concerns.

The natural herbal alternatives mentioned above will help you live naturally healthy on a budget. While herbs have a tremendous advantage over synthetic OTC medicines, it is still a good idea to use caution and talk to a medical professional especially if you are taking several other prescription medicines or if you are pregnant.

(This article is based on information provided at a weekly healthy living class by Dr. Vaughn Lawrence. Dr. Lawrence is a Naturopath, Herbalist and Nutritional Consultant at Spirit of Health, Kansas City. He founded Spirit of Health, LLC upon his return to Kansas City after seven years in Las Vegas training with three master Herbalists and spending time as a health food store manager, educator, practitioner and consultant. For a video about this class as well as additional information, please visit www.spiritofhealthkc.com).

One Response to “Budget Herbal Alternatives to Common OTC Medicines”

  1. it all works very well i have tried some of them and they do work

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