Jul 6, 2012

The Herbal Medicine Cabinet: Tea Tree and Castor Oil

I've noticed a trend back toward herbal remedies. Maybe it's founded on the cost of health care. Or maybe people don't trust the pharmaceutical industry. Or maybe people just want to take more personal responsibility for their health. As for myself, I've often found that herbs help where modern medicine fails. And while herbs can be dangerous (if taken incorrectly or if the wrong plant is used), I somehow feel better about using natural, rather than synthetic medicine.

The world is full of herbs, plants, and weeds that make excellent medicine (and, in fact, are the basis for many synthetic medicines), but for the moment, I want to focus on two items you can easily and cheaply find at most drug stores. Consider adding them to your medicine cabinet; I think you'll be glad you did.

Tea Tree Oil

I was first introduced to this amazing natural medicine by a doctor, who told me to apply it to some toe nails that had turned yellow from a fungus. Tea tree oil is, among other things, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral. It's also used on arthritic joints, for asthma (apply to a warm cloth and place over face), athlete's foot, bed sores and dry skin (add to a little coconut oil and use as a lotion), for blisters (apply, then wrap with a bandage), boils, swelling caused by bruises and gout, hemorrhoids, corns, canker sores, treating chicken pox sores, cold sores, cuts, dandruff (add 1 drop to shampoo), dermatitis, ear infections (add a couple of drops to 1/4 cup warm olive oil, then add a drop to the ear), insect bites, foot odor caused by bacteria (dissolve in some shampoo and warm water; soak feet and repeat daily for about 3 to 4 weeks), lice (add a few drops to shampoo; leave on for 10 minutes, rinse; repeat once a day until eggs and lice are gone), jock itch (apply, then cover with a cream to help prevent over-drying), acne, plantar warts, poison oak/sumac (add several drops to 3 tablespoons of baking soda; apply and wrap with gauze; apple two or three times a day), psoriasis, scabies, and sunburn.

Use tea tree oil to disinfect your home by adding several drops to 2 tablespoons of white vinegar; stir in 1 teaspoon borax and put in a 12 ounce spray bottle; fill bottle with warn water and shake before using like a spray cleaner. 

To make an insect repellent, put a few drops in your palm and rub it on your body. 

You can even use tea tree oil to repel fleas and ticks on pets: Wash your cat or dog, then mix 10 parts water with 1 part tea tree oil and apply to pet's coat. Let the animal air dry.

Just be sure never to consume tea tree oil; it should only be used externally.

Tea tree oil will last for several years if it's in a dark bottle in a cool, dry location. Some people keep it in the fridge and claim it "lasts forever."

Castor Oil

This old fashioned medicine is antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal. Castor oil is good for constipation (use 1/2 an ounce), scars (to prevent or to make old ones go away), shingles, athlete's foot, corns, age spots, acne, tape worms, arthritis, muscle ache, skin infections, menstrual cramping and swollen lymph nodes (apply externally), hemorrhoids, boils, sunburns, keratoses, nail fungus, abrasions, may increase milk production in mothers (apply to breasts), and as an immunity booster. There is also evidence castor oil may help Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, AIDS, and migraines.

Keep castor oil in a cool, dark location for up to a year.

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  1. what are your thoughts on how to administer castor oil?

  2. For external use, I generally rub some on the affected area twice a day. For more intense treatment, you can put the castor oil on some gauze, put it on the affected area, and use plastic wrap to hold it in place; this works well overnight.

  3. What are the chances of any of the toxins of the castor bean making it into the final "oil" product (Ricin is deadly, afterall)?

  4. An interesting question, Bored! But my gut reaction is: Very low. After all, people have been using castor oil for at least hundreds of years. You might find this study interesting: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18080873/ You might also want to read what Dr. Mercola has to say about the potential side effects of castor oil: http://www.drmercola.com/cancer/what-you-should-know-before-using-castor-oil/