The Purse Apothecary


The Purse Apothecary

Does your busy lifestyle sometimes throw unexpected challenges your way—a restaurant menu sure to cause you digestive grief, a stressful business meeting, or a tickle in your throat forecasting an impending cold? Prepare for these and other nasty surprises with natural remedies you can carry in your purse.

As a practising naturopath with a busy life, I long ago discovered a useful trick for meeting unanticipated challenges: quick on-the-go remedies I can carry in my purse. Along with some natural vanilla-scented lip balm and a tub of homemade healing calendula cream for accidental cuts, I carry a selection of natural remedies in my purse and use them as needed.
Having these items in my purse gives me a sense of personal power and allows me to take action to prevent colds, eat out comfortably, and mediate anxiety in situations where I need to perform. Use the following tips to create your own purse apothecary so you too can face adversity with strength.

Herbal tinctures to boost the immune system

Stressful situations such as work deadlines or constantly feeling overwhelmed in your life can dramatically affect your immune system’s function. Extended periods of stress can suppress the immune system’s fighting abilities, leaving you more vulnerable to infections such as colds and flus.

When combatting the initial cold symptoms, it is important to ward off unwanted viruses and bacteria by killing them and stimulating your immune system’s defences. One of the first signs of a cold is a sore throat, often due to the start of an infection. To quickly combat the viruses or bacteria your throat and mouth may be harbouring, you can use a potent herbal antimicrobial (germ-killing) tincture.

What is a tincture?

A tincture is a combination of herbs extracted with the appropriate alcoholic percentage best suited to remove the active ingredient from the desired herb. Generally, tinctures contain a variety of herbs with different actions for maximum benefit.

Tinctures are usually sold in 100 mL, 250 mL, or 500 mL dark brown bottles to avoid light damage to the herbs. The bottle is topped with a squeeze dropper allowing you to administer the appropriate dose accurately to the drop.

Tinctures are often prescribed as either a dropperful two to three times per day or 20 to 60 drops per day (there are approximately 20 drops or 1 mL in a dropper) or as directed by the prescribing health care practitioner.

The tincture is often taken alone but can also be taken in a glass of water if needed.

Here are a few herbs to look for that are excellent for boosting immune function when you start feeling those cold or flu symptoms coming on.

Antimicrobial herbs: andrographis and myrrh

Two very potent antimicrobial herbs are andrographis (Andrographis paniculata) and myrrh (Commiphora spp.).

Andrographis has been shown to reduce frequency and severity of cough while also clearing mucus.

Myrrh has been used traditionally to inhibit the growth of bacteria and decrease inflammation.

Soothing and healing marshmallow

Another very important herb to help heal and soothe the mucosal lining of your throat is marshmallow (Althea officinalis). Because of its therapeutic properties, this herb is called a demulcent (it coats and lines organs, allowing them to heal and be protected from damage). The tincture works best if it can be taken preventively, starting as soon as the undesired symptoms begin.

Digestive enzymes for gas and bloating

It is easy to find ourselves in situations where food choices are less than optimal. This is where digestive enzymes in your portable apothecary can come in handy. Although there are many types of digestive enzymes, a complex of enzymes derived from plant sources may be best.

Usually, this type of supplement consists of a spectrum of different enzymes that each help digest a particular food group. For example, lactase digests dairy products and lipase helps digest fats. Digestive enzymes help break down the food we eat, which reduces the likelihood that we will experience the negative side effects of gas and bloating.

Tip: Keep in mind that digestive enzymes are not a permanent solution if you experience persistent gas and bloating. Useful for occasional situations that you cannot avoid, digestive enzymes in your purse may come in handy.

Passion flower for anxious moments

If you suffer from anxiety in social situations, experience stage fright before public speaking, or generally feel anxious, it may be helpful to have some passion flower on hand to help you get through these stressful moments.

Passion flower has been used for many years as a mild sedative, relaxation, and calming medicine. In recent animal studies it has been shown to reduce anxiety and improve memory through potentially affecting GABA receptors in our brain (which are thought to control fear and anxiety).

Although passion flower is considered a mild sedative, it is important to make sure this is the right herb for you based on allergies you may have or the type of job you do. Some people can have an allergic reaction or feel more sedated than normal.

Please consult your health care practitioner for proper dosing and safety instructions prior to taking any new herbs or supplements. Many herbs and supplements can interact with medication, and it is important to ensure they are safe for you.

What can busy men carry in their backpack?

  • Witch hazel can be used as a topical cleanser that closes up open hair follicles after shaving and protects the skin. It can also help avoid redness after shaving, as it reduces inflammation and cools the skin.
  • A natural deodorant stick containing sage extract can be used to kill unwanted odour-producing bacteria naturally and also reduce the risk of skin irritation.
  • Ginseng (Panex ginseng) can be used to help increase mental capacity when you need to perform at a big presentation or meeting.
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