Make over your medicine cabinet: Holistic remedies for five common ailments

The news that Americans are overtreated in hospitals during their final days probably doesn't surprise many of us. Western medicine is often criticized for turning to prescription solutions when a natural approach would be just as effective. Here are five common ailments and the natural remedies that can ease them. Use common sense, though, and always remember to check with your doctor before starting on any course of treatment.

1. Headaches

Tiger bone was traditionally used in Chinese medicine to treat pain, but Tiger Balm is a topical treatment made of herbal ingredients that was originally developed in the 1870s. It can treat headaches, as well as muscle aches and mosquito bites. Aromatherapy can also help for a mild headache. Try massaging a couple drops of lavender oil on your temples.

2. Cold and Flu
Because it seems so out of place, there's something particularly vexing about a summer cold. Though results are mixed, some studies have shown echinacea can shorten colds. At your first symptoms, take a dropperful of echinacea tincture in water four times a day until symptoms subside. Herbalists also suggest the flu-fighter elderberry syrup, which may also help ease symptoms of a common cold. Gargle a salt water solution to ease a sore throat, and eat plenty or raw or lightly cooked garlic, which contains antiviral properties.

3. Allergies
Studies have shown that European herb butterbur is an effective treatment for treating hay fever and grass allergies (make sure the one you choose is free from pyrrolizidine alkaloids, naturally occurring compounds that have been linked to liver damage). A salt water nose spray can help wash out pollen and reduce or thin mucous, and capsules of freeze-dried stinging nettles can help with symptoms, too.

4. Sleep Disturbances
Insomnia is often a symptom of another problem, such as depression, anxiety or chronic pain. In those cases, it's important to get to the root of the problem, but for bouts of tossing and turning, there are lots of natural courses of action. Meditation and deep breathing can help get your body into a relaxed state (there's a reason why mama told us to count sheep). Studies show that melatonin, a hormone produced in the pineal gland in the center of your brain, decreases the time it takes to fall asleep, increases feelings of sleepiness, and may increase the duration of sleep.

5. Constipation
The key natural solution to constipation is to fiber-ify your diet with plenty of high-fiber foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and beans. If you need a supplement, try the Ayurvedic remedy of triphala, a formula of three herbal fruits which some studies have show has significant health benefits beyond encouraging a bowel movement. Another natural choice is psyllium, a fiber supplement made from the husks of plant seeds.

More from Real-Life Makeover:

Photo credit: Getty Images