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Nature’s Drug Store: Cheap Remedies

Feeling Better Naturally


Illnesses like the common cold can be cleared from your system without expensive antibiotics and symptom reducers.  Here are some natural remedies that you can use, in teas, supplements, drops, and more. And they may even be cheaper than pescriptions.

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Valerian Root


Uses: While it’s often used in bedtime teas to treat insomnia these days, Valerian root was used in the 16th century for nervousness, headaches, the shakes and heart palpitations, according to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements.

Does it work? Trial results are inconclusive on its effectiveness in promoting sleep, according to the NIH, and the quality of supplements can vary depending on the brand and production method, but if it’s been used for centuries, there must be something to it.

Side effects: Dizziness, headaches and gastrointestinal problems.

Price: A hundred 450 milligram capsules might cost you about $6.

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Slippery Elm


Uses: Slippery elm bark has a coating and soothing effect starting at the mouth and going all the way down the digestive system. It’s used in teas and supplements for throat conditions and inflammatory bowel conditions as well as topically for wounds, burns and inflammation, according to the University Of Maryland Medical Center.

Does it work? No human or animal studies have been done to show whether slippery elm is effective, according to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.  But it’s known to have some beneficial antioxidant effects, according the NIH.

Side effects: Because of its coating effect, slippery elm may slow down absorption in the intestines so you may want to take it two hours before or after other herbs or medications you may be taking, according to the University Of Maryland Medical Center.Price: A hundred 370 milligram capsules might cost you about $7.

Photo Credit: Ryan Somma

Licorice root


Uses: Licorice root has been used as a dietary supplement to treat stomach ulcers, bronchitis and sore throat, as well as infections caused by viruses such as hepatitis, according to the NIH.

Does it work? Some hepatitis C patients may benefit from the use of licorice root, according to reviews of several clinical trials, but there isn’t enough information on whether it works to treat stomach ulcers.

Side effects: If too much is consumed, licorice root can cause high blood pressure, water retention and heart problems. People taking it with water pills could experience dangerously low levels of potassium, according to the NIH.

Price: A hundred 450 milligram capsules might cost you about $7.

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Echinacea


Uses: Echinacea has been used as an immune system booster, pain reliever and as anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antioxidant agents. It’s been used to treat sinus infections, ear infections, hay fever, urinary tract and other infections.

Does it work? Lab studies have shown some effectiveness, but scientists still disagree on whether it can help get rid of the common cold faster. 

Side effects: Side effects may include headache, dizziness, rash, nausea, gastrointestinal problems and, at worst, dermatitis and anaphylaxis, according to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Price: A hundred 400 milligram capsules might cost you about $7.

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Yerba Mate


Uses: Yerba Mate is a South American traditional medicine that’s been used to stimulate the central nervous system, suppress appetite, promote urination and treat depression, headaches and pain, according to Memorial Sloan-Kettering.

Does it work? The FDA has not reviewed this product for safety or effectiveness.  It contains caffeine, so it likely has similar positive and negative effects.

Side effects: Side effects may include headache, restlessness, agitation or nausea and like other supplements, it may interact with prescription drugs.

Price: A hundred 450 milligram capsules might cost you about $6.

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Clove


Uses: Whole and ground cloves as well as clove oil are used as a topical antiseptic and anesthetic. It’s also been used for fever reduction and premature ejaculation.

Does it work? Clove oil is often used to treat dental pain, and some studies have found that it could work just as well as benzocaine. For other treatments, not much research has been done, according to the NIH.

Side effects: While it’s safe in small doses, large doses of clove oil could cause “vomiting, sore throat, seizure, sedation, difficulty breathing, fluid in the lungs, vomiting of blood, blood disorders, kidney failure, and liver damage or failure,” according to the NIH.

Price: Four ounces of clove oil might cost you about $8.

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Kava


Uses: Kava root drinks have been used in the South Pacific for hundreds of years to treat anxiety, according to the NIH.

Does it work? Some studies suggest that kava could work just as well as Valium, and may have a similar effect as a prescription drug for anxiety.  It’s been studied as a treatment for insomnia, Parkinson's disease and stress, but its effectiveness is unclear.

Side effects: Too much kava could cause liver damage, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Chronic kava use may also cause “skin disorders, blood abnormalities, apathy, kidney damage, seizures, psychotic syndromes, and increased blood pressure in the lungs,” according to the NIH. Additionally, it could cause headaches, stomach problems or an allergic rash. 

Price: Thirty 200-milligram capsules might cost you about $8.

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St. Johns Wort


Uses: St. John's wort is often used as an herbal remedy for depression, and historically it’s been used for abdominal pain, alcoholism, bacterial skin infections, bruises, bowel irritation, chronic ear infections, influenza, insomnia and many other conditions, according to the NIH.

Does it work? Extensive studies of St. John's wort suggests that it’s just as effective as certain antidepressants for mild-to-moderate major depression, and it may even have fewer side effects than prescription antidepressants, but more research is needed.

Side effects: Like many herbal remedies, St. John’s wort could cause headache, stomach upset and skin reactions. It may also cause sedation, restlessness, anxiety or impotence. Similar to the effects of pharmaceutical drugs for depression, St. John's wort has actually led to suicidal and homicidal thoughts, according to some reports.

Price: Two hundred 300-milligram capsules might cost you about $15.

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