Natural Replacements for Everyday Meds


It has become quite common and generally accepted to reach for pills to “treat” pain and other health conditions. While there is a time and a place for medical treatment as well as medications, oftentimes there are natural alternatives that are equally effective (or more effective) in correcting ill health. Regardless of which path you choose - be it allopathic or alternative - identifying the root cause and correcting underlying imbalances should always be the goal of proper treatment. Band-aid approaches that shut down the body’s response (such as taking Tylenol for a headache) fundamentally ignore the body’s signals that something deeper within is in distress. Identifying and correcting the root cause provides long-term relief.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): these non-narcotic pain relievers are used to suppress inflammation in the body. Ibuprofen is a popular example.

Why people use them: they reduce blood clotting, lower fevers, relieve migraines and headaches, and ease the pain of menstrual cramps and arthritis.

What to reach for instead

White Willow Bark – is a very effective pain reliever & helpful for headaches, body aches and menstrual cramps. It's active ingredient, salacin, is gentler on your stomach than taking aspiring and other over the counter pain relievers. Aspirins effects come from salicylic acid, the salacin in willow is converted to salicylic acid after being absorbed by the body making it the perfect option for pain relief while putting less stress on other organs.

Dosage: 240 mg capsule daily or in tincture form take 1-3 droppers full as needed.

Turmeric root: anti-inflammatory, rich in antioxidants, digestive aid

Dosage: 1 tsp dried root daily in cooked food. Otherwise, 1 tsp dried root twice a day with ¼ tsp black pepper.

Omega-3s: anti-inflammatory, support proper brain function

Dosage: 2,000-3,000 mg of combined EPA & DHA

Arnica: reduces pain and swelling

Dosage: topical ointment or homeopathic pill. Apply ointment liberally & often to the affected area (bruise, arthritis) or take a homeopathic pill.

*Never consume non-homeopathic arnica internally and do not touch arnica homeopathic pills. Drop directly from the container into mouth*

Magnesium : help to relax muscles for migraines and cramps

Dosage: 200-500 mg of magnesium - take in divided doses if taking more than 200 mg, as it may cause diarrhea - in that case, lower the dose

Tums & proton pump inhibitors (PPIs): Why people use them: to treat heartburn, indigestion & acid reflux

What to reach for instead

DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice) Slowly chew two tablets or take a half-teaspoon of the powder before or between meals and at bedtime. Taper your dose down after your symptoms are under control. You can buy DGL in powder or tablet form. The easiest way to take it is to chew two tablets slowly 15 minutes before every meal and at bedtime, or take one-half teaspoon of the powder before meals. Allow either form to dissolve in the mouth and slowly trickle down the throat. You can continue to take DGL as long as you have symptoms.

Apple cider vinegar: regulates blood sugar, increases HCL production

Dosage: 1 tbsp diluted in 4 oz water a half hour before meals

Swedish bitters: increases the production of digestive juices (bile, enzymes, HCL)

Dosage: 1 tsp diluted in 4 oz water a half hour before meals

Digestive enzymes: broad spectrum enzymes that help in the digestion of carbs, proteins, and fats

Dosage: 1-2 capsules with each meal

Betaine HCL supplements: taken before meals to help digest the food, predominantly proteins

Dosage: 1-2 capsules with each meal; you should not feel an excessively warm feeling in your stomach - if this is the case, drink a glass of milk and reduce the dose next time

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): increase the levels of available serotonin in the brain.

Why people use them: to treat depression

What to reach for instead

Tryptophan: amino acid used to treat cognitive dysfunction and emotional imbalances. It is a precursor for serotonin - the “feel good” chemical in the brain.

2-6 grams per day of L-tryptophan. Start with 500 mg and work up from there.

St. John’s wort: herb traditionally used to treat poor mood, lack of energy, and improper sleep. Proven to be beneficial in treating symptoms of depression

Start with one 300 mg capsule at night and work up slowly to two capsules in the morning and evening.
*Do not take St. John's wort if you’re on SSRIs, are pregnant, or are taking the birth control pill*

Exercise: the world’s most underutilized antidepressant. Moderate exercise can be just as effective, if not more so, than antidepressants. Just 30 minutes of moderate exercise 3x a week is a great place to start.

ADD/ADHD medication: amphetamine stimulants that induce the production of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain.

Why people use it:  to improve hyperactive behavior, poor academic performance, and general inability to focus

What to reach for instead

Omega-3s (fish oil): DHA and EPA regenerate brain cells and improve their communication

Dosage: 2,000-2,500 mg combined EPA & DHA daily

B vitamins: necessary for the production of neurotransmitters, energy, and myelin in the brain

Dosage: invest in a broad spectrum, high potency, activated B-complex supplement containing the following - 100-300 mg each of B1, B3, B5 & B6, 1,000-2,500 mcg of B12, and 1,000-1,200 mg of folate.

Tryptophan: helps to boost levels of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine which are typically low in ADD/ADHD children

Dosage: start with 500 mg daily and work up to 1,500-2,000 mg

Herbs: lemon balm, ginkgo biloba, passionflower, valerian, and ginseng can all be beneficial

Synthroid: synthetic thyroid hormone.

Why people use it: to treat hypothyroidism - an underactive thyroid

What to reach for instead

Desiccated thyroid

Dosage is dependent on individual needs.  Please work with a qualified holistic practitioner to find the dose right for you.

Norwegian kelp: a great source of iodine which is critical for thyroid hormone production

Dosage can vary from 2,000 mg to 4,000 mg daily


Dosage varies by individual needs: start small (5-6 mg) and gradually increase (up to 50 mg)

Statins: reduces the liver’s production of cholesterol.

Why people use it: to treat high cholesterol levels, decrease atherosclerosis (plaque buildup) in the arteries, and prevent heart attacks.

What to reach for instead

Omega 3s: anti-inflammatory and arterial cleansers

Dosage: try at least 2,000 mg of combined EPA & DHA per day

CoQ10: is depleted by statins and helps with atherosclerosis

Dosage: try 30-90 mg daily

Vitamin D: helps to regulate normal arterial function and blood pressure

Dosage: 2,000-5,000 IU daily

Vitamin C: lowers total cholesterol, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory

Dosage: 3,000 mg + (up to bowel tolerance) daily

Albuterol: bronchodilator that opens the airways and relaxes the breathing muscles.

Why people use it: to reduce symptoms associated with breathing issues such as asthma

What to reach for instead

Lobelia: respiratory tonic, stimulates breathing

Dosage: tincture form, up to 5 ml 3x/day

Peppermint: in the form of tea. Sip daily

Lavender: Breathing in diffused lavender essential oil may help reduce inflammation caused by allergies and asthma.

Eucalyptus: Diffused can help open airways

Omega-3s: anti-inflammatory

Dosage: 2,000 mg combined DHA & EPA daily

Mullein: respiratory demulcent, anti-inflammatory, soothing

Dose: try a cold infusion of 1 tbsp mullein root in 1-2 cups water. Allow to sit overnight.


Why people use it: for the relief of nausea, heartburn, upset stomach, indigestion, and diarrhea

What to reach for instead

Ginger: relieves nausea, settles an upset stomach, has anti-inflammatory properties

Try a ginger tea decoction: bring 1 cup of water to a boil with 1-3 tsp of ginger root. Reduce to simmer, covered, for at least 20 minutes. Drink warm.

Peppermint: antispasmodic and carminative - helps to relieve gas and cramping

Try a cup of peppermint tea or enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules

Apple cider vinegar: relieves bloating and aids in HCl (stomach acid) production

Preventatively - take 1 tbsp diluted in warm water 10-15 minutes before meals and snacks

Acute - take 1 tbsp diluted in warm water to relieve bloating

Chamomile: antispasmodic, reduces tension in the GI system

Try a cup of chamomile to calm the nervous tension and relax spasms causing diarrhea

Metformin: insulin sensitizer.

Why people use it: to reduce glucose output by the liver, specifically used for insulin resistance, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome

What to reach for instead

Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA): inhibits gluconeogenesis and increases peripheral glucose uptake

Dosage: 300 mg daily

Chromium: supports the function of insulin receptors

Dosage: 200-600 mcg daily

Vitamin D: increases insulin sensitivity

Dosage: 2,000-5,000 IU daily *important to test levels prior to taking

Sleeping medication:  

Why people use it: to help them fall asleep and stay asleep

What to reach for instead

Passionflower: gives a calming effect allowing you to relax and sleep

Dosage: best taken as a tea or tincture in the evening before bed

Valerian root: increases GABA production, which is required for nerve relaxation in the brain

Dosage: best taken as a tea in the evening 30 minutes before bed

Magnesium Citrate: Relaxes the nervous system

Dosage: 200-400mg before bed

Melatonin: the sleep hormone, and will help the person fall asleep more easily

Dosage: 0.5 m*Only recommended for short-term use - *some do better with magnesium glycinate or glycine for resetting sleep cycles or when traveling - especially those who suffer from depression

Sleep routine & no screen time after 8 pm: this lets the body know that you are getting ready for bed. The blue light emitted from your screens can inhibit the melatonin hormone to stimulate sleep cycles

Essential oils: bergamot, lavender, sandalwood, frankincense, and mandarin

Dosage: use a blend of these oils diluted and apply to neck & behind the ears before bed. You can sniff the oils before sleep or add to your pillow or a bath before bed.

kristin dahl