Use This, Not That: Health Cabinet Transformation

April 24, 2018
Use this not that - Dr. Axe

Over the years, I studied Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurvedic medicine and other natural remedies that have withstood the test of time. And the more I learned, the different my medicine cabinet started to look. Using science-backed research and the wisdom of ancient healing traditions as my guide, I started a “use this, not that” approach to my health.

Many pills used for ailments like joint pain, headaches and minor scrapes and bruises were replaced by specific essential oils known to target those issues. Instead of worrying about the long list of dangers of NSAIDs, I focus on supporting my body with nutrition and responsible use of high-quality essential oils. Here are some of my favorite swaps I used to replace conventional medicine cabinet drugs with more natural, oil-based solutions.

Use This, Not That: Health Cabinet Transformation

Use this not that - Dr. AxeUse This, Not That: Aching Joints

Use This: Peppermint & Turmeric

Not That: Painkiller Meds

With more than 10,000 studies highlighting the health benefits of turmeric, I always make sure turmeric oil is onhand in my house. One of its many uses includes easing joint pain, inflammation and stiffness related to both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

An animal study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that turmeric essential oil provides a modest anti-inflammatory impact on joints. The dosage used in the study would equate to 5,000 milligrams a day in humans. (1)

Turmeric contains the active ingredient curcumin, an antioxidant that helps calm inflammation for issues like joint pain.

Using Turmeric Oil: Dilute in a carrier oil and add a few drops directly to the source of pain.

Safety: Turmeric easily stains clothes and the skin, so use carefully around fabrics and dilute it before topical use.

Peppermint oil uses and benefits also include joint pain relief. Even the Rheumatoid Arthritis Support Network recommends peppermint as a natural remedy for joint pain, thanks to its naturally occurring levels of healing menthol and limonene. (2)

Using Peppermint Oil: When my joints need a little nurturing, I mix 3 drops each of peppermint and lavender oil in a carrier oil and apply to achy joints. Adults can also add a drop of peppermint oil to tea or water.

Safety: Peppermint oil may adversely interact with some medications, so consult a physician with concerns.Use this not that - Dr. AxeUse This, Not That: Cuts & Scratches

Use This: Tea Tree & Helichrysum

Not That: Antibacterial Ointment

Did you know that some of our most popular antibacterial ointments will not kill MRSA? In fact, they actually seem to be playing a part in developing a particularly nasty strain of the hard-to-kill bacteria. (3)

That means finding more complex and natural ways to kill pathogens are needed when it comes to stopping superbugs. So when it comes to everyday cuts and scrapes, I prefer specific essential oils instead of medicated ointments.

Here’s what the research says: In clinical studies, plant-derived active biomolecules found in thyme and tea tree oil exhibit powerful antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties making them beneficial for wound care. (4)

As far as helichrysum oil is concerned, it’s a potent remedy used to tame skin inflammation, cuts and scrapes and wounds. (5)

Using Tea Tree Oil: A great home remedy for cut and scrape care includes cleaning the banged-up area with water and a clean towel. To clear out any dirt in the cut or scrape, use hydrogen peroxide. Once clean and dry, add two to three drops of tea tree oil and cover with a bandage. Apply a new bandage and oil treatment every day until the scrape or cut is healed. You may also add a drop of lavender to the mix for added skin support.)

Safety: Melaleuca (tea tree) oil should not be taken internally for any reason.

Using Helichrysum Oil:  This oil helps diminish bruising, bleeding and pain for minor cuts and scrapes. To help to reduce pain, bruising and swelling, apply two to three drops topically to the area of pain; repeat several times daily.

Safety: Helichrysum essential oil is generally well tolerated.

Use this not that - Dr. AxeUse This, Not That: Headaches

Use This: Basil & Peppermint

Not That: Headache Drugs

A 2014 review named basil essential oil as a traditional medicinal plant effective for the treatment of headaches. (Along with coughs, diarrhea, constipation, warts, worms, kidney malfunctions and more.) (6)

Basil oil is also known as a natural stress fighter, helping to alleviate tension and anxiety that can trigger headaches.

There’s another oil I turn to when it comes to combating headaches. Peppermint oil may improve circulation and relax tense muscles. In addition to that, it also helps clear your nasal passages that can trigger sinus headaches. In 1996, German researchers published a study highlighting peppermint oil a cost-effective natural headache remedy to improve circulation and reduce pain in tension headaches. (7)

Using Basil Oil: I like to add three to five drops to a warm water bath to ease tense muscles that can contribute to tension headaches. You can also massage one or two drops with a carrier oil into your feet or over your adrenals when you feel a stress-related headache coming on.

Safety: Don’t use basil oil during pregnancy or if you have epilepsy. Dilution
is recommended for topical use.

Using Peppermint Oil: Dilute two drops and apply to your forehead and temples for pain relief.

Safety: Some medications may adversely interact with peppermint oil, so consult a physician with concerns about drug interactions.

Use this not that - Dr. AxeUse This, Not That: Athlete’s Foot

Use This: Tea Tree & Oregano

Not That: Medicated Antifungal Spray & Powder

Just like bacteria are evolving and starting to outsmart out antibiotics, the same thing is happening when it comes to conventional antifungal treatments. Although this is mostly a problem for invasive Candida infections, I generally opt for essential oils when it comes to fungal infections like athlete’s foot, too. (8)

Plus, some commercial antifungal treatments contain chemical compounds called allylamine, azole or fluconazole, which can trigger allergic reactions. (9)

In my opinion, tea tree oil is the most effective natural remedy for athlete’s foot out there. Oregano oil also possesses powerful fungus-fighting properties.

Oregano oil also possesses fungus-fighting properties. In fact, some research suggests it’s as effective in getting rid of certain infections as antifungal treatments. (78)

Using Tea Tree Oil: Create an athlete’s foot bath by adding 30 drops of tea tree oil to a footbath and soak your feet for 10 minutes. After soaking, be sure to thoroughly dry your feet, then massage a few drops of the oil directly onto the affected area.

Safety: As mentioned earlier, tea tree oil should not be taken internally for any reason.

Using Oregano Oil: I recommend mixing three drops of oregano oil and two drops of tea tree oil with a teaspoon of coconut oil. Use the mixture to apply to the affected area three to four times a day.

Safety: Because oregano oil may cause embryotoxicity, it should not be used during pregnancy or on infants and small children. Since it sometimes causes skin irritation, be sure to dilute with a carrier oil and test on a small patch of skin before using topically. If using internally, do not use for more than 10 days. After 10 days, take a break for one week.

Read Next: CHART: Essential Oil Safety 101

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    • Ashley on

      Ylang Ylang, Marjoram, Eucalyptus, and Lavender diluted with fractionated coconut oil. Rub over heart and bottom of left foot. Avoid Rosemary, Thyme and Peppermint

  1. Karyl Cain on

    I have psoriasis on my hands (several spots that are very dry, and crack open easily) and some on my face. What do I use for this?

    • sam12587 on

      Karyl, have you tried olive oil on your skin yet? Also avocado & coconut oils are skin friendly – those two don’t work so well for me personally but they do on my relatives.

      Apple Cider vinegar could help however, it will probably sting. I’m allergic to tea tree oil so apple cider vin is one of the top things I use for any skin issues with success despite the immediate discomfort of it. I’ve also had success with keeping my auto-immune issues down by diet, no white breads and no processed foods.

    • Sandra on

      Karyl, Although some of the essential oils such as Lavender, Frankincense, and Myrrh help psoriasis, it really starts with your diet, (and several others factors )such as stress. I have had psoriasis since I was 8. I am now 63 and changing my diet was the only thing that helped. Doing away with white sugar,eating clean food(NON GMO) organic when possible, will make a big improvement with it :) Soda’s are one of the worst culprits :( It is an autoimmune disease so getting that under control is a must :) Hope this helps, because I understand how uncomfortable and embarrassing it can be :(

  2. Mark on

    Dr. Axe, did you know that the probability for a person to stop reading an article is directly proportional to the number of mis-understoods or non-understoods the person runs into while reading?

    Please, at least, define your acronyms when you use them. “NSAID”, “MRSA”??? How can we understand what you’re talking about if we don’t know the words your using?

    Thanks for all your great data!

    • Alli on

      NSAID is a general term for pain killer, ex Advil, Aleeve, Motrin. MRSA is a larger form of staph infection that is picked up mostly from hospitals and is very hard to get rid of. These are very general terms that most people have heard of. It takes a quick google look up for the acronyms to see what they mean specifically. Dr Axe keep up the great work!

      • Rubie on

        They have found MRSA on the beaches on both coasts….its everywhere!! Unfortunately compromised patients get it easier so hospitals get the downfall

    • Dee on

      Everyone should know what NSAIDs and MRSA are unless you live under a rock. Next time you try to write an intelligent sounding argument you should probably check your grammar. You had me until probability, then it all went downhill.

      • Kerri on

        I’m sorry but I’m in Australia. Maybe that’s considered under a rock but I hadn’t heard the terms either.

  3. Paul on

    Typo in the oregeno oil? It says oregano oil as the title but then says to add clove oil …?? Using Oregano Oil: If you want to add another punch to your tea tree oil treatment, add three drops of clove oil

  4. Padma on

    It is a very helpful article as I believe using essential oils for aches and pains. I use eucalyptus oil too for relieving stress and headache. Need to know your input on these oils.
    Thank you:
    Mrs Padma Marchant

  5. Barb. on

    Have always enjoyed reading Dr Axe articles, finding them practical, succinct
    & very helpful. Essential oils are a fairly new addition to my repertoire.
    Delighted to join the group.BAM

    • tammy heffington on

      Yes the article ran short and didn’t finish. Dr. Axe, can you please give us the link of where to find the complete article.

    • Ashley on

      There are SO many oils for anxiety, it really depends on the person! Citrus oils are good for lifting moods such as lemon, orange and bergamot. Lavender is great for calming as well. Note that lavender and bergamot are considered sedatives, so they can also help with sleep, whereas lemon and orange are more invigorating and give you more energy. There is a great book I found called “A am Fabulous: Blends for Emotional Well-Being, great ideas for essential oil blends for all types of moods.

  6. Carmen on

    Your article has a few errors. When explaining the use of oregano oil, you call for clove oil in the text and never mention oregano oil. And in the last example you say instead of anti-anxiety drugs when talking about athletes foot.

  7. Maureen on

    You have lots of useful info on here, esp concerning essential oils, and I appreciate it. Just wish I had some way to print it out. One thing that I question, though, is cleaning a wound with hydrogen peroxide. While this was quite the common practice a while back, as an RN, they have been instructing us for many years now to not use hydrogen peroxide on open wounds because it is very caustic to normal tissue in and around the wound too. Have you heard this?

  8. Christina on

    Thank you Dr. Axe! I’ve always heard about the benefits of natural oils like tea tree & peppermint oils, but reading this today makes me actually want to use them:-) Realky appreciate all your helpful info, that you want to guide people back to health. Blessings!

    • Helene on

      Marlene, a carrier oil would be plain coconut oil or a high quality almond oil.

      Oregano oil would definitely need to be diluted in a carrier oil as it is “hot”, and if you’re administering oils to a child, dilution is key also. Hope this helps.

  9. Chris on

    Thank you for your helpful information. I did notice your information for how to use oregano oil actually says to use clove oil. Is that what it was meant to say?

  10. Ashley on

    Everyone check out Modern Essentials, it is a book as well as an app and has TONS of useful information on essential oils, more so than this article (with so many errors). Remember that if you see an oil that is super cheap, chances are it is synthetic!! Always use pure, quality, tested essential oils (you will not find real essential oils in your local drug store)!

  11. Marie on

    I have always heard that one must always dilute essential oils. Yet, here, for healing cuts and scrapes you say to use the tea tree oil and helicrysum essential oil directly on affected area. Is this correct?

  12. Susan on

    ‘Would very much like to see the rest of your tips regarding using essential oils as medicine. The list cut off before listing anti-anxiety helps. Regarding using helichrysum to help stop bleeding/bruising: I broke my toe last summer (wearing sandals) while out shopping. By the time I got home that toe was swollen and purple even beyond where it joins the rest of the foot. I immediately applied doTerra brand helichrysum to that toe. Also elevated and iced it. Applied Helichrysum a couple more times that evening. By morning the bruising/swelling was almost gone! What I found most interesting, however, was that the toe NEXT to the broken toe was now purple and swollen. It had evidently also been damaged, but it hadn’t been painful at the time so had not been treated with helichrysum, though it had been iced and elevated. The helichrysum-treated broken toe looked a whole lot better than the non-broken toe next to it!

  13. Donna on

    Would a person mix turmeric oil, peppermint oil, lavender oil and a little coconut oil altogether for arthritis pain relief?

  14. Patti on

    I just broke out in shingles…
    I am healthy and take no medicines but do have some stress at the moment..
    What oils would be good for this??

  15. Laurie on

    Manuka oil cured my toenail fungus in less than a month! I tried everything else, beginning with drugs prescribed by my doc. They only made ME sick but did nothing to the fungus. Then there was tea tree oil, oregano oil, and activated charcoal (messy!). It came back every time. Only Manuka has seemed to kill it. I put it on directly twice a day.

  16. Shirley on

    Thank you Dr. Axe for the great information. Could you tell me if there is a rule of thumb or some guideline as to how much carrier oil to use when diluting essential oils. Thanks very much.


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