When Natural Remedies Are Too Confusing + Recipe for DIY Baby Chestrub Salve

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When Natural Remedies Are Too Confusing (plus a recipe for DIY baby chest rub) :: Vintage Kids | Modern World


I sat down to write Resources for Getting Started with a Natural Medicine Cabinet part TWO, and in scouring the internet, pinning natural remedies, reading blogs on natural healing and remedies, as well as research articles on the most potent herbs and salves, I started to notice something…

There’s not much middle ground.  It seems as though the authors assume that you WANT to be a hippy (or you already ARE!) and you regularly make weird concoctions in your kitchen while standing there barefoot in a broom skirt, burning patchouli incense and drinking green tea.

[side note: I hate the smell of patchouli.]

That’s all well and good, but for those of us just starting out, it can be SO intimidating!  There is SO MUCH information available to us now, that we can’t remember which blog said what, which one had the cold remedy post, and why on earth can’t I just use tylenol?

Dear friends, if you are just starting out and the thought of researching one more cold and flu remedy while your sick toddler is crying through the night is prompting the growth of gray hair, then PLEASE, for the love of patchouli, GIVE THAT POOR KID SOME TYLENOL AND GET SOME SLEEP.  It’s OK. You won’t get kicked out of the “all natural” club. promise.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with using a mixture of natural remedies and OTC drugs, ESPECIALLY as you are starting out and researching natural alternatives.

2 things you must keep in mind:

First, if you are searching for natural remedies because you feel guilty, then stop.  Decisions made out of guilt never stick and only foster resentment towards yourself for not quite getting it right, and you’ll burn out and end up disillusioned.

And second, if you are searching for natural remedies because you’re afraid, then stop.  Fear will only breed more fear and that will lead to yet more confusion, frustration and self-condemnation.  “But, Suzy makes her own cough syrup and grows her own echinacea and I don’t even know what to do if my kid has a fever”.  That’s ok.  if your kid has a fever, here’s what you do: give them Tylenol.  Until you are more comfortable using herbal remedies, 3am with a sick child and a 104 degree temperature is not the time to google “natural fever remedies”.

Now it’s safe to reason that you are reading this post because you are interested in herbal and natural remedies, so, without confusing you more and contributing to the gray hair…

…here are some SIMPLE, LOW STRESS tips as you set out on your journey:

1. Don’t go overboard.  And by that I mean, don’t go out and buy burdock root, astragalus, primrose oil, or nettles leaves (because there was a sale at the health food store, and these things are good for me…right?) until you know what they do.  It will be a waste of money and the source of confusion and extra clutter around your kitchen.

2. Don’t buy anything from the health food store until you’ve researched it.  (See #1) There are 100’s of “natural remedies” at the regular old grocery store, so don’t spend money on specialty items until you’re already using some of the basics, like we talked about last week.

3. ASK!  Ask questions!  Don’t just research it on your own, but find other people through forums, facebook and pinterest that are on the same journey as you and then pick their brains!  You will find a wealth of information all around you, so don’t be afraid to ask!

4. Find 2-3 “remedies” that you have bought (and maybe even made!) that you are comfortable with, before you move on.  Below, I have a recipe for homemade Baby Vicks.  Yes, it took me a few minutes to make it, but it’s already there, sitting in a jar in my kitchen medicine cabinet, so that if my little ones are sick at night, I can reach for it easily.  The substitution between the homemade/natural version and the commercial version was easy.  After I had it made and knew what it was and how to use it, I moved on to other items and slowly built my Herbal Medicine Cabinet using baby steps.

5. Find a place to store your “Medicine Cabinet”.  This sounds like a no-brainer, but as you slowly start to accumulate various herbs, supplements and oils, keep them in one central, organized location.  When making natural remedies, you will be dealing with herbs and oils, both of which are best kept in cooler, dark areas.  I have dedicated the bottom shelf of a kitchen cabinet, as well as a basket in my fridge to hold all of my “hippy concoctions” (as referred to by my hubby).  I highly recommend finding a place in your kitchen for your newly acquired medicine cabinet, because many of the ingredients that you’ll be working with for common illnesses are actually normal, everyday foods and menu items, such as honey, vinegar, garlic, ginger, coconut oil, olive oil, various herbal teas, cayenne, onions, rosemary, sage…and the list goes on.

6. Start by substituting one natural remedy for one commercial drug.  Similar to #4, don’t get excited and spend a Saturday afternoon making 30 different home remedies. You’ll get lost in the process and burnt out by doing it all at once.        *sigh* trust. me.  Start with one remedy before you make another, that way you have time to digest all that you’re learning and you’ll start to feel more comfortable.  Then, when your little munchkin starts coughing at 3am, it’s second nature to reach for the honey, ginger and cinnamon, and you are familiar enough (and comfortable enough) with them to use them appropriately.

7. Don’t get discouraged and throw in the towel!  Maybe the only “natural” remedy you’ve tried is drinking more tea.  That’s AWESOME!  Just because you can’t do it all does not mean that you shouldn’t do some.  Any steps that you can take to making your own home remedies (or at least buying them pre-made when possible) is a HUGE step, so don’t look at how natural you AREN’T.  

Many of the bloggers that are writing about natural remedies and homemade this-and-that did not wake up one day and have a house stocked with herbs and vitamins.  They built it slowly and fumbled along until they found what worked, so don’t be ashamed or toss the ideas aside – it’s much easier than you think and totaly worth it!

Below is a “home remedy” that serves as a natural replacement for Baby Vick’s /Vapo-Rub.  Right now, on amazon, you can get it for $4.79 for just under 2oz. (that’s without shipping).  I’m sure prices will vary across the nation (and world, for those of you reading this on the other side of the Pond), but let’s assume its within the $4 range.  My recipe below costs approximately $0.50, but many of the ingredients come in large enough quantities, that I could make jars upon jars of this for a fraction of what the store-bought version costs.  Plus, I know that I am not smearing petrolatum (source) on my developing child.  In and of itself, petrolatum is not dangerous, but if it is refined cheaply and not high-grade it contains PAHs, which is a carcinogen and is banned in the EU and Canada. (source, from the Environmental Working Group)


That’s why I like to make my own…

So here is an easy recipe to substitute for the drug-store version.  (side note, I’m sure I found this online somewhere, so if you have this particular recipe on your blog, I would love to give you credit for it, so please comment below with your link!)


Homemade Chest Rub for Babies

2oz (1/4 c.) of oil (I prefer to have a Vick’s-like consistency, so I use coconut oil with just a few drops of olive oil to soften it.  Coconut oil is solid when cool, but has a melting point of 76’F, so if you are storing it someplace warm, just wanted to give you a heads-up!)

5 drops of eucalyptus oil

3 drops of peppermint oil

1-2 drops of lavender (optional)

-mix thoroughly and store in a small jar.  Depending on the age of your child, you can adjust the essential oils and increase the strength, but do not go any higher than this for infants without first researching.  Essential oils are VERY strong and a little goes a long way.  If your child’s cough/congestion is especially tight and you’d like to increase the effectiveness, start by adding more eucalyptus oil, in 2-drop increments, until you’ve reached your desired strength.

NOTE: yes, you are going to spend a little more up-front if you do not already have essential oils on hand.  However, one small bottle of essential oils will provide dozens of jars of this salve, and they’re also great for the humidifier and bath.  It’s money well spent!

What home remedies do you currently use??



And for the record: I’m not a doctor, I’m just a mama, so everything that I list here comes from my own experience and research.  Please consult with your doctor if you have a serious or lingering illness, and talk with a naturopath/holistic practitioner for certified herbal recommendations.

This post was part of Fat Tuesdays at real Food Forager, Traditional Tuesdays at Whole New Mom, Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist, Homestead Barn Hop at Prairie Homestead, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways at Frugally Sustainable, Healthy 2Day at the Humbled Homemaker, Real Food Wednesday at Kelly The Kitchen Kop and Women Living Well Wednesdays at Women Living Well, Home and Homemaker’s Challenge: Accomplish at Homemaker’s Challenge and Your Green Resource at Live Renewed, Simple Lives Thursdays at GNOWFGLINS, and Fresh Bites Friday at Real Food, Whole Health and Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade and Sunday School Blog Carnival at Butter Believer and the Welcome Home Link Up at Raising Arrows, Mostly Homemade Mondays, Healing with Food Friday at Purposeful Nutrition

image amended by me, but originally from this great photographer

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36 Responses to “When Natural Remedies Are Too Confusing + Recipe for DIY Baby Chestrub Salve”
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  1. Hannah

    Loved your last post too! Thanks! I’ve gotten all the stuff for a home remedy before and then never done anything with it before. These are good tips. And the simple remedies post was very informative and just what I needed.

  2. Loved this post! I’m just getting into this whole “hippy concoction” thing and lovin it! I found you through the Barn Hop today and subscribed! Looking forward to following you.

  3. that’s awesome! thanks for joining us and glad you enjoyed it! – kelsi

  4. great! I’m so glad you liked it! When I first started out, I bought all kinds of random ingredients and didn’t know how to use them! Hope this helps! – kelsi

  5. Found you through the Barn Hop. I like the idea of this rub but have a question. What is the purpose of the peppermint oil?

  6. In what I’ve seen from other recipes, the peppermint is for warming and it improves circulation, so the rubbing/massaging with it over congested areas helps stimulate blood flow and hopefully helps in loosening up the mucus, in conjunction with the eucalyptus.

  7. Great blog! I shared it with some of my friends who are a bit overwhelmed with me and my “hippie concoctions”. I am working on encouraging and educating people about learning about these more natural things slowly. It is hard to remember some times that we all started out from scratch. Great blog! Cant wait to read more.

  8. Thanks Amanda! Glad you found us and welcome to Cheeky Bums! Thanks for sharing us 😉

  9. Would you mind if I linked this to the end of my blog


    I think it would be a great addition at the end to say something along the lines of, we all get overwhelmed, and I wanted to share this great piece with you that explains getting started wonderfully.

  10. Great point about starting slow and giving your kid Tylenol. I think that we think alike. I use a mix of modern medicine (cause I want to bring the fever down) and old fashioned remedies like my grandmas mustard plasters for chest congestion and bread poultices to draw out small infections.

  11. This is such a good article! Will be sharing! Thank you for linking up!

  12. thanks Amy! glad you enjoyed it! – kelsi

  13. Mai

    Love the chest rubb & your attitude regarding patchouli!!!

    I recently purchased a natural chest rub for my 9mo…it worked great but all the good oil smells wore off quickly and then youre left with a very stubborn patchouli sent that won’t wash out of clothes. I looked at the ingredients and wanted to make one myself. That’s when I found this blog post that gave me the confidence to go buy some essential oils (already had the coconut)

  14. Cheeky Bums

    yeah…try as I might, I can’t get myself to like patchouli! blech! So glad you’re giving it a try! it’s so easy to make and once you have the oils, you’ll be able to make dozens of jars of this! Just as a tip as well – I’ve noticed that if I put it on my kids before bed, that it’s *mostly* gone by morning time. If I need to, I usually reapply at breakfast, and then one more time in the afternoon if needed. Just watch out, because if you have a little one with sensitive skin, the eucalyptus could irritate their skin if you reapply too often. This recipe is VERY mild but it can still get a little red if you reapply continuously for long periods. Hope it works well for you! thanks for stopping by! – kelsi

  15. Mai

    Good to know! I love it do much…I’d probably overuse and find out the hardway.

  16. Kelsi, I like your philosophy regarding the natural remedies! It’s so easy to be overwhelmed.

    I WAS a hippie 😉 and I never could stand that patchouli!

  17. Cheeky Bums

    Kattrinka, I’m with you – I’m *mostly* hippie, but the patchouli obsession escapes me… 🙂 thanks for stopping by! all the best! – kelsi

  18. Oops I should clarify…..I’m 61 so I was an actual hippie!! LOL My thoughts have not changed but my manner of dress has LOL…..but I STILLhate patchouli 😉

  19. Cheeky Bums

    that’s awesome! 🙂

  20. I know I say this to you all of the time but I love you Kelsi! I’m actually working on a piece about natural skincare and it has a similar introduction. I want to show beginners how easy it is to make DIY remedies without going over the top and spending tons of money on specialty ingredients from overpriced fancy schmancy stores. Often just having a simple understanding of nature will help guide you in the right direction.
    Aubrey @ Homegrown&Healthy recently posted..Mostly Homemade Mondays Linky Party – Week 12My Profile

  21. Cheeky Bums

    lol!! I love you too…oh, if only we lived closer… 🙂 -k

  22. deidre

    ty for this info. i have used various conctions as my kids call them for mostly claming and respirotory stuff…i am in the process of getting some recipes together for more meds and also am making a list of herbs i need to grow (other than the ones i already do grow). a great place i found to get hard to grow or find herbs in ancientindigo at etsy. she is highly reccommended. i plan to get most of my essential oils from her. you need to always be careful with the oils because they are mostly not regualted and you want to make sure you get the very best and purest ones. i have a friend who grow some herbs from seedlings and i plan to buy what she has that i need from her because they are all organic and i know what she does. here is a recipe for a respirotory conctoction i use daily:

    slice lemons thinly
    grate or slice ginger root
    honey-pure local honey

    layer the lemon-connimon and ginger almost to the top of the jar (canning jar)
    pour honey into it. turn the jar all around and up and down.

    you can use it right away but like anything else the longer it sits the better. if you can make severl jars at once and not use it all up (like we do!) the lemon will actually kind of start disintergrating-i havent been able to keep any that long yet. 🙁 i plan on making several jars of it so by next winter it will be as it should be. right now ii have just added honey when it gets low.

    use it:
    just take a big glob of it (it does get nastily globby lol
    or boil water and put a glob in it for tea.
    ive been making rosemary (that i grew) tea and adding it to it as rosemary has great antibiotic properties…lots of crug going around here.

    you can also add cayene pepper and garlic…i add that separately for the does as i dont want it in my tea that way.
    hope this was helpful

    thank you for telling people to take it slow. it can be daunting and doing one thing or maybe 2 at a time is much better on your stress level. OTC meds are fine if you havent gotten around to making a concotion for whatever yet. i plan to hopefully soon not have to take any OTC stuff….but people who are doing this also need to remember…herbal meds are gentle and slower- i have to take Otc cold meds to make it thru a work day. i hate that but when you have to work you just have to kill the symptoms as fast as you can and herbals are not like that.

    hope this was helpful!

  23. Jami

    My 2 month old has a cold is this rub safe for babies even that young?

  24. Cheeky Bums

    Jami, it should be totally fine. I used to this on my own babies and it works great. my only recommendation would be to start with just a little bit and work up from there. just a small dab on your finger should be plenty. I hope he feels better! having sick little ones is so terrible – and exhausting!

  25. In addition to Tylenol, I’ve been using 100% lavender oil and a warm neck wrap on my son’s neck and ears to ease his throat pain after his recent tonsillectomy. Not only is the lavender oil incredibly comforting, but when the warm compress is applied, it knocks him right out – peacefully. 🙂

  26. I love this post. It is so positive and encouraging. I forget those days when all of this seemed overwhelming but I went through it too. I will be sharing this some on social media. It is worth reading.
    Thanks for sharing this at Healing With Food Friday. It is a featured post for this next week.

  27. Kelsi

    awegeethanks Jennifer 🙂 it’s been a long journey for me, and I had to assume that I wasn’t the only one! thanks for the shout outs! love your blog as well – GREAT work!

  28. Andrea Lazo

    I like this recipe because is simple enough but I have done research and the two essential oils you mention are not good to rub in babies chest!Ito use are babies 6 months to 2 years Sweet Orange, Cinnamon LEAF,Lavender & Fir Needle, for ages 6 years and up peppermint, eucalyptus and clove can be used.

  29. Kelsi

    Andrea – I love the recommendations! It’s honestly up to each individual person and their comfort levels. In my personal reading and research (and using it with my kids) I haven’t come across any kinds of warnings with these, but I’m obviously not a homeopathic doctor either! If you’re not comfortable using the ones that I do, then by all means, please use the recipe as the base and experiment to see what fits you best!