As a practicing naturopath with a busy life, I long ago discovered a useful trick for meeting unanticipated challenges: quick, on-the-go natural aids I carry in my purse. Along with some natural vanilla-scented lip balm, these products go everywhere with me.
Having them handy gives me a sense of personal power and allows me to take action to stand up to colds, eat out comfortably and mediate anxiety in situations where I need to perform. I call it my purse apothecary. Here’s a peek inside to inspire you to create your own.
Herbal tinctures to support the immune system
Stressful situations like work deadlines or constantly feeling overwhelmed can dramatically affect your immune system’s function. Extended periods of stress can suppress the immune system’s fighting abilities, leaving you more vulnerable to infections like colds and flus.
When combating the initial cold symptoms, it’s important to ward off unwanted viruses and bacteria by killing them and stimulating your immune system defenses. One of the first signs of a cold is a sore throat, often due to the start of an infection. To quickly combat the viruses or bacteria your throat and mouth may be harboring, you can carry a potent herbal antimicrobial (germ-killing) tincture with you.
Here are a few herbs to look for in tincture form that are excellent for supporting immune function and soothing cold symptoms when you start feeling them coming on.
Antimicrobial herbs: andrographis and myrrh
Two potent antimicrobial herbs are andrographis (Andrographis paniculata) and myrrh (Commiphora spp.).
Andrographis has been shown to reduce frequency and severity of cough while also clearing mucus.
Myrrh has been used traditionally to inhibit the growth of bacteria and ease inflammation.
Soothing and gentle marshmallow
Another very important herb to help soothe the mucosal lining of an irritated throat is marshmallow (Althea officinalis). This herb is called a demulcent: it coats and lines mucosal membranes in the body. The tincture works best if taken as soon as the undesired symptoms begin.
Digestive enzymes for gas and bloating
It’s easy to find ourselves in situations where food choices are less than optimal. This is where digestive enzymes in your purse can come in handy. Digestive enzymes help break down the food we eat, which reduces the likelihood that we will experience the negative side effects of gas and bloating.
A supplement containing a spectrum of different digestive enzymes derived from plant sources may be best. Each enzyme helps digest a particular food type. For example, the enzyme amylase helps digest starches, while lipase helps digest fats.
Keep in mind that digestive enzymes are not a permanent solution if you experience persistent gas and bloating—that merits a visit to your doctor or health care practitioner. But digestive enzymes are useful for occasional situations that you can’t avoid.
Passion flower for anxious moments
If you suffer from anxiety in social situations, experience stage fright before public speaking or generally feel anxious, it may be helpful to have some passion flower on hand to help you get through these stressful moments.
Passion flower has been used for many years as a mild sedative—it’s relaxing and calming. In recent studies, it has shown promise in reducing anxiety, potentially by affecting GABA receptors in the brain (which are thought to control fear and anxiety).
Although passion flower is considered a mild sedative, it is important to make sure this is the right herb for you based on allergies you may have or the type of job you do. Some people can have an allergic reaction or feel more sedated than normal. As with any new herb or supplement, consult your doctor or health care practitioner for proper dosing and safety instructions prior to taking passion flower.
What is a tincture?
A tincture is a concentrated herbal extract. It’s made with the appropriate alcoholic percentage best suited to remove the active ingredient from the desired herb. Generally, tinctures contain a variety of herb extracts with different actions for maximum benefit.
Tinctures are usually sold in small dark brown bottles to avoid light damage to the herbs. The bottle is topped with a squeeze dropper, allowing you to administer the appropriate dose accurately to the drop.
Tinctures are often prescribed as either a dropperful two to three times per day or 20 to 60 drops per day (there are approximately 20 drops in a dropper), or as directed by the prescribing health care practitioner.
The tincture is often taken alone but can also be taken in a glass of water if needed.
alive team picks
We asked some of the high-powered women at alive HQ what they keep in their purses.
Melatonin: Because this natural hormone helps us tackle sleep troubles—especially jet lag.
Probiotics: Because we know our gut (and immune system) deserve on-the-go love.
Greenfood supplement: Because we can’t stuff wheatgrass, alfalfa and the dozens of other powerful ingredients in these powders into our purses. Pro tip: Choose single serve formats for portability.
Digestive enzymes: Because some restaurant menus seem designed to give us digestive grief.
Essential oils: We’re particularly enchanted by thieves oil—a blend of cinnamon, clove, lemon, eucalyptus and rosemary essential oils. It quickly fills a space with a spicy, empowering scent.