Holistic Health Thrive

10 Must-Haves for Your Winter Medicine Cabinet

gel capsules on wood counter
Written by Jolene Brighten

As the seasons change and colder weather settles in, it’s almost inevitable that the kids are going to bring home a cold or two. Not to mention the stress that the holidays and increased travel bring, which can severely weaken the immune system. 1

Going to the pharmacy can be totally overwhelming as the shelves are stocked with literally hundreds of products that can dry up a runny nose or simply knock you out cold until your illness passes. But what if you could stock your medicine cabinet with more natural products that may help prevent or even treat an illness in you or your little one?

This is a question I’m asked all the time by my patients, so I’ve come up with a list of natural remedies that you may want to keep in stock.

Vitamin D3

Vitamin D is a hormone that our bodies naturally synthesize from the sun, but low vitamin D is surprisingly common, especially during the winter months. However, this is not a nutrient you want to be deficient in. Vitamin D is known for optimizing immune function and preventing infection, and higher levels are even associated with staving off depression(2).

Work with a practitioner to get your blood levels tested. Testing is the best way to know how much you or your child may need to supplement, but you can dose vitamin D during acute colds (for short periods of time) to help raise immune function. A dose of 400 IU for children and 2,000 IU for adults is generally regarded assafe.

Vitamin C

Daily vitamin C supplementation can benefit many of the daily ailments of our little ones. This vitamin is known for general immune support, but it can also shorten the severity of colds and is effective in helping tissue heal from injury. It can also be beneficial when treating urinary tract infections.


Zinc is essential to building a strong immune system. Eating zinc everyday in your diet supports your immune cells and enables your body to respond quickly when there is a viral or bacterial invader. Zinc is found in beef, lamb, oysters and pumpkin seeds. For my family, I like to give a little extra zinc two weeks before school begins or before we travel. You can supplement with zinc daily, but too much zinc can suppress the immune system, which is to say: more is not better.

You can find zinc as a lozenge or in liquid form. Beginning zinc supple- mentation at the first sign of a cold can help your little one’s immune system overcome their illness.


Regular probiotics are your family’s defense system against bad bugs and infection. The bacteria in your gut help keep your immune system functioning at its best, not to mention the gut itself. Take probiotics for general immune support, to help prevent ear infections, and for respiratory support. You can get probiotics through fermented foods and liquids, or supplementation. Not only will this help throughout cold and flu season, but keeping gut flora happy may help decrease allergies, and can even help with mood. Aim for 10 billion CFUs per serving in a supplement, or try kefir, sauerkraut, miso, or yogurt for a dose of good gut bugs.

N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)

NAC thins mucus, prevents ear infections, and provides respiratory support. For adults, I generally recommend a dose of 600 mg two to three times a day and for most children 200-400 mg daily is regarded as a safe dose for a short period of time.


This wonderful herb is well known for its immune-boosting abilities. Shown to increase white blood cells, Echinacea on its own or as part of an herbal blend may help the immune system combat a cold or the flu more efficiently. Take even before the onset of an illness to help boost immunity or at the very first signs of symptoms tohelp you or your little ones fight through it.

Elderberry Syrup

This is one of my favorite preventative concoctions, mostly because it tastes so good – even to the kiddies! Elderberry is effective in helping your little one get over colds and flus quicker. It can also be used preventatively during cold season or before a stressful time, like traveling for the holidays.


A strong natural antimicrobial, honey should be kept on hand for homemade cough syrups, rashes, acne, and many other ailments. Remember to wait until your child is at least one year old before you let them eat honey!


Homeopathy is a parent’s friend. It’s easy to administer, safe, and effective. In children and adults, I generally recommend a 6C or 30C potency at 3 pellets three times daily. The dose may be more or less often depending on the condition. These are the main remedies I keep onhand:

Arnica: For bumps, bruises, and soft tissue trauma.* Good to keep on hand in general with kids around (or clumsy adults).

Aconite: For fevers that come on after exposure to wind or a fright. A good one for earaches, too.

Belladonna: For high fevers and earaches.

Chamomilla: For teething pain, difficulty sleeping, diarrhea with teething, and irritability.

Nux Vomica: For diarrhea, vomiting, and constipation.

Pulsatilla: For thick green or yellow mucus.

Veratrum: For diarrhea that leaves a child weak.

Topical EssentialOils

Essential oils are amazing for respiratory congestion and upset stomachs. Use as steam inhalations or as topical massages in a carrier oil like castor oil. Here are a couple of my favorites:

Peppermint: Great for stomach aches, fever, headaches, and sinus congestion. Use as a gentle topical massage for gas pains, or an upset stomach. Do not apply directly to the face.

Peppermint, thyme, and eucalyptus: Use as a steam inhalation for sinus pres- sure or pain, congestion, or coughs. Do not apply directly to the face.

Lavender: I always keep this on hand for anxiety, headaches and to apply directly to bug bites to take the sting away.

Bonus Item: Castor Oil

Massage over the abdomen to promote healthy digestion and a strong immune system. It’s also a great carrier oil for the essential oils and can increase circulation of lymphatic tissues.

For more tips on how to keep the immune system strong this winter, plus easy natural recipes to help combat cold and flu season, check out my free e-book: www.drbrighten.com/naturalchild

*This article is no substitute for seeing a practitioner about injuries and other ail- ments.
https://www.vitamindcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Vita- min-D-Council.-Vitamin-D-and-De- pression-A-patient-friendly-summa- ry.-2012.pdf

About the author

Jolene Brighten