The zero waste guide to medication

Filed in Blog by on December 22, 2014 9 Comments
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stack-of-medication-packsOne of the questions I get asked a lot is to do with medication packaging.

You know the stuff – plastic and foil blister packs which can’t be recycled.

So let me get my disclaimer out of the way.

I’m not a Doctor, none of this constitutes medical advice and if you’ve been prescribed medication by your Doctor for a condition you go right ahead and take it.

And don’t give a second thought to the packaging.

But if you’ve got a mild, annoying ailment that you might buy over-the-counter remedy for, there might just be a zero waste alternative.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a huge fan of nature. Just about everything we could ever need comes from nature in one form or another.

Many conventional medications have their, erm, roots in plants…

Aspirin comes from the bark of the white willow, morphine is derived from opium, the leaves of the English yew tree are used to treat breast cancer and a compound derived from daffodil bulbs is being used to treat alzheimers.

And I’m sure your Grandmother had a trick or two up her sleeve to soothe your childhood ills.

I remember mine rubbing butter onto bruises and giving me a teaspoon of honey for a sore throat.


Over on her site, Mommy Emu shares a brilliant and soothing recipe for fighting colds and flu which will give Lemsip a run for its money.

It uses powerful remedies such as lemons, honey, ginger, cayenne and cinnamon.

Check out her Homemade lemon and ginger tea.


Meanwhile, on Lazy Girl Goes Green, Trudi shares 5 natural remedies for colds.

Would you believe yoga, a DIY head massage and getting hot and steamy feature?!


I sometimes get headaches from spending too long at the computer.

The first thing to check is whether you’re dehydrated.

If you’re not drinking a litre and a half of water a day you probably are!

Then have a move around because it might be a simple case of muscle tension. A few neck rolls and a five minute stroll in the fresh air should move it.

If the headache is stubborn trying burning some essential oils on your desk – a drop each of rosemary and lavender can work wonders.

Nausea and indigestion

Have you ever wondered why you’re served an after dinner mint when you go out for a meal?

It’s because mint is one of the best herbs for your digestion!

If you’re feeling nauseous (and it’s not due to pregnancy) or have indigestion a cup of mint tea should help settle your stomach.

Grab a few leaves from the garden, pop them in a mug, top up with boiling water and leave for ten minutes before straining. Drink when cool.

If you’re pregnant, it’s safer to replace the mint with a small piece of grated ginger.



Got a blocked nose due to hayfever or the tail end of a cold?

Mint is your friend again!

Grab a few mint leaves, pop them in a bowl of boiling water, put a towel over your head and inhale the vapours.

You’ll be breathing more easily in no time.

If your sinuses are blocked then a drop of eucalyptus added to the water will help (but close your eyes otherwise it can sting a bit!)

Sore throat

I mentioned being given a teaspoon of honey to soothe a sore throat (it’s what lockets have at their centre!)

Another fantastic remedy is sage!

Take a leaf of sage, seep it in boiling water until the water has cooled then strain.

Use this sage infusion to gargle with – it works like magic!

And ladies; sage is a fantastic remedy for hot flushes πŸ˜‰


What about you? What minor ailments do you treat successfully without ending up with medication packaging?

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (9)

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  1. Grand to see a waste post querying all those blister packets! Lord knows there is a place for medicines and believe me, I wouldn’t be without my plastic clad Epipen. But medication seems to have gone the way of many areas in life: it is has become highly commoditised, highly branded and in many cases unnecessary.

    I remember when I was child, sipping teas and rubbing leaves on sprains but also the chemist’s being an intriguing place full of coloured bottles we rarely visited. If the doctor did prescribe something, tablets would be counted out of a large glass bottle and popped into a smaller glass one or a little box folded then and there. Creams were rare as witch hazel and calamine seemed to cover most things but on the few occasions we needed cream, the pharmacist spooned some out of a large canister and put it in a glass jar that we returned… The only things that came in blisters were suppositories and the less said about them the better!

    This might sound like a scene out of the 30s or 50s but it was ONLY 20-25 years ago… Shocking how much unnecessary waste has been created in my half life!

  2. Hugh Counsell-Williams says:

    A helpful article about minor ailments – thank you! The amount of waste generated by medication packaging must be huge; is there a campaigning organisation attempting to make big pharma behave in a more responsible way?

    • Mrs Green says:

      Thanks Hugh; glad you enjoyed it. I’m not aware of a campaign – let me know if you come across anything πŸ™‚

  3. jadwriter says:

    I have lots of prescription drugs for my health problems. I try to peel off as much foil as I can and put the bits into an empty tablet box. Unfortunately, I have to throw away the plastic remainder of it all.

  4. Philippa says:

    It is pharmaceutical companies who sell their products in plasticised foil covered cardboard tubes. (toothpaste), and glass bottles with unremoveable plastic tops. There are NO recycling instructions on any of it and NO identification of the components of the product. The green dot means NOTHING in the UK.

    Why do they feel that packaging regulations don’t have anything to do with them?

    Like everyone else they should be more accountable for their waste.

    • Mrs Green says:

      Hi Philippa, I agree we all need to work together and manufacturers should have packaging regulations. I’d like to see something along the lines of ‘If we can’t recycle the packaging easily then it shouldn’t be made’ πŸ™‚

      • Philippa says:

        Me too. I don’t see why most (or any?) of this stuff needs the foil or the packet. We’re told we can ‘t recycle wrapping paper because some of it is plastic foil. What’s the difference?.

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