Green Medicine Cabinet

Green Medicine Cabinet

by Dr. Trevor Cates

Medications and personal care products continue to show up in our nation’s water supply - from antidepressants, antibiotics and painkillers to hormones and cosmetics.  There is growing concern about the impact these substances have on plants, animals and humans.  It is time we pay attention to warning signs and start making steps to reduce contamination of our water supply and protect biodiversity.  

Americans swallow millions of doses of prescription drugs annually and researchers have determined these medications do not disappear harmlessly when they pass through the body but, instead, make their way back into the environment and our drinking water.  The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported in 2008 that 50% of Americans used one or more prescription drugs, and prescription drug use continues to rise.  Since medications enter the water when people excrete them or wash them down the drain, it is important that we be more aware of what we are putting into our bodies and, in turn, into the environment.

Sewage systems are not equipped for the removal or medications, so residues of these substances show up in our drinking water.  While human exposure to drugs through the water supply is minimal and below the medical dose, it seems careless to deny the possibilities, especially when you consider the cumulative effect over time and the possible interactions with other chemicals and medications.
Aquatic life have exposure to and subsequent bioaccumulation of the residues of medications and personal care products.  Hormone disrupting effects of these substances appear to be leading to changes such as fish with both sex characteristics, male fish carrying immature eggs, and female fish having difficulties being able to reproduce.

Will these effects lead to ecologic change?  More research is needed to determine the full extent of harm on plant, animal and human health.  In the meantime, we can start making a change by limiting prescription drug use, looking for more eco-friendly alternatives, and properly disposing of unused or expired medications.

Reduce Drugs in the Water Supply:

  • Do not flush prescription medications down the toilet or sink.

  • Drop off expired and un-usable prescription medicines at hazardous waste take-back sites or events.  Check with your county’s police department if you have difficulty finding a drop off location.

  • When medications are necessary, ask your doctor for a prescription with low environmental impact.

  • Request your doctor give low prescription amounts and refill options so you can avoid unused excess medications.

  • Encourage your doctor’s office to set up take-back for unused and expired drugs.

  • Look for lifestyle changes and natural therapies that reduce your need for medications.

Take some time to look in your medicine cabinet and see how you may be able to start making changes.  A green medicine cabinet containing natural remedies can help reduce contamination of our water supply and provide healthy options not only for you, but also for the environment.  

Dr. Cates’ Top 5 natural remedies for a green medicine cabinet:

1.      Arnica - homeopathic remedy for bumps, bruises, and sore muscles

2.      Calendula spray or salve – an antiseptic herb for minor cuts and scrapes. Choose an alcohol-free version for a non-burning, soothing effect.

3.      Rescue Remedy – a remedy containing 5 flower essences. It has a natural calming effect and promotes relaxation.

4.      Elderberry Syrup – an anti-viral liquid herbal supplement for sore throats, coughs and colds.

5.      Probiotics – a supplement containing beneficial, natural microorganisms to help
enhance immune function and digestion

Dr. Trevor Holly Cates received her medical degree from the National College of Natural Medicine. The first woman licensed as a naturopathic doctor in California, Dr. Cates now lives and practices in Park City, Utah where she sees patients from around the world as the Naturopathic Physician and Nutrition and Wellness Coordinator at the Golden Door Spa at the Waldorf Astoria Park City.  Dr. Cates is a primary care doctor with a holistic approach to medicine, using nutrition, homeopathy, herbal medicine, environmental medicine, and other natural therapies.  In addition to private practice, Dr. Cates was appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to California’s Bureau of Naturopathic Medicine Advisory Council.
You can also follow Dr. Cates on Facebook (Dr. Trevor Cates) and Twitter @drtcates for health tips, news and info and on her website at