The Medicine Cabinet


I was always fascinated by my grandmother's medicine cabinet.  It was full of strange-smelling  potions in mysterious glass bottles of all shapes and sizes.  Anytime I came to her with a cut or scrape, she'd look at it and say "We'd better put some merthiolate on that" and we'd head to the tall medicine chest standing in a corner of the bathroom.  As soon as she opened the double-doors, the smell of iodine would waft through the room.  I still get nostalgic at that smell, something that baffles most rational people who find it objectionable.

At that time, merthiolate was the go-to remedy for anything that might get infected.  It burned like the dickens and after my first few experiences with it, I usually chose to keep my wounds to myself and risk infection.  Both merthiolate and mercurochrome (it's less painful counterpart) were made from mercury and widely used at the time as topical antiseptics.  Merthiolate goes by the name Thermerisol these days and is used as a preservative in vaccines.

The medicine cabinets of yesterday were nothing like the shallow little boxes we hide behind a mirror today.  Doctors were few and far between and the medicine cabinet was often the only resource our grandmothers had for taking care of sick or hurt family members.  The one I remember was well over six feet tall with shelves and drawers behind heavy double doors.  It was chock-full of a variety of liniments and tinctures, tiny pills, and tall glass bottles with long glass droppers in them.  She had various metal tools, several types of scissors and tweezers and an evil-looking tool that looked like a cross between scissors and clippers.  Many of the things in there looked older than she was and it wouldn't surprise me to learn that they once belonged to her mother or grandmother.

Our medicine cabinet is just as important and building it up (and maintaining it) should be a priority.
Even if you live next door to an urgent care clinic, if the power is out, or if your town is buried under two feet of snow as mine is right now, there could be times when you can't get to a doctor or a pharmacy.  Having a fully stocked medicine cabinet just in case is just plain smart.

Like the other focus areas, building up a medicine cabinet can get expensive if you try to do it all it once.  But using the need one buy two process, it can come together without breaking your budget.  So if you need one box of bandaids, buy two.

You'll quickly outgrow the tiny medicine cabinet hanging on your bathroom wall, but there's no law that says all your supplies have to be in the bathroom.  You could use one of the large plastic totes and keep it in a bedroom closet or the three-drawer plastic roll-arounds are handy.  Mine has grown to fill a full-sized chest of drawers.  Use whatever works best for you.

The contents of your medicine cabinet need to be suited to your family, but there are some staple items that make sense for everyone to include.  We'll focus on one of those staples each month and talk about what it is, how to use it, where to get it and how to store it.  I'll list it on the monthly feature page and include it here as well.  The montly features are by no means everything you need, so feel free to leave a comment below and tell us what you're stocking in your medicine cabinet.



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