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How To Survive Indefinitely Without Modern Medicine

How To Survive Indefinitely Without Modern MedicineRecently on Off The Grid News I discussed an alternative strategy for long-term survival if society ends as we know it — returning to a 19th century lifestyle. Instead of relying on modern resources like generators or pumps, with their need for fuel, lubricants, spare parts, and preventive maintenance, I proposed a simpler approach. This was focused on living in areas with readily available surface water and adequate wood for cooking and warmth.

This is the second article in the series about meeting the challenges of living an 1800s lifestyle in order to survive if society ends as we know it. This article focuses on medical treatment and prevention, a challenge that must be planned and prepared for, because when society ends – a nationwide blackout, for instance — all the access to doctors and modern medicine may be gone for a very long time. If you develop a serious infection, break your leg, or get shot repelling an intruder, the mirror is the best place to look for help.

The strategy consists of several steps:

1. Address Current Health Concerns

Many of us are on medications. We need to plan how to go without to the extent we can do that. In some cases, there is no way to go without. If you have type 1 diabetes and require insulin or need dialysis for a kidney, the 19th century approach is not for you. This reflects the powerful reality that modern medicine, though much maligned, has saved countless lives.

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Many people, however, can take positive steps to reduce or eliminate some of their medications. Of course, don’t do this without talking to your doctor!

A lot of health conditions can be improved without medicine. For example, one of my friends was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Before she knew it, she had been prescribed two drugs to reduce glucose levels and another for blood pressure. However, through a strict diet and exercise regimen, she was able to lose enough weight to reduce her glucose levels and blood pressure. She didn’t “cure” the diabetes, but she got her glucose level and blood pressure down to more acceptable levels. If she can maintain this, she may not need the prescribed drugs for years.

Losing weight not only can slow the onset of type 2 diabetes, in can prevent other health conditions as well, such as heart disease and cancer. In other words, good habits now can prevent future health conditions that may suddenly debilitate you in a future without modern health care.

On a similar note, if you have a medical condition that can be corrected but is not yet serious enough for immediate attention, reconsider. For example, if you have poor eyesight that laser surgery can repair, or a failing knee joint that can be replaced, talk to you doctor about doing it sooner rather than later.

2. Look into Alternatives to Modern Medicines

Humans existed for thousands of years without modern drugs. There is no doubt that if society ends as we know it, many will die from lack of access to them. I do not advocate turning our backs on modern medicine, but in the future the supply may not exist. Therefore, it’s worth considering some herbal remedies that have largely fallen by the wayside since the middle of the 20th century.

Image source: Blisstree

Image source: Blisstree

Off The Grid News already has several informative articles on herbal remedies, including advice on natural remedies for headaches, respiratory ailments and allergies. It’s all great advice, and I want to review the advanced techniques for using herbs and flowers as remedies. I’m assuming that you already have a self-sustaining garden and are already growing or easily can begin to grow the herbs and flowers necessary for herbal remedies. If not, search Off The Grid News for “herbal remedies” or “herbs” and you’ll get all the necessary information about what should be growing in your garden.

Once you have the herbs and flowers, you need to prepare them properly to maximize effectiveness. While basic teas are a good start, when modern medicine is gone you’ll need to step up your game with properly prepared infusions, decoctions, washes and tinctures. For all the details, I recommend a good book on herbal remedies, such as Herbal Antibiotics by Stephen Harrod Buhner.

Infusions and decoctions are basically highly concentrated teas. Tinctures are alcohol-based mixtures. Get a good supply of basic mixing equipment, tools, storage bottles and applicators. Set aside a dedicated area to prepare and store the remedies — and practice.

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Once you can make infusions, decoctions and tinctures, you have an arsenal against everything from the flu to a toothache, and more serious scenarios like infected wounds.

3. Get Advanced First Aid Training

Without comprehensive herbal remedy preparation, many common inconveniences today like colds, diarrhea and allergic reactions will make life downright miserable if society ends as we know it. However, more concerning is the envisioned increase in serious injuries due to the new reality of hardships: cuts from tools, broken bones from hard work or accidents, and gunshot wounds. The American Red Cross and others can provide advanced training to laypersons to bind wounds, set bones, and remove foreign objects. Get the training and get the supplies you’ll need to react in an emergency. While you can’t replace a doctor and a hospital, you may be able to save lives that would otherwise be lost.

4. Cheat a Little

The theme of this series of articles is to live a 19th century lifestyle. But pragmatism dictates common sense. Stockpile a vast array of modern medicines and medical supplies to help treat both foreseeable inconvenient maladies and life-threatening injuries. Pain medication and antibiotics should be at the top of the list. If you have prescription medicines, talk to your doctor about stockpiling some. Insurance companies won’t pay for it, but you may be able to get a supply that will last longer than the traditional 90 days.


Living a 19th century lifestyle is hard work, especially when it comes to medical treatment. It will take extensive time to create a self-sustaining herb and flower garden, gain experience preparing advanced herbal remedies, and get the advanced first aid training. But adequate preparation for medical issues is nearly as important as the fundamentals of water, food and shelter.

What types of alternative medicines would you recommend? Tell us in the section below: 

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