Old-time home remedies that actually work
Researchers have produced hundreds of studies in the past five years about the effectiveness of home remedies, but not all the old-time solutions really help. That’s why this list focuses on treatments with evidence to back them up. Remember that even natural cures can interact with medications. If you take pills regularly or have a chronic health condition, check with your doctor before trying these.
Buttermilk for age spots
You can skip the expensive skin creams. This rich by-product of butter contains lactic acid and ascorbic acid. One study showed that this combination lightened age spots more effectively than lactic acid alone. Apply to the spots with a cotton ball, then rinse with water after 20 minutes.
Comfrey for back pain
This medicinal plant has been used for centuries to treat joint and muscle pain. A study of 215 patients found that applying concentrated comfrey cream to the lower and upper back reduced muscle pain. You can buy it in health food stores and online.
Aloe for burns
“Aloe is a very soothing remedy for burns,” says dermatologist, Dr Purvisha Patel. One study demonstrated it was more effective than other treatments for second-degree burns. Make sure you use pure aloe, not a scented version. If you own an aloe plant, simply cut open a leaf and apply the liquid directly to the affected area. For serious burns, you should still see a doctor.
Ground flaxseed for constipation
“It’s almost as if nature tailor-made ground flaxseed to relieve constipation,” says gastroenterologist Dr Will Bulsiewicz. “It is a great source of both insoluble and soluble fibre, which add bulk to the stool and promote the growth of good bacteria.” Ground flaxseed is an excellent source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to help soften stool and relieve constipation. Aim for two to three tablespoons a day as part of a fibre-rich diet.
Thyme tea for coughs
Thyme is a natural expectorant that relaxes the respiratory tract and loosens mucus. Studies have found that using thyme in combination with primrose or ivy relieves the frequency and duration of coughs. To make thyme tea, place two tablespoons of fresh thyme (or one tablespoon dried) in a cup of hot water. Allow it to steep, then drain out the herb. Add honey to taste.
Blackberry tea for diarrhoea
Blackberries are rich in tannins, substances that can tighten mucous membranes in the intestinal tract. They have long been used as a treatment for diarrhoea. Make blackberry tea by boiling one or two tablespoons of fresh or frozen blackberries or dried blackberry leaves in one and a half cups of water for 10 minutes, then strain. Drink several cups a day. You can also buy blackberry tea, but make sure that it contains blackberry leaves and not just flavouring.
Lavender oil for foot odour
Lavender essential oil not only smells good but also has antibacterial properties that help kill germs. Before bed, rub a few drops of oil onto your feet and massage it in. Pull on a pair of socks to protect your sheets.
Globe artichoke extract for GORD and heartburn
Compounds in artichoke leaves called caffeoylquinic acids stimulate the release of bile from the gallbladder, which helps relieve nausea, gas, bloating, and other symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GORD) and heartburn. Since the leaves are mostly inedible, look for artichoke extract capsules in health food stores or online.
Cherries for gout
People who ate about 20 cherries every day were less likely to experience flare-ups of gout, according to a study of 633 patients with the condition. Cherries contain compounds that help neutralise uric acid.
Peppermint oil for headaches
Peppermint essential oil cools the skin, numbing the pain of a tension headache as well as acetaminophen does, according to two small studies. Mix a few drops with olive oil to prevent skin irritation, then gently massage onto your forehead and temples.
Sugar for hiccups
A spoonful of sugar doesn’t just help the medicine go down – when it comes to hiccups (contractions of the diaphragm), it is the medicine. “Eating the grainy sugar crystals forces you to swallow harder than normal, and this resets your diaphragm” to stop the spasms, says nutritionist, Claire Martin.
Fennel for indigestion
Those tiny seeds that you often see in bowls at Indian restaurants are fennel. They contain carminative agents, which help expel gas from the intestinal tract. Chew a pinch of fennel to help prevent after-dinner belching.
Valerian for insomnia
Valerian, an herb, helps people fall asleep faster without the ‘hangover’ effect of some sleeping pills. It binds to the same receptors in the brain that tranquilisers such as Valium do. Take one half to one teaspoon of valerian tincture or two valerian root capsules 30 minutes before bed.
Lemon juice for kidney stones
The most common type of kidney stone occurs when oxalate – a compound found in foods such as spinach, bran, and French fries – builds up in urine and ‘sticks’ to calcium, forming crystals. Drinking at least 120ml of lemon juice per day could help, researchers say, as citric acid can prevent the crystallisation of calcium and oxalate that creates these stones.
Avocado for razor burn
Avocado is rich with vitamins and oils that soften and hydrate skin to relieve the tenderness of razor burn. Apply mashed fruit or avocado oil directly to the irritated skin.
Clove oil for tooth and gum pain
“Oil of cloves can sometimes soothe an inflamed tooth,” says dentist, Dr Saul Pressner. Clove oil has bacteria-slaying properties and also a numbing effect. Mix a few drops with olive oil to avoid irritation, then swish it in your mouth.
Cranberry juice for urinary tract infections
A study of 373 women with a history of urinary tract infections (UTIs) showed that those who drank a glass of cranberry juice daily had a 40 per cent reduction in the number of UTIs compared with those who drank a placebo. While other studies have been mixed about the effect of cranberry juice on UTIs, scientists think a compound in cranberry juice can prevent bacteria from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract.
Cod liver oil for vision problems
This oil is a rich source of omega-3 fats, which increase blood flow to the eyes and decrease the risk of developing glaucoma and possibly macular degeneration. Take one teaspoon daily.
Duct tape for warts
Although doctors aren’t sure why it works, one study found that putting duct tape on warts and replacing it every six days was 25 per cent more effective than freezing them – and much cheaper.
Honey for wounds
Since ancient Egyptian times, people have used honey as a salve for wounds. Pure honey contains the enzyme glucose oxidase, which causes a chemical reaction that releases hydrogen peroxide, an antiseptic. Honeys range widely in their antibacterial potency, however. For best results, scientists recommend manuka honey, from New Zealand, which contains an additional compound that increases its effectiveness. Apply honey directly to a wound every 12 to 24 hours and cover it with sterile gauze.
Written by Jen McCaffery and Tina Donvito.
This article was originally published on Reader's Digest.
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