Honey to heal a wound. Cod-liver oil – blech! – to keep your eyes healthy. Your grandmother and her doctors probably swore by these fixes, and now science is catching up with them. 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 support those claims.
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. Let’s go from A to Z.
A. Age Spots TRY: Buttermilk
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.
B. Back Pain TRY: Comfrey
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.
C. Constipation TRY: Ground Flaxseed
It’s almost as if nature tailor-made ground flaxseed to relieve constipation. 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 stools. Aim for two to three tablespoons a day as part of a fibre-rich diet.
D. Diarrhoea TRY: Blackberry Tea
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 ten 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.
E. Eyestrain TRY: Cucumber
Lie on your back and place one cucumber slice (about a third of a centimetre thick) over each closed eye. Cucumbers contain antioxidants that studies have shown help decrease swelling and relieve pain. Replace the slices with a cooler pair every two or three minutes, for up to 15 minutes in total.
F. Foot Odour TRY: Lavender Oil
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. Wear socks to protect your sheets.
G. GERD and Heartburn TRY: Globe Artichoke Extract
Compounds in artichoke leaves called caffeoylquinic acids stimulate the release of bile from the gall bladder, which helps relieve nausea, gas, bloating, and other symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and heartburn, according to clinical studies. Since the leaves are mostly inedible, look for artichoke extract capsules in health food stores or online.
H. High Cholesterol TRY: Niacin
Studies show that taking niacin (vitamin B3) can lower LDL (or ‘bad’) cholesterol by 10 per cent and triglycerides by 25 per cent, and raise HDL.
I. Indigestion TRY: Fennel
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 afterdinner belching.
J. Joint Pain TRY: Green Tea
A potent antioxidant found in green tea called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) may ease the joint pain and inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis, according to a study in Arthritis and Rheumatology. Researchers suggest drinking two or three cups a day.
K. Kidney Stones TRY: Lemon Juice
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 half a cup (120 millilitres) of lemon juice per day could help, researchers say, as citric acid can prevent the crystallization of calcium and oxalate that creates these stones.
L. Lip Cracking TRY: Olive Oil
When you’ve got chapped lips, coat them with olive oil, a natural lubricant that will help soften and moisturise lips nicely.
M. Memory Lapses TRY: Sage
A study in healthy older adults found that taking sage leaf extract capsules improved word recall and memory.
Menopausal Symptoms TRY: Hypnotism
A study published in Menopause found that women who had five sessions of hypnosis per week experienced 74 per cent fewer hot flashes at the end of a 12-week study than did a control group. Even better, the women in the hypnosis group reported that the hot flashes they did have were less severe than before.
O. Osteoporosis TRY: Soy
A review of several studies conducted at the University of North Carolina, Asheville, found that people who ate foods rich in soy had healthier bones and a reduced risk of fractures.
N. Nausea TRY: Ginger
Ginger can help alleviate nausea caused by chemotherapy, morning sickness or motion sickness. Although we do not yet understand the exact method that allows ginger to be effective at reducing nausea, it is thought it may work by obstructing the serotonin receptors in the gut that cause it. It also may prompt the body to release enzymes that help break down food. Sip some ginger ale or tea, or chew some candied ginger root. are still trying to figure out which active compounds may account for the protective effect, but good sources of soy protein include soybeans, soy milk, miso, tempeh and tofu.
P. Psoriasis TRY: Capsaicin
Capsaicin is what gives cayenne its heat. Research has shown that applying capsaicin cream helps lessen the itching of psoriasis.
R. Razor Burn TRY: Avocado
Avocado is rich in 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. Or maybe butter ala Kramer in one of the Seinfeld episodes.
S. Sinusitis Eucalyptus TRY: Oil
Give your congested sinuses a steam treatment. Add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to a pot of water, boil and remove the pot from the stove. Drape a towel over your head, then lean forwards so it forms a tent over the pot. Keep your face about 50 centimetres above the water as you breathe deeply. As the vapour rises, it carries droplets of oil into your sinuses and loosens congestion. Studies show that the main ingredient in eucalyptus oil, cineole, can help people recover faster from acute sinusitis.
Sore Throat TRY: Horehound Tea
Horehound, a plant in the mint family, can reduce the swelling of inflamed throat tissue. It also thins mucus, helping you clear it from your throat. To make the tea, steep two teaspoons of the chopped fresh herb in one cup boiling water for ten minutes; strain and drink.
T. Tooth Pain TRY: Clove Oil
Oil of cloves can sometimes soothe an inflamed tooth. 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.
U. Urinary Tract Infection TRY: Cranberry Juice
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.
V. Varicose Veins TRY: Horse Chestnut
Some studies suggest horse chestnut seed extract may help improve blood vessel elasticity and strengthen the valves inside veins, thanks to an active ingredient called aescin. Take a 250-milligram pill of horse chestnut seed extract twice a day for three months to treat varicose veins.
W. Wounds TRY: Honey
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 medical-grade manuka honey, from New Zealand, which contains an extra compound that increases its effectiveness. Apply honey directly to a wound every 12 to 24 hours and cover it with sterile gauze.
W. Warts TRY: Duct Tape
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 with liquid nitrogen – and much cheaper.
Y. Yeast Infection TRY: Sea Salt
Sprinkle a cup of sea salt in a bath of warm water to relieve itching and pain.
Z. Zits TRY: Tea Tree Oil
In one study, a five per cent tea tree oil gel was as effective as a five per cent benzoyl peroxide lotion in limiting acne outbreaks – with fewer side effects.
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