Home remedies, common cures, traditional medicine, indigenous or folk medicine, comprises medical aspects of traditional knowledge, which developed over time and generations within many societies well before the modern era of medicine. The sum total of knowledge, skills, and practices based on the theories, beliefs, and experiences indigenous to different cultures, whether explicable or not, used in treatment or improvement of physical and mental illness is a definition of traditional medicine by The World Health Organization (WHO). Here Tina Donvito and Jennifer McCaffery, Reader's Digest, reflects on medical experts choices of common cures to rediscover:
Salt water for a sore throat
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“Salt doesn’t just make food taste good—it’s extremely useful around the house for a variety of purposes, one of which is an old-fashioned remedy to soothe a sore throat. “Gargling with salt water when you have a sore throat may help relieve some of the pain and irritation,” says Dan McGee, MD, a pediatric hospitalist at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. “But don’t overdo it—one teaspoon of salt in eight ounces of water should do it.” And be sure not to swallow it—yuck! Studies have shown gargling to be effective, but if the symptoms persist, see your doctor to make sure you don’t have an infection.
Ginger for nausea
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Ginger has been used for hundreds of years for its medicinal properties, including helping to calm tummy troubles. “Research has found ginger to be an effective digestive aid most notably by helping to alleviate nausea due to morning sickness during pregnancy, motion sickness or chemotherapy,” says registered dietitian Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, author of Belly Fat for Dummies. “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 ginger obstructing the serotonin receptors in the gut that cause nausea.” It also may prompt the body release enzymes that help break down food, she says.
Cool tea for eye bags
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Tea has tons of benefits for both inside and outside your body, such as helping calm puffy eyes, which your grandmother probably knew. “The caffeine in the tea bags helps with vasoconstriction, or shrinking of the blood vessels, around the eyes, leading to less puffiness or swelling skin,” says dermatologist Purvisha Patel, MD, creator of Visha Skin Care. “The cool temperature also helps decrease inflammation and swelling under the eyes.” Simply wring out wet tea bags, place in the fridge for a bit, and then put over eyes. Some studies have even shown the caffeine in tea applied topically can also act as sunscreen and help prevent skin cancer.
Prunes for constipation
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When you just can’t go, try a home remedy for constipation like prunes. They sound gross—probably why the California Prune Board got them renamed as “dried plums”—but if they were good enough for Grandma, they’re good enough for us. “A high fiber diet, along with adequate fluid, can be effective at helping to alleviate constipation,” Palinski-Wade says. “Prunes are an all-natural source of fiber, with three grams of fiber per serving and only 100 calories, making them an easy way to boost the fiber content of your meal plan.”
Oatmeal bath for skin ailments
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If you suffer from skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis, or even just have run-of-the-mill dry skin, home remedies may help. Although it sounds weird to bathe in something you might eat, old-fashioned oatmeal baths can be very soothing—they’re even recommended by the National Eczema Association. “Oatmeal baths are great for dry, itchy skin,” Dr. Patel says. “Oatmeal, when soaked in warm water, creates a slimy film that coats the skin to protect it and trap in moisture.” Grind up rolled oats (not the instant variety) and pour into a warm, but not hot, bath. Pat dry instead of rubbing when you get out.
Cranberry juice for UTIs
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At the first signs of a urinary tract infection, your mother probably drank cranberry juice. But can a fruit really stave off a bacterial infection? Although some experts theorize that it’s really just the flushing out of the urinary tract by drinking a lot of fluid, or that the acidic environment isn’t hospitable to bacteria, there may be more to it. “Cranberry has been shown to reduce how well the bacteria stick to the lining cells of the bladder,” says Diana Bitner, MD, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Spectrum Health, although studies in women with recurrent infections have been inconsistent. Even so, “cranberry is unlikely to cause harm, might reduce bladder infections, and could be used in conjunction with other strategies your health care provider recommends,” Dr. Bitner says. Look out for these 12 home remedies that are actually more harmful than beneficial.
Aloe for burns
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You may think of aloe for sunburn relief, but the ancient treatment can also be used for other types of burns as well. One study demonstrated the effectiveness of aloe over other treatments for second-degree burns. “Aloe is a very soothing remedy for burns,” Dr. Patel says. “It is a gel derived from the aloe vera plant that contains-anti inflammatory agents that can help with burns.” Make sure you use pure aloe and not a fragranced version, and test it out first to make sure you’re not allergic. For serious burns, though, you should still see a doctor.
Chicken soup for colds
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Even in these days of take-out food, there’s nothing like a bowl of Grandma’s chicken soup when you’re sick—and it turns out, the chicken soup remedy is backed by science. “Chicken soup works for me,” Dr. McGee says. “On top of it making me want to watch cartoons and take a nap, there is actually a small amount of prostaglandins in chicken soup that can help fight infections.” The landmark study on chicken soup showed that the nourishing food might have an anti-inflammatory effect, which later research backed up. Check out these 8 popular old wives’ tales that are false—and 3 you should be paying attention to.
Cod liver oil for inflammation
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Old-time remedies like cod liver oil can naturally help the pain of arthritis. Plus, this fish oil has other health benefits. “This oil, extracted from cod fish, provides a rich source of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids, which are the primary omega-3s you need to support heart health, brain health, eye health and maternal health,” Palinski-Wade says. “One study found that cod liver oil reduced inflammatory markers in insulin-resistant individuals.” If you’re squeamish about the oil itself, try fish oil supplements.
Baking soda for whiter teeth
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Forget those whitening strips—there are natural teeth cleaning methods that can whiten teeth. Try using baking soda, which is probably what your grandmother brushed her teeth with and has been shown in studies to benefit teeth. “You can whiten your teeth with making a paste out of baking soda and a little water,” Dr. Rosen says. “Put some baking soda in a small dish, then add a little water, which will form a thick paste.” Then dip a toothbrush in it and brush. The abrasiveness will remove plaque and whiten the teeth, she says. But “you want to be careful and not overuse this method due to the abrasiveness of the baking soda,” Dr. Rosen says. “Too much can hurt the enamel or the gum tissue.”
Ground flaxseed for constipation
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“It’s almost as if nature tailor-made ground flaxseed to relieve constipation,” says Will Bulsiewicz, MD, a gastroenterologist in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. “It is a great source of both insoluble and soluble fiber, 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 fiber-rich diet.”
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