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In the book The Complete Family Guide to Natural Home Remedies, co-author Karen Sullivan writes that every American family once had “a cornucopia of favorite home remedies — plants and household items that could be prepared to treat minor medical emergencies or to prevent a common ailment from becoming something much more serious.”
“Somewhere along the line, we began to believe that technology was in some way superior to what was natural, and so we willingly gave up control of even minor health problems.”
The advantages of these time-tested treatments for our daily aches and pains are that they contain ingredients we have on hand, saving time and money and avoiding the potential side effects of over-the-counter medications.
Here is a list of home remedies that used to be common knowledge. You’re likely to find many of the ingredients in your kitchen cabinet rather than your medicine cabinet.
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1. Soothe a sore throat
While it may not do wonders for your breath, garlic juice fights bacteria and soothes inflamed tissue. The next time someone in your family has a sore throat, try mixing five to six pressed garlic cloves into a glass of warm water to gargle with twice a day. This easy remedy has antimicrobial, antiviral, and antibiotic properties and packs a powerful antioxidant punch.
Another home cure for a sore throat is to add a dash of cinnamon, a small piece of fresh ginger, and one teaspoon of honey to boiling water. After the mixture has cooled, sip it slowly to ease throat discomfort.
Gargling with salt water is a time-tested remedy for a sore throat. Simply mix one teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm and gargle with it at least twice daily. It works to reduce swelling and to relieve pain.
Here are other natural treatments for a sore throat.
2. Ease nausea
Many pregnant women discover the benefits of ginger for relieving morning sickness. That’s because ginger contains compounds called gingerols and shogaols that help ease queasiness and general stomach upset.
To make a soothing tea, try steeping 1 to 2 grams of fresh gingerroot in boiling water. Do not take more than 4g of ginger per day, however, as it may irritate the stomach lining. This video demonstrates how to make soothing ginger tea.
3. Stop hiccups
Mary Poppins was on the right track with her spoonful of sugar song! When you swallow a teaspoon of sugar, the dry granules work to reset the irritated nerve that is causing the spasms of the diaphragm that cause hiccups. (Salt granules work the same way, but you know which choice you and your children will prefer.)
Another hiccup remedy is to chew dry bread. Here are more ways to get rid of hiccups, including how to know when you might need to see a doctor.
4. Calm a cough
Need an excuse to have chocolate in your pantry? Research shows that theobromine, a compound found in dark chocolate, can block the action of the sensory nerves that cause the coughing reflex. Another option to try to relieve a dry cough is to chew on some fresh basil leaves.
Making a simple honey and lemon tea is a time-honored way to ease a cough. However, the Mayo Clinic reports that taking a spoonful of honey can be just as effective. (Note that babies under the age of 12 months should not have honey.)
5. Help minor skin irritation
Olive oil helps ease the pain, irritation, and itching and speeds up the healing process for minor burns, insect bites, and other skin irritations.
All you need to do is gently apply a light layer of olive oil and leave the area uncovered while the skin absorbs the oil. Olive oil is gentle enough to use on baby’s sensitive skin. This article details how olive oil benefits the skin and shares how and when to use it.
Another option is to place a paste of baking soda and water on the affected area. Gently wash the paste off later with warm water.
6. Fight a cold
Vitamin C is well known for its cold-fighting power. However, instead of reaching for a drug store alternative, you can go to the natural source for this vitamin’s benefits.
For a soothing hot drink, squeeze the juice from one half of a lemon into a cup and then drop the peel and remaining pulp into the cup as well. Add boiling water and stir in a teaspoon of honey. As it cools, breathe in the steam to open your sinus passages. Then, sip the drink slowly.
Here are ways to harness the immunity benefits of Vitamin C with the foods you eat.
7. Get better sleep
Scientists have discovered that dark red cherries are a rich source of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycle. Cherries also provide antioxidants, Vitamins A and C, and fiber.
And, yes, if your grandmother suggested drinking a warm cup of milk at bedtime, she was on to something. Milk contains small amounts of tryptophan, a chemical that can help you relax after a long day.
8. Heal dry skin
Looking for a natural way to soothe and help heal dry skin? Place two to three cups of dry oatmeal in a clean, dry sock. Wrap a rubber band around the open end and then drop the sock into your warm bath. (Avoid hot water as it can cause further drying.) Soak for about 15 minutes. Researchers have found that avenanthramides in oats reduce skin irritation and have an antihistamine effect.
Here is a list of other DIY dry skin treatments.
9. Get rid of bad breath
Bacteria is often the cause of bad breath, and there are many natural foods that help kill these germs.
Here’s a home remedy to try. Gargle with a small cup of lemon juice to help kill bacteria that may be causing the odor. Then, follow that mouth rinse with a small serving of plain unsweetened yogurt. Yogurt is full of helpful lactobacillus bacteria, which will help to neutralize mouth odor.
Other natural treatments for bad breath listed in this article include the use of baking soda, pineapple, fennel, parsley, and other ingredients you have in your kitchen.
10. Ease a stomachache
Drinking peppermint tea or sucking on a piece of peppermint candy is a time-honored treatment of stomach upset.
Here’s a tea recipe that combines the healing properties of peppermint with the nourishment of carrots.
- Boil four cups of water with one teaspoon of dried peppermint leaves) or one peppermint teabag) and four sliced carrots.
- Lower the heat to medium and cook until the carrots are soft (about 15 minutes).
- Remove the teabag (if used) and blend the mixture in a blender until smooth.
- Add a pinch of ground ginger or a squeeze of lemon juice for flavor and antioxidants if you wish.
Here are a few other options for an upset stomach:
- Mix one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and one tablespoon of honey into one cup of warm water and sip slowly to ease indigestion and gas.
- Nibble on a handful of caraway seeds. Packed with vitamins and minerals, caraway seeds help to inhibit the growth of “bad” bacteria that cause indigestion or stomach bloating.
- Chew a few pieces of raw fennel to help reduce gas and reduce stomach cramping.
Also, cherries, raisins, apricots, and prunes (you’re sure to remember the acronym CRAP) are fiber-rich fruits that can help get your digestive system functioning as it should.
Here are more home remedies for a stomachache.
11. Reduce swelling
Many moms reach for an ice pack to reduce swelling after an injury, but there are other options for a more soothing relief.
Cucumbers can reduce swelling and puffiness of the skin. Just place cool, fresh cucumber slices anywhere your child has minor swelling to provide cooling relief. Replace with fresh slices after they become warm.
The tannins in black tea help reduce swelling and puffiness. Dip a black teabag in a cup of hot water for several minutes before cooling it in the refrigerator. Apply the damp bag as a compress to the affected area, including closed eyelids, for about 10 minutes.
12. Treat dandruff
Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician known as a pioneer of modern medicine, recommended apple cider vinegar for its many healing properties. You may not know it can be helpful in treating dandruff. To restore your scalp’s alkaline pH level, wash and rinse your hair and then pour a cup of apple cider vinegar on your scalp. Rinse well with water.
Americans spend more than $8 billion a year on over-the-counter cold and cough remedies alone, even though, according to an article in Harvard Health, many of them are ineffective.
Maybe it’s time to revisit some of the home remedies that have worked for generations. And don’t forget that drinking plenty of fresh water can help relieve a number of minor maladies from headaches to skin irritations and from indigestion to muscle pain.
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