Saturday, April 09, 2005

Presenting...The top 20 home remedies

For more than 25 years, Joe and Teresa Graedon have provided lifesaving medical advice and health commentary through their King Features nationally syndicated newspaper column, "The People's Pharmacy," and their radio show. Here are their top 20 home remedies.

Hot Water for Itches
Moderate itching (the sort you get from a mosquito bite or mild case of poison ivy without blisters) often responds to a hot water application. The water needs to be hot enough to be slightly uncomfortable but not so hot it burns (120-130 degrees Fahrenheit). If you let the hot-water tap run for a few minutes, this should be about right. A few seconds' exposure is all you need to produce several hours of relief.

Vinegar for Fungus
An otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist) recommended rinsing the ear with the following solution: one part vinegar to five parts tepid water. He suggested using a rubber ear bulb three times a day.

Toenail fungus can be unsightly. Try soaking the infected nails for at least 15 to 30 minutes daily. The recipe: one part vinegar to two parts warm water. Allow six weeks to see a cure. This one worked for Joe!

Fennel for Flatulence
A physician's wife wrote to tell us that her husband's serious gas problem was solved when he followed this advice from a Hungarian masseuse: one tablespoon of flax-seed powder in a glass of juice twice a day, along with two capsules of fennel seed two or three times a day. Others have reported good results after taking a cup of fennel seed tea two or three times daily. Crush a teaspoon of fennel seeds slightly before pouring the boiling water over them.

Aspartame for Arthritis
A scientist noticed that when he got up out of his chair after watching a football game, his arthritis pain was greatly diminished. During the course of the game he had consumed a six-pack of diet soda containing aspartame. He thought this artificial sweetener might have contributed to his relief. He organized a placebo-controlled trial involving aspartame (aka Equal, Nutrasweet) and confirmed that doses of 52 to 152 milligrams did indeed provide pain relief, roughly comparable to anti-inflammatory agents.

Ginger Tea for Colds
Grind about half an inch of fresh ginger into a paste and place in a mug. Add boiling water and let "steep" for several minutes. Strain the clear liquid into another mug, sweeten and sip. We find our symptoms start to subside within about 20 minutes. We do this in the morning and evening and find our cold is usually getting better by the second day.

Aromatherapy for Hair Loss
Scottish dermatologists, writing in the Archives of Dermatology, stated in 1998 that "cedarwood, lavender, thyme and rosemary oils have hair-growth-promoting properties." Patients were enrolled in a random, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. One group received the following recipe: "thyme vulgaris (2 drops, 88 milligrams), lavandula angustifolia (3 drops, 108 milligrams), rosmarinus officinalis (3 drops, 114 milligrams) and cedrus atlantica (2 drops, 94 milligrams). These oils were mixed in a carrier oil, which was a combination of jojoba (3 milliliters) and grapeseed (20 millilters) oils. The oils were massaged into the scalp for a minimum of two minutes. A warm towel was then wrapped around the head to aid absorption of the oils. Patients were advised to use this technique every night." The results were impressive. Of those who applied aromatherapy, 44% had improvement compared to 15% in the control group.

Purple Pectin for Pain
Look for Certo in the canning section of your local grocery. It contains pectin, a natural ingredient found in the cell walls of plants. It is used as a thickening agent when making jams and jellies. There are two recipes: Take two teaspoons of Certo in 3 ounces of grape juice three times a day. As the pain disappears, this can be reduced to one teaspoon in juice twice a day. An alternate approach is to use one tablespoon of Certo in 8 ounces of grape juice once daily.

Coffee for Asthma
If you are caught without medicine, a couple of cups of strong coffee may help open airways. We've heard from a young woman who forgot to take her asthma medicine with her on her honeymoon. A walk on the beach left her wheezing, but she remembered this remedy and it saved the day.

More recently, we heard from someone who was stuck at 30,000 feet on an airplane. The asthma medicine was packed in a carry-on bag that had been checked by the flight attendant. Coffee again came to the rescue. Two or three cups can provide benefit on a short-term basis. Caffeine is very similar to a tried-and-true asthma medicine, theophylline.

Wart Plaster for Splinters
Russell Copelan, M.D., wrote this one up in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. He suggests a tiny piece of salicylic acid plaster (the kind used to treat warts) over a small splinter for 12 hours. Within a few days the splinter should have worked its way out or you can easily remove it.

Gin-Soaked Raisins for Arthritis
We don't know why it works but many readers swear this remedy relieves arthritis pain. Ingredients: golden raisins and gin. Empty the raisins into a bowl and pour in just enough gin to cover the raisins. Allow the gin to evaporate (about one week) and then place the moist raisins in a jar with a lid. Eat nine raisins a day. They go well on cereal!

Corn Huskers for Slippery Sex
Vaginal dryness is a common problem after menopause or certain cancer treatments. Finding an acceptable sexual lubricant can be a challenge. We heard from one couple who used an old-fashioned moisturizing hand lotion called Corn Huskers for 25 years. They said it is slippery but not greasy and stays where you put it. Corn Huskers contains guar gum and algin as well as glycerin, an ingredient also found in personal lubricants such as Replens, Astroglide, Maxilube or K-Y Jelly.

Tagamet for Warts
We consider this a "home remedy" because it is a novel use for this popular heartburn medicine. One study found that more than 80% of treated patients had a significant response, though it did take six to eight weeks to see improvement. The dose was 30 milligrams a day. Other studies have not had such success. Flat warts seem to respond better than raised ones. How Tagamet might work remains elusive, though one theory proposes that the drug modifies the immune system so the body attacks the ­virus that causes warts.

Valerian for Stage Fright
Anyone who has ever had to give a talk in front of a large audience knows that anxiety can be paralyzing. One woman had to give up a career as a musician because her stage fright was incapacitating. Even after years of therapy and the use of relaxation techniques, she was unable to perform in public. On her own she discovered the value of valerian. She takes it the evening before an engagement so she can sleep, and then takes a "booster" dose accompanied by 15 minutes of meditation just before she plays.

Vaseline for Lice
In recent years, lice have seemingly become resistant to usual over-the-counter lice shampoos. One mother wrote that a pediatric dermatologist, Neil Prose at Duke University Medical Center, suggested smearing the hair and scalp with petroleum jelly at bedtime, covering the head with a shower cap and removing the Vaseline in the morning. The lice were gone, but removing the Vaseline is easier said than done! We were inundated with complaints from parents upset about the difficulty of this chore. Suggestions for removal have ranged from Dawn dishwashing liquid to Wisk laundry detergent to cornstarch and Goop (used by auto mechanics to clean hands).

Black Pepper for Cuts
Thanks for this contribution to Wendall Dean, a woodcarver and scroller. His carving buddies always keep a packet of black pepper on hand for times when they cut their fingers or hands on sharp tools. You may want to keep some black pepper handy in the kitchen and take a packet of pepper on your next camping trip. Not only does the bleeding stop quickly, the wound heals cleanly with little scarring.

Archway Coconut Macaroon Cookies for Diarrhea
Donald Agar had suffered from Crohn's disease for many years. The diarrhea was a constant problem. By accident, he discovered that Archway coconut macaroon cookies helped control the diarrhea better than any medicine he had taken. Lots of people have written to tell us they have tried eating coconut macaroons to stop diarrhea with great success.

Tea for Sweaty Palms and Soles
Sweaty hands can be embarrassing and sweaty feet can lead to foot odor and increase the risk of athlete's foot. One dermatologist we consulted offered the following home remedy: Boil five tea bags in a quart of water for five minutes. When the solution cools, soak your hands for 20 to 30 minutes nightly. Tea contains tannic acid, which is also found in commercial products such as Ivy Dry, Zilactol and Zilactin.

Meat Tenderizer and Vinegar for Stings
Mix one quarter of a teaspoonful of tenderizer with a teaspoon of water to make a paste. Smearing this on a bee or wasp sting relieves the pain. A variation was suggested by a lifeguard in Hawaii who had to deal with insect and jellyfish stings. He used a paste of meat tenderizer and vinegar and claimed it was magical.

Bag Balm for Dry Skin
A farmer's wife wrote to tell us there was nothing better for dry, red, cracked hands. Since then we've heard from many enthusiasts, some who maintain that this bovine beauty aid keeps their skin looking great. Knitters and quilters claim that Bag Balm or a similar product, Udder Cream, are indispensable to keep hands from snagging on yarn or thread and speed healing of needle pricks.


Blogger jon said...

Looking at asthma symptom info online today while my son coughs I came across this post. Does anyone know a good asthma symptom site to help?


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