Monday, November 14, 2011

Home Remedies That Work

I find it amusing that one of the headline articles at AARP today is Grandma Was Right: These Home Remedies Work - 10 Home Remedies That Work, as if it is a surprise that our grandparents might have known a thing or two about how to ease a cold or cure a headache without reaching for the drug cabinet.

What does surprise me is what they then go on to suggest.

Liquid Dish Soap for poison ivy?
Baby Shampoo for cleaning eyelids?
Menthol Rub.... Witch Hazel...

Well, okay, witch hazel could be considered a old natural remedy I suppose, but still, when I think natural home remedies that work, I think in terms of chicken soup for a cold and warm salt water for a sore throat.


If we are going to talk about home remedies that grandma was right about, I do not think we should be talking in terms of shampoo and dish soap. When I think of home remedies that my mom told me about, I don't think of those sorts of products. I'm not sure how many she learned from her mom, but they could have easily been passed down by my grandmother's generation and her grandmother's generation.

So, here are a few home remedies that work (at least for me) that are good old fashioned "Grandma's Home Remedies."

1. Warm Salt Water for Sore Throats
To one cup of warm water add one teaspoon of salt, gargle until water is gone - try not to swallow, it tastes nasty. Repeat three times a day.
I got this recipe from a military doctor at Fairchild Air Force Base just outside of Spokane, Washington. My parents took me there in the 1980's when I had tonsillitis and the doctor told me that he could do one of two things. He could remove my tonsils, or he could do the three second cure with a skewer stick. I knew we couldn't afford me being in a hospital for removing them, so I opted for the quick cure. He jabbed my tonsils and sent me home to eat ice cream with instructions to gargle with warm salt water, explaining it would help better than any pills he might prescribe and worked for any sore throat. He was right. And in an article on cold remedies the Mayo Clinic agrees, use salt water for sore throats.

2. Chicken Soup for Colds
While it might seem more like a comfort food for someone that feels miserable with a cold, there has actually been research into the ability of chicken soup to cure the common cold. It is even suggested by the Mayo Clinic as a cold remedy. There is an amino acid called Cysteine that is found in it that helps to reduce mucus and thereby relieves some of the misery of the common cold. Sure there are other ways to do this, but when miserable is it not just as comforting to huddle in a chair in a fluffy quilt and slowly sip chicken noodle soup from a spoon?
Vegetables can be added to the soup, and do tend to have some healing qualities of their own, but are not actually necessary for the healing qualities to be gained from chicken soup. See this student paper on the common cold for more about how chicken soup really does help ease symptoms. And the good news - it does not have to be home made if you are not feeling up to that. Campbell's soup seems to work just as well as home made for making you feel better when you have a cold.

3. Cloves Ease Toothache Pain
Whenever someone had a toothache my mom would recommend they place a whole clove in their mouth along the gums between the lip and the painful tooth. Clove oil is known to reduce the pain of toothaches when applied to the area with a Q-Tip, although it is advised not to be used in large quantities (who would??) because it can cause liver damage in large quantities. The whole clove trick works to numb the gums where the pain is until the person can get to a dentist for proper treatment.

4. Mud For Nettle Sting
It might seem weird, even yucky, but when I was a little girl my mom told me to put fresh creek mud onto my arm whenever I ended up straying into the stinging nettles. It worked. I'm not sure what it was, the psychological effect, or the coolness of the mud, or whatever, but it would ease the sting feel of the stinging nettles. Note that I never tried it on poison ivy or oak, only on stinging nettle, so I don't know what all it would work for, but for me, clean mud from a flowing stream worked for stinging nettle.

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