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The Good, the Bad, and the Downright Dangerous: A Closer Look at Home Remedies

home remedynauseaheadachessupplementsHealth & Wellness • 3 min read • Oct 4, 2017 12:00:00 AM • Written by: Kat Smith

There are many conditions like hiccups, headaches, and nausea, for which almost everyone has a suggestion for treating. Some treatments are simple and make sense, while others may seem completely ridiculous—and, in fact, probably are. So, before you attempt a handstand to stop your hiccups or apply lemon oil to your hands to chase away a headache, it’s important to consider whether these home remedies are safe and effective. Let’s dive into some home remedies to explore what might be worth trying and what’s best left to old wives’ tales.

Which home remedies will actually work?

If you are on the fence about a home remedy, first ask yourself: “Is this a condition I should be treating at home?” Minor ailments like the a cold, an upset stomach, headaches, and skin infections are all relatively benign, and they typically don’t need the attention of a doctor in healthy individuals. Therefore, these conditions are more fit for home remedies than serious illnesses like cancer.

Remedies with familiar ingredients

The most effective and lowest-risk home remedies tend to be those that can be whipped up with ingredients you already have at home.

  • Vinegar – White vinegar has antibacterial properties, making it an ideal cleaning agent for the home as well as a suitable treatment for cuticle infections. Vinegar can also treat swimmer’s ear when mixed with equal parts distilled water and applied into the ear with an eyedropper.
  • Baking Soda – If you suffer from eczema, your skin may be more acidic than normal. You can neutralize the pH of your skin with a tablespoon of baking soda in your bathwater, which should be just warm enough to soothe the skin, not scalding hot.
  • Peppermint – Herbs are some of nature’s best healers, and peppermint is one that is particularly delightful to taste, so it may be what you reach for (likely in the form of a tea made from dry leaves) to fight indigestion or nausea. A whiff of peppermint oil can also be good for your health, since aromatherapy is effective for stress relief.
  • Ginger – Ginger is a tried and true treatment for nausea, often used to fight motion sickness without the tiring effects of medications like Dramamine.
  • Salt – Swishing salt water can be helpful if you have sores inside your mouth, and it may also reduce a cough caused by tonsillitis, since salt can dislodge food particles that get lodged in the tonsils and cause coughing fits.
  • Ice – You’ve probably reached for ice to treat a swollen joint or sprained ankle, but it can also be useful for stopping a migraine in its tracks. Applying ice to the back of the neck can block the nerve signals that cause migraines, relieving you of your headache.
  • Milk – When you feel the initial tingle of a cold sore coming on, regular whole milk can be an effective treatment because of the proteins and fatty acids in it. Soak a cotton ball in milk and apply it directly to the affected area. This can shorten the life of the cold sore and reduce the tingling irritation that the lesion causes.

When are home remedies more likely to be dangerous?

In general, you aren’t likely to do much harm concocting home remedies out of items you have in your kitchen. When you begin to use supplements and miracle cures, however, you can easily slide into dangerous territory.

  • Non-FDA Approved Supplements – Don’t be fooled by labels that tout “all natural” ingredients or “pure extracts.” In some of these products, natural extracts are toxic to people. Apricot kernel extract is one product that claims cancer-fighting properties, but it also contains cyanide, so it can cause poisoning in higher doses.
  • Misuse of Different Products – In some cases, you might come across recommendations to use verifiably safe products in ways outside of their intended purpose. Tea tree oil is one example, which is safe when applied to the skin, but should not be consumed orally or used on or near the eyes, mouth, or genital area.

Which home remedies aren’t worth the trouble?

At the end of the day, you might be turning to a home remedy to save time or avoid a trip to the doctor’s office, so you’ll want to consider whether the treatment is actually worth the trouble. Some home remedies may work, but they can cause unpleasant effects. Rubbing garlic on your feet, for example, can help fight the fungus that causes athlete’s foot, but you’ll be left smelling like garlic all day.

There’s no need to gamble with your health or spend time on treatments that simply won’t work. With MeMD, you can consult a medical provider any time from the comfort of home for the ultimate home remedy to any common illness.

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Kat Smith