Home remedies that work - Oddetorium

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Sunday, 26 June 2011

Home remedies that work

Home remedies that work
Home remedies that work. The list of cures seems endless. Athlete's foot? Blow-dry your toes. Trouble sleeping? Sip some chamomile tea. Constipation? Prune juice, and keep it coming.

"This thing is just so big now," sighs Susan Gaer, volunteer editor, Web master and general screener for the International Home Remedies Project. "It started as a student project. It was never supposed to get this big."

It seems everyone—and especially everyone's grandmother—has a cure for what ails you. And for 10 years now, they've been e-mailing their secrets to Gaer. But the associate professor of English as a second language at the Santa Ana College of Continuing Education in Southern California is an unlikely medic. In fact, since she noticed that her students love to exchange tips on personal health care in their home countries and decided to establish the Web site, she's been careful to label the home remedies she posts as just that—home remedies, with little if any scientific research behind them.

Still, the missives she receives from grateful users have helped convince Gaer that the compendium may have uses other than teaching English—especially for minor ailments such as splinters, warts and hiccups. And she's not alone.

"As long as it's not a life-threatening condition, I feel very comfortable in having patients try some home remedies," says Dr. Thomas Kintanar, a physician practicing in Fort Wayne, Ind., who is a board member of the American Association of Family Physicians. "If it works, great. If it doesn't, then it's time to see your physician."

With that in mind, here are some home remedies that not only have stood the test of time, but have a bit of science behind them as well.

Common Colds: Chicken Soup
When you've got a cold, eating a steaming bowl of chicken soup improves your hydration, nourishes you and helps accelerate, as the doctors say, your "mucosal clearance." And it may help block the inflammation that underlies all that coughing and snorting in the first place.

Researchers at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, using an old family recipe, found that when tested in the lab, chicken soup significantly slowed the inflammatory process. The more concentrated the soup, the more likely it was to act as an anti-inflammatory.

While the doctors couldn't precisely identify the active ingredient in their soup, they suspect the good stuff may lie in the vegetables they used. The store-bought soups they tested often worked to some degree, but they didn't have as pronounced an effect as their homemade, veggie-packed version. Here's the recipe, straight from the journal Chest, which published the study in 2000.

Grandma's soup
  • 1 5- to 6-lb stewing hen or baking chicken
  • 1  package of chicken wings
  • 3 large onions
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 3 parsnips
  • 2 turnips
  • 11 to 12 large carrots
  • 5 to 6 celery stems
  • 1 bunch of parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste 
Clean the chicken, put it in a large pot, and cover it with cold water. Bring the water to a boil. Add the chicken wings, onions, sweet potato, parsnips, turnips, and carrots. Boil about 1.5 hours. Remove fat from the surface as it accumulates. Add the parsley and celery. Cook the mixture about 45 minutes longer. Remove the chicken.The chicken is not used further for the soup. (The meat makes excellent chicken parmesan.) Put the vegetables in a food processor until they are chopped fine or pass through a strainer. Both were performed in the present study. Salt and pepper to taste. (Note: this soup freezes well.)

Headache: Team Tension
Here is one of Dr. Kintanar's favorites: If you suffer from tension headaches that seem to center in the back of your head, lie down on your back, and ask a partner to cup the back of your head with her fingers while placing her thumbs beneath your jaw. Then ask her to pull—gently and without any twisting motion. Ahhhh.

Dr. Kintanar thinks the gentle tug helps relieve the pain for a couple of reasons. First, the physical: It may relieve tension on your cervical spine. Second, the emotional: It feels good to know someone cares about you and is trying to help.

Hiccups: Spoonful of Sugar
Here's what we know: Hiccups occur when your diaphragm, the muscle below your lungs, goes into spasm. You suck in air, your vocal cords rapidly tighten, and suddenly you make a very distinctive sound right in the middle of your dinner date.

Here's what we don't know: Most everything else. At least, not for certain.

On the plus side, most cases of mild hiccups go away on their own after a few minutes of intense embarrassment. (In rarer cases, they can persist for days, months, even years -- the world record holder hiccupped for 68 years straight. If you've been hiccupping for 48 hours or more, call your doctor.)

Perhaps no other common malady has as many home remedies, each of which has worked for somebody at some time, or so they say. Try holding your breath, breathing into a paper bag, taking 10 or 12 quick sips of water and/or sticking your fingers in your ears.

One long-standing remedy has been tested. In a small clinical trial conducted some 35 years ago, researchers found that eating a teaspoonful of sugar stopped hiccups for most of the study participants. Exactly why the hiccups stopped remains a challenging question for future scientists.

Nausea: Acupressure 
When you feel queasy, pressing on your arm may help calm your stomach. Several studies have tested acupressure for relief of motion sickness, morning sickness and nausea that comes with chemotherapy or anesthesia. Results have varied, but there is evidence that pressing firmly and consistently on the inside of the wrist can make some people feel better. Here's how you do it:
Using your thumb or index and middle fingers, find the groove between the two large tendons that run from your wrist to your elbow. Measure a couple of finger-widths up from the base of your wrist, and press hard.

In traditional Chinese medicine, acupressure, like acupuncture, is believed to release or stimulate the body's life force to help in healing. Some in Western medical circles theorize the pressure causes the brain to release endorphins, the body's natural painkiller.

Keep in mind that acupressure is best suited for mild nausea. If you've been vomiting for longer than 24 hours, see blood in the vomit, have severe pain in your abdomen or have a headache along with a stiff neck, get medical help.

Splinters: Epsom Salts
The Epsom salts you find on the shelf of your local drugstore have little to do with Epsom, an English village that became famous in the 17th century for the medicinal properties of the mineral water found in its well. But the water did contain magnesium sulphate, and that's what you'll find in the carton of the granular matter today called Epsom salts.

Back when Epsom was a hot spa destination, people drank the water as a purgative. Happily, we're more interested in the salt's ability to decrease the amount of moisture around the splinter, making it seem as though the tiny piece of wood is being drawn up toward the surface of the skin. The Epsom Salt Council, a consortium of U.S.-based manufacturers, recommends using two cups of Epsom salt to one gallon of water, then applying the solution to your splinter on a compress.

Though your mom might have used a needle to dig the sliver out, the National Library of Medicine suggests that once the sliver is near the surface of your skin, tweezers are a more effective tool. Carefully pull the sliver out at the same angle it went in.

Warts: Duct Tape
You already know it's a wonder product, essential for the maintenance of everyday life. But did you know it's a health aid? Yes, it's official: Duct tape may help rid you of common warts.

Tape, not necessarily of the duct variety, has long been a home remedy for wart removal. But in 2002, doctors writing in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine reported that study participants who diligently covered common warts with duct tape achieved significantly better results than those who were treated with cryotherapy, more commonly known as having your wart frozen off.

In the small study, which involved about 50 patients, half of the participants used pieces of duct tape cut just large enough to cover their warts. They left the tape in place for six days and replaced it quickly if it fell off. At the end of the sixth day, they removed the tape, soaked the wart in water and then rubbed at it with an emery board or pumice stone. They left the tape off overnight, and then applied a new patch for another six days.

The group repeated the process for two months, or less time if the wart disappeared faster. At the end of the study, 85 percent of the duct tape users had banished their warts, while only 60 percent of the cryotherapy patients had completely gotten rid of theirs.

Will another type of tape work? Maybe, but only duct tape has been vetted by clinical trial.


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