25 Home Remedies that Work: These Safe, Fast, and Effective Fixes will Relieve what ails you – Cover Story
1 – Bad Breath
No other natural remedy freshens bad breath as well as parsley, says David Orlarsh, N.D., a naturopath in Plymouth, N.H. This herbal food garnish is rich in chlorophyll, a green plant compound that kills the bacteria that cause bad odor. Nibble on a sprig after eating raw onions or garlic or whenever your breath smells sour.
2 – Blemishes
To clear zits quickly, keep a small sealed jar of this natural topical remedy on hand (it keeps for a few months): Combine 2 tablespoons of green clay, 1 tablespoon of goldenseal powder (Hydratis canadensis), 2 to 3 drops of tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia), and enough water to form a paste. Apply the paste to your blemish at bedtime and leave it on all night. The clay dries up pore-clogging oil, and the goldenseal and tea tree oil kill the bacteria that cause infection.
3 – Blisters
Don’t pop your blister, no matter how tempting it is. Doing so increases the chance of infection. Instead, dab a cotton ball dipped in plain old drugstore witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) on the area at least four times a day, says Brad Bongiovanni, N.D., a naturopath in Atlanta, Ga. Witch hazel contains astringent tannins that dry up the fluid-filled skin and relieve pain by increasing circulation. It also contains alcohol, which is drying.
4 – Body Odor
If your body odor persists despite good hygiene, your problem may be clogged pores. When your skin can’t properly eliminate body wastes, bad body odor can result. Gently dry-brushing your skin just before every shower exfoliates the dead skin that traps those odor-causing wastes. You’ll find body brushes in most drugstores. If you brush with long, gentle strokes moving toward your heart, you’ll also improve circulation, which will help your body detoxify more efficiently. (This won’t eliminate your need for deodorant, but you may be able to use less of it.)
5 – Bruises
Experts say the popular muscle soreness remedy Arnica is also your best bet for minimizing bruises and healing them fast. As soon as you bump your knee or other body part or notice a swelling or discoloration, gently rub a dollop of this homeopathic cream on it. Arnica shrinks inflammation and increases circulation to flush away the stagnant blood that turns your skin black and blue.
6 – Burns
You may know lavender essential oil (Lavandula angustifolia) best for its soothing scent, but you can also use it to take the sting out of a first-degree burn (the kind you might get by touching a hot pan). Not only does this oil speed the healing process and prevent scarring, Bongiovanni says, but it also fights bacteria on vulnerable new skin. Gently clean the burn with soap and water first. Then combine one part pure lavender essential oil and three parts carrier oil, like almond or olive oil, and apply the mixture liberally to the burn at least three times a day, leaving the wound uncovered.
7 – Canker Sores
You can once again eat spicy foods in comfort if you douse painful canker sores with raspberry leaf tea (Rubus idaeus). Steep 2 tablespoons of dried raspberry leaves in 1 cup boiling hot water until it cools. Strain the tea, and then swish a few mouthfuls for about one minute each three times a day. The tannins in this tea (which tastes a little like black tea) reduce the swelling and clean the sore so it can heal faster, explains Andrea Candee, a South Salem, N.Y.-based herbalist.
8 – Chapped Lips
First, chuck your Chapstick. Conventional lip balms contain petroleum and sometimes alcohol, both of which dry the sensitive skin on your lips. Instead, moisturize and protect your parched, peeling lips with castor oil. Carry a small squeeze bottle of the oil and apply it with your finger often throughout the day. If you plan to be out in the sun, use a natural petroleum- and alcohol-free balm with an SPF of 15 a few minutes after rubbing in the castor oil.
9 – Chest Congestion
The sweetness of your breath may suffer, but eating a plate of curried, sauteed onions on rice can really loosen congestion in your chest. Lightly saute two onions, sliced, and at least 1 teaspoon of curry powder in 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil until the onions are soft. Onions contain quercetin and sulfur, two plant compounds that break up mucus and increase circulation, explains Orlarsch. Curry also loosens phlegm. And for that breath? See remedy 1, page 48.
10 – Constipation
If you don’t like prunes, you have another option for constipation relief. Dried figs work just as well as prunes. They contain soluble and insoluble fiber, both of which flush out your intestines. In fact, five figs supply at least 20 percent of your daily fiber requirement, more than almost any other fruit. Nibble on four or five at the first sign of constipation and drink at least one glass of water. If you don’t get results within three hours, eat a couple more every three hours until you do.
11 – Corns
Soften this thick, callused skin with a little castor oil, recommends Bongiovanni. Apply a drop of oil to the corn with your finger first thing in the morning, as soon as you get home from work, and right before bed. Cover the corn with a Band-Aid before putting on socks and shoes. You should see slow and steady improvement over several weeks.
12 – Cough
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) may be best known as a candy, but as a tea it can lick a lingering cough. Steep a licorice root tea bag or 1 teaspoon of the loose dried root in 1 cup boiling hot water for five minutes, and drink up to three mugs of it throughout the day. Your cough should improve right away, but you can continue to drink three cups a day for up to three days. Licorice can raise your blood pressure, so don’t drink it if you have hypertension or diabetes.
13 – Cuts
The antioxidant power that makes vitamin E so good for your heart also speeds the healing of minor cuts. Simply prick a vitamin E capsule with a sterile needle and squeeze the oil onto your cut at least three times a day. Cover it with a Band-Aid if it’s a serious wound. Be sure to choose natural vitamin E (d-alpha tocopherol), Orlarsch says. Research shows that it has more antioxidant power than synthetic vitamin E.
14 – Dandruff
To clear up dandruff you need to counter the cause of the problem: your scalp’s acidic pH level. To restore your scalp’s natural alkaline pH level, first wash and condition your hair. Then, while still in the shower or bath, pour a cup of apple cider vinegar on your head and rinse with water.
15 – Diarrhea
It may seem counterintuitive, but to clear up diarrhea you may need more bacteria–good bacteria, that is. Diarrhea can be a sign of an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in your intestines. Taking probiotic supplements corrects that imbalance, Bongiovanni says. Look for a brand that contains six to eight strains of live organisms, including Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacter. Bongiovanni recommends taking enough supplements to get 20 billion live organisms a day (this may be a large number of capsules). You should see improvement in one or two days; if you don’t, see a doctor.
16 – Dizziness
A common kitchen spice can stop a case of the spins. Simply drop a pinch of cayenne into a glass of warm water and sip. The warmth of the water and the heat of the cayenne cause your body to pump more blood and oxygen to your brain, which makes you feel clearheaded and steady. If you continue to experience bouts of dizziness, see your doctor.
17 – Dry Eyes
You’ll need to shed a few tears to remedy a case of dry eyes. And the easiest way to stimulate your tearing action is to apply moist heat to your eyelids. Dip a small towel or washcloth in warm water, wring it out, lie down, close your eyes, and put the cloth over your lids for 15 minutes. Do this two or three times a day or as needed.
18 – Dry Skin
Almond and grapeseed oil are the quickest fixes for dry skin. They soak into your skin faster than creamy moisturizers. If your skin is extra dry and rough, opt for thicker oils like castor and avocado. If you’re prone to breakouts, try filtered jojoba oil. Spread a thin coat of whichever oil you choose to the dry areas twice a day.
19 – Earache
Ease the pain and pressure of an ear infection with a store-bought blend of mullein (Verbascum densiflorum) and garlic (Allium sativum) infused oils, advises Tukwila, Wash.-based naturopath Eric Yarnell, N.D. These oils kill pain and fight bacteria. Before bed, warm the drops. One way to do that is by placing the bottle in your armpit for 45 seconds. Tilt your head and squeeze 5 drops into the infected ear and then place a cotton ball in your ear for a few minutes to keep the drops from running out. You should experience immediate relief.
20 – Eye Strain
To revitalize tired eyes, treat yourself to a soothing chamomile (Matricaria recutita) compress twice a day. The chamomile soaks through your eyelids, soothing eye tissue and reducing swelling in the capillaries, Candee explains. Make the compress by steeping 1 teaspoon dried chamomile flowers or 1 chamomile tea bag in 1 cup boiling hot water for 20 minutes. Strain. Allow the tea to cool, soak a washcloth in it, wring it out, lie down, and place it over your closed eyes for 15 to 20 minutes.
21 – Fatigue
Sleep is what you need if you’re overtired. But for a quick pick-me-up, drink a mug of mate (Ilex paraguariensis). This tea contains caffeine, but in lower doses than coffee. It also contains theobromine, an energizing compound. Steep a mate tea bag or 1 teaspoon dried mate in boiling hot water for 5 to 10 minutes, strain, and drink. This earthy-tasting tea is good black or with milk and sugar.
22 – Fever
Maintaining your fever, rather than breaking it right away, can fight the virus that’s making you sick. If you have a mild fever (up to 100 degrees), wrap yourself in a blanket and drink a cup of yarrow tea (Achillea millefolium). Make the tea by steeping 2 yarrow tea bags or 2 teaspoons dried yarrow in 1 cup boiling hot water for 15 minutes. Reheat it until it’s piping hot, and sip it slowly. Your temperature may rise or fall a degree as you start to sweat. If your starting temperature is 101 to 103, drink the tea but skip the blanket. Check your temperature every 30 minutes throughout this process. Eventually your temperature will drop. If your starting temperature is 104 or more, or if the tea-drinking brings your temperature to 104 or more, call your doctor. Don’t do this with babies or children, or if you’re pregnant; consult your doctor instead.
23 – Foot Odor
Chlorophyll, the same plant compound that gives plants their green color, can also sweeten your feet. Pour 2 to 3 teaspoons liquid chlorophyll into a bucket filled with a gallon of warm water, and soak your feet for 15 minutes. Dry your feet completely afterward, and wear cotton socks which let your feet breathe.
24 – Gas
Chew on a small handful of anise, dill, or fennel seeds when you feel bloated. The compounds in these seeds relax the muscles in your digestive tract, which allows trapped gas to pass. You can buy the seeds in the spice aisle of grocery stores or the bulk section of natural food stores. Bonus: They freshen your breath, too.
25 – Headache
Dull a tension headache by massaging a few drops of peppermint essential oil (Mentha piperita) into your temples. Peppermint works as well as 1,000 mg of acetaminophen, the main ingredient in aspirin, according to one German study. Herb experts don’t know exactly how it works, says Yarnell, but the peppermint appears to prevent your body from sending pain signals to your central nervous system.