Traditional remedies have garnered attention for their age-old wisdom, which has been passed down to us from ancestors or friends. But why have they outlasted modern medical treatments and years of medicine? Well, because they work! These 56 forgotten traditional home remedies will have you curing everything from your next cold to varicose veins.
56. Salt Water Sore Throat Cure
Not only is salt a key ingredient in our favorite dishes, but it’s also extremely beneficial in a household, as it serves a variety of purposes, one of which is an old-fashioned remedy to treat a sore throat. “Gargling with salt water when you have a sore throat may help relieve some of the pain and irritation,” says Dan McGee, MD, a pediatric hospitalist at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. “But don’t overdo it–one teaspoon of salt in eight ounces of water should do it.” Remember: don’t swallow it! It’s strictly for gargling purposes. Studies have shown gargling to be effective; however, if the symptoms persist, see your doctor, as it may be an infection.
55. Tea Tree Oil for Zits
Tea tree oil works on everything from burns to zits! In a study, a 5 percent tea tree oil gel was as effective as a 5 percent benzoyl peroxide lotion to treat acne breakouts. Not to mention, it had fewer side effects.
54. Cool Tea for Eye Bags
Tea is often recommended to treat your body both inside and out due to its incredible benefits, but it also works wonders on puffy eyes! “The caffeine in the tea bags helps with vasoconstriction, or shrinking of the blood vessels, around the eyes, leading to less puffiness or swelling skin,” says dermatologist Purvisha Patel, MD, creator of Visha Skin Care. “The cool temperature also helps decrease inflammation and swelling under the eyes.” To use, simply wring out the wet tea bag of excess water, place it in the fridge for a bit, and then place over your eyes. Studies have shown the caffeine in tea, when applied topically, acts as a sunscreen and can even help prevent skin cancer.
53. Prunes for Constipation
When you just can’t go, try prunes to help with constipation. While they may sound unpleasant to eat, they will help the “process.” “A high fiber diet, along with adequate fluid, can be effective at helping to alleviate constipation,” Palinski-Wade says. “Prunes are an all-natural source of fiber, with three grams of fiber per serving and only 100 calories, making them an easy way to boost the fiber content of your meal plan.”
52. Oatmeal Bath for Skin Ailments
If you are one of many who suffers from skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis or just regular dry skin, worry not, because there’s a remedy for that. While it may sound weird to recommend a bath in something you usually eat for breakfast, old-fashioned oatmeal baths are incredibly soothing. They’re even recommended by the National Eczema Association. “Oatmeal baths are great for dry, itchy skin,” Dr. Patel says. “Oatmeal, when soaked in warm water, creates a slimy film that coasts the skin to protect it and trap in moisture.” Simply grind up rolled oats (not the instant type) and pour them into a warm bath. Be sure to pat dry instead of rubbing when you get out of the bath.
51. Cranberry Juice for UTIs
One of the age-old tales of curing urinary tract infections is drinking cranberry juice. But while we’ve heard they work wonders, can a simple fruit juice rid you of a UTI? Some experts believe it all comes down to flushing out the urinary tract by drinking plenty of fluids, or that the acidic environment isn’t hospitable to bacteria, but there may be more to it. “Cranberry has been shown to reduce how well the bacteria stick to the lining cells of the bladder,” says Diana Bitner, MD, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Spectrum Health, although studies in women with recurrent infections have been found to be inconsistent. Even so, “cranberry is unlike to cause harm, might reduce bladder infections, and could be used in conjunction with other strategies your health care provider recommends,” Dr. Bitner suggested.
50. Honey for Coughs
A persistent cough can dampen even the happiest moments, like when you finally attempt to get a good night’s sleep. Luckily, there is an old-fashioned natural remedy to keep that cough at bay. “Honey may help with a cough caused by irritation,” Dr. McGee says, by lubricating the throat. Studies have proved that honey can be more effective than cough medicine. “Just be sure not to use it in small children [under age one] as it may cause botulism,” Dr. McGee said.
49. Lavender for Trouble Sleeping
Not only is lavender an amazing fragrance used in popular perfumes, but this pleasant-smelling herb can be used an essential oil to help you get more shut-eye. Its medicinal powers help the body relax and allow you to fall asleep more easily. “Research shows that smelling lavender decreases heart rate and blood pressure, key elements of relaxation,” said sleep expert Richard Shane, Ph.D., creator of the Sleep Easily method. “The two main chemicals in lavender have been shown to have sedative and pain-relieving effects.” One study showed that people who smelled lavender before going to sleep had brain waves indicating deeper sleep. Only use lavender externally or by inhalation.
48. Aloe for Burn Treatment
While we typically use aloe for sunburn relief, this ancient treatment can also be used for different types of burns. A study mentioned the effectiveness of aloe over other treatments for second-degree burns. “Aloe is a very soothing remedy for burns,” Dr. Patel said. “It is a gel derived from the aloe vera plant that contains anti-inflammatory agents that can help with burns.” Before using aloe, make sure you aren’t allergic to it and test it out beforehand. Only use a fragrance-free version of aloe. For serious burns, you should visit a physician.
47. Chicken Soup for Colds
We’ve often heard of how great chicken soup is when we’re feeling under the weather. But even with tasty fast food at our disposal, nothing compares to a hearty bowl of Grandma’s chicken soup when we’re sick. Luckily for those who love chicken soup, science has backed its beneficial claims, proving grandma right! “Chicken soup works for me,” Dr. McGee says. “On top of it making me want to watch cartoons and take a nap, there is a small amount of prostaglandins in chicken soup that can help fight infections.” The study on chicken soup found that the nourishing food might have anti-inflammatory effects, which later research backed up.
46. Witch Hazel for Hemorrhoids
Although witch hazel might sound like something an old witch might use to cast spells in the woods, this compound is anti-inflammatory and made from the witch hazel plant, commonly found in beauty products. Witch hazel helps cool the burn of hemorrhoids due to the tannins found in witch hazel that help calm blood vessels and reduce swelling.
45. Lemon for Motion Sickness
A road trip might sound great, but we often overlook the little things, like motion sickness! Be sure to pack a good amount of lemons, as it is a great way to reduce car sickness. “Motion sickness causes you to produce excess saliva, which can upset your stomach and trigger a nauseated feeling,” Palinski-Wade said. “Sucking on a lemon, which causes your mouth to pucker from the sore taste, can reduce the production of saliva, which in turn can help prevent the nausea associated with it.”
44. Duct Tape for Warts
Duct tape is one thing that many of resort to in times of desperation. Broken car bumper? Use duct tape. Home projects? Use duct tape. Got warts? Use duct tape. Yes, duct tape for warts. This low-tech method is endorsed by the American Academy of Dermatology and has research to back the claim up. While doctors aren’t precisely sure why it works so well, one study suggests that placing duct tape over warts was 25 percent more effective than freezing them–not to mention, much cheaper!
43. Petroleum Jelly for Wounds
There are many uses for petroleum jelly that often go unnoticed, but when it comes to using it for the skin, you might want to hold back on using it too often. “It is comedogenic, or acne-causing, and can lead to breakouts when used on the face and body,” Dr. Patel says. “It also makes sunburns worse by trapping in heat.” However, Dr. Patel does recommend one particular use for petroleum jelly: “I do no recommend petroleum jelly for all skin issues, but it can be helpful to occlude [or close up] a wound and can prevent infection,” she said. Studies all show that it’s effective in post-surgery healing.
42. Apple for Cleaning Teeth
Did you leave behind your toothbrush and are looking to clean your teeth after a big lunch before a work meeting? Try munching on an apple. The adage might be true–apples don’t just help keep the doctor away, but also the dentist! “When you eat this fleshy fruit, it scrubs the teeth–think of apples as a natural toothbrush,” said dentist Nancy Rosen, DMD.” The skin of the apple, which is high in fiber, can scrub against your teeth, helping to remove plaque and stain.” While apples contain sugar and acids, which are known to cause tooth decay, the benefits to your chompers might outweigh the negatives.
41. Neti Pot for Congestion
Feeling those pesky cold-like symptoms? Try your hand at using a neti pot to keep them at bay. As you pour water into your nostrils, the pot is used to clean out the nasal passageways. According to a recent study from the U.K., participants who used a neti pot showed a greater reduction in symptoms of chronic sinusitis than those who didn’t. However, use with care and clean your neti pot correctly. “If you don’t use sterile water, which means boiling it and letting it cool, one can develop a sinus infection or worse from neti pots,” Dr. McGee warned.
40. Cod Liver Oils for Inflammation
Old-time remedies such as cod liver oils can naturally ease the pain and inflammation of arthritis. Not to mention, cod oil has other benefits. “This oil, extracted from codfish, provides a rich source of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids, which are the primary omega-3s you need to support heart health, brain health, eye health, and maternal health,” Palinski-Wade said. “One study found that cod liver reduced inflammatory markers in insulin-resistant individuals.”
39. Licorice Root for Bad Breath
Since ancient times, licorice has been valued for its healing properties, which is why you may recall seeing your grandparents chewing on it to freshen their breath. “It may be an effective agent to fight the bacteria that can cause tooth decay and periodontal disease,” Dr. Rosen said. “It’s also used as a breath freshening ingredient in some natural toothpastes.” But don’t confuse licorice with the candy; we mean licorice the plant. There are studies that have shown that it may also be beneficial and effective at preventing an upset stomach and relieving stress.
38. Ice for Headaches
Have a throbbing headache? Try using this old school remedy: ice. According to the National Headache Foundation, applying cold packs on the forehead and temples can help with headaches. A study from the University of Hawaii found that a frozen wrap placed on the front of the neck, over the carotid arteries, significantly helped reduce pain in migraine sufferers.
37. Baking Soda for Whiter Teeth
Are you tired of whitening strips? Toss them out and bring in the good stuff–baking soda. Using baking soda has been proven in studies to benefit your teeth. “You can whiten your teeth by making a paste out of baking soda and a little water,” said Dr. Rosen. “Put some baking soda in a small dish, then add a little water, which will form a thick paste.” Dip your toothbrush into the paste and brush. The abrasiveness will remove plaque and whiten the teeth, she says. However, “you want to be careful and not overuse this method due to the abrasiveness of the baking soda,” Dr. Rosen said. “Too much can hurt the enamel or the gum tissue.”
36. Avoid Cold Weather to Fight Off Colds
It seems like an old wives’ tale, or something your family members would scare you with. But is it true? It’s now generally believed that the real reason we get sick during winter months is that we are cooped up inside sharing other peoples’ germs. But, there might be some validity to keeping warm while it’s cold out. According to a Yale study, the common cold virus replicates more effectively in cells of cooler temperature than at core body temperature, with the researchers mentioning that it appears that the immune response, not the virus itself, was the cause. In other words, as your mother probably told you, wear a hat and coat!
35. Tennis Ball for Achy Feet
Tennis balls as a massage device for tired feet? Fact! This old-school remedy is not only low-tech but also cost-effective, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. “This is a ‘plantar fascia’ [the ligament that connects your heel bone to your toes] massage,” said certified athletic trainer Phillip Adler, Ph.D., ATC, manager of Spectrum Health Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Programs. “The tennis ball helps to lengthen tight tissue on the bottom of the foot. Combined with heel cord stretching, or Achilles stretching, this technique can be very helpful for plantar fasciitis.”
34. Chewing Gum for Stress
This chewy substance does more than freshen your breath! A study from Japan found that two weeks of regularly chewing gum improved participants’ levels of anxiety, mood, and tiredness. A separate study from Australia also presented similar findings, with levels of the stress hormone cortisol lower in gum chewers by 16 percent during mild stress and 12 percent for moderate stress.
33. Buttermilk for Age Spots
Skip the expensive skin creams and save yourself the hassle of looking for the “right one” and instead try buttermilk. This rich by-product of butter contains lactic acid and ascorbic acid. A study revealed that this combination lightened age spots more effectively than using lactic acid alone. Apply the buttermilk to the desired spots using a cotton ball, then rinse with water after 20 minutes.
32. Vitamin C for Allergies
As it turns out, vitamin C isn’t just used for colds; it is also an effective natural antihistamine! A study found that 74 percent of participants who used a vitamin C nasal spray reported their noses were less stuffy when compared to the patients who used a placebo. The study’s author recommended getting two grams per day from food and/or supplements.
31. Comfrey for Back Pain
This medicinal plant has been used for ages to treat joint and muscle pain. In a study observing 215 patients, researchers found that applying concentrated comfrey cream to the lower and upper back reduced muscle pain.
30. Aspirin for Calluses and Corns
Aspirin for calluses and corns? Yup! To create your corn-softening mix, simply crush five or six uncoated aspirin tablets into a fine powder. Mix the powder thoroughly with one-half teaspoon of lemon juice and one-half teaspoon of water. Dab the paste onto the desired area, lay a piece of plastic wrap on top, and cover the plastic with a heated towel. Remove everything after ten minutes and gently scrub away the loosened skin with a pumice stone. Warning: avoid this method if you are allergic to aspirin.
29. Milk of Magnesia for Canker Sores
Have a painful canker sore? Canker sores are ulcers of the mouth that can be caused by viral infections or injuries. To help ease the pain, try rinsing your mouth with milk of magnesia or apply it to canker sores three or four times a day.
28. Ground Flaxseed for Constipation
“It’s almost as if nature tailor-made ground flaxseed to relieve constipation,” said Will Bulsiewicz, MD, a gastroenterologist in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. “It is a great source of both insoluble and soluble fiber, which add bulk to the stool and promote the growth of good bacteria.” Ground flaxseed is a great source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to aid in stool softening and constipation relief.
27. Thyme Tea for a Cough
Thyme is a natural expectorant that helps relax the respiratory tract by loosening mucus. Studies have found that using thyme with a combination of primrose or ivy can help relieve the frequency and duration of a cough. To make thyme tea, place two tablespoons of fresh thyme (or one tablespoon of dried thyme) in a cup of hot water. Let it steep, then drain out the herb. Add a bit of honey for taste.
26. Blackberry Tea for Diarrhea
Rich in tannins, blackberries tighten mucous membrane substances in the intestinal tract, which makes them a great treatment for diarrhea. Make a blackberry tea by boiling one or two tablespoons of fresh or frozen blackberries or dried blackberry leaves in one and a half cups of water for ten minutes, then strain. Drink a few cups of this helpful tea each day.
25. Cucumbers for Eyestrain
We’ve seen them used in spas for beauty treatment, but they can also help eyestrain. Lie on your back and place one cucumber slice (about one-eighth-inch thick) over each closed eye. Cucumbers contain antioxidants that studies have shown decrease swelling and also relieve pain. Replace the slices with a cooler pair every two or three minutes for up to 15 minutes.
24. Lavender Oil for Foot Odor
Lavender essential oil carries antibacterial properties that not only allow it to smell wonderful but also help kill germs. Before going to bed, rub a few drops of oil onto your feet and massage it in. Wear a pair of socks to protect your sheets.
23. Globe Artichoke Extract for GERD and Heartburn
Compounds found in artichoke leaves called caffeoylquinic acids help stimulate the release of bile from the gallbladder, which relieves nausea, gas, bloating, and other symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and heartburn. Since the leaves are inedible, try looking for artichoke extract capsules in health food stores.
22. Cherries for Gout
People who ate about 20 cherries every day were found to be less likely to experience flare-ups of gout, according to a study of 663 participants suffering from gout. Cherries are particularly effective due to their compounds that help neutralize uric acid.
21. Peppermint Oil for Headaches
Peppermint essential oil is great for cooling skin, numbing the pain from tension headaches as well as acetaminophen does, according to two studies. To use it, mix a few drops with olive oil to prevent skin irritation, then gently massage the oil onto your forehead and temples.
20. Sugar for Hiccups
When it comes to hiccups, there are many recommendations that may or may not work: hold your breath, drink water upside down, or the famous pull your tongue. However, you might want to consider sugar. Yes, this sweet tiny grain can help. “Eating the grainy sugar crystals forces you to swallow harder than normal, and this resets your diaphragm” to help stop the spasms, says Claire Martin, an Oakland, California based nutritionist.
19. Niacin for High Cholesterol
Studies have shown that by taking niacin (vitamin B3), you can lower LDL (or bad cholesterol) by 10 percent and triglycerides by 25 percent, and also raise HDL (good) cholesterol by 20 to 30 percent. High doses can cause gastrointestinal problems, liver damage, and glucose intolerance.
18. Valerian for Insomnia
This natural herb can help you fall asleep faster than most sleeping pills. It works by binding to the same receptors in the brain that tranquilizers such as Valium bind to. Take one half to one teaspoon of valerian tincture or two valerian root capsules 30 minutes before bed.
17. Fennel for Indigestion
The tiny seeds that you often see in bowls at Indian restaurants are called fennel, and they contain carminative agents, which help expel gas from the intestinal tract. Try chewing a pinch of fennel to help prevent after-dinner belching.
16. Green Tea for Joint Pain
The potent antioxidant epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) that is found in green tea can help ease joint pain and inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis, according to a study in Arthritis and Rheumatology. Researchers also suggest drinking two or three cups a day to reap its full benefits.
15. Lemon Juice for Kidney Stones
If you ever experienced the pain of kidney stones, then you are well aware of how bad it can be. Kidney stones occur when oxalate–a compound found in foods such as spinach, bran, and French fries–builds up in the urine and binds to calcium, forming crystals. Drinking a least four ounces of lemon juice per day can help, researchers say. Citric acid can prevent the crystallization of calcium and oxalate that creates these stones.
14. Olive Oil for Lip Cracking
Chapped lips? Look no further than a common household item–olive oil. Coat your chapped lips with olive oil, a natural lubricant that will help soften and moisturize lips nicely.
13. Sage for Memory Lapses
A study focused on healthy older adults found that taking sage leaf extract capsules improved word recall and memory.
12. Hypnotism for Menopausal Symptoms
A study published in Menopause found that women who had five sessions of hypnosis per week experienced 74 percent fewer hot flashes at the end of a 12-week study than those in a control group. Not to mention, the women in the hypnosis group reported that the hot flashes they did experience were less severe than before.
11. Pressure for Neck Pain
Got neck pain? Here’s a simple trick! With your thumbs or your fingertips, apply steady pressure on the painful spot on your neck for three minutes. Research has shown that this simple acupressure technique helps loosen tight muscles to lessen pain.
10. Soy for Osteoporosis
A review of several studies conducted by the University of North Carolina, Asheville found that people who ate foods rich in soy had healthier bones and demonstrated a reduced risk of fractures. Scientists are still trying to reveal which active compounds provide the protective benefits. Some sources of good protein include soybeans, soy milk, miso, tempeh, and tofu.
9. Capsaicin for Psoriasis
Capsaicin is what ultimately gives cayenne its famous heat. According to research, applying capsaicin cream helps lessen the itching caused by psoriasis.
8. Avocado for Razor Burn
Since avocado is rich in vitamins and oils that soften and hydrate the skin, it is also a great way to relieve the tenderness of razor burn. Simply apply the mashed avocado or avocado oil directly to the irritated skin.
7. Eucalyptus Oil for Sinusitis
Feeling congested? Add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to a pot of water, boil, and remove the pot from the stove. Then drape a towel over your head and shoulders, make sure to lean forward, so it forms a tent over the pan. Keep your face about 18 inches above the water as you breathe deeply. As the vapor rises, it will carry droplets of oil into your sinuses and loosen congestion. Studies have shown that the main ingredient in eucalyptus oil–cineole–can help people recover faster from acute sinusitis.
6. Horehound Tea for Sore Throats
Horehound, a plant from the mint family, can help reduce swelling or inflamed throat tissues. It also helps by thinning out mucus. To make the tea, steep two teaspoons of the chopped fresh herb in one cup of boiling water for ten minutes, strain and drink.
5. Clove Oil for Tooth and Gum Pain
“Oil of cloves can sometimes soothe an inflamed tooth,” said Saul Pressner, DMD, a dentist in New York City. Clove oil has bacteria-slaying properties, as well as numbing effects. Simply mix a few drops of olive oil to avoid irritation, then swish it in your mouth.
4. Horse Chestnut for Varicose Veins
Horse chestnut seed extract can help improve blood vessel elasticity and also seems to strengthen the valves inside veins, all due to an active ingredient called aescin. Take a 250 mg pill of horse chestnut seed extract twice a day for three months to see results.
3. Honey for Wounds
Honey has been used to treat various symptoms for thousands of years, but people have also used honey to cure wounds. Pure honey contains the enzyme glucose oxidase, which causes a chemical reaction that releases hydrogen peroxide, an antiseptic. Honey can vary on the level of antibacterial potency depending on the honey type. For best results, scientists recommend manuka honey from New Zealand, which contains an additional compound that increases its effectiveness. Apply honey directly onto the wound every 12 to 24 hours and cover it with sterile gauze.
2. Sea Salt for Yeast Infections
Use sea salt to treat yeast infections by sprinkling a cup of salt in a tub full of warm water. Then take a nice soak in the tub to relieve itching and pain.
1. Ginger for Nausea
Ginger is probably one of the most used natural ingredients, both to add flavor and cure several things, one being nausea. “Research has found ginger to be an effective digestive aid, most notably by helping to alleviate nausea due to morning sickness during pregnancy, motion sickness or chemotherapy,” said registered dietitian Erin Palinski-Wade, RC, CDE, author of Belly Fat for Dummies. “Although we do not yet understand the exact method that allows ginger to be effective at reducing nausea, it is thought it may work by ginger obstructing the serotonin receptors in the gut that cause nausea.”