SIMPLE SOLUTIONS: Home remedies that really work

FARGO Sometimes the best solution really is the simplest. If you're grappling with minor ailments - bug bites, tension headaches, seasonal allergies - relief might be found in your own kitchen cupboard or medicine cabinet. The following tips for ...


Sometimes the best solution really is the simplest.

If you're grappling with minor ailments - bug bites, tension headaches, seasonal allergies - relief might be found in your own kitchen cupboard or medicine cabinet.

The following tips for treating everyday complaints are from Prevention magazine and from Jen DeMaio and Steve Spader, licensed acupuncturists who run Two Turtles Wellness Center in Moorhead.

"A lot of symptomatic things do respond well to natural remedies," Spader says. "Most things should shift within a couple of days."


If symptoms actually persist or worsen, Spader recommends seeing your primary health care provider.

Another important thing to remember: Herbs can sometimes interfere with other drugs or cause problems during pregnancy, so talk to your doctor before taking them.

Minor burns - such as sunburns or first-degree burns - can be soothed with tea. Simply soak a washcloth in a cool solution of green or black tea. The tea's phytonutrients will help to reduce inflamed blood vessels.

For stubborn acne, scrub the face with coarse salt (which has antiseptic qualities) and a few drops of antifungal neem oil (found at health-food stores). Rinse, then apply a mask of plain yogurt for 15 to 30 minutes. The yogurt's lactic acid is a natural exfoliant that clears blemishes, fades discoloration and makes skin glow.

To soothe itchy skin, spritz yourself with European mineral water, such as the San Pellegrino brand. Studies show that the spring water's trace minerals will act like an anti-inflammatory, relieving pain and redness from minor burns and rashes. Spader and DeMaio also say itchy skin, minor burns and abrasions respond well to calendula oil, derived from the petals of the marigold and available in health-food stores. Calendula has anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antibacterial benefits.

To minimize scarring as a wound heals, keep the skin soft. Regardless of what some people say, scab formation is not ideal. Instead, keep the area moist with petroleum jelly and a bandage for three to five days. Overnight, put cellophane tape over the jelly, which will trap in the water, fostering healthy collagen growth.

Mosquito bites, insect stings, pimples and ingrown hair can be treated with aspirin paste. Crush a low-dose aspirin, add about an ounce of water to dissolve it, and then apply to the bite. The aspirin is anti-inflammatory and contains salicylic acid, the active ingredient in many acne medications.

For sore, scratchy throats, gargle with warm salt water, says Dr. Grace Keenan, medical director of Nova Medical Group, Sterling, Va. The warm water is soothing; the salt can kill bacteria in the throat and help increase blood flow to carry infection-fighting cells to the afflicted area. A good ratio is one teaspoon of salt per pint of water, used once a day or as needed.


Feeling nauseated? Don't bother with over-the-counter nausea remedies; most are mainly sugar. It's cheaper to use the fruit syrup from a can of peaches instead. This syrup, or some flat soda, can also effectively treat motion sickness, morning sickness or stomach bugs. Fresh ginger - grated and steeped in hot water - can also curb nausea, DeMaio says.

Tea made from pomegranate skin can help alleviate diarrhea. Set aside the leftovers from your next purchase; you can store the dried fruit skin for up to six months. Then steep a tablespoon's worth in a cup of boiling water for three to four minutes. Oak bark (available at health-food stores) also works. Boil for 3 minutes, let sit for 30 minutes, then strain. Drink two tablespoons, four to six times a day. Both recipes are rich in tannins, which help the body produce mucus to line the stomach and lessen irritation.

Tension headaches can be treated with a footbath made of hot water and a few teaspoons of mustard powder. The footbath not only relaxes you, the hot water encourages your body to redistribute blood from your throbbing head to your feet. At the same time, mustard powder's essential oils stimulate the skin, serving as a distraction from the pain.

An acupressure foot rub can also help to relieve head pain. Acupressurists treat points all over the body to ease a throbbing head, but the best results may come from massaging a third of the way down the sole of the foot, where the toes begin. Also effective for muscle tension in the head and neck: Lie down with an ice pack or bag of frozen peas, rolled in a towel, under your neck for 15 minutes.

If life gives you motion sickness, make lemonade. Motion sickness can cause you to produce excess saliva, which triggers nausea. Tannins in olives dry out the mouth and can help ease queasiness. Sucking on a lemon - if you can stand it - can also do the trick.

A spoonful of sugar helps the hiccups go down. The sugar is believed to modify the nerve muscles that would otherwise tell the diaphragm's muscles to contract spasmodically and contribute to hiccups.

Bad-breath bacteria can be suppressed by the live bacteria found in yogurt. The dairy product's "good" bugs can crowd out the "bad," odor-causing bugs or create an unhealthy environment for them to grow.

Listerine can help blisters heal. Moisten a cotton ball with the mouthwash and dab it on the blister three times a day until the area dries out and no longer hurts.


To ease symptoms from the early stages of cold or flu, place a whole, unpeeled grapefruit, sectioned into four pieces, in a pot and cover with water. Heat to just about boiling. Stir and add a tablespoon of honey, and drink the whole mixture like tea. The simmering will release the citrus fruit's immunity boosters, like vitamin C and flavonoids, which are hidden between the rind and the fruit. The warmth also eases a sore throat. To strengthen your body's healing response, try liquid olive leaf extract, available at health-food stores. Studies suggest its antiviral qualities can help treat cold and flu bugs.

Suffering from congestion and bronchitis? Dr. Woodson Merrell, an assistant clinical professor of medicine at Columbia University, says relief can be found in humble medicated vapor rub. Merrell told Prevention magazine that when family members are congested, he boils a pot of water, allows it to cool for 1 minute, then mixes in one teaspoon of vapor rub. Next, he has the patient lean over the mixture so the head is about a foot from the steam, using a towel over the head to make a tent. He advises doing this for five minutes.

Minor ear infections can be treated with garlic oil, available at health-food stores, Spader says. Look for varieties that contain willow bark, a precursor to aspirin. The willow bark helps to reduce pain; the garlic oil has anti-bacterial properties, Spader says.

Seasonal allergies making you miserable? Relieve itchy eyes, runny nose and sneezing with the herbal supplement butter-bur. Swiss researchers found that one tablet of butter-bur three times a day worked just as well as antihistamines without causing drowsiness.

Jack Dillenberg, dean of the Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health, recommends eugenol, or clove extract, as a quick, old-fashioned remedy for toothache. Soak a cotton ball in the extract, available at pharmacies, and place it directly on the tooth for several minutes. It will reduce the pain until you can get to a dentist.

If stress is triggering insomnia, try valerian root tincture, a natural sedative available at health food stores. (Though study results on valerian are mixed, some trials suggest it improves shut-eye for troubled sleepers.) Add 25 to 30 drops to 1ยฝ ounces of warm water, 30 minutes before bed, and drink. To curb the strong taste, stir in some honey and follow the valerian drink with a glass of water. You can also find valerian in commercial teas, such as Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Extra Wellness blend.

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.

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