Before turmeric was sold in capsules, had you ever wondered where it really came from? Before green tea boasted of its metabolic properties, Chinese instilled it in their diet for their anti-inflammatory effects. And before garlic had us running for the mouthwash, in 1500 BC, Ancient Egyptians used it as a beatifying agents.
So let’s step away from modern confusion for a while and travel back to the root of some of the most natural healing agents that may already be sitting in your home.
Here are just a few to keep in mind next time you want to go the natural route:
1. Turmeric: Anti-Inflammatory
Turmeric is widely used as a spice in South Asian and Middle Eastern cooking. Deriving from the ginger root family, it can be crushed into a powder to add to foods to add a bright yellow color. The active compound of turmeric is believed to have a wide range of biological effects including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antitumour, antibacterial, and antiviral activities, which indicate potential in clinical medicine. In Chinese medicine, it is used for treatment of various infections and as an antiseptic. So next time try getting turmeric powder, adding some water to make a paste and apply it to any skin ailments. The anti-inflammatory effect is dramatic. But warning, it can leave the skin and clothing temporarily yellow.
2. Lemon Balm Tea: Cold Sores
In the 16th Century, Lemon Balm was rubbed onto beehives to encourage the bees to produce honey. Lemon Balm is also thought to be an anti-viral which is why it’s a first-choice herbal treatment for cold sores, which are caused by a type of herpes virus. It has antiviral properties that work to tame herpes outbreaks, says James Duke, PhD, author of The Green Pharmacy. Prepare lemon balm tea by brewing 2 to 4 tablespoons of the herb per cup of boiling water. Let it cool, then dot with a cotton ball on the cold sore several times a day.
3. Licorice: Calluses and corns
“Licorice contains estrogen-like substances that soften the hard skin of calluses and corns,” says Georgianna Donadio, PhD, director of the National Institute of Whole Health. Make this homemade licorice paste: Grind up a few licorice sticks, mix them with ½ teaspoon of petroleum jelly, and rub the mixture into the rough areas of your feet.
4. Sugar: Hiccups
The ancient Greeks thought hiccups were violent emotions erupting from body. Today, evidence points to spasms in the diaphragm stimulated by the vagus nerve. One known cure is by overwhelming the vagus nerve with another sensation. A teaspoon of sugar swallowed dry can stop hiccups in minutes, says Andre Dubois, MD, PhD, a professor of medicine in the emerging infectious diseases graduate program at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, MD. The sugar is believed to modify the nerve muscles that would otherwise tell the muscles in the diaphragm to contract spasmodically and contribute to hiccups.
The menthol in peppermint leaves relaxes muscles. In a NASA-funded study, scientists from Wheeling Jesuit University monitored the responses of 25 college students during simulated driving scenarios. The volunteers reported that peppermint lowered their feelings of fatigue or anxiety by 20%. Peppermint and cinnamon each decreased frustration by 25%, increased alertness by 30%, and made the ride seem 30% shorter. Consider using peppermint or cinnamon aromatherapy diffusers for the car.
6. Cloves: Cuts
The active ingredient in cloves is eugenol, an effective painkiller. Eugenol helps kill bacteria and viruses, giving cloves antiseptic (infection-fighting) powers. Sprinkle powdered cloves on a cut to keep it from becoming infected, says Duke.
7. Papaya: Smoother skin
This tropical fruit contains papain, a protein-eating enzyme that dissolves the dead cells on your skin’s surface that can make it look dull and rough and leave it prone to breakouts. Grind 2 tablespoons of washed and peeled papaya in a food processor and add 1 tablespoon of dry oatmeal. Pat this mixture onto clean skin and let it set for 10 minutes before wiping off with a wet washcloth. The enzymes in papaya are gentle, which is why this is an ideal treatment for those with sensitive skin.
8. Duct tape: Warts
Covering warts with duct tape eliminates them better than freezing them off, according to a study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. In the study, the duct tape eliminated 85% of the warts after 2 months, compared with 60% with the freezing method. First, clean the area. Then cut a piece of duct tape to a size slightly bigger than the wart. Apply the duct tape to the site and rub into place. Every 3 days, remove the tape and file down dead skin with a nail file. Repeat until the wart disappears. Chemicals in the tape suffocate and kill the wart.
9. Baking soda: Urinary tract infections
Baking soda makes the bladder environment more alkaline, which reduces bacteria’s ability to multiply, says Larrian Gillespie, MD, a retired assistant clinical professor of urology and urogynecology in Los Angeles. But make sure to see your doctor to obtain a urine specimen to treat with antibiotics if necessary.
10. Listerine: Blisters
The active ingredients listed on Listerine bottles are essential oils which are menthol 0.042%, thymol 0.064%, methyl salicylate 0.06%, and eucalyptol 0.092%. In combination all have an antiseptic effect and there is some thought that methyl salicylate may have an anti inflammatory effect as well. That is why is this classic breath freshener and powerful antiseptic can help with blisters. Moisten a cotton ball with Listerine and dab it on your blister 3 times a day until the area dries out and no longer hurts, says Janet Maccaro, PhD, CNC, a holistic nutritionist and certified nutrition consultant in Scottsdale, AZ.
So grandma was right, when ailments occurred, there was no better cure than a little love and a little magic from the kitchen cupboards.