Colds, warts, dandruff, and nausea are all non-life threatening yet very annoying conditions that can undermine one’s quality of life. They also tend to be tricky to get rid of, yet seeking medical attention can seem a bit extreme for these issues. That’s where home remedies come in. Who knew duct tape could treat a pesky dermatological affliction? Or that gargling simple tap water can make you over a third less likely to get a cold? It may be beneficial to try out natural home remedies for the health issues described instead of grabbing over-the-counter cold meds or receiving more severe as well as potentially dangerous treatments like cryotherapy. Natural remedies can provide milder yet effective treatment for symptoms many of us experience at some point in our lives. Ultimately, it is always a good idea to check in with your doctor before opting for a new treatment method.
In this Article:
Home remedies are techniques one can use to alleviate or mitigate the severity of hundreds of conditions, without having to trek to the hospital or fill a prescription. Some rooted in ancient tradition, others discovered in the modern age, home remedies can present perks over traditional care in terms of cost, safety, accessibility, effectiveness, and side effects. Read on to discover some truly powerful and simple remedies for colds, warts, dandruff, and nausea.
At times, illnesses are treated more aggressively than what the body really needs in order to heal. Home remedies can act as the push your body needs to repair itself while avoiding the potential dangers of harsher treatments. Home remedies can be cheaper and just as potent as costly medications, so it is quite handy to be aware of them the next time you have a minor injury or are feeling under the weather.
Many minor illnesses, ailments, and other health concerns can be effectively and safely treated at home using spices, foods, and other easily purchasable common substances or household items. In some cases, the condition can’t and shouldn’t be cured using only homemade solutions, but the latter can still be helpful supplements to the treatments prescribed by a doctor.
Because home remedies arose from old traditions, rumors, and beliefs, not all of them have been scientifically proven to be effective or safe. Sometimes they can help merely through the placebo effect, but other times they are medicinally helpful. However, some home remedies can be unintentionally harmful. That being said, all of the information on the following remedies described in this article has been supported by scientific research. Regardless, consult your physician before using a new remedy and keep him/her informed about any treatments or supplements you are taking.
- Chicken soup
a) What it does: This popular soup has been found to alleviate upper respiratory tract infections (URTI,i.e. infection of any part of the upper airway including nasal passages, sinus, and throat).
b) How it works: The remedy functions by reducing inflammation (which is typically caused by neutrophils - a type of white blood cell). Ingredients in the soup inhibit white blood cell migration to the site of infection and thus, reduce inflammation. Check out “An Inside Scoop on the Science Behind Chicken Soup and the Common Cold” from Issue 1, Volume 14 of Total Wellness for all the details on how this remedy works.
c) How to use this remedy: While chicken soup can be purchased canned or otherwise prepackaged, commercial soups can vary greatly in their cold-fighting capacity so it’s a safer bet to make a homemade version.
The following is the recipe used in the 2000 study published by Chest Journal (since the relative effect of each ingredient is unclear, make sure to include all these ingredients to benefit from the chicken soup’s cold-fighting properties):
· one 5 to 6 lb. chicken
· 1 package chicken wings
· 3 large onions
· 1 large sweet potato
· 3 parsnips
· 2 turnips
· 12 large carrots
· 6 celery stems
· 1 bunch of parsley
· salt and pepper to taste
1. Clean the chicken, then cover with cold water in a large pot. Bring the water to a boil.
2. Add the chicken wings, onions, sweet potato, parsnips, turnips, and carrots, and boil for about 1.5 hours. Remove fat from the surface as it accumulates.
3. Add parsley, celery, and cook for 45 more minutes.
4. Remove the chicken (that’s as far as you’ll need the chicken for the recipe).
5. Finely chop up the cooked veggies in a food processor and add them back into the soup.
6. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Gargling water
a) What it does: This method for washing out the throat is virtually free and was found to reduce the rate of upper respiratory tract infection by 36% in a 2005 study (published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine) of 387 healthy patients followed for 2 months.
b) How it works: Water gargling is deemed to wash out disease-causing microorganisms from the throat and oral cavity. Microbes that can cause URTI takes approximately 8 to 12 hours to settle in, so gargling could prevent the development of URTIs.
c) How to use this remedy:
1. Fill a glass with water. Then, take a sip of water, tilt the head back, and exhale for about 20 seconds allowing the liquid to stay in motion and wash the throat.
2. Continue until glass of water is emptied.
3. Do this 3 times per day.
- Saline nasal spray
a) What it does: While nasal saline spray has not been found effective in treating pre-existing nasal symptoms, it has been shown to be useful as a preventative measure for cold-related symptoms. In a 2004 study published by Acta Otolaryngol, 69 subjects used a saline spray for 10 weeks. Afterwards, the same participants did not use the saline spray for 10 weeks. Throughout the study, the subjects recorded their symptoms. While using the spray, they had almost half the number of days with nasal symptoms (like blocked nose or secretion) versus when not using the spray.
b) How it works: Rinsing the nasal cavities is believed to dilute mucus, making the transport of irritants away from the surface more likely. Other explanations still being evaluated include the physical removal of potentially harmful substances and improved function of the cilia due to increased dampness in the nose. Cilia are tiny hairs at the back of the nose that clear mucus from the sinuses.
c) How to use this remedy: Use a nasal spray (purchased at a drugstore) once daily and follow the directions on the packaging for correct usage.
- Duct tape
a) What it does: Duct tape occlusion (securely covering the wart with duct tape) can be much more effective in treating common warts than cryotherapy (application of liquid nitrogen). In cryotherapy, liquid nitrogen is directly applied to rapidly freeze and kill the wart tissue. In a study of 51 patients, 85% of those who used the duct tape treatment (versus 60% in the cryotherapy group) had complete resolution of the wart within the first month of therapy.
b) How it works: The exact mechanism of action of the tape on warts is unknown, but it may have to do with the stimulation of the immune system response through local irritation.
c) How to use this remedy:
1. Apply a piece of duct tape as close to the size of the wart as possible.
2. Leave it on for 6 days, then remove the tape, soak the area in warm water, and carefully debride the surface of the wart with a pumice stone.
3. Leave the wart tape-less overnight, and apply a new piece the following day.
4. Repeat this procedure until the wart resolves, or for up to 2 months.
5. If the treatment doesn’t work after this period of time, seek a physician’s or dermatologist’s advice.
Note: While there is evidence, such as the 2002 study above, of the efficacy of this remedy, recent studies have produced controversial results showing no benefit of duct tape occlusion over a control. This discrepancy could be due to the fact that the newer studies disproving efficacy use a clear, acrylic-based tape rather than the original silver, rubber-based tape. Further research is needed to determine duct tape’s true power over skin warts.
- Garlic extract
a) What it does: Garlic extracts appear to have positive effects in the treatment of warts. In a study of 23 patients treated by applying a lipid (the part of the garlic that dissolves in fat) garlic extract to the wart(s), complete recovery was observed in all cases after 1 to 2 weeks of treatment, while the control group (treated with a 2 parts chloroform, 1 part methanol solution) showed no signs of recovery.
b) How it works: Many of garlic’s curative properties are attributed to a specific compound that is a natural constituent of garlic (called S-allyl-cysteine), but it is yet unclear whether it also plays a role in the curing effects in skin conditions. Other mechanisms potentially responsible for garlic’s effectiveness are the enhancement of immunological responses (similar to that produced by duct tape) and antiviral activity (warts are caused by viruses).
c) How to use this remedy:
1. Apply lipid garlic extract twice daily, and cover with a bandage between applications.
2. Continue to do this until the wart resolves.
- Tea tree oil shampoo[9-10]
a) What it does: Tea tree oil has shown to be a promising compound when dealing with dandruff. A 2002 study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology tested the effectiveness of 5% tea tree oil shampoo on 126 patients - half were assigned the tea tree oil shampoo, the other half a regular shampoo. Patients used the shampoo daily for 4 weeks and did not know which type of shampoo they were assigned to. The tea tree oil shampoo was 30% more effective against dandruff and had no adverse effects. These results are based on severity scores assigned to examination of the subjects as well as their own self-assessments on measures such as scaliness, itchiness, and greasiness.
b) How it works: When dandruff is caused by a fungus (sometimes it can simply be due to dry skin instead), tea tree oil is believed to act through its antifungal activity. A study published in 1996 in Skin Pharmacology tested tea tree oil in vitro (i.e. in a test-tube or dish) on 26 types of harmful skin fungi. The oil was able to inhibit the growth of all 26 fungi.
c) How to use this remedy: Purchase tea tree oil shampoo from a drugstore or online, and follow printed directions for proper usage.
- Eucalyptus essential oil
a) What it does: The oil acts as an antidandruff agent when used in a shampoo or in pure essential oil form (stronger effect).
b) How it works: A component of the oil called cineole was determined as the dandruff fighter due to its antifungal activity. Cineole constitutes 92% of the essential oil.
c) How to use this remedy: Buy eucalyptus essential oil in a vitamin store, health product store, apothecary, or online, and follow the printed instructions. Directions will vary depending on the purity and strength of the oil product purchased.
- Boiled rice water
a) What it does: Rice water can fight fungi that cause dandruff.
b) How it works: When boiled water from white or red rice is kept aside for a day, elements appeared that were shown to fight malassezia, a dandruff-causing fungus.In a study of rice water as a natural remedy, it was shown that rice water was 85 to 90% effective in steadily inhibiting the growth of malassezia in little plastic dishes (called petri dishes) over a 3 to 4 day period, losing effectiveness on day 5.
c) How to use this remedy:
1. Keep excess water that white or red rice was cooked in (use a 1:2 rice to water ratio) overnight in a closed container.
2. Pour over scalp at least once a week, leaving it on for as long as possible before having to wash hair.
When the treatment is stopped, malassezia overgrowth might return. The same goes for dandruff shampoos, making rice water the safer alternative because it presents no known adverse effects.
Note: These remedies are specifically for dandruff caused by a fungus, but there are also other causes. See “Fight Dandruff Head On” in Issue 2, Volume 13 Total Wellness for more information.
a) What it does: An evaluation of multiple studies looking at postoperative nausea, seasickness, morning sickness, and chemotherapy-induced nausea collectively favored ginger (specifically, ingestion of powdered ginger) over a placebo in the reduction of nausea and its incidence.
b) How it works:Gingetol and shogaol are the components responsible for ginger’s medicinal worth.They have mostly local effects on the digestive system whereas many pharmaceutical anti-nausea agents can affect the central nervous system, making ginger a less-invasive, safer alternativewhen taken in appropriate dosages.
c) How to use this remedy: Ginger root capsules can be purchased at most health food stores. Follow directions on the bottle for correct dosage. Multiple studies also support the recommendation of drinking ginger ale.Make sure the ginger ale is made with real ginger and not artificially flavored (check ingredient list).
Note: If you experience vomiting more than 3 times in 1 day, seek medical attention instead.
- Vitamin B6 supplementation[18-19]
a) What it does: Vitamin B6 was found to be equally as helpful as ginger (the previous remedy discussed). According to a study of 138 pregnant women (who often experience nausea and vomiting from pregnancy) published in 2003 by the Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand, vitamin B6, taken orally, is just as effective as ginger in the treatment of nausea and vomiting.
b) How it works: While vitamin B6’s role in many bodily functions is known, due to the lack of studies purely evaluating the effects of B6 alone on nausea, the specific mechanism coming into play is not entirely understood.
c) How to use this remedy: Take a 10 mg capsule 3 times daily while symptoms persist. Since B6 is a water-soluble vitamin, the body does not store it. This makes it a safer alternative for the treatment of nausea because it is an unlikely candidate for overdose.
This article is originally published in UCLA Student Wellness Commission Total Wellness Magazine. Click here to view the original article published in the Spring 2014 issue of Total Wellness Magazine. For more information about Total Wellness, click here to visit their webpage.
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By Julia Feygelman, BS Candidate, UCLA 2014
UCLA Student Wellness Commission Total Wellness Magazine, Staff Writer