Make Your Kitchen Your Medicine CabinetAlmost 45% of Americans say they’ve relied more on home remedies or OTC drugs in the last year to save money on doctors’ visits, according to a Kaiser Health Tracking poll. While you should always see the doctor for serious ailments, you may be able to soothe minor complaints with these inexpensive products already in your pantry, from The Big Doctors Book of Home Remedies.
Salt - Use it for: Athlete’s foot: A saline solution provides a hostile environment for fungus, decreases excess perspiration, and softens skin so antifungal meds can penetrate deeper. Soak your foot for 5 to 10 minutes in a mixture of 2 teaspoons of salt per pint of warm water, recommends podiatric surgeon Suzanne M. Levine, DPM.
Tonic Water - Use it for: Restless legs: A 6-ounce glass of tonic water before bed might calm symptoms of restless legs syndrome; the quinine it contains helps stop repeated muscle contractions.
Lemon - Use it for: Age spots: Cut a few wedges and place them directly onto your age spots for 10 to 15 minutes a day, suggests Audrey Kunin, MD, a cosmetic dermatologist in Kansas City, Missouri. “The acid in the fresh lemon juice may help lighten the age spots,” she says, but it won’t happen overnight. You’ll notice a difference in 6 to 12 weeks. Watch carefully; overuse may cause the upper layer of the skin to peel.
Honey - Use it for: Cuts and scrapes: This natural sweetener contains 3 powerful wound-healing components: sugar for absorbing moisture so bacteria can’t survive, hydrogen peroxide to disinfect, and the nectar-based compound propolis to kill bacteria. An added bonus: Honey dries to form a natural bandage.
Olive Oil - Use it for: Eczema: Packed with inflammation-reducing antioxidants, olive oil is the basis of many moisturizers; used alone, it’s free of chemical irritants you may find in store-bought creams. Rub 1 teaspoon per square inch of skin, creating a seal that keeps skin from drying out. For serious cases, cover oiled skin with plastic wrap overnight.
Milk - Use it for: Anxiety: To calm yourself before bedtime, pour a glass of warm milk. “The old wives’ tale of having warm milk really does help,” says Bernard Vittone, MD, a psychiatrist and founder of The National Center for the Treatment of Phobias, Anxiety, and Depression in Washington, DC. Milk contains the amino acid tryptophan, which can bring on relaxation.
Apple Cider Vinegar - Use it for: Bruises: Apple cider vinegar is an excellent natural anti-inflammatory. Dab a little on a cotton ball and rub it directly on a bruise, or make a paste out of the vinegar and an egg white or petroleum jelly and smear it on the bruised area.
Chamomile Tea - Use it for: Calluses and corns: If your feet are prone to bumps and lumps, soak them in a diluted chamomile tea bath, advises Levine. The tea will soothe and soften hard skin. The brew will stain your feet, but it comes off easily with soap and water.
Baking Soda - Use it for: Urinary tract infection: It makes the bladder more alkaline, which prevents bacteria from multiplying, says urologist Larrian Gillespie, MD. Drink a solution made with ¼ teaspoon of baking soda mixed in 8 ounces of water at the first sign of symptoms. Continue this once a day until you see a doctor, get a culture, and start taking antibiotics.
Ginger - Use it for: Stomachaches: This root is well-known as a stomach soother, and rightfully so. It’s great for relieving just about any gastrointestinal illness, including motion sickness and pregnancy morning sickness. To make a tea, steep a tablespoon of ground fresh ginger in hot water for 10 minutes, then strain.