It’s no secret that our parents and grandparents grew up in an age of just making things work. Just look at the fact that, among Baby Boomers, it’s fairly common knowledge that castor oil can induce labor. (What back-pocket tricks like that does a millennial have in their repertoire?) But the fact is, those traditional home remedies are more than just old wives’ tales—many of those concoctions are surprisingly effective at soothing all manner of aches and pains and ailments.
From using vanilla extract to soothe an agonizing toothache to removing a wart with just a swath of trusty duct tape, most of these genius solutions only require a bit of rummaging through your kitchen cupboard. So read on to find out how you can ditch your medicine cabinet and start using home remedies your grandma would certainly approve of. (And while you’re at it, as a bonus, by hewing to such home remedies, you’ll get the chance to kick back in a relaxing Jello bath!)
Rub Red Clay and Vinegar on a Sprain.
Some young kids are particularly adamant that they can’t handle ice on their skin for many minutes at a time, so in the event of a sprain, it’s helpful to know an alternative way to soothe the swelling. That’s where the red clay and vinegar compress comes in. Mix the two substance into a paste and apply it to the sprain for 20 minutes at a time. The solution is so effective that, as The Herald reported, football players suffering from sprains at Chester High School, in Chester, South Carolina, use this solution before heading onto the field.
Take Ginger for Everything.
Ginger may very well be the ne plus ultra of home remedies. If your head is spinning with vertigo, take a bit of ginger root. If you’re hit by an onslaught of cold sweats, gnaw on some fresh ginger. If you experience a sudden wave of nausea, yeah, you guessed it: According to research conducted at the University of Exeter, taking some ginger cures that, too.
Cut Your Cold with Honey, Lemon, and Ginger Tea.
And speaking of ginger, did you know you can drink it, too? Add in some honey and lemon, and you’ve got yourself the ideal home remedy for fighting the common cold, says research published in the Korean Journal of Nutrition. Ginger root is a known immunity booster, while lemon has reserves of Vitamin C—also known to firm up your immune system. (The honey just helps the whole concoction go down smoothly.)
Loosen Calluses with Licorice
No, not the candy—licorice root. If you frequently experience tough calluses, you might want to consider stocking up. Licorice contains an estrogen-like chemical that is particularly effective at smoothing calluses. All you need to do is rub the licorice against the calluses, but if you’re feeling especially resourceful, you can even crush up a few licorice sticks and mix them in with petroleum jelly to make a paste.
Treat Hiccups with Sugar.
You don’t even need any medicine to go along with the sugar! Just one to two teaspoons of sugar should do the job to get an annoying bout of hiccups to subside. According to research in the New England Journal of Medicine, the coarse granules can do the trick to brush against the irritated nerve that is causing your diaphragm to heave and ho.
Soothe a Sty with Pure Gold.
Anyone who’s had a sty on their eye knows that such bumps can be seriously painful. Luckily, there’s a solution tucked away right in your jewelry box. Simply rub a pure gold ring between your palms or fingers until it’s warm, and place it on the sty. The heated metal won’t outright cure your sty—you’ll need antibiotics for that—but it’ll help soothe the pain from swelling in the meantime.
Swap Your Under-Eye Bags for Tea Bags.
Say goodbye to all that extra baggage! Pick up a couple of black tea bags and dip them in a hot water for a few minutes. Pop them in the fridge to cool, then lay down and place the bags over your closed eyes for 10 minutes or so. Tannins in the tea help to return the loose skin under your eyes to their former taut glory.
Cure a Coughing Fit with Chocolate.
Specifically, dark chocolate (that’s anything with a cacao rating of 70 percent or higher). Research published in the Journal of Thoracic Disease revealed that a compound in dark chocolate can actually be even more effective than codeine at soothing a hacking cough, so indulge in a couple squares of the good stuff.
Chew Cherries for Insomnia.
It turns out that cherries are chock-full of melatonin (the hormone that tells your body it’s time to fall asleep), so if you find yourself tossing and turning, open up your fridge and pop a handful of cherries in your mouth.
Whiten Your Teeth with Strawberries.
Perhaps you’ve already heard that baking soda is a tried-and-true method for polishing your teeth to a white luster. But for a slightly sweeter method to get those pearly whites to glow, add handful of strawberries to the mix. Mash three or four into a pulp, then add a sprinkle of baking soda and a dribble of water so that it becomes a paste. Then, brush across your teeth with a toothbrush, and repeat once every four months. In fact, researchers at Padjadjaran University, in Sumedang, Indonesia, found that this mixture is supremely effective at banishing tough-to-eliminate coffee stains.
Apply Olive Oil to Chapped Lips.
When the first fall winds start to blow and you find yourself with a pair of inevitably chapped lips, there’s no need to go out and purchase handfuls of chapstick. Instead, just pucker up and add a dab of olive oil all around the edges of your lips—according to recent research in the International Journal of Research in Cosmetic Science, it works just as well.
Treat Warts with Duct Tape.
When in doubt, duct tape can get the job—any job—done. And yes, that holds true even when it comes to warts. To rid yourself of a pesky wart, all you need is a roll of duct tape and a bit of patience. First, cover the wart with a strip of tape for a week. This will slowly suffocate the wart. Leave the tape on for a week at a time, then remove it and carefully clean the skin around the wart. Repeat the process as needed until the wart is entirely gone. As a study in the Archives of Pediatric and & Adolescent Medicine concluded, using this duct tape method is more effective at removing warts than even cryotherapy, the most common treatment for wart removal in the medical community.
Treat Wasp Stings with Tobacco Juice.
With the precipitous decrease of tobacco consumption in recent decades, as far as home remedies go, this option might not be quite as practical as it once was. Still, many people who have been on the receiving end of an angry wasp swear that applying a bit of tobacco helped to alleviate the painfulness of their sting. But don’t take it from them! Take it from recent research out of the University of Georgia, which corroborated the efficacy of such anecdotal evidence. (Note: the tobacco must be chewed beforehand to produce the juice, something we’re not necessarily condoning.)
Put Potatoes on Bug Bites.
Did you know that potatoes are good for more than being mashed and baked and French-fried? They actually also have anti-inflammatory properties; a sliced, raw potato, according to a study in the journal Food and Agriculture Immunology, is one of the best compresses to place against an itchy bug bite.
Use Vanilla Extract for Toothaches.
Don’t worry, we’re not suggesting that you add more sugar to your cavity. However, the tiny concentration of alcohol in vanilla extract can work wonders in numbing your gums around a painful toothache. Simply soak a cotton swab in vanilla extract or add a drop or two to your finger or and rub it against the afflicted area for some quite literally sweet relief.
Fight Infections with Garlic.
Garlic isn’t just for warding off vampires, folks. As research out of the University of Copenhagen revealed, adding a little extra garlic to your diet by chewing the cloves or preparing it in a hot drink (garlic tea, anyone?), can give your immune system an extra edge, making it easier to fight off chronic infections. Pro tip: be sure to gargle with strong mouthwash after ingesting all that garlic.
Fight Foot Odor with Vinegar.
Are you one of those people who battles constant embarrassment about the stench emanating from your feet after a long day? For a good old-fashioned home remedy, look no further than the bottle of vinegar in your kitchen cabinet. The Cleveland Clinic recommends soaking your feet in a mixture of one part vinegar and two parts water at nighttime can help to reduce your feet’s propensity to stink. Just 20 minutes or so of soaking should do the trick.
Banish Bad Breath with Lemon Juice.
If you find that, no matter how long you swill mouthwash in the morning, your breath is already stale a couple hours into your workday, you might want to opt for one of the most effective oral home remedies: lemon juice. First, gargle with a small cup of acidic lemon juice. (This will kill the bacteria that is causing your breath to stink.) Then, take a few bites of unsweetened yogurt to replace the bad bacteria with beneficial bacteria. This should keep your breath fresh for at least 12 hours.
Take a Dip in Oatmeal.
The oatmeal bath is among the most tried-and-true home remedies for relaxation, no matter what aches or ailments you might be experiencing. It’s particularly beneficial for soothing dry skin—oatmeal baths are even espoused by the National Eczema Association as a treatment for eczema.
Jump into a Jello Bath.
You can add half a box of sugar-free Jello to your bathwater for a fun and fruity alternative to the traditional oatmeal bath to soothe your dry skin. See, animal bones and cartilage are key ingredients in Jello, which, according to research published in the journal Nutrients, are both effective at counteracting your skin’s natural aging process. (Just be absolutely sure that you buy the box of sugar-free Jello—you don’t want to end up with an ant infestation, after all.)
Smother Lice in Coconut Oil.
Perhaps you have all too vivid memories of your mother spreading mayonnaise on your hair in the midst of a practically inescapable elementary school lice breakout. Today, coconut oil is believed to be one of the best home remedies for smothering lice, especially since the oil has more solidity than mayonnaise. Plus, the treated scalp will smell like an island breeze (instead of a condiment) after the oil is applied and rinsed out.
Soothe a UTI with Baking Soda.
While you’ll most likely need antibiotics of some sort to attack the bacteria responsible for a urinary tract infection, home remedies can help alleviate the worst symptoms. Just use a bit of baking soda. Because acidic urine is what’s responsible for the burning sensation someone with a UTI experiences while urinating, drinking a substance that is more basic (recall the pH, acid-base scale from high school chemistry) will help ease the burning. The best way to do this is to mix one teaspoon of baking soda into one cup of water, then drink the concoction on an empty stomach.
Shoo Away Mosquitoes with Skin So Soft.
While this Avon product is actually marketed as a bath oil (and, for what it’s worth, the company steadfastly makes no claims that it’s anything more than that), many Baby Boomers are adamant that it is one of the best mosquito repellents available.
Remove Thorns and Stickers with Black Salve.
There’s not much that’s worse than running through the grass, barefoot and carefree, and then feeling a sharp prick in the bottom of your foot from a sticker. Luckily, black salve, also known as Ichthammol ointment, is a particularly handy among home remedies: it helps smoothly and safely draw out all manner of stickers, thorns, and splinters that get embedded in your skin.
Breastfeeding Moms: Eat Yogurt to Cure Your Baby’s Colic.
It happens to every parent: You’ve tried everything to help your baby get over their colic, but no amount of rocking or shushing or driving around will get their crying fits to subside. If you’re truly at your wit’s end, try eating more yogurt. According to a study published in the Journal of Family Practice, breastfeeding babies whose moms ate probiotics (commonly found in yogurt) saw a whopping 50 percent decrease in crying time.
Blot Bleach on Mosquito Bites.
The key word here is “blot.” According to research out of Texas A&M University, just a dab of diluted household bleach to mosquito bites can soothe the itching and prevent scratching that will just further irritate the bite. Oh, and it can also be effective at treating chigger bites and poison ivy rashes.
Heal Wounds with Honey.
Say goodbye to pesky acne scars. Just take a healthy dollop of honey—specifically, if you take it from a study in the World Journal of Otorhinolaryngology, Manuka honey, which has been shown to cause scars to heal in an “aesthetic manner”—and rub it into the scarred area before bedtime to help smoothen your skin. For deeper wounds, you might want to consider adding a wound dressing over the top to let it soak in. And if you happen to get a little in your mouth in the process, it can also make for a sweet treat!
Soak in an Epsom Salt Bath.
Some experts claim that Epsom salts are able to slow the buildup of lactic acids in your muscles, which keeps them from becoming too sore. While this may or may not be true, it’s definitely helpful to loosen your muscles by soaking in a bathtub of warm water, and, well, adding a half-cup of Epsom salts to the bathwater certainly won’t hurt.
Gargle Saltwater to Soothe a Sore Throat.
Whether you’re battling a sore throat or congestion, taking a few minutes to gargle with saltwater—a few shakes of salt into an eight-ounce glass—is sure to help subdue the worst of your symptoms. Be sure not to swallow the water, though. Drinking a substance with such a concentrated level of sodium could dehydrate you.
Alleviate Burns with an Aloe Vera Plant.
Forgot to reapply sunscreen at the beach and ended up with a nasty burn? Grabbed a cookie sheet out of the oven and blistered your fingers? According to research in the Journal of the International Society for Burn Injuries, aloe vera from an actual plant is one of the most natural home remedies out there, and it’s certain to soothe all your burns, whether it’s a sun burn or a burn burn. Simply break off a leaf off, snap it apart, and rub the inside of the leaf against the burnt area for some organic relief.