Home Remedies Around the World
Chicken Soup for Cold Symptoms
Chicken soup may be good for the soul, but some people swear that it’s also good for the body. Many Americans reach for a steaming bowl of chicken soup whenever they’ve got a cold, while the equivalent remedy in Japan is ginger tea. But are these home cures, passed down from generation to generation, really therapeutic? We consulted experts about folk remedies from around the world to see if they’ve got any merit. Sip on as much soup as you can manage, and repeat as necessary.
Verdict: Chicken soup inhibits white blood cell movement by a whopping 75 percent, which can reduce the symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection, according to a study by University of Nebraska researchers.
Native American Moms: Garlic Rub for Bee Stings
Crush garlic bulbs and wrap them in a cloth. Rub the poultice onto the sting.
Verdict: Do it. Bee venom is acidic, and the natural components of garlic will neutralize the pain so you’ll feel immediate relief, says Ranella Hirsch, MD, clinical assistant professor at Boston University’s School of Medicine in Massachusetts, and past president of the American Society of Cosmetic Dermatology and Aesthetic Surgery.
Greek Moms: Chamomile Herbal Tea with Honey and Brandy for Cold Symptoms
Fill a pot with 2 cups of boiling water, add a teaspoon of loose chamomile tea, a cinnamon stick, three cloves and either an orange or lemon peel. Let steep for five minutes. Pour the combination into a cup and add a teaspoon of honey and a splash of Metaxa, a Greek brandy. Drink.
Verdict: This could help, says Kathi Kemper, MD, author of The Holistic Pediatrician and director of the Center for Integrative Medicine at Wake Forest University’s School of Medicine in North Carolina. Chamomile has relaxing properties, honey can help with a cough, and orange and lemon are used in cleaning products to zap germs, Dr. Kemper says. And the brandy? “It would probably be an enjoyable addition,” she adds.
Meat Tenderizer for Jellyfish Stings
Rub meat tenderizer powder directly onto the sting. Wash it off after 10 minutes. Note: The seasoned form of tenderizer may cause irritation, so make sure you use plain meat tenderizer.
Verdict: Skip it. A May 2010 study by researchers at the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography found that papain and bromelain, ingredients commonly found in meat tenderizer, will actually make you feel worse. The pain from a jellyfish sting is caused when there is discharge of jellyfish nematocysts. Unfortunately, meat tenderizer causes even more nematocysts to be discharged.
Ginger Tea for Cold and Flu Symptoms
Mix 2/3 cup of boiling water with 2 teaspoons of grated ginger and 2 teaspoons of sugar. Add a few slices of fresh ginger root and drink the tea.
Verdict: Helps with some symptoms. Ginger can stimulate your circulation, which will help your body get rid of a cold faster. It’s also been shown to reduce nausea, and drinking liquid when you’re sick can help with congestion, Dr. Kemper says. Adding to that is a 2009 Iranian study that found women who were nauseated and vomiting decreased their illness by 50 percent after taking 1,000 mg of ginger daily.
Chinese Moms: Egg Rub for Headaches
Hard-cook three eggs and peel off shell quickly. Wrap one in a cotton handkerchief and rub it on your head, face, neck and back. When the egg cools, throw it out and repeat the rub with a new, warm egg. Don’t shower for 24 hours.
Verdict: Skip it. Not one of our experts could figure out any positive effects of this remedy. “The use of an egg in the Chinese home remedy baffles me,” says Judy Fulop, MS, ND, integrative medicine specialist at the Center for Integrative Medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. And while Dr. Kemper says that they may be using the egg as a heating pad, it would only be helpful for a backache.
German Moms: Apple Cider Vinegar Rub for Sunburn
Rub apple cider vinegar onto the burn. If the burn covers your entire body, pour two or three cups of the vinegar into your bath and soak in the water.
Verdict: It’s a toss-up. Aloe vera would work much better on a sunburn, but when all else fails, an apple cider vinegar rub couldn’t hurt, Fulop says. In fact, an apple cider vinegar poultice is commonly rubbed onto aching body parts because the alkaline nature of the vinegar decreases pain.
Garlic Herbal Tea with Honey for Cold Symptoms
Bring 3 cups of water with 3 cloves of garlic to a boil. Turn off the heat, and add ½ cup of fresh lemon juice and ½ cup of honey. Drink ½ cup of the warm mixture three times daily.
Verdict: Each ingredient can help with a cold or the flu, Dr. Kemper says. The garlic has antibacterial properties, lemon is loaded with vitamin C and the honey will soothe your cough. “But it sounds like it will taste terrible,” she adds.
Russian and Ukrainian Moms: Vinegar Rub for Fever
Soak a cotton bed sheet in a mixture of vinegar and water, and wipe it on your entire body.
Verdict: Eh. “I don’t know what vinegar would do, but if you use lukewarm water, it could lower your fever,” says Jon Abramson, MD, physician-in-chief at Brenner Children’s Hospital in North Carolina, and former chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics committee on infectious diseases. Instead of making the mixture and spoiling a sheet, Dr. Abramson suggests simply hopping into a lukewarm bath to slowly lower your body temperature to the 98–99°F range.
South African Moms: Honey and Cinnamon Paste for Acne and Facial Blemishes
Mix 4 tablespoons of honey with 3 teaspoons of ground cinnamon. Before going to sleep, apply it to your face; leave it on overnight. Apply as often as needed.
Verdict: The cinnamon is the most important part of this mix because it acts as an anti-inflammatory, and will take down the redness and puffiness, says Dr. Hirsch. But honey is also known for its healing and moisturizing properties when it’s applied to the skin.