Long before big box stores with their shelves of medicines, and long before the age of instant information, there was passed-down, time-tested wisdom on how to treat common ailments with natural remedies.
Our forefathers and foremothers used plants, common sense, and a little know-how to ease all types of pain and discomfort. In many cases, these treatments worked as well or better than the medications we purchase today. Plus, they worked without the risk of added chemicals and preservatives.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor and nothing in this article should be taken as medical advice. Please talk to your doctor before using any of the herbs and/or remedies mentioned in this article.
What’s another side benefit? Many of these items are readily on hand in your pantry. Here are some lost remedies from the old days for 13 common ailments.
Horseradish – Moisturize your forehead and under-nose area. About fifteen minutes later, wrap two to three teaspoons of grated horseradish in a soft cloth or cheesecloth and apply to the base of your nose or to your forehead until you feel a light burning sensation. Remove.
Vitamin C – Squeeze the juice from half of a lemon into a cup. Drop the peel and remaining pulp into the cup as well. Add boiling water and a teaspoon of honey. Breathe in the steam as you stir and then sip slowly after it cools.
Cough and Sore Throat
Nix the supermarket cough drops and try one of these remedies instead.
Basil – Chewing on some fresh basil leaves can relieve a dry cough.
Gargle – Make a simple but effective mouthwash of salt and warm water or freshly squeezed lemon juice and warm water. Gargle and repeat as often as needed.
Honey Tea – Mix two teaspoons of honey with warm water or with an herbal tea of your choice. Sip twice a day. (Not for children under 12 months.)
Nutshell Tea – Place five ounces of nut shells in a teapot, add water, and boil. Sip slowly to soothe your throat.
Pine Needle Tea – Here’s how to make it:
- Rinse one cup of needles before finely chopping them.
- Next, place a half cup plus two tablespoons of water, two tablespoons of corn syrup, and a pinch of salt to a boil in a saucepan.
- Whisk ingredients together and then boil for one minute without stirring.
- Remove the pan from the heat, add the chopped needles, and steep the mixture for two to three hours.
- Take two teaspoons of the resulting syrup to reduce cough and sore throat.
Pine Syrup – Try two teaspoons of pine syrup to ease a cough and a sore throat.
Cuts, Scrapes and Bruises
Here are a few first aid tips that use items you probably have on hand in your home.
Banana Peels – For minor cuts and scratches, wash the area and then rub gently with the inside of a banana peel.
Bread & Apple Cider Vinegar – To help heal a bruise, rub the area with bread that has been soaked in apple cider vinegar.
Aloe Vera, Chamomile Tea, or Honey – Apply directly to the area.
Apple Cider Vinegar – Here’s an “old wives’ take” your grandmother or great-grandmother may have recommended for reducing a high fever. Soak your socks in apple cider vinegar. Then put them on your feet and keep them on for about 20 minutes. You can repeat the process with fresh vinegar every half hour until the fever subsides.
Ginger Powder – Another idea is to make a paste of ginger powder and two tablespoons water. Place the paste on your forehead for a few minutes.
Peppermint Oil – The scent of pure peppermint oil can open clogged blood vessels in the head, easing headache pain.
Potato Slices – Did you know you can treat headaches with potato slices? Apply two to three slices of raw potato to your forehead. If necessary, keep them in place with a scarf or bandana. Another option is to grate a raw potato and squeeze any potato liquid into a glass of water. Sip the potato water.
Here are some old-school remedies for an upset stomach.
Apple Cider Vinegar & Honey – Stir one tablespoon of honey and one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar into a cup of warm water and sip slowly to ease indigestion pain.
Caraway Seeds – Nibble on a handful of caraway seeds to stop bloating discomfort.
CRAP Foods – I’m not talking about foods that taste like crap. I’m talking about the acronym which stands for cherries, raisins, apricots and prunes. These fruits are rich in fiber and help your digestive system function more smoothly.
Fennel – Chew a few pieces of raw fennel to help reduce gas and reduce stomach cramping.
Peppermint – This is a time-honored treatment for stomach upset. Try sipping peppermint tea or sucking on a piece of peppermint.
Peppermint-Carrot Tea – Here’s how to make it:
- Boil four cups of water along with four sliced carrots.
- Add either one peppermint teabag or one teaspoon of dried peppermint leaves.
- Lower the heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes or so until the carrots soften.
- Remove the tea bag (if using) and blend the mixture in a blender until smooth.
- Adding a pinch of ground ginger or a squeeze of lemon juice will boost the antioxidants in this tea.
Insect Bites and Stings
Here are a few natural remedies for bites and stings from pesky insects.
Apple Cider Vinegar – Apply apple cider vinegar with a cotton ball or a swab to the painful or itchy area.
Baking Soda & Water – Make a paste of baking soda and water. Apply it the bite area and allow it to dry.
Basil – Place freshly crushed basil or sage on the area.
Onions, Leeks, or Cabbage – Apply slices of raw onions, leeks, or cabbage directly to the bite or sting.
Parsley, Honey, and Salt – Make a poultice of parsley, honey, and salt and place it on the spot.
Tea Bags – Press a used tea bag against the bite until the itching subsides.
Dark Red Cherries – Fresh dark red cherries or juice made from them are an excellent source of melatonin, a hormone that helps to regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycle. Eat cherries or drink tart cherry juice about an hour before bedtime to help relax and get a good night’s sleep.
To soothe the pain of a minor burn and to promote skin healing, try these natural treatments.
Aloe Vera – Cut the leaves of an Aloe Vera plant open and gently smear the contents on the burn or sunburn.
Banana – Lay the inside of a banana peel on the burn.
Egg – A raw beaten egg can be used as part of a poultice to soothe burned skin.
Olive Oil – Gently apply a layer of olive oil to the area.
Onion – Slice an onion and gently rub the open surface on the affected skin.
Potato – Place cut potato slices on the burned area.
Muscle Aches and Pains
Brussels Sprouts, Broccoli, Cabbage, or Cauliflower – These can all help accelerate toxin elimination from a painful place in the body. Here’s a tried and true remedy:
- Soften two or three cabbage leaves in boiled water.
- Place them around the affected area for a few hours.
- Cover them with a towel or a scarf as needed.
Epsom Salt – Soak in a warm tub of water mixed with a cup or two of Epsom salt for 15 minutes or until the water has cooled. (Check with your doctor first if you have a heart problem, high blood pressure, or diabetes.)
Magnesium – This can help aching muscles. One way to get more in your diet is by adding a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses to your coffee or tea in the morning. Or try making old-fashioned “switchel” with this recipe:
- Stir together 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup of molasses, 1/2 cup of honey, and 1 1/2 teaspons of ground ginger.
- Add two quarts water and mix until dissolved.
- Chill or serve over ice.
Ginger – It contains compounds called gingerols and shogaols that help ease queasiness, morning sickness, and mild stomach upset. Steep one to two grams of fresh ginger root in boiling water to make a tea. Sip slowly after it has steeped for three to five minutes. (Do not consume more than four grams of ginger per day as it can irritate the stomach lining.)
Skin Irritations and Rashes
Chamomile Tea – Another method is to apply cooled-down or refrigerated chamomile tea to the irritated area with a cotton ball.
Oatmeal – Add oatmeal to warm bathwater to soothe and reduce itchiness, especially due to chicken pox.
Walnut Leaves – Age-old wisdom uses walnut leaves to treat skin problems. Boil green walnut leaves in water for 15 minutes. Let it cool before straining. Then apply the liquid to the skin using clean gauze or cloth.
Pioneer lore contains many tested remedies for toothaches.
Clove Oil – One of them involves soaking a cotton ball in clove oil and then pressing it on the painful area.
Cloves – Chewing a few cloves also can provide relief.
Garlic – Garlic is another natural remedy for tooth pain. You can simply press a clove of garlic onto the painful tooth. The garlic juice works as a natural anesthetic.
Peppermint Tea Bags – Apply them to soothe sensitive gums and ease mouth pain.
Not only do these treatments save time and money, but it feels good to use natural ingredients when we have an ailment.