Most health professionals dismiss home remedies as worthless at best or harmful at worst. That may be because their training makes such simple solutions to life’s persistent problems seem unscientific.
While it is true that grandmothers’ wisdom is rarely tested in double-blind, placebo-controlled trials, these remedies have been tested by time. What’s more, they are often far safer and much more affordable than medications.
Were people to use such approaches more often, they would likely save money, lower health insurance premiums and reduce the risk of serious drug side effects. Treating common ailments at home should mean fewer doctor visits and co-pays, reduced drug expenses and lower premiums as a consequence.
Such claims are likely to rub a lot of physicians, pharmacists and nurses the wrong way, like a car alarm that won’t quit. Many assume home remedies are ineffective and drugs always work.
Prescribers have long believed that having the FDA’s official blessing on a medicine bestows credibility and confidence. But here’s a dirty little secret that very few health professionals may know. FDA approval does not guarantee a drug a) works very well or b) is safe.
An analysis in the journal BMJ (online, Oct. 22, 2013) of statin-type cholesterol-lowering drugs revealed that “140 low risk people must be treated with statins for five years to prevent one major coronary event or stroke, without any reduction in all-cause mortality.” In other words, 139 otherwise healthy people would have to take statins so that 1 out of the 140 total could avoid a heart attack or a stroke. We don’t think those are such great odds, given the potential side effects of muscle pain, arthritis, cataracts, neuropathy or cognitive dysfunction. (This comment does not apply to people with heart disease, for whom statins provide a clearer benefit.)
Here are some examples where we think home remedies may trump drugs:
NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like diclofenac (Cataflam, Voltaren), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, etc), meloxicam (Mobic) and naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox, Naprosyn) can eat a hole in the stomach lining and lead to life-threatening bleeding ulcers. They may also increase the risk of hypertension and kidney damage as well as of heart attacks and strokes. Scientific evidence of long-term benefit from such drugs in the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee or hip is surprisingly thin.
Home remedies for arthritis, while not tested in double-blind trials, have far fewer serious side effects, lower cost and an amazing number of devoted followers.
Kent wrote to us a decade ago to say that after years of an active lifestyle (walking, running, and playing basketball), osteoarthritis of the knee had sidelined him:
“Pain was continuous, and the swelling of the knee was significant; I had difficulty sleeping, and started considering a total knee replacement.
“An associate mentioned that some friends had found relief from their osteoarthritis by using a home remedy. The remedy: each morning take two teaspoons, by mouth, of liquid pectin (Certo brand) in four to six ounces of grape juice.
“My results: Pain & soreness diminished to almost zero; swelling was reduced significantly; and I slept all night without interruption for the first time in years. These positive results have continued every single day since starting the regimen. I have no idea if I am one of a very lucky select few who can benefit from this remedy, or if it would have the same effect on others with osteoarthritis.”
We cannot predict, of course, who will benefit from a home remedy and who will be disappointed. Some tell us that they get this kind of relief from gin-soaked raisins, while others say raisins worthless. Other approaches that have been reported to help ease joint pain include curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric) as well as pomegranate juice, tart cherries or vinegar with apple and grape juice, to name just a few.
Leg Cramps & RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome)
Some doctors defy the FDA’s ban on quinine for leg cramps and prescribe it anyway. Desperate patients may try to buy prescription quinine from Canada at a cost of $6 to $9 per pill. That’s despite the fact that quinine can cause life-threatening blood disorders in susceptible patients, and that the evidence quinine helps leg cramps is not very strong.
RLS, a different nighttime complaint, does have effective medications that could be prescribed. The drugs for RLS are pricey, however. Mirapex ER (pramipexole) and Mirapex XL (ropinirole) can cost $200 to $400 for a month’s supply. Just a few side effects of such medications can include drowsiness or falling asleep during the day (even while driving), dizziness, constipation, hallucinations, dry mouth, digestive distress, nausea, tremor and compulsive behaviors. Drug-induced gambling or other risky behaviors such as out-of-control sexual escapades can be extremely dangerous and financially ruinous.
The cost of treating leg cramps or RLS with home remedies is minimal and side effects are virtually nonexistent. Our favorite is soap under the bottom sheet, followed closely by swallowing a spoonful of yellow mustard or pickle juice.
S. Cook offered this:
“I was experiencing the most extreme symptoms of restless leg syndrome and was taking Requip. My boss sent me to your website. I was skeptical at first but after only one night with the soap between the sheets I was sold! I have not experienced even one symptom since! I have passed along this remedy to family members and they have had the same immediate result… no more cramping and jumping!”
“It is wonderful. I suffer with RLS and fibromyalgia. Cramps were waking me up along with my husband. Now we both get a full night’s sleep.” Linda
“I have been plagued with terrible leg cramps several times a night for nearly a year. I have tried every remedy I have ever heard of and nothing helped until I tried the soap. It is hard for me to believe that a simple bar of soap could possibly help but it did. I was desperate for a good night’s sleep and finally got it.” Carrie
“I too suffer from leg cramps at night, and the best remedy I have found is to swallow a teaspoon of mustard (fast food packets are ideal); the cramps disappear as if by magic.” Sergio
“I experienced leg cramps that started in my toes and went up almost to my diaphragm. I was ready to call 911 because the pain was so excruciating.
“My son is a hand ball player and he told me the professional players use pickle juice for cramps. I tried it out of desperation. The pickle juice brought almost instantaneous relief. Remarkable!” Selma
This is an incredibly painful condition that occurs when uric acid levels build up too high and then crystals form in soft tissue or joints. By the way, diuretics to treat high blood pressure often raise uric acid levels. The medications to treat elevated uric acid include NSAIDs (see dangers above under arthritis), colchicine, corticosteroids or allopurinol. All these drugs have the potential to cause some very serious side effects. We won’t scare you with the details, but if you check you will see that such medications carry some worrisome warnings.
When home remedies work for gout they are much less costly in both dollars and adverse reactions.
Bill offered the following experience:
“I began taking celery seed extract 6 months ago for gout. Within a day, all foot pain was gone. A blood test six weeks later showed normal levels of uric acid. I take 2 capsules each morning. It’s a miracle, as far as I’m concerned.”
“A couple of years ago my husband developed very painful gout in his big toe. I purchased wild cherry capsules & he began to get immediate relief. My research showed that after a first attack of gout, there is usually another well within a year. Since cherry extract also has other beneficial properties, he continued to take a reduced amount several times a week. He has not had a subsequent attack.” Kristina
This is unsightly but not a deadly condition. For those who suffer, though, this definitely falls into the category of one of life’s persistent problems. The oral drugs that doctor prescribe to fight nail fungus are not benign. Terbinafine (Lamisil) and itraconazole (Sporanox) carry some nasty side effects including digestive tract distress, liver toxicity, liver failure, life-threatening skin and blood disorders, pancreatitis, allergic reactions, hearing loss and loss of smell.
Some doctors perform surgery and actually remove the nail to try and overcome the deep-seated infection. This can be painful and carries the risk of bacterial infection, which can lead to antibiotic prescriptions, which carry additional side effects.
Here is what Marilyn has shared regarding her nail fungus solution:
“For the past 25 years I have battled toenail fungus. I have been on Lamisil three times and tried all sorts of OTC and prescription topical meds. I tried 2 of the remedies I read about in your articles. I apply hydrogen peroxide with a cotton ball to my toenails after I bathe daily. Then I apply any house brand VapoRub to my feet and toenails and put on socks to sleep in. Within one month’s time, the nail fungus was on the way out.
“I now have the most beautiful toenails I have ever had in 25 years. Thank you so much!”
“I’ve found the foolproof method to rid yourself of fungus without using toxic prescription meds. Soak feet twice a week for about 5 to 10 minutes in a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and regular (amber) Listerine. The mixture can be put in a sealable container large enough for your feet and can be used for 3 months before making another batch. It takes about a year of this to clear up a serious toenail fungus. As a bonus, it eliminates other foot problems caused by moisture.” Roger
We could continue, but by now you have the idea. Whether you are dealing with lice, psoriasis, warts, high blood pressure or heartburn, commonly prescribed medications can be costly and pose the risk of side effects. The home remedies shared on this website can be affordable and surprisingly effective for many. That’s why we want to offer you Best Choices From The People’s Pharmacy and Recipes & Remedies from The People’s Pharmacy.
If you want to learn more about the details of each book, here are links:
Recipes & Remedies (over 25% off the cover price)