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Home Remedies: Chance Favors the Prepared Mind

How do people come up with home remedies? Most of the time we never know, but Donald Agar shared his experience with coconut macaroon cookies vs. diarrhea.

How do people discover home remedies? Who decided, for example, that nine is the correct number of gin-soaked raisins to eat each day to relieve the pain of arthritis? Who thought of daubing castor oil on warts to make them disappear?

In most cases, the origins of home remedies are unknown. Somebody somewhere tried a little experiment and found the results helpful. He shared it with friends and neighbors. They in turn passed the word along.

The most important part of a chance discovery is recognizing its value. The famous French scientist Louis Pasteur once said, “chance favors only prepared minds.”

That was certainly the case when Alexander Fleming noticed some bacteria in his laboratory had been ruined by mold. Instead of throwing the experiment out, he investigated the mold and came up with penicillin.

Donald Agar’s discovery may not rank with penicillin, but judging from our email it has made a difference to a lot of people with chronic diarrhea. In November of 1998 we received the following letter from him:

“I have had Crohn’s disease for 40 years, and during that time I have had a never-ending battle with diarrhea. Lomotil helps some, but it doesn’t eliminate the problem. Three months ago, I bought a box of Archway Coconut Macaroon cookies. I’ve been eating two a day and I have not experienced diarrhea in that time. If by chance I eat three in a day, I get constipated. Believe me, I have a new life now.”

Donald’s remedy surprised us, but we offered it in this column so other people could try it. Since then many people have written about their experience with two coconut macaroons against diarrhea. Here is a more recent letter:

“For the past 22 years, I have had Crohn’s Disease, which causes a great deal of discomfort. Most of us look normal but hidden inside is a terrible disease that has definitely changed my life style.

“I have had 2 bowel resections as a result of the disease. I still have bouts with diarrhea. As a result, I have taken Imodium every morning for the past eight years. I honestly laughed at the suggestion that eating two Archway Coconut Macaroons could stop this diarrhea, but a thoughtful co-worker clipped the article out for me. My mother also saved it, so I thought I would give it a try.

“The area grocery stores were out of Archway cookies for a few days. Finally, my wife bought a package and I ate two. To my amazement, I realized immediate, very positive results. The diarrhea stopped and normal functions resumed. In addition, I didn’t experience the cramping I usually get as a result of the disease.

“For the first time in 22 years, I am not taking any prescription medication to control one of the most irritating, embarrassing and uncomfortable effects of Crohn’s disease. I hope the word gets out because no one should have to suffer the discomfort of chronic diarrhea.”

Not everyone will benefit from this simple approach, and people with diverticular disease should avoid such cookies. But because one person was prepared to notice and test the effects of coconut macaroons, many others have benefited.

We have collected a number of other folk treatments in our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies. We find it fascinating how people stumble across treatments that are affordable and sometimes surprisingly effective with few, if any, side effects. They are delighted to share their discoveries with visitors to our website.

Share your own favorite home remedies in the “What Do You Think” section below. And if you liked Donald Agar’s story, please vote for this post at the top of the article by clicking on the stars.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
The People’s Pharmacy Quick and Handy Home Remedies

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I have been suffering from severe plantar fasciitis for three months. I researched and tried several internet solutions: stretching, using Ktape, and athletic taping. I reduced my running to once a week (some weeks I could not tolerate even a few laps) and the following day I would barely be able to walk.

This weekend, I found a running website that recommended Castor oil. I tried it and there was an overnight improvement. I still have a little pain in my heel but none in my arch. I would say my foot feels 80% better. It’s dramatic. I paid $4.00 for the bottle of castor oil at my pharmacy, I slathered about a tablespoon on my foot and put a sock over my foot and went to bed. I repeated three more nights but the improvement really came the first night. I’m truly amazed.

Last year I was diagnosed (endoscopy) with a hiatal hernia. The doctor said this was what was causing my “mild inflammatory esophageal condition.” It may have been technically “mild,” but it was causing me so much discomfort that I had just about given up on eating. When I did eat, I relied on Prilosec and TUMS to get me through. The gastroenterologist wanted me to go on Nexium for two months and then have another endoscopy to see how things were going.

I had read enough online to know PPIs (Nexium and others) could be a problem in and of themselves and that once on them, it was not easy to disengage. So, I set about trying first one and then another “home remedy.” Nothing I tried seemed to hurt my situation, but nothing seemed to really “do the trick” either. For instance, I tried raw apple cider vinegar for several weeks with limited relief. I tried D-Limonene Extract with very limited results. I stopped drinking any soft drinks. This helped but did not solve the problem. I raised the head of my bed, which helped quite a bit but did not solve the problem. I tried ginger tea which helped but did not solve the problem

Eventually I read in your book and in other places online that Turmeric helped some people. Some said they just ate a spoonful of mustard before a meal. Another person had tried a capsule. I bought some capsules that contained Turmeric and Bromelain. I started taking those with my meals. Instant success! I cannot stress enough how much these capsules have helped my condition.

In addition, pain I was experiencing in one knee disappeared (both Turmeric and Bromelain are considered to be anti-inflammatories).

I know of some who have tried Turmeric and got a rash, so they had to discontinue that approach due to their allergy. So far, I’ve been very fortunate to be able to use this remedy, and I cannot thank you enough for your getting the information out to the public!

I just recently tried coconut flakes for diarrhea that I’ve been getting for years. I couldn’t find coconut macaroons so I just grabbed the coconut baking flakes and it seems to be working very well. I tend to get diarrhea when I eat whole fats (which I no longer eat); when my fiber levels are low or sometimes for no apparent reason at all. I am truly grateful to People’s Pharmacy for this home remedy.

What other ingredients are in these coconut cookies. High fructose corn syrup, type of flour, etc, and preservatives?? All information about ingredients would be helpful and is there an alternative to this product?

Thanks, Glenda

I have been using coconut products, including oil in my cooking. Constipation can be caused depending on other ingredients or foods you combined with the coconut. Coconut has many health benefits but nutritionist still put it under saturated fat. It is the much healthier monounsaturated fat.

Just a comment about Alexander Fleming. I remember that in colonial America, women were careful to keep a crust of moldy bread on hand, for colds and flu. This was long before penicillin was “discovered.”

Coconut oil also stops diarrhea. I started using more coconut oil to cook with and started getting constipated. I happened to read somewhere that coconut oil could cause that. IT DOES!!!

John, thanks so much for the comment about coconut oil. I too have been using it in cooking for the health benefits, using greater amounts than if I had used butter. And having more constipation, in spite of three 250mg stool softeners and lots of magnesium. And I just ordered another 56oz container! The particular benefit I am hoping to gain is no Alzheimer’s; I am 77 and have been having mild cognitive impairment for years. What I have seen so far is, with the oil and lots of greens, is weight loss without a great impact on my skin.

Obviously, I am going to have to cut way back and start using small amounts of butter again. Or just water. Or more stool softeners. Need to weigh the pros and cons of this carefully.

Is the brand of the macaroon important? Is the fact it’s a macaroom important? Or is it the coconut itself? I’m wondering if people are going to great extent to locate Archway when maybe all they need to do is go to the baker’s aisle at the grocery store. Could someone clarify? Thanks.

Dear Joe and Terry,
I think it is wonderful to not only read your research for which I am forever indebted but also readers comments. Then to these you many times add your own comments. What a valuable tool. I am unable to find these any longer and find this a great loss. Why are readers comments no longer available?
Thank you,

Readers can comment on our posts, and we are very happy to have a lively discourse that adds to the discussion. We do moderate our comment section to keep spam, offensive or abusive, and otherwise inappropriate comments out. The review process can take 24-48 hours depending on when the comment was posted (and slightly longer during holidays and weekends). Thank for your patience and keep those comments coming!

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