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Reader Rejects All Home Remedies as Hoaxes

Are home remedies worthless? Skeptics believe that without scientific proof they're all a scam. Others trust their experiences and share success stories.

Q. I strongly disagree with your support of “home remedies.” Scam treatments are provably worthless, but they are not harmless. Untold numbers of hapless victims have died through past centuries from foolish wishful thinking and quack remedies.

When desperately ill people put their beliefs in a bogus remedy, they put their health on the line. You wrote about a boy with a nosebleed. His mother put keys on the back of his neck and he got lucky and stopped bleeding. If I had a nosebleed, I ‘d want immediate medical attention instead of keys.

Quack doctors and faith healers the world over bilk people because it leads to fabulous wealth and fame for the healers.

A. We share your concern about quack healers making money from people’s desperation. Dismissing all home remedies as worthless, however, would be short sighted.

As we have said many times, common sense is the most important component of any home remedy. Desperately ill people require medical attention.

In the case of minor complaints, however, we think a remedy is worth a try if it might help, won’t hurt and doesn’t cost too much. If a nosebleed stops immediately after cold keys are applied to the back of the neck, that seems to offer empirical evidence that the keys are helping. If the nosebleed doesn’t stop, it is time to get urgent care.

The Nosebleed Story

You referred to the boy with a nosebleed and state that “he got lucky” when his mother applied cold keys to the back of his neck and he stopped bleeding. Here is the entire story from the mother:

“As a young boy and into his teens, my son always had horrific nosebleeds. Even after cauterizations the nosebleeds were still strong and would start quite unexpectedly.

“I read in your column about dropping keys down the back to stop the bleeding. Luckily, in the midst of one of the worst nosebleeds he’d ever had (gushing with clots all over us and the floor), I remembered what I had read and sent my daughter to grab my car keys.

“Of course, the kids thought I had really lost it this time, but after dropping the keys down his back twice the bleeding immediately ceased. From that time on, whenever a nosebleed would start we grabbed keys and immediately dropped them down his back. If I wasn’t around, he would do it himself. I cannot begin to imagine why this works, but it has worked every time I have needed to use it. My son and I cannot thank you enough!”

This is not the first time we have heard about keys working against a bad nosebleed.

One reader offered this experience:

“I was born in Belgium and when I was a little girl I had many nosebleeds. My mother was always grabbing the big key from the front door and putting it on my back to stop the bleeding right away.”

Another shared,

“I attended Catholic school and when anyone had a nosebleed the nun would hold something cold against the back of the neck-ice, cold water on a paper towel, keys or a crucifix.”

Larry adds another option:

“When I was young I worked on my Grandpa’s farm in the summer. I constantly had nosebleeds. Just sneezing would get me bleeding. My Grandpa would sneak up behind me and throw a cold pail of water on me. It stopped the bleeding in a second. Plus, in the hot summer the water felt good.”

The Granddaddy of All Nosebleed Stories

Over a decade ago we heard from a reader who challenges your short-sighted perspective. He was 55 years old and reported that he had experienced frequent and severe nosebleeds since the age of seven. Over the years he had his nose cauterized by doctors over 60 times. Eventually a specialist diagnosed an abnormal blood platelet problem for which there was no cure. Here is his story:

“My nosebleeds last for teens of hours (18 being the most). Extra Strength NeoSynephrine helps, but only a little.

“After reading your column, I put keys down my back with my wife as a witness. I had the usual gusher that had been bleeding for nine hours and I felt real dumb dropping keys down my back. My nose quit bleeding in one minute 25 seconds. I was dumbfounded.

“I had another gusher yesterday. Instead of dropping the keys I held them against my upper back. My nosebleed stopped in 20 seconds. AMAZING!”

We agree that this is indeed amazing. Luck? Coincidence? The great thing about this home remedy is that it either works or not. You will know in a minute or less whether the bleeding stops. Cold keys or cold water do not cost anything. No one is “bilking” anyone with such an old-fashioned remedy. If someone does not get quick relief he should make a beeline for the nearest emergency department.

Are the Old Wives Ever Right About Home Remedies?

You know, sometimes the old wives are right. You may chalk these stories up to a placebo effect, but we think people deserve the right to try something if it might help, won’t hurt and doesn’t cost much. Experience can be worth a great deal. The old wives knew that vegetables were good for you and science has finally confirmed their wisdom. They knew that cod liver oil in the winter helped prevent infection and now we know that the vitamin D in cod liver oil could well boost the immune system and reduce infections in winter time when there is little sun exposure. The old wives might not have known why home remedies worked, they just knew from observation that they did. And they passed them on from generation to generation.

We have collected thousands of such stories over the last 40 years. People want to share their experiences with others in the hopes that they might help someone else.

Anyone who finds this approach worthwhile will appreciate our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies: Q&As for Your Common Ailments (from National Geographic). You will discovery simple health remedies for everything from allergies, arthritis, body odor, bursitis, heartburn, hemorrhoids, high cholesterol, insomnia and lice to nausea, nerve pain, plantar fasciitis and warts. You will also learn how food can be your best medicine. We describe the science behind our 24 favorite foods.

We welcome people who have open minds to consider Quick & Handy Home Remedies. We also have a special offer: 50% off our book Recipes and Remedies from the People’s Pharmacy with each copy of Quick & Handy.

Let us know what you think of home remedies in the comment section below. Do you agree with the skeptic who believes such treatments are worthless? Share your thoughts below and please vote on this Q&A at the top of the page. And if you have your own favorite home remedy, please share it so we can pass it along to others.

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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.”.
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