Go Ad-Free
logoThe People's Perspective on Medicine

Show 1142: What Is the Science Behind Home Remedies?

People often assume that home remedies are just old wives' tales with no evidence behind them. Learn about the science behind home remedies Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018.
Current time

What Is the Science Behind Home Remedies?

0% played% buffered

Over the years, we have heard about scores upon scores of home remedies for everything from arthritis to warts. Some make sense intuitively, while others seem silly. Most have never been subjected to scientific scrutiny. Is there any science behind home remedies?

We may never know the full answer to that question, but occasionally we learn years later that there are scientific explanations. Several years ago, as we began to learn about transient receptor potential (TRP) channels in cells, a number of seemingly unrelated and otherwise inexplicable home remedies began to fall into place. Why does a spoonful of yellow mustard stop muscle cramps so quickly? How does pickle juice work for the same problem? Could a bar of soap under the bottom sheet really help prevent nighttime leg cramps?

What Is the Science Behind Home Remedies?

One of the appeals of home remedies is that you can do your own experiments at home. One mother wrote to us about testing the efficacy of putting Vicks VapoRub on the feet to calm a nighttime cough. Both her twins had bad colds, but she had only enough Vicks to treat one of them. The other twin coughed all night, while the treated twin slept soundly. The following night, having acquired more Vicks, she treated the other twin and left the originally-treated girl untreated for that night as part of a natural experimental control. Once again, the child who had been treated didn’t cough, and the untreated one did. It’s too small to be considered a scientific experiment, yet she proceeded scientifically in a spirit of inquiry.

N of 1 Experiments on the Science Behind Home Remedies:

It is always interesting to read about home remedies. What you really want to know, most likely, is “Will it work for me?” The only way to find out is to conduct an N of 1 experiment: try it. The N stands for the number of people in the trial–just you. You’ll get more information and your story will be more believable if you try to control as many factors as possible.

You may not end up with an explanation, but you’ll know whether or not the remedy is reliable for you. We have discussed a number of remedies that work for so many people that we feel we can count on them even though we still can’t explain them. Coconut (in cookies or on its own) seems to be good for stopping diarrhea. Soy sauce on a burn seems to ease the pain and reduce the redness. Do you have favorite home remedies that you rely on?

Here are a few studies you might find interesting on ginger, cinnamon and thyme.

What Are Your Questions About the Science Behind Home Remedies?

On this live show, we welcome your questions about home remedies. You can reach us by email at radio@peoplespharmacy.com, or call between 7 and 8 am EST on Saturday, November 10, 2018: 888-472-3366.

This Week’s Guests:

This week, we revisit briefly some interviews we have done previously with renowned experts.

Bruce Palmer Bean, PhD, is the Robert Winthrop Professor of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School. He helped develop HotShot.

Tieraona Low Dog, MD, is an internationally recognized expert in the fields of integrative medicine, dietary supplements, herbal medicine and women’s health.  Her latest book is Fortify Your Life: Your Guide to Vitamins, Minerals and More. For more information, see her website: drlowdog.com

Listen to the Podcast:

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free.

Download the mp3

Rate this article
4.9- 15 ratings
About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
Tired of the ads on our website?

Now you can browse our website completely ad-free for just $5 / month. Stay up to date on breaking health news and support our work without the distraction of advertisements.

Browse our website ad-free
Join over 150,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

We're empowering you to make wise decisions about your own health, by providing you with essential health information about both medical and alternative treatment options.