One of the reasons I got interested in home remedies is because of how bad the economy is. It got me thinking that during an inflationary depression, I might not have enough money for cold medicines, pain killers and the like. And during a major disaster, hospitals are likely to be so crowded that they won’t be worth going to unless it’s an emergency. But do home remedies actually work, or is it all in the mind?
The short answer is: sometimes they work, and sometimes it’s the placebo effect. So the more important question is: How can we tell the difference?
The Placebo Effect
The placebo effect is an amazing thing. The more a person believes a medicine will work, the more likely they are to feel better after taking it. Even when people know it’s a placebo, it still has a positive effect. One possible explanation is that the brain releases endorphins when it expects to start feeling better. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy because endorphins have a similar structure to painkillers such as morphine. That’s why there are about a thousand different home remedies for headaches. Most of them don’t actually fix the underlying cause. But as long people believe they work, they do.
This is all well and good, but what if someone has a serious illness? If someone is doubled over with abdominal pain, you don’t want to tell them to chew an orange peel and lie down. They might need urgent medical attention. Are they any home remedies for serious conditions?
Home Remedies That Work
There are plenty of home remedies that are very effective. In the past I’ve talked about medicinal herbs and the benefits of apple cider vinegar, but there are also a lot of strange-sounding home remedies that work well. For example, I know for a fact that the fastest way to cure hiccups is a spoonful of sugar. It sounds weird, but it works. I’ve done it countless times. I also know that eating yogurt can cure bad breath. But there are scientific explanations for these.
If you visit MyHomeRemedies.com, you’ll find a database with thousands of user-submitted remedies. The problem is that there are many bogus remedies on that site. For example, someone said that his doctor told him to drink a Coke and eat some chocolate when his blood pressure was high. This is not a good idea!
How To Tell The Difference
There are a few rules that can help you distinguish between home remedies that work and ones that are a waste of time.
- The more remedies there are for an ailment, the less likely that any of them work. If you think about, if one of the remedies was actually very effective, then everyone would agree on it. But when there are dozens of different remedies, it’s because most of them don’t work so people try other things.
- The more a remedy resembles the ailment, the less likely that it works. For example, many people believe you should pour warm water on minor burns. In reality, cool water is much more helpful. Another example: Rubbing yesca (a bright red mushroom) on the nose for a nosebleed.
- The more disgusting a remedy is, the less likely it is to work. Anything that involves human or animal feces, rotting meat, or gross-tasting concoctions are likely to be myths.
To sum up, I’m all for using home remedies when you can, but it’s important to do your research. The editors of Reader’s Digest put together a book called 1801 Home Remedies that I highly recommend. Also check out DoctorYourself.com for lots of free information.