Home remedies are a staple of natural medicine. They're cheap and fast, often work just as well as a drugstore fix, and may be as near as your spice cabinet, refrigerator, or laundry room. To update your arsenal, we asked seven experts to share their latest discoveries, from headache panaceas to simple solutions for stiff backs, indigestion, charley horses, and more. Here are their surprising, patient-tested, natural remedies found in your home.
For dry, tired eyes
Infuse a bag of chamomile tea in 4 to 6 ounces hot water, cool in the fridge for at least 20 minutes, then apply as a compress on eyes for 10 minutes, until it comes to room temperature. Chamomile has a mild anti-inflammatory effect.
Drink up to ¼ cup pure aloe vera gel dissolved in about half a cup of water or apple juice. Aloe vera contains an anti-inflammatory compound called B-sitosterol that soothes acid indigestion, a common cause of bad breath. But go easy; in large doses, aloe vera can work like a laxative.
Irrigate the nose with contact lens saline solution, using a Neti Pot. Or try: putting a few drops of eucalyptus oil on the floor of a hot, running shower and inhaling the steam that accumulates (note: The room may be too hot for children).
Combine ½ teaspoon baking soda with 1 or 2 drops of peroxide. Brush on, let sit for a few minutes, then rinse (don't swallow) and ta-da—enjoy your once-again pearly whites. Baking soda serves as a safe, light bleach. A baking soda and salt mixture can also restore the shine of dingy teeth (dip a wet toothbrush into ¼ teaspoon soda and sprinkle with up to ⅛ teaspoon salt) as effectively as it polishes your pots and pans. However, the peroxide recipe is safer for people on no-salt diets.
Rub liquid laundry detergent on the spot and let dry. The liquid soothes the skin, dries the bite to reduce irritation, and seals the area from outside irritants
Restless legs syndrome
Drink a 6-ounce glass of tonic water each night before bed until symptoms go away. Tonic water contains quinine, which stops repeated muscle contractions.
Use your thumb to apply pressure to the middle of the calf for 30 seconds. When you release, the cramp should have subsided.
Try do-it-yourself acupressure. Feel along your trapezius, the large muscle that runs from the high point of both shoulders and joins your neck. Use your thumbs, index, and middle fingers to squeeze the muscle just below where it attaches to both sides of your neck. You'll be releasing "trigger points," tiny muscle spasms that can cause neck tension and are a common cause of headaches. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute—or have a friend do it for you. Or try: massaging one or two drops of peppermint (Mentha piperita) oil into the same trigger points and the lower neck. Peppermint oil relaxes muscles in spasm.
Mix together a clove bud, which is antiseptic and fights infection, with ¼ teaspoon powdered ginger (or 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger) and ⅛ teaspoon cinnamon—the latter two because of their anti-inflammatory properties. Infuse the tea in 2 cups boiling water, and for every cup, stir in 2 teaspoons soothing and sweet raw honey. Sip throughout the day until your throat settles down
Take a lukewarm bath with 1 cup added ground oatmeal (grind it with a mortar and pestle; instant oatmeal works fine), 1 cup whole milk, 2 tablespoons honey, and 2 tablespoons aloe vera gel. Oatmeal is anti-inflammatory, honey is antiseptic, milk's proteins and fats soothe skin, and aloe numbs pain. Afterward, moisturize with a cream containing hydrating shea butter and aloe.
Drink a cup of chamomile tea. The herb has an antispasmodic effect that stops contractions in the lower intestine.
Sip 1 cup hot water steeped with 1 teaspoon caraway seeds, which stifle the enzymatic action that causes gas.
Clean the area. Then cut a piece of duct tape to a size slightly bigger than the wart. Apply the duct tape to the site and rub into place. Every 3 days, remove the tape and file down dead skin with a pumice stone or nail file. Repeat until the wart disappears. Chemicals in the tape suffocate and kill the wart. Studies show this method works as well as other treatments.