“Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food,” wrote Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician who is commonly regarded as the father of medicine.
Today it’s still true that cures for many of our common ailments can be found in the kitchen cabinet rather than in the medicine cabinet. The advantages of using food to remedy our daily aches and pains are that we can save time and money, and we can avoid potential side-effects of over-the-counter medications.
The following remedies use common food items you probably already have in your kitchen to use in your cooking. Some of the perishable items can easily be frozen so that they are available for long-term use. Here is our top 10 list of ailments and situations that have kitchen cures:
1. Soothe a sore throat. Fresh garlic has antimicrobial, antiviral and antibiotic properties and packs a powerful antioxidant punch. The next time you have a sore throat, try mixing five to six pressed garlic cloves into a glass of warm water to gargle with twice a day. While it may not do wonders for your breath, garlic juice fights bacteria and soothes inflamed tissue.
Another kitchen cure for a sore throat is to add a dash of cinnamon, a small piece of fresh ginger and one teaspoon of honey to boiling water. Sip the solution when it has cooled enough to drink.
2. Ease nausea. I discovered the benefits of ginger when I was pregnant with my second child and a trying first-trimester of nausea and vomiting continued throughout the entire nine months. Ginger contains compounds called gingerols and shogaols that help ease queasiness. A growing body of research has shown ginger aids in seasickness, morning sickness and general stomach upset. Try steeping 1 to 2 grams of fresh gingerroot in boiling water to make a soothing tea. Do not take more than 4 grams of ginger per day, however, as it may irritate the stomach lining.
3. Quiet hiccups. Mary Poppins was right about that helpful spoonful of sugar! When you swallow a teaspoon of sugar, the dry granules work to reset the irritated nerve that is causing the spasms of the diaphragm that cause hiccups. (Salt works the same way, but your family likely will prefer the sweet stuff.)
4. Calm a cough. While we are thinking about sweet remedies, did you know that dark chocolate can be effective in reducing a cough? Research has indicated that theobromine, a compound found in dark chocolate, appears to block the action of the sensory nerves that cause the coughing reflex. Another easy option to try for relieving a dry cough is to chew on some fresh basil leaves.
5. Help burn pain and skin irritation. For minor burns, including sunburn, as well as insect bites, gently apply a light layer of olive oil and leave the area uncovered. Olive oil helps with pain, irritation and itching and speeds up the healing process. It is gentle enough to use on baby’s sensitive skin as well.
6. Fight a cold. Vitamin C is known for its cold-fighting power. To get the benefits in a soothing drink, squeeze the juice from one half of a lemon into a cup and then drop the peel and remaining pulp into the cup as well. Add boiling water, and then stir in a teaspoon of honey. As it cools, breathe in the steam to open your sinus passages. Now sip the drink slowly.
7. Get some rest. Scientists have found that dark red cherries or fresh juice made from them can help you to relax and to prepare for sleep. Cherries are a rich source of melatonin, a hormone that helps to regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycle.
8. Heal dry skin. Try placing two to three cups of dry oatmeal in a clean, dry sock. Wrap a rubber band around the open end and then drop the sock into your warm bath. (Avoid hot water as it can cause further drying of the skin.) Soak for about 15 minutes. Researchers have found that avenanthramides in oats reduce skin irritation and have an antihistamine effect.
9. Nix bad breath. Gargle with a small cup of lemon juice to help kill bacteria that may be causing the odor. Then follow that mouth rinse with a small serving of plain unsweetened yogurt. Yogurt is full of helpful lactobacillus bacteria, which will help to neutralize mouth odor.
10. Get rid of a stomach ache. You may have found some comfort from sipping a cup of peppermint tea or sucking on a piece of peppermint candy when you have stomach upset. Now try combining the healing properties of peppermint with the nourishment of carrots with this healthy drink. Boil four cups of water with four sliced carrots and either one teaspoon of dried peppermint or one peppermint teabag. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook for about 15 minutes or until the carrots are soft. Remove the teabag if you have used one, and then blend the mixture in your blender until smooth. You can add a pinch of ground ginger or a squeeze of lemon juice for added flavor and antioxidants.
Here are a few other options for an upset stomach:
- Mix one tablespoon apple cider vinegar and one tablespoon honey into one cup warm water and drink slowly to ease indigestion and gas.
- After a meal, nibble on a handful of caraway seeds. Packed with vitamins and minerals, caraway seeds help to inhibit the growth of “bad” bacteria that cause indigestion or stomach bloating.
- Chew a few pieces of raw fennel to help reduce gas and reduce stomach cramping.
- Remember the “CRAP” solution to constipation. That’s Cherries, raisins, apricots, and prunes are fiber-rich fruits that will help get your digestive system functioning as it should.
As you try these and other home remedies, you will undoubtedly find some other solutions that work for you and your family. It is empowering when you find natural and inexpensive ways to ease common ailments. And don’t forget that drinking plenty of fresh water can help a number of maladies from headaches, to skin irritations, to stomach problems.