Old-School Food Remedies That Doctors Love

    Today, we rely a lot on modern medicine and drugs. But, many times, our grandparents relied on cures that could be found in the  kitchen. As it turns out, that trove is still rich with effective remedies.

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    In fact, even modern medicine relies on plants more than many of us realize, says Catherine Ulbricht, PharmD, senior attending pharmacist at Massachusetts General Hospital and chief editor of publications for the Natural Standard Research Collaboration, which evaluates scientific data on herbs.

    “Practically all of the most widely used drugs have an herbal origin,” Ulbricht says. “The number one OTC medication, aspirin, is a synthetic version of a compound found in the willow tree. Many statins are based on fungi; and Tamiflu originated from Chinese star anise.”

    Flashback from fan: “One remedy his father would give would be a couple of drops of kerosene on a spoonful of sugar. Another was liver oil and castor oil and the three 6’s (666). It was explained that the medicine three 6’s got it’s name because it taste like the devil. If someone had swelling somewhere on the body, there was a wild plant that looked like tobacco they would use. The plant would be boiled and then the liquid from it would be used to soak the elbow, knee or whatever part had swelling. It would often help reduce the swelling.”

    Following, you’ll find a host of age-old remedies whose remarkable effectiveness has been confirmed by new research.

    Lemon Balm

    Tradition says: Melissa officinalis, a lemon-scented member of the mint family, has long been used to banish anxiety, boost memory, and aid sleep and digestion. It is “good against the biting of venomous beasts, comforts the heart, and driveth away all melancholy and sadnesse,” wrote Elizabethan-era herbalist John Gerard in 1597.

    Got a presentation or other stressful situation to deal with? A cup of tea made of lemon balm may help you sleep soundly the night before and keep you calm and focused.

    Research suggests this plant is effective in extreme situations too. Four weeks of lemon balm aromatherapy cut agitation in patients with severe dementia, reports a 2002 study in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

    Lemon balm appears to calm an overactive thyroid (Graves’ disease), according to Eric Yarnell, ND, an assistant professor of botanical medicine at Bastyr University. It also fights viruses; recent studies indicate that lemon balm cream speeds healing of oral herpes lesions and reduces the frequency of outbreaks.

    Get the benefit: For lemon balm’s calming effects, try a daily tea made with one-half to one full dropper of tincture or 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried herb steeped in 1 cup of hot water for 5 to 10 minutes, says herbalist Linda Different Cloud, a PhD candidate in ethnobotany at Montana State University. Ask your doctor first if you take thyroid medication, as the botanical may change the amount you need. To use topically, follow the instructions on OTC creams, such as Cold Sore Relief or WiseWays Herbals Lemon Balm Cream, available online or at drugstores or health food stores.

    Castor Oil

    Research says: Castor Oil has been used both internally and externally for thousands of years due to its many wonderful health benefits. Since it can strengthen the immune system, castor oil is considered a great remedy to treat the following major illnesses and ailments:

    • Yeast Infections
    • Constipation
    • Gastrointestinal Problems
    • Menstrual Disorders
    • Migraines
    • Acne
    • Sunburn
    • Athlete’s Foot
    • Ringworm
    • Skin Abrasions
    • Inflammation

    Get The Benefit: Studies have shown that Castor Oil is a very strong laxative, which makes it very effective against constipation. Therefore, simply take a teaspoon of castor oil in the morning. You can mix the oil with orange juice, cranberry juice, prune juice, or ginger juice to take away from the bitter taste without affecting the laxative effects. However, do not take it continuously for more than 3 days. If symptoms persist for longer than 3 days, consult your physician immediately.


    Tradition says: Onions are considered cure-alls in many cultures. In Middle Eastern traditional medicine, they were prescribed for diabetes. During the early 20th century in the United States, William Boericke, MD, recommended onions for respiratory and digestive problems in his influential medical treatise, Homeopathic Materia Medica. Believing that onions would help improve athletic performance, ancient Greek Olympians scarfed them down, drank their juice, and rubbed them on their bodies before competitions.

    Research proves: A stack of new studies has confirmed many old-time uses of onions. Their thiosulfinates (sulfur compounds responsible for their smell) reduce diabetes symptoms and protect against cardiovascular disease. Quercetin, a flavonoid found in onions, prevents the inflammation associated with allergies and also protects…

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