By Henrylito D. Tacio
AFTER celebrating my birthday recently, I came down with a whopping cough caused by the common cold. Like any other self-respecting health journalist, the first thing I did was asked my mother. She recommended several things, but what struck me most was when she suggested making some chicken soup.
"Don't take chicken soup for a cold," a friend's wife told me while I was buying ingredients. "It's just an old wives' tale."
Not so, according to The Doctors Book of Home Remedies. "Along-time folk remedy is now a proven fact," the book declares. "A cut of hot chicken soup can help unclog your nasal passages."
Researchers at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach found that hot chicken soup, either because of its aroma or its taste, "appears to possess an additional substance for increasing the flow of nasal mucus." These secretions - what comes out when you blow your nose or sneeze - serve a first line of defense in removing germs from your system, the researchers say.
Here are more home remedies that really work, which are featured in the book:
For Athlete's Foot: Baking Soda. For fungus on your feet, especially between the toes, apply a baking-soda paste, says Dr. Suzanne Levine, a clinical assistant podiatrist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
Take one tablespoon of baking soda and add a little lukewarm water. Rub that on the site of your fungus, then rise and dry thoroughly. Finish off the treatment by dusting on cornstarch or powder.
For Body Odor: Tomato Juice. You're tried everything, and nothing seems to work? Maybe you haven't tried everything. An old folk remedy for a dog that's been skunked is to deodorize the poor pup with tomato juice. And guess what? It works for humans, too, according to Dr. Alice Kilpatrick, of the Veterans Administration Hospital in Fort Lyon, Colorado.
Dr. Kilpatrick tried it first on her dog and then on a particularly odoriferous patient. And then on another. "It works 100 percent of the time," she says. You don't need to fill your tub with pure tomato juice, "just pour a couple of cups in with your bath water and sit for 15 minutes," she says.
For Dry Hair: Beer. "Beer is a wonderful setting lotion. It gives a
crisp, healthy, shiny look, even to dry hair," says Steven Docherty, senior art director of New York City's Vidal Sassoon Salon. The trick is to spray the brew onto your hair using a pump bottle after you've shampooed and towel-dried, but before you blow-dry or style. And don't worry about smelling like a lush - the odor of the beer quickly disappears, assures Docherty.
For Flu: Salt Gargle. A sore or scratchy throat apt to accompany the flu.
Get some relief - and wash out any secretions that are collecting in your throat - by gargling with a salt-water solution, says Mary Ann Pane, a nurse clinician. Dissolve one teaspoon of salt in one pint of warm water.
This concentration approximates the pH level of body tissues and is very soothing, she says. Use as often as needed, but try not to swallow the liquid because it's so high in sodium.
For Foot Aches: Ice Cubes. One way to refresh tired feet is to wrap a few ice cubes in a wet washcloth, then rub it over your feet and ankles for a few minutes. "Ice acts to relieve any inflammation and it also serves as a mild anesthetic," says Neal Kramer, a podiatrist. "Then, dry your feet and swab them with cologne, alcohol, or vinegar for cooling and drying effect."
For Hiccups: Sugar. "One cure that I find effective is a teaspoon of sugar, swallowed dry," says Dr. Andre Dubois, a gastroenterologist. "That quite often stops the hiccups in minutes. The sugar is probably acting in the mouth to modify the nervous impulses that would otherwise tell the muscles in the diaphragm to contract spasmodically," he says.
For Insomnia: Warm Bath. One theory held by sleep experts has it that normal body temperatures play off the body's "circadian rhythm." Those temperatures are low during sleep and at their highest point during the day.
Along those lines, it's thought that the body begins to get drowsy as its temperature drops. Therefore, a warm bath taken about 4 to 5 hours before bedtime will raise the temperature. Then, as it begins to fall, you'll feel more tired, which make it easier to fall asleep.
For Motion Sickness: Ginger. Although this method dates back hundreds of years, eating a bit of ginger against motion sickness recently passed scientific scrutiny when an experiment showed that two powdered ginger capsules were more effective than a dose of drugs in prevention motion sickness. Ginger works, researchers theorize, by absorbing acids and blocking nausea in your gastrointestinal tract. Dr. Daniel Mowrey, who has been researching herbal medicine for 15 years, swears by ginger. "It will definitely take care of nausea," he says.
For Oily Skin: Hot Water plus Soap. "Hot water is a good solvent," says Dr. Hillard Pearlstein, a dermatologist at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. For this reason, he recommends that oily skin be washed in very warm water, with plenty of soap. "Hot water plus soap will dissolve skin oil better than cold water and soap," he explains, "because more things dissolve in hot than cold, and that includes soap and the grit and grime you're trying to get rid of on your skin."
For Toothache: Ice. Treat the problem like any good bruise. Use ice, says Dr. Philip Corn, director of the Pennsylvania Academy of General Dentistry.
"Put ice on the aching tooth or the nearest cheek for 15-minute intervals at least three or four times a day," he instructs.
For Yeast Infections: Vinegar. Vinegar has approximately the same acidity as the female sexual organ, which is one reason a lukewarm vinegar and water mix (4 teaspoons vinegar to 1 pint of water) is sometimes suggested as a douching liquid. Some doctors suggest that a vagina with the correct pH balance is less likely to grow excess yeast. - ***