Chances are, your mother or grandmother whipped up some old family cure that would “make it all better” when you were sick as a child. But do any of these home health remedies that were handed down from generation to generation actually have any merit? Rebecca Jaffe, M.D., a family physician in Wilmington, Delaware, puts them through a medical exam.
Folk Remedy: Can a cold with chicken soup
Real Deal: While chicken soup doesn’t have special properties, says Dr. Jaffe, “any fluids you drink will help you feel better.” In addition, the steam that rises from the hot soup can open up the nasal passages and help you breathe better. So if Mom’s not available to spoon out the homemade version, grab a can of Campbell’s.
Folk Remedy: Settle your stomach with flat cola or ginger ale
Real Deal: The stagnant-soda trick is definitely worth a try, says Dr. Jaffe, who says that any high-glucose solution has a soothing effect on the gastric lining. But while ginger, which has long been used to calm upset stomachs and reduce nausea, is an ingredient of ginger ale, Dr. Jaffe says that there probably isn’t enough of it to make the soda medicinal.
Folk Remedy: De-puff your peepers with teabags
Real Deal: Definitely keep a stash of teabags around for the morning after a sleepless night. “The tannic acid in teabags acts as an astringent, so it contracts the tissues,” says Dr. Jaffe. “Also, applying compression with the teabag itself helps.”
Folk Remedy: Soothe a sore throat with honey
Real Deal: It won’t hurt, but it won’t do any more for you than a lozenge. “If the sore throat is due to inflammation, honey will give it a nice coating for a short time,” says Dr. Jaffe. “But it won’t do anything for the illness per se.”
Folk Remedy: Ease an earache with a garlic or olive oil-soaked cotton ball
Real Deal: Dripping notwithstanding, warm oil will benefit your earache a lot. According to Dr. Jaffe, both olive oil and garlic oil are effective at soothing the pain and inflammation of an earache, especially swimmer’s ear. Garlic, in particular, has long been used in many home health remedies as an anti-inflammatory agent.
Folk Remedy: Treat UTIs with cranberry juice
Real Deal: Cranberry juice, says Dr. Jaffe, is definitely helpful in both the prevention and early treatment of urinary tract infections. It simultaneously deters the bacteria from binding to the wall of the bladder and offers antimicrobial benefits.