The kind of stuff you don’t hang on the wall
Stuff that’s real, stuff you feel
The kind of stuff you reach for when you fall”
Guy Clark—“Stuff that Works”;
Regular readers of our Health Tips may remember a previous edition of “Stuff That Works” that described several simple, yet effective home remedies. In addition to being time-honored methods of self-treatment, these have also received varying degrees of research or scientific validation.
- Use a tennis ball for heel pain. Plantar fasciitis is a painful condition caused by inflammation of a band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot near the heel. Its most common symptom is pain at the bottom of the heel when taking the first few steps out of bed in the morning. Since tightness of the muscles and tendons connecting with the foot can contribute to this problem, stretching is one of several modalities used to treat plantar fasciitis. One effective way to stretch and massage the area of the plantar fascia involves the use of a tennis ball. Placing a tennis ball on the ground and gently rolling it under foot for a few minutes helps to loosen up the plantar fascia and relieve inflammation.
- Wash away poison ivy. Poison ivy rash develops when the allergenic oil from the poison ivy plant (urushiol) comes in contact with the skin of an allergic individual. By removing the oil from the skin soon after exposure, the allergic reaction can be avoided or reduced in severity. A common dishwashing detergent (Dial) was compared to a commercial oil-removing product (Tecnu) and found to be nearly as effective, at a much lower cost. The sooner that washing occurs following exposure, the more likely the rash will be prevented.
- Take ginger for motion sickness. Ginger is a tropical plant whose rhizome (underground stem) is used primarily as a spice in cooking. Ginger has long been used as an alternative medication to prevent motion sickness, although the exact way that it works is not known. Studies have been inconsistent on how well ginger works, but many have shown a positive effect in preventing nausea from chemotherapy, motion sickness, post-surgical vomiting, and sea sickness. Various preparations including powdered ginger in capsules, crystallized ginger, and ginger powder mixed in water have been used effectively.
- Soak in oatmeal for eczema. Colloidal oatmeal (oats that have been ground into a fine powder) has been used for decades for a variety of skin conditions including eczema, allergic dermatitis, and excessively dry skin. Many studies have confirmed the anti-inflammatory, moisturizing, and reparative properties of oatmeal. An oatmeal bath can be made by adding colloidal oatmeal (available commercially) directly to bathwater or by placing a cup of oatmeal into a muslin bag or handkerchief and letting it float in the bathtub. Soaking in the bath for at least 15 minutes is the recommended period of time to allow the oatmeal to work.
- Elevate the head of the bed for reflux. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition in which digestive juices reflux (back up) from the stomach into the esophagus. GERD is a common cause for heartburn, noted particularly when someone with this condition lies down to go to sleep. With the help from “gravity”, however, it is possible to keep digestive juices in the stomach where they belong. Placing 4 to 8 inch blocks beneath the legs at the head of the bed will elevate the head so that stomach acid is prevented from backing up into the esophagus. Another self-care measure for managing this condition is to avoid certain foods that contribute to reflux. These foods include citrus fruits, peppermint, caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, chocolate, garlic, onions, and tomato-containing foods.
- Drink cranberry juice to prevent bladder infections. Cranberries won’t cure a urinary tract infection (UTI), but they may help prevent UTI from occurring in someone prone to bladder infections. Cranberries for preventing UTIs have been studied primarily in women since women are the most likely group to experience recurrent bladder infections. At one time, it was thought that by making the urine more acidic, cranberry juice made it difficult for bacteria such as E. coli to reproduce. More recently, it has been found that chemicals in cranberries keep bacteria from multiplying by preventing them from sticking to the bladder walls. Studies have been performed using both cranberry juice and cranberry extract tablets or capsules, but the best preparation or dosage has not yet been determined. Eight ounces of cranberry juice cocktail taken twice daily or capsules containing 500 mg of cranberry extract are two of the sources of cranberries that have been tested.
- Apply Vicks for nail fungus. Admittedly, this home remedy has less scientific validation than the others, but there is a great deal of information in the lay press regarding the use of Vicks VapoRub in the treatment of toenail fungus (onychomycosis). Vicks VapoRub is an ointment containing camphor, eucalyptus oil, and menthol. When rubbed on the chest, it is primarily intended to help with cough due to the common cold. In the single study that I found testing its effectiveness in the treatment of nail fungus, 15 (83%) of the 18 participants enrolled in this study, showed a positive treatment effect with the use of VapoRub. After 48 weeks of treatment with VapoRub, 5 were found to have complete cure of their fungus. When you consider that none of the current medication treatments can assure 100% effectiveness and that many of the medications currently used have serious side effects, this method may become a reasonable treatment alternative.
Look for more “Stuff that Works” in the future.