In Defense of Home Remedies

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I’ve been thinking. I know lots of people who pooh-pooh the idea of home remedies for illness. Hey, I used to be one of them (“Just give me my antibiotics, please!”).

But something happened this year.

I spent most of the summer battling some kind of throat infection that my doctor was skeptical was even there. He said my throat “didn’t even look that red” and was I sure it wasn’t something like heartburn. I’ve had heartburn lots of times. This was not heartburn. It was an infection. And I was miserable!

I wanted antibiotics. After I suffered for about 2 1/2 weeks, I finally convinced him to prescribe me some antibiotics. After 24 hours, the throat pain was gone and I felt great.

But that wasn’t the end. A few weeks later, it was back. The exact same feeling! No real sign of any other symptoms. Just a bad sore throat. I went back to the doctor after a week. I told them I needed antibiotics again, and they fought me on it again. Different doctor this time. She also said my throat looked fine. I finally convinced her to give me the meds, and again, 24 hours later, I felt fine.

It seems clear to me that antibiotics were necessary. Some kind of bacterial infection.

A few weeks later, same story. But this time, I decided to try something I had read on-line from a blog I follow. There was mention that Garlic is a natural anti-bacterial. So, I high-tailed it to our local health food store, and bought some odorless garlic tablets. I just bought the cheapest one I could find.

So, I took it regularly, and after two days of gradual improvement, NO MORE SORE THROAT. Yeah. It was gone.

Happy dance!

No co-pay at the doctors office. No annoying conversation about how we have to be careful about our use of antibiotics. (I know that! But if I’m not getting better, you have to DO something, doc!)

A lot of “evidence” for home remedies are anecdotal. There have not been enough studies to scientifically back them up. It doesn’t mean they don’t work. And your doctor may agree or disagree with your wanting to try them. With regard to the use of coconut oil on eczema: I’ve had one doctor say, “No, don’t do that. That’s not going to work.” Then the next week, her colleague in the same office says, about the same question, “Oh, Yes! That’s the Best possible thing you could do!” (And for the record, little JB who cannot talk and suffers eczema breakouts during the winter months especially, will chase me around with our coconut oil and “remind” me to put it on him because he gets such relief from it.)

So, here’s my thinking. I’m in favor of my family being healthy. I’m in favor of us saving money and time too. And you know what? Home remedies can save you time and money. You can try home remedies, and if they’re not helping, then get yourself to the doctor! But if the home remedy works for you, then you just saved yourself that trip to the doctor (possibly with lots of kids in tow, possibly risking exposing them to other illnesses at the doctor’s office). You just saved yourself that c0-pay for the visit AND the meds!

So, when I treated myself with a “rumored” home remedy of garlic, and had a very good response to it, I saved time and I saved money. And you know what? That infection didn’t come back. Whenever I feel something like that coming on, I take some garlic and I rub tea tree oil on my feet. I might feel like something is trying to start for a few days, but I have not really been sick (except for a mild stomach bug) since summer time! That’s HUGE! By this time of year, I’ve usually had a few bad colds or sinus infections.

Just because the FDA hasn’t tested the claims about a certain remedy does not mean it doesn’t work. It means that 1) there’s no giant pharmaceutical company out there who has any vested interest in proving that garlic is just as effective on some things as their name-brand antibiotics and therefore the expensive studies to get FDA approval for home remedies goes undone. And 2) officially you can’t advertise those benefits without disclosing that you don’t yet have the FDA stamp of approval. (It’s just like “organic” foods. Some are organic but cannot make the claim when advertising because it is expensive to be certified and be able to label your food that way.)

I’m also not saying you shouldn’t use caution when approaching home remedies. Caution is important. Do some research. This is our health we’re talking about. I’m hesitant to slather all kinds of Essential Oils all over ourselves (or even swallow them as some are recommending!) just because someone says it will work. Safety is important! The argument goes that the oils are from natural sources. Therefore they are safe (!?). But Poison Ivy is a “natural source” and I wouldn’t slather that all over myself! So let’s apply some reason and make sure we research well the side effects and recommendations for your oils and other remedies. That being said, I love my tea tree oil.

(Cautionary tale and why you should be careful: I took Castor Oil once when I was pregnant to try to “naturally” artificially induce labor. My thinking was, “This is a natural way” as opposed to Pitocin. But all I got was good and sick. And you know what? I was still taking something foreign to my body and trying to force labor to start even though the baby wasn’t ready! BE CAREFUL! I don’t like Pitocin at all. But I don’t think Castor Oil is such a great idea, either.)

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However, there are lots of things out there that you can eat that have added benefits when you are sick or for prevention. Yogurt’s probiotics are great for gut health, especially after having a course of antibiotics or when fighting off yeast infections/thrush. Garlic has antibiotic qualities, and so does honey! Honey and cinnamon mixed together make a great natural (and DRUG FREE!!!) cough syrup. Tea tree oil, which I understand to be one of the safer oils for topical use, is an anti-fungal, anti-viral that works great for a myriad of symptoms. I rub it on my feet whenever I feel a sinus infection coming on, and it goes away. Elderberries, which are used in pies, jams, mixed drinks, etc. are also a great anti-viral and known to have good effect in flu prevention.

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Last week, I made some Elderberry Syrup to help with preventing illness (especially in the kids) this winter. I bought about 2/3 cup of dried elderberries from our health food store’s bulk spice section ($3). I followed this recipe.  In addition to elderberries, it uses ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and honey.  Nikki was already sick when I made it.

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I don’t know if it’s helping or not. But I do feel like their sickness is much less intense than their usual. I know that’s merely anecdotal. And I’m okay with that. It wasn’t expensive. They like the taste. And if we can help it, not paying that $20 co-pay and at least $15 for the drugs (times four!) is huge.

Do you use any home remedies? Any favorites?

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5 comments

  1. Momma · · Reply

    1 tbsp. Vinegar and 1 tbsp. honey “tea” for just about anything. Mostly respiratory illness. Make sure to use Braggs raw cider vinegar. It has the “mother”.

    Also, Has the tea tree oil on the feet solved the dry cracked foot problem?

    1. Momma · · Reply

      Oh yeah, when you make the above tea, put the vinegar and honey in the cup. Pour in hot water and stir.

    2. Hmm. It hasn’t for me yet, but I haven’t used it regularly for that yet. Just for sinus infections.

  2. I am a huge believer in home remedies. We are fortunate that our primary doctor is originally from Germany, and he prescribes constitutional homeopathy first and foremost in his practice. Of course, he orders labs and can prescribe meds just like any regular doctor, but we have never found it necessary. For an ear infection, my kids take garlic (if they are old enough to take pills), use garlic/mullein ear drops, and homeopathy. Works like a charm! No antibiotics in this family of 11 in 12 years. Pretty impressive!

    I am a huge garlic believer, It truly works for our family! Over Christmas, we all passed around the flu like the rest of the world did. Some of us had a terrible sore throat. I swear, after a couple doses of garlic, it was gone! I was really run down, so I kept taking garlic for a couple weeks. It’s nice that it’s safe for pregnant women, too, since that’s what I am! In fact, my midwife has me take garlic, probiotics, and echinacea for my history of group B strep.

    My favorite natural remedy is for bladder infections. I am very prone to them. My doctor recommended d-mannose powder, mixed into big glasses of water. The d-mannose attaches to E. coli, and then you pee it out. It really works, even for a pretty yucky bladder infection. I take a maintenance dose every day because I don’t want to be on antibiotics all the time.

    So glad you found a few things that work for your family!

    1. Jaime, that is great! I LOVE how effective garlic is. It’s just so cool.

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