23 Old-Time Home Remedies We’ve Forgotten—but Need to Bring Back ASAP

Your grandmother grew up with these common cures but they've long since fallen out of fashion. We asked medical experts which ones we'd be wise to rediscover.

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Salt water for a sore throat

remediesShutterstock (2)Salt doesn't just make food taste good—it's extremely useful around the house for a variety of purposes, one of which is an old-fashioned remedy to soothe a sore throat. "Gargling with salt water when you have a sore throat may help relieve some of the pain and irritation," says Dan McGee, MD, a pediatric hospitalist at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital. "But don't overdo it—one teaspoon of salt in eight ounces of water should do it." And be sure not to swallow it—yuck! Studies have shown gargling to be effective, but if the symptoms persist, see your doctor to make sure you don't have an infection.

Ginger for nausea

gingerShutterstock (2)Ginger has been used for hundreds of years for its medicinal properties, including helping to calm tummy troubles. "Research has found ginger to be an effective digestive aid most notably by helping to alleviate nausea due to morning sickness during pregnancy, motion sickness or chemotherapy," says registered dietitian Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, author of Belly Fat for Dummies. "Although we do not yet understand the exact method that allows ginger to be effective at reducing nausea, it is thought it may work by ginger obstructing the serotonin receptors in the gut that cause nausea." It also may prompt the body release enzymes that help break down food, she says.

Cool tea for eye bags

tea-bagShutterstock (2)Tea has tons of benefits for both inside and outside your body, such as helping calm puffy eyes—which you grandmother probably knew. "The caffeine in the tea bags helps with vasoconstriction, or shrinking of the blood vessels, around the eyes, leading to less puffiness or swelling skin," says dermatologist Purvisha Patel, MD, creator of Visha Skin Care. "The cool temperature also helps decrease inflammation and swelling under the eyes." Simply wring out wet tea bags, place in the fridge for a bit and then put over eyes. Some studies have even shown the caffeine in tea applied topically can also act as sunscreen and help prevent skin cancer.

Prunes for constipation

pruneShutterstock (2)When you just can't go, try a home remedy for constipation like prunes. They sound gross—probably why the California Prune Board got them renamed as "dried plums"—but if they were good enough for Grandma, they're good enough for us."A high fiber diet, along with adequate fluid, can be effective at helping to alleviate constipation," Palinski-Wade says. "Prunes are an all-natural source of fiber, with three grams of fiber per serving and only 100 calories, making them an easy way to boost the fiber content of your meal plan."

Oatmeal bath for skin ailments

oatsShutterstock (2)If you suffer from skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis, or even just have run-of-the-mill dry skin, home remedies may help. Although it sounds weird to bathe in something you might eat, old-fashioned oatmeal baths can be very soothing—they're even recommended by the National Eczema Association. "Oatmeal baths are great for dry, itchy skin," Dr. Patel says. "Oatmeal, when soaked in warm water, creates a slimy film that coats the skin to protect it and trap in moisture." Grind up rolled oats (not the instant variety) and pour into a warm, but not hot, bath. Pat dry instead of rubbing when you get out.

Cranberry juice for UTIs

cranberryShutterstock (2)At the first signs of a urinary tract infection, your mother probably drank cranberry juice. But can a fruit really stave off a bacterial infection? Although some experts theorize that it's really just the flushing out of the urinary tract by drinking a lot of fluid, or that the acidic environment isn't hospitable to bacteria, there may be more to it. "Cranberry has been shown to reduce how well the bacteria stick to the lining cells of the bladder," says Diana Bitner, MD, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Spectrum Health, although studies in women with recurrent infections have been inconsistent. Even so, "cranberry is unlikely to cause harm, might reduce bladder infections, and could be used in conjunction with other strategies your health care provider recommends," Dr. Bitner says.

Honey for coughs

honeyShutterstock (2)There's nothing worse than a pestering cough that keeps you up at night, but luckily there are some old-fashioned natural remedies for coughs that can help. "Honey may help with a cough caused by irritation," Dr. McGee says, by lubricating the throat. Studies have actually shown honey to be more effective than cough medicine. "Just be sure not to use it in small children [under age one] as it may cause botulism," Dr. McGee says.

Lavender for trouble sleeping

lavenderShutterstock (2)You can harness the power of this fragrant herb by using lavender essential oil to help you get more shut-eye. Its old-time medicinal powers help the body to relax, allowing you to fall asleep easier. "Research shows that smelling lavender decreases heart rate and blood pressure, key elements of relaxation," says sleep expert Richard Shane, PhD, creator of the Sleep Easily method. "The two main chemicals in lavender have been shown to have sedative and pain-relieving effects." One study showed that people who smelled lavender before bed had brain waves indicating deeper sleep. But only use lavender externally, or by inhalation.

Aloe for burns

aloe-veraShutterstock (2)You may think of aloe for sunburn relief, but the ancient treatment can also be used for other types of burns as well. One study demonstrated the effectiveness of aloe over other treatments for second-degree burns. "Aloe is a very soothing remedy for burns," Dr. Patel says. "It is a gel derived from the aloe vera plant that contains-anti inflammatory agents that can help with burns." Make sure you use pure aloe and not a fragranced version, and test it out first to make sure you're not allergic. For serious burns, though, you should still see a doctor.

Chicken soup for colds

soupShutterstock (2)Even in these days of take-out food, there's nothing like a bowl of Grandma's chicken soup when you're sick—and it turns out, the chicken soup remedy is backed by science. "Chicken soup works for me," Dr. McGee says. "On top of it making me want to watch cartoons and take a nap, there is actually a small amount of prostaglandins in chicken soup that can help fight infections." The landmark study on chicken soup showed that the nourishing food might have an anti-inflammatory effect, which later research backed up.
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