Sure, you wash your hands, get plenty of sleep and take extra Vitamin C to boost your immunity but the fact remains: we're not always going to be exempt from colds, bumps and bruises. When the common cold or other minor ailments strike you down your first line of defense may be in your own home. While none of these are intended to replace your doctor's care, sometimes the best remedies don't come with a prescription.
Cure What "Ales" You
You're probably familiar with the flavor of ginger in stir fry and Asian foods, but did you know in addition to making a tasty sauce it can help ease a stomach ache? Ginger has been found to relieve nausea, dizziness, gas, heartburn, flatulence and diarrhea. In studies it has shown to be a successful natural remedy for stomach flu and even morning sickness up to 75 percent of the time.
Whether you choose ginger ale, ginger tea or other ginger remedies, be sure real ginger root is on the ingredient list. Otherwise don't expect the benefit.
Make ginger tea at home by pouring one cup of boiling water over 2 tablespoons of freshly grated ginger and let it steep for 5 to 10 minutes. Strain and drink up.
A spoonful of sugar may make the medicine go down, but a teaspoon of honey can soothe a cough on its very own. Swallowing honey can help calm scratchy throats and dry coughs by coating the throat and thinning the mucus. Plus it tastes good. (Just don't give it to kids under 1 year old because they're at risk for infant botulism.) Honey can also be used as a natural antibacterial treatment on minor cuts and scrapes.
Adults listen up: Most hangovers will resolve themselves in about 24 hours, but there is some evidence that the fructose in honey can speed things up. Audrey Halpern, MD, a headache specialist and neurologist, tells Health magazine that spreading a few tablespoons of honey on toast helps your body metabolize alcohol faster.
Rub Salt on It
Noniodized table salt can do more than spice up a bland dinner. Salt can also help take the itch out of bug bites, calm sore throats and relieve sinus congestion from colds or allergies.
Itchy insect bites are soothed in a pinch with salt: Mix salt and water to form a paste and apply to the bite. Add a little more water to that mixture and use it as a multi-purpose solution.
One of the simplest comforts for a minor sore throat is gargling with warm saltwater. A similar saltwater concoction also works for minor sinus stuffiness. Saline nasal drops ease sinus congestion in infants, kids and adults.
Adults can also try clearing congestion with salt and a neti pot. Mix 1/2 cup warm water with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Using a neti pot, pour the mixture into one nostril. Let it flow out the other and repeat in the opposite nostril.
Pain Relief, Cubed
Everyone should keep cold or ice packs in the freezer and pull them out at a moment's notice to treat minor sprains and bruises. Immediately applying a cold compress to an injury reduces swelling, bleeding and pain by reducing blood flow to the injury and slowing down the pain signals between nerve endings and the brain.
Apply a cold compress to the area for 20 minutes every 2 hours. Never put ice directly on skin, always wrap it in a damp towel or cloth and then apply.
No ice packs handy? A plastic bag filled with crushed ice or even a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a damp towel will do the trick, and even cold water is better than nothing at all.
Happiness Is a Warm Blanket
In the dead of winter we start daydreaming about warming ourselves on a far-flung sandy shore. Stiff neck or achy muscles acting up? Give them the muscle equivalent to a warm beach: a heating pad. Heat from a heating pad or hot water bottle wrapped in a towel increases the blood flow to the area where you apply the warmth and helps muscles relax -- in about 30 minutes you'll notice relief from cramps and stiffness.
Alternatively, soaking in a warm bath for about 15 minutes can help ease muscle pain -- add some Epsom salt and help reduce inflammation at the same time.