50 Natural Remedies That Really Work
From acne to gout to rashes to gut health: Here are the all-natural remedies to many of the things that could ail you
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The at-home pharmacist
There are a lot of ways to self-treat these days, but any time you venture into the world of alternative medicine, make sure you consult with your doctor first. Some natural remedies don’t play nice with prescription medication; others can be risky for people with certain conditions. Keeping those caveats in mind, here are some intriguing ways to handle common complaints.
One of the most troubling skincare truths is that acne isn’t something that goes away once you pass your teenage years. In fact, women can suffer from it well into adulthood. One of the fantastic acne natural remedies is uncoated aspirin, which is natural salicylic acid. “Take five of them and add one drop of water on each to make them crumble. Mix with manuka honey, which is a natural anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory and apply it directly to your breakout,” suggests Angela Jia Kim, founder of Savor Beauty, New York City.
“Oils, such as avocado, olive, and coconut, can be very hydrating,” says Sejal Shah, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. You can apply these to your face or your body and they’ll deeply penetrate the skin for long-lasting moisture. You can also mix them into your existing treatment cream. Note that because these oils can leave a greasy feel, they’re best applied to damp skin.
Getting older is never fun, especially when the symptoms of perimenopause or menopause hit. You could try these effective menopause natural remedies, but one of the most effective natural remedies is exercise. It’s important that your workout routine has a mix of cardio and weight training. Walking—if you can’t run—is a low impact, useful cardio-conditioning workout, while weight training helps you build muscle, rev up your metabolism, and keep you feeling strong. Use these exercise motivation tricks to get started.
“Make an at-home face mask using oatmeal,” suggests Dr. Shah. “Oatmeal is a helpful natural ingredient because it acts as a humectant so it helps your skin retain moisture.” To whip one up combine ½ cup hot water (not boiling) with 1/3 cup oatmeal. Let the two settle for a few minutes. Mix well and add in two tablespoons Greek yogurt, two tablespoons manuka honey, and one egg white. Mix well and apply on your face for 10 minutes before rinsing with lukewarm water.
“Bleach is a natural antibacterial agent that eliminates germs and bacteria without the worsening of antibiotic resistance,” says Joel Schlessinger, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon in Omaha, Nebraska. “In the right formulation, bleach can be gentle and non-drying, making it a great alternative acne treatment.”
When it comes to sun care, you can never have enough. Bolster your manual application with Heliocare, suggests Dr. Schlessinger. “It’s sunscreen in a pill—it’s designed to be used as a supplement to daily sunscreen for added UV protection,” he says, adding that it’s derived from a fern in Central America. “Its main ingredient is polypodium leucotomos extract, which is clinically proven to gradually build up your body’s natural defense against damaging UV rays. This antioxidant-rich extract helps the skin maintain its structure, improves the body’s immune response against sun damage and protects fragile elastin in the skin to maintain a more youthful appearance (Heliocare was tested by leading Harvard dermatologists). Need help picking the perfect sunblock? Here are the sunscreens dermatologists use.
High-carb foods are linked to acne—and weight gain—because your body experiences an increase of glucose and insulin levels. People who eat a healthy diet (that incorporates healthy carbohydrate foods like produce and whole grains) have half as many acne breakouts, and is why avoiding all commercial dairy products, processed foods, refined sugars, and processed commercial oil products will naturally help fight acne. “Instead eat fruits, vegetables, drink plenty of water, and consume only healthy fats such as flaxseed oil, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, as well as fermented foods,” says holistic health expert, Ward Bond, PhD. “Your skin and your waistline will thank you for these natural remedies.”
Ugh: Warts are the last thing you want to see—especially when it’s beach season. So try some garlic: The antiviral properties of garlic attack the virus which may cause it to blister and fall off. Simply cover your wart with a crushed garlic clove and secure it with a bandage. After 20 minutes, remove the clove and rinse the area. Do this twice daily for a week.
Many people with eczema have a vitamin A deficiency. “A supplement, combined with the mineral zinc will have maximum benefit for your skin,” says Dr. Bond. He also recommends applying a thin layer of coconut oil to the affected areas and taking it internally (a tablespoon per day). “I find that combining Himalayan Pink Salt with powdered magnesium in water is another effective solution,” he says. “Just spray on the affected areas.”
Mom knew what she was talking about! Calamine lotion really does work wonders to naturally treat rashes. (And if that doesn’t work, here are 8 more natural remedies for rashes.) One reason calamine lotion works is because of the soothing, cooling feeling you’ll experience as it evaporates from your skin.
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At any given moment there are about a million and one reasons to be stressed. Turns out just getting 15 minutes of sunshine can go a long way to help mitigate this. Why? It’s the best way to naturally increase your vitamin D levels, which can decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety. You can further benefit if you can spend those 15 minutes surrounded by lush greenery. A Japanese study published in a 2014 issue of Frontiers in Psychology found that people who walked through a forest for 20 minutes had lower levels of stress hormones after their walk than those who took a comparable walk in an urban area.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease. “Skin cells normally replicate every 28 to 30 days,” explains Dr. Bond. “In psoriasis, the skin cells replicate every three to four days.” People with psoriasis have traveled to the Dead Sea in Israel for centuries to soak in its salty water and experience its healing benefits. “Though adding Dead Sea salts to your bath at home isn’t quite the same—you’re not in the 100-degree dry heat that the Dead Sea provides as well—many people find that psoriasis Dead Sea salt soaks can help alleviate their itching and burning.” To try this natural treatment, add a quarter cup of authentic Dead Sea salts to bathwater that is warm to tepid and soak for about 15 minutes.
For centuries, many cultures have used tea tree oil as natural remedies for skin problems and infections. “The oil comes from the leaves of the tea tree plant, which grows in Australia,” says Dr. Bond. “When applied to the skin, this home remedy is said to help remove dry, dead cells. There are tea tree oil soaps available as well as topical creams.”
Don’t let your next cruise or road trip be ruined because of nausea. According to the Mayo Clinic, motion sickness “can strike suddenly, progressing from a feeling of uneasiness to a cold sweat, dizziness, and vomiting.” Thankfully, the feeling typically subsides when the motion stops. The Mayo Clinic suggests trying a ginger supplement. Combined with ginger snaps, ginger ale or candied ginger, they say it may keep nausea at bay. They also say eating lightly and not reading while moving can help.
Topical antibacterial solution
“Oregano essential oil has very strong antibacterial properties,” says Dr. Bond. “These components have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, antispasmodic, and antiseptic properties.” He says that oregano oil is great for feet. Simply mix two to three drops of oregano oil with four to six drops of coconut oil and apply a thin layer to your skin three times a day to help fight bacteria and inflammation.
Dry skin treatment
Are you moisturizing repeatedly and still suffering from dry skin? Try adding a cup of vegetable or mineral oil to a warm bath. Another home remedy you can try is mixing two teaspoons of olive oil with a glass of milk and adding it to your bathwater. Oatmeal baths can also soothe your skin. Grind a few handfuls of plain oatmeal (not flavored or instant) in a blender or food processor, then sprinkle the fine powder over your bathwater.
“Hyperpigmentation is a common, usually harmless condition in which patches of skin become darker in color than the normal surrounding skin,” says Dr. Bond. This condition is the result of excess melanin—the brown pigment that produces normal skin color, he explains. The simplest way to treat this, according to Dr. Bond, is with a paste of milk and honey on the affected areas. You can also mix curd with it. Since milk and curd contain lactic acid, they peel off the affected skin after a period of time, leaving skin beautiful. Vegetable juices from tomatoes, cucumber, and potato can also be applied on your skin. “These lighten pigmentation and suit all skin types. This also leaves skin soothing and fresh all day,” he says.
Fight the flu by consuming elderberries. Elderberries—the dried berries of the Sambucus nigra plant—can not only speed up recovery but can help prevent the flu altogether. What makes them so potent is that they’re high in vitamins A, B, and C and stimulate the immune system.
Spare a few tea bags and use them to de-puff your eyes. The caffeine in black tea may increase circulation and ease puffiness, according to a review in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology. Dampen two tea bags and let them sit in the fridge for 20 minutes. Keep them on your eyes for up to half an hour. This is one of 53 other old-time home remedies we need to bring back.
According to research published in a 2018 issue of PLOS ONE, there were “statistically significant improvements in general mental health, self-efficacy, mindful attention, sleep quality, perceived stress, and depressive symptoms” among those who engaged in mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques. Meditation may also protect against acute upper respiratory illness. Exercise, too, seemed to play a role in physical and mental health improvements.
UV damage protection
Everyone should use sunscreen—every single day! Go above and beyond with additional natural remedies to help protect your skin. “Antioxidants like lycopene or beta-carotene have natural sunscreen protection and may help reduce the intensity of a sunburn or minimize sun damage,” says Los Angeles, California naturopathic doctor Holly Lucille, RN. She also says that the flavanols in cocoa may help with UV damage protection. Green tea and pomegranate extract are also helpful, she explains, because each has compounds and extracts to protect skin from UVA- and UVB-induced cell damage.
Healthy gut bacteria
There are so many reasons to love probiotics. They offer a whole host of benefits including helping our bodies better absorb the nutrients in the food we consume. “There is also a robust research environment around probiotics highlighting key conditions such as weight loss,” says Dr. Lucille. “These studies suggest that gut bacteria may play a powerful role in weight regulation.”
We’re all glued to our phone, but if you struggle to sleep you should shut it down. Try keeping your cell phone and other glowing electronics (including laptops and digital clocks) out of the bedroom. Go even further by making sure your shades are tightly drawn to diminish outdoor lights. And for maximum comfort, the National Sleep Foundation recommends a room temperature between 60 and 67 degrees. If you’re still having trouble sleeping, try some of these other sleep solutions.
Allergy sufferers can consider adding an omega-3 supplement such as DHA, EPA, and krill oil as they are anti-inflammatories. The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians notes that omega-3 fatty acids may keep allergies at bay. “A healthy organic diet low in Omega-6 fatty acids and high in vitamin E, Omega-3 fatty acids, and natural anti-inflammatory foods can help to reduce your allergy symptoms,” the AANP notes.
Having a nagging cough gets annoying fast—especially for those around you. A great cough home remedy is black pepper tea. To make the tea, place one teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper and two tablespoons of honey in a cup. Fill with boiling water and let steep, covered, for 15 minutes. Strain and sip as needed. This remedy works best on coughs that produce mucus and isn’t suitable for dry coughs. The rationale is that black pepper stimulates circulation and mucus flow, while honey is a natural cough suppressant and mild antibiotic.
Natural mosquito repellents include a combination of essential oils such as citronella, eucalyptus, rosemary, peppermint, lavender, thyme, clove, and sage. “Essential oils are the immune system of the plants,” says New York City naturopathic doctor, acupuncturist, and chiropractor Gabrielle Francis. “These oils protect plants from being eaten by bugs, bacteria, and viruses, so they may do the same for us.” Combine 20 drops eucalyptus oil, 20 drops cedarwood oil, 10 drops tea tree oil, 10 drops geranium oil, and two drops almond oil in a four-ounce container. Apply to skin as needed, avoiding eye area. Test on a small area of skin and try different oils for effectiveness.
“Rose water helps acne because the essential oils in the rose have anti-microbial activity,” says Dr. Francis. She also notes that it may also reduce rosacea and rashes because it has anti-inflammatory properties. “Rose water also reduces wrinkles and age spots due to its antioxidants such as vitamin C and E and the flavonoids.” It’s one of many DIY skincare treatments often recommended by dermatologists.
Herbal natural remedies that support sleep include ashwagandha, chamomile, hops, passionflower, skullcap, and valerian root. Dr. Francis also highlights that weekly acupuncture treatments promote sleep. “Complement those remedies with chiropractic manipulation as needed, nightly Epsom salt baths, meditation before bed, and 20 minutes of sunshine daily without sunglasses,” she suggests.
If you want to give your immune system a boost—for example, because you feel a cold coming on, Dr. Francis suggests a hot tea. Combine one-ounce fresh sliced ginger, one stick of cinnamon, one teaspoon of coriander seeds, three cloves, one slice of lemon, and ½ liter of water. Put the ingredients in the water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes. Strain, then sweeten with organic honey to taste and drink one cup every two hours.
Dry brushing has been getting a lot of attention lately, and for good reason. Using a loofah or exfoliating brush and lightly stroking the skin can help stimulate the detoxification of the lymphatic system. “The lymphatic system is a channel of vessels that carry white blood cells and lymph fluid which are our immune’s defense against toxins and infections,” explains Dr. Francis. “The lymphatics run under the skin and therefore, skin brushing stimulates them allowing for better elimination.”
Is exhaustion keeping you from tackling your to-do list? Older research from the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center found that American ginseng had a role in helping cancer patients battle severe exhaustion. This herb is available in tea, liquid, or supplement form. Note, however, that anyone taking antidepressants, diabetes, or blood clotting medication should consult their physician first.
Michelle Lee Photography/Shutterstock
Black tea and coffee are highly acidic—and acidic foods are not good for the body. According to Dr. Francis, having a high acid pH level is linked to gastrointestinal, immune, and circulatory problems. “To neutralize some of the acids, add a spice like cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla, chicory, or nutmeg to your coffee and tea,” she says.
Goji berries are among the top foods for eye health, according to Dr. Bond. “These berries have more carotenoids than any other food—about 40mg per 100mg of berries.” Papaya is an excellent food for your vision; so are raw spinach and kale. “Both contain high concentrations of the phytochemical lutein,” Dr. Bond explains. “They’re best eaten raw or very lightly steamed and with foods that have good fats such as those found in salmon, trout, and avocado.” Improve your eyesight with these top foods.
Feeling tired? Who isn’t? Tieraona Low Dog, MD, chief medical officer of Well & Being (locations in Arizona, Texas, Nevada, and more) suggests you put a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses in your smoothie to give yourself an energy boost. “Molasses is a rich source of highly-bioavailable iron and it blends really nicely into the milk of your choice, with some pumpkin pie spice and a frozen banana.”
Still looking for the right solution? Another natural remedy for acne is adding a spoonful of pumpkin seeds to your smoothie, salad, or soup. “Acne can occur when the body is low in zinc and pumpkin seeds are a terrific source of this mineral and other healthy nutrients,” explains Dr. Low Dog.
If you’re stressed or tired, 300 mg of magnesium powder might help. “Many of us do not get enough magnesium in our diet, which is a shame because it helps us relax and feel calm—all are good for helping us get a good night sleep,” says Dr. Low Dog. Magnesium is one of the most underrated minerals. Here are the signs you aren’t getting enough magnesium.
“If focus is one of your primary problems, add 1/2 teaspoon of bacopa herb powder to your next smoothie,” says Dr. Low Dog. “It has long been used to help promote concentration, a use that is now being confirmed by modern science for those struggling with attention and focus. Make sure you buy from a reputable supplier like Banyan Botanicals.”
The average American doesn’t get enough fiber in their diet. Therefore, constipation is very prevalent. In addition to loading up on fiber-rich foods, coffee can stimulate your colon and encourage a bathroom visit. Teas, which are natural diuretics, can work too. If your focusing on upping your fiber intake, make sure to drink plenty of water as well: Fiber needs water to work its cleansing magic.
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“We hold anxious thoughts and difficult feelings in our muscles as much as in our minds,” says Dr. Low Dog. “When we are struggling to regain emotional wellness, we can turn to the mood-boosting gifts from green tea and high-quality dark chocolate.” She explains that green tea contains small amounts of caffeine that increase mental focus; it also contains L-theanine, an amino acid that helps calm the mind. “Dark chocolate is one of my favorite food-as-medicine prescriptions, as it is rich in compounds that gently lift the mood,” she says, noting that it’s good for the heart too. Just remember to choose high-quality dark chocolate (ideally raw and at least 70 percent cacao).
Healthy gut remedy
“We’re lucky to live in a time when yogurt, kefir, and other fermented foods are widely available,” says Dr. Low Dog. “These probiotic-packed foods are a great source of calcium, high in protein, and have the ability to repopulate gut flora when it’s out of whack, a gastric state that is far too common in modern times!” She recommends including a cup of Greek yogurt and/or four ounces of kefir three to four times per week to your diet. If dairy doesn’t agree with you, she suggests sticking with an old standby like sauerkraut or trying something more adventurous like kombucha.
When it comes to fighting headaches, tea can help. In fact, while ginger tea can’t help fight migraines, it can help quell the nausea that often accompanies migraines. Simply simmer three quarter-sized slices of ginger root in two cups of water and cover for 30 minutes, and sip. Chamomile tea also has compounds that relieve stress and ease a throbbing headache.
Dark spot treatment
“I love Rosa roxburghii for dark spots,” says Dr. Low Dog. “This beautiful flowering bush grows throughout Asia, and its fruit is rich in vitamins A, C, and E, essential fatty acids that help soothe irritation and inflammation that contribute to hyperpigmentation.” You can find it in a number of popular skin-care products, often in combination with licorice, which strong evidence suggests can also naturally lighten dark spots.
Icing the inflamed area can ease the pain but won’t necessarily make the problem go away. Experts say that this can actually stiffen muscles and tendons and slow the blood flow. Instead, try massaging the area following icing to stimulate the flow of blood, and then check out these other options for treating carpal tunnel.
Heart health booster
Chief among avocados’ benefits is that they’re great for your heart. Avocados are the only fruit (yes they’re a fruit!) that contain healthy monounsaturated fats. They also contain more than twice the amount of potassium than bananas and are high in fiber—two more heart-healthy attributes. “The healthy fats in avocados improve the absorption of other key nutrients and research has shown that the avocado is a powerhouse when it comes to lowering total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol—the small dense type that is particularly dangerous for the heart,” says Dr. Low Dog. “I suggest adding avocados to your smoothies, using it as a spread on whole grain bread instead of butter, or just slicing one open and eating it for breakfast with a little lemon.”
This type of arthritis causes pain, swelling, tenderness, and inflammation in the joints, and it can be linked to more serious health problems. Definitely see your doctor first if you suspect you have gout. Once you’re getting proper care, you can check out effective home remedies for gout pain. Try adding cherries to your diet—fresh, frozen, or dried. They help reduce inflammation and gout flare-ups because they contain anthocyanin. Try to eat 15 to 20 cherries a day.
“Brushing your teeth with baking soda and a pinch of sea salt is a natural way to get a squeaky clean mouth while naturally brightening the teeth,” says Megan Linney, founder and consultant at Megan Linney Spa Life in California. “The sea salt is detoxifying and healing to the gums while giving an extra ‘scrub’ effect to the teeth.”
According to Hawaii-based author and board-certified internist Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, the single most powerful herb for cancer prevention is curcumin. Derived from turmeric, curcumin is what makes Indian curries yellow. “There have been countless studies showing that it helped everything from arthritis and Alzheimer’s to depression and cancer. The problem? Its absorption was so poor that unless you were eating an Indian diet all day you couldn’t get enough without taking literally hundreds of turmeric pills. Most turmeric is less than 2 percent curcumin.” Therefore, he suggests adding turmeric to your diet to increase curcumin absorption. Taking two to four pills may lead to positive effects, he says. “Research shows that it also increases the effectiveness of chemotherapy and decreases its toxicity and one capsule twice a day was as effective as Zoloft for depression,” Dr. Teitelbaum adds.
The nutrient ribose is the backbone of energy production, says Dr. Teitelbaum. “Most people don’t have the energy they would like. We are even seeing a new epidemic of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, which reflects the worst case of the human energy crisis. In two of our published studies, ribose has been shown to increase energy an average of 61 percent after three weeks. In the study, we used five grams of ribose power three times a day. It looks and tastes like sugar, and is easy to take.”
Inflammation and depression fighter
The loss of omega-3s in the American diet has resulted in a dramatic increase in inflammation, depression, and heart disease—along with other mood disorders, says Dr. Teitelbaum. “I was asked to write a 20,000-word textbook chapter on nutrition and mental health, and the most important nutrient was fish oil,” he says. The problem? “It normally takes seven large fish oil pills to see the clinical benefits shown in the studies.” However, he adds that research has shown that a new form, called Vectomega, allows people to get the same benefit with just one pill each day. You can also get plenty of omega-3s by eating more fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and trout.
Baking soda is a home staple for good reason: It’s one of several effective natural remedies for heartburn, specifically for the symptoms of acid reflux. Because it contains carbonate, it helps restore the acid/alkaline balance in your digestive tract. Experts recommend putting one teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water and drinking it (just don’t do this on a full stomach).
- Angela Jia Kim, founder of Savor Beauty
- Sejal Shah, MD, RealSelf contributor
- Joel Schlessinger, MD, RealSelf contributor
- Ward Bond, PhD: nutritionist and herbalist
- International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health: “Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing) and Nature Therapy: A State-of-the-Art Review”
- Plos-ONE: “Meditation or exercise for preventing acute respiratory infection (MEPARI-2): A randomized controlled trial”
- Holly Lucille, ND: naturopathic doctor
- Gabrielle Francis: chiropractor and naturopath, New York City
- Tieraona Low Dog, MD, chief medical officer of Well & Being
- Megan Linney, spa director at the Spa at Red Rock by Well & Being
- Jacob Teitelbaum, MD: Director of the Practitioners Alliance Network (PAN), author, and internist
- Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology: “Efficacy of two plant extracts against acne vulgaris: Initial results of microbiological tests and cell culture studies.”
- BMC Journal of Inflammation: Antioxidant and potential anti-inflammatory activity of extracts and formulations of white tea, rose, and witch hazel on primary human dermal fibroblast cells”
- Clinical Interventions in Aging: “Oxidative stress, aging, and diseases”
- The Journal of International Medical Research: “Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections.”
- Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: “Effects of 12-Week Bacopa monnieri Consumption on Attention, Cognitive Processing, Working Memory, and Functions of Both Cholinergic and Monoaminergic Systems in Healthy Elderly Volunteers”
- Journal of Attention Disorders: “A compound herbal preparation (CHP) in the treatment of children with ADHD: a randomized controlled trial.”
- Skin Pharmacology and Physiology: “Caffeine’s Mechanisms of Action and Its Cosmetic Use”