15 Harmless Folk Remedies Worth a Try

Updated: Aug. 27, 2013

Some of these home remedies are pretty strange but they may be worth it.

Some of these weird but harmless remedies just might heal what’s ailing you. Why not give them a try?

Cover yourself in crystals
It’s hardly a widespread or accepted form of healing, but there are many people who steadfastly believe that crystals and gems contain a vibrational energy that can help people heal. In fact, gemstone therapy has been around for thousands of years. Proponents note that each stone has its own talent. According to them, amethyst and amber calcite are the gems associated with improved memory. Their message: Carry or wear them everywhere you go, and it will help your mind function more clearly.

Freckle fader
Ireland is a country of fair-skinned folks who freckle, and this sweet remedy for age spots hails from there. It’s actually more a garden remedy: Pick a handful of honeysuckle leaves and flowers and soak them in water overnight. Splash on the resulting mixture, and see what happens.

Honey for hay fever
Actually, this remedy for hay fever may not be as wacky as it sounds — it’s endorsed by many reputable healers, and it’s a popular treatment in England. Honey that’s produced locally — say, within 25 miles of your home — may contain pollen from the plants that trigger your allergies. If you eat a spoonful or so of this honey daily during the winter, it’s just possible that it could act similarly to allergy shots and blunt your allergic reaction. We think it’s a sweet remedy that can’t hurt and just might help. (Note: Never give honey to babies under a year old.)

Tomato juice soak

We wouldn’t do this ourselves, but an old, traditional body-odor treatment was to add 2 or 3 cups of tomato juice to bathwater and soak in the solution for 15 minutes. The effectiveness of this harmless treatment has never been verified — but since it’s also used for bathing dogs who’ve gotten “skunked,” there must be something to it.

Callus cure
Here’s an odd-sounding folk cure that home remedy experts swear by. Soak a half slice of stale bread in apple cider vinegar. Use adhesive tape to secure it to the affected part of your foot. Wrap with plastic wrap and cover with a cotton sock. In the morning, your corn or callus may be history!

Odd fever buster
Consider using the wet sock cure. This oddly soggy strategy really does help ease a fever and clear congestion by drawing blood to the feet, which helps increase circulation throughout your body. The best method is to warm your feet in hot water, soak a thin pair of cotton socks in cold water, wring them out, and put them on just before going to bed. Put a pair of dry wool socks over the wet ones. The wet socks should be warm and dry in the morning, and you should feel much better.

Here’s mud in your eye!
In some Italian neighborhoods, where coffee making (and drinking) is elevated to a high art, you might find a mother using cold brewed espresso as a pinkeye treatment. Odd? Absolutely — but it just might work. Here’s why: Coffee’s acidity is similar to boric acid, and caffeine works to constrict blood vessels so it could reduce puffiness.

Hiccup distracter
We actually like this oddball remedy we discovered. It’s just silly and distracting enough to make you forget to hiccup: Hold a penny between two toes and transfer it to two toes on your other foot. Don’t let the penny touch the floor.

Trouble falling asleep? Try onions
There’s certainly no science for this nutty-sounding folk remedy, but who knows? Maybe onion vapors contain a sleep-inducing substance that researchers have yet to discover. We’d consider trying this one only as a last resort. Cut up a yellow onion and put it into a canning jar. Screw on the cover and put the jar on your nightstand. If you have trouble falling asleep, or wake up in the middle of the night, open the jar and take a few deep breaths. Then close the jar, lie back, and visualize calming images. With any luck, the next time you open your eyes it will be morning.

Nutty way to help laryngitis
For reasons we couldn’t fathom, chestnut shells turn up in folklore as a laryngitis remedy. The directive is to chew the shells as if you were chewing gum. Frankly, we thought this treatment was just plain nutty until we came across a 2007 medical study — it suggested that the shells are actually loaded with antioxidants.

Try popcorn soup
We don’t think this old folk remedy for nausea sounds very appetizing, but perhaps it worked for someone: Air-pop some popcorn and put it in a bowl. Cover with boiling water and let stand for 15 minutes. Eat a teaspoon of the soggy stuff every 15 minutes or so.

Easy skin healer
It may sound crazy to think that something as simple as a bandage could heal something as complicated as psoriasis, but for some lucky folks, that might be all it takes. Back in the 1980s, Ronald N. Shore, a doctor from Johns Hopkins Hospital, discovered that when he covered a spot of psoriasis with a regular adhesive bandage for three weeks, the skin covered by the adhesive–but not by the gauze pad–healed completely. He went on to repeat the treatment on other lesions on his patient’s elbows-and these also healed completely. Dr. Shore noted that this trick seems to work best when combined with other psoriasis treatments; it appeared to be effective on its own for only a minority of patients.

Give your nose a hand
Make like an ancient healer. Acupressure is an ancient Chinese healing art. Think of it as needle-free acupuncture. Use your left thumb and index finger to press the areas next to the inner eyes on both sides of the bridge of your nose. At the same time, use your fingers and the heel of your other hand to grab muscles on both sides of the spine at the back of your neck. Put pressure on all four points for about one minute. Press out the pain.

Weird as it may sound, giving your sinuses a finger massage will increase circulation to the area and help erase the pain. Here’s how: Using your index fingers, press hard on the outer edge of your nostrils at the base of the nose. Hold for 30 seconds, release, and repeat three or four times.

Peanut butter and mustard for toothache?
Some natural healers recommend it in an emergency. It’s an edible version of a mustard plaster that eases sore muscles. In this case, you coat a chunk of peanut butter with a little powdered mustard, and stick it, mustard-side down, on the tooth. Mustard is a counterirritant, like the capsaicin in peppers, which may interfere with pain messages your body sends to the brain. The peanut butter holds the mustard against the tooth.

Way to the stomach could be through the feet

Oddly, no scientific studies have been conducted on this silly piece of folklore. And we’re pretty convinced there’s no way it could possibly ease an ulcer. But who knows? Maybe old folk healers knew something we don’t about the power of this harmless remedy. Here goes: Just before you put on your shoes and socks in the morning, swab the soles of your feet with apple cider vinegar. Let it dry, then don your footwear. Repeat the process before dinner.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest