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18 Best Home Remedies for Every Ailment

It can be hard to find tried and true home remedies, but our expert-approved guide to the best home remedies has got you covered.

Home remedies that may work for arthritis

A potent antioxidant found in green tea called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) may help put the brakes on the joint pain and inflammation that are hallmarks of rheumatoid arthritis, according to a study in mice published in the January 2016 issue of Arthritis and Rheumatology. While the results are preliminary (and animal research isn't alway applicable to humans), there's no harm in  sipping a cup or two of green tea a day until scientists know more. And if we are talking about osteoarthritis, the wear-and-tear form of the disease, a substance in red hot chili peppers may do the trick. Chili peppers contain capsaicin, and a 2014 study review published in Progress in Drug Research found that in topical form it can reduce joint pain, stiffness, and swelling related to osteoarthritis. Try applying a capsaicin cream four times daily to sore joints. Find out 23 of the best home remedies for arthritis pain.

oatmealTimmary/Shutterstock

Home remedies that work for bug bites

For run-of-the-mill itching, look no further than that breakfast staple, oatmeal. "Colloidal oatmeal has a long history and equally solid biological basis for its anti-inflammatory and anti-itch effects," says Adam Friedman, MD, professor and interim chair of dermatology at George Washington School of Medicine and Hospital in Washington DC. Find it in the form of creams or even over-the-counter bath powder and follow instructions on the label.

If you've already scratched the bite, prevent infection with Manuka honey (not regular honey), which comes from New Zealand and may help in the treatment of wounds. "It is a great osmotic agent, meaning that it pulls water into the wound/skin and is an antibacterial agent," Dr. Friedman says. "Hydrating the skin can help cool it off, and the antibacterial properties are useful as a scratched bug bite is susceptible to infection."

chicken soupsuccesso images/Shutterstock

Home remedy that may work for colds

Your mother was right. (Isn't she always?) "Chicken soup has been shown to be helpful for colds in a study," says Len Horovitz, MD, a clinical instructor in medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. One of the best home remedies, chicken soup may have anti-inflammatory properties that could ease the symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections, according to the study, published in Chest. The researchers found that chicken soup curbs white blood cells called neutrophils, reducing their movement when tested in laboratory dishes. Also consider what doctors and nurses do at home to stop a cold in its tracks. Just keep in mind that a warm cup of chicken noodle is no stand-in for a visit to a doctor. "It's important to be seen and examined, to have a strep test or influenza test to be sure it is 'just a cold,'" Dr. Horovitz says.

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Home remedy that works for cough

Regular store-bought honey may be more effective at easing cough and improving sleep for kids than honey-flavored over-the-counter cough suppressant, according to a study in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. (This is a big deal, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said that over-the-counter cough medications are too risky for kids under 2.) The researchers gave one-half teaspoon of honey to children ages 2 to 5, 1 teaspoon to children 6 to 11, and 2 teaspoons to those ages 12 to 18. Just don't give honey to children under 1 because it can cause potentially life-threatening infantile botulism. Check out the 6 best home remedies for a cough.

flaxseedAnna Bogush/Shutterstock

Home remedy that works for constipation

Fiber is the best fix for constipation, and of all the proven ways to boost your fiber intake, flaxseed may be the best home remedy. "It's almost as if nature tailor-made ground flaxseed to relieve constipation because there are actually four mechanisms by which it helps," says Will Bulsiewicz, MD, a gastroenterologist in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. For starters, this effective remedy for constipation is a great source of both insoluble and soluble fiber, which work in different ways, he explains. "The insoluble fiber adds bulk to the stool, helping it to move quickly through the intestines, [and] the soluble fiber acts as fertilizer for the gut garden, promoting the growth of good bacteria."

There's more to it. "Unique to ground flaxseed is the mucilage component of its soluble fiber. Mucilage is a slimy, gum-like compound that provides both bulk and softness to help relieve constipation," Dr. Bulsiewicz says. Finally, ground flaxseed is an excellent source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids that are known to help soften stool and relieve constipation. His Rx? Aim for two to three tablespoons a day as part of a fiber-rich diet. "Be sure to drink a lot of water when consuming ground flaxseed to ensure adequate hydration," he adds.

manuka honeyHikoPhotography/Shutterstock

Home remedy that may work for cuts, scrapes, and burns

Another reason to keep Manuka honey on hand: "One of my all-time favorite home remedies—that works 100 percent of the time—is Manuka honey on open cuts, burns, or scrapes," says Nadia Kumentas, ND, a naturopathic doctor in Toronto, Canada, and founder of affecthealth.com. "Its potent antibacterial and wound-healing abilities help you heal quickly, minimize scarring, and prevent infection," she says. "Make sure you apply a thin layer of Manuka honey to the wound and cover it to keep the environment moist. Change the dressing/Band-Aid daily." Here are more of the best home remedies for bumps, burns, and bruises.

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Home remedy that works for headaches

If you have a throbbing headache, try reaching for a cup of coffee. "The caffeine constricts blood vessels, which can help with headache relief," says Tania Elliott, MD, a clinical instructor in medicine at NYU Langone in New York City.

And caffeine also provides relief by blocking adenosine receptors, neurotransmitters in the brain that are elevated during a migraine, she adds. If you really have throbbing pain, try pairing your cup of joe with OTC pain medication. "Studies have shown that caffeine taken in combination with pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen enhances pain relief," she says. Just don't overdo this remedy. "The body can become tolerant to caffeine and withdrawal symptoms include headaches," Dr. Elliott warns. Don't miss these 4 doctor-recommended best home remedies for pain.

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Home remedy that works for hemorrhoids

For natural hemorrhoid relief, experts at the Cleveland Clinic recommend Sitz baths—a shallow bowl that fits over your toilet and allows you to bathe just your bottom. Sitting in warm water for 15 minutes, several times a day—especially after a bowel movement—can soothe the irritated area.

spoonful of sugarAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

Home remedy that may work for hiccups

A spoonful of sugar doesn't just help the medicine go down—when it comes to hiccups, it may be the medicine. Why does it help? Hiccups are spasms of the diaphragm, which is a muscle beneath the lungs that helps you breathe. Anything that stimulates the back of your throat, including swallowing a gritty spoonful of sugar, could stop hiccups, according to a 2018 "Ask the Doctor" column in the Harvard Health Letter.  If you want some more DIY options, try these best home remedies for hiccups.

vinegar in clear bowlDPRM/Shutterstock

Home remedy that works for infected nails

If you have the tell-tale signs of a bacterial or fungal infection—nails that are thick, crumbling, and yellow—try soaking in white vinegar, a natural anti-fungal. "The white vinegar soak should be half vinegar and half water," says Dr. Friedman. Soak the affected finger or toe three or four times a day for 15 to 20 minutes until it clears up. And check out these unexpected foot odor cures.

powdered magnesium in clear bowlMichelle Lee Photography/Shutterstock

Home remedy that may work for leg cramps

"Magnesium deficiency happens to be one of the most common culprits of muscle cramping," says Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, a naturopathic physician in Maui, Hawaii and author of The Miracle of Magnesium. "Magnesium encourages relaxation within the body—including muscle tension." Not all forms of magnesium are easily absorbed by the body, however, she says. "Magnesium citrate powder is a highly absorbable form that is fast acting and can be mixed with hot or cold water and sipped at work or at home immediately in the event of muscle cramping and throughout the day."

chamomile flowers floating in teanatalia bulatova/Shutterstock

Home remedy that may work for menstrual cramps

Got chamomile tea? Get brewing. "Cold packs or heating pads on the lower abdomen or back can help relieve cramps, as can soaking a washcloth in warm water and chamomile tea and placing it on the same areas," says Jill Rabin, MD, co-chief of the division of ambulatory care at the Women's Health Programs-PCAP Services of Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, New York. If cramps are severe, see a doctor to make sure that you are doing all you can to ease your period pain.

ginger, raw and in teaaboikis/Shutterstock

Home remedies that work for nausea

Hands down, the best home remedies for nausea are ginger and peppermint. "Even just smelling them can curb nausea or prevent it from occurring in the first place," Dr. Rabin says. If nausea is severe and you can't keep food down, it's time to check in with your doctor, she adds. If it's mild, try these best home remedies for a stomachache.

tea bag in waterBogdan Wankowicz/Shutterstock

Home remedy that works for sunburns

Yes, prevention with judicious use of broad-spectrum sunscreen that has a sun protection factor of 30 or higher is key, but "for sunburns I recommend cool compresses, lots of moisturizer to damp skin, and cold black tea bags because caffeine is anti-inflammatory and a vasoconstrictor, which will help with redness," Dr. Friedman says. You'll also want to try these 11 unusual ways to soothe a sunburn.

teaspoons of saltAlexeysun/Shutterstock

Home remedies that work for tooth and gum pain

Warm salt water rinses can often help sore or swollen gums feel better due to an antimicrobial effect, shares Saul Pressner, a dentist in New York City. And there's a natural remedy for tooth pain: "Oil of cloves can sometimes soothe an inflamed tooth." But, he cautions, "it is very important to see your dentist when these symptoms occur."

pink and red cranberry capsulespaintings/Shutterstock

Home remedy that works for urinary tract infections

Of all the home remedies to ward off UTI (urinary tract infections), cranberry capsules may be the winner. In a study investigating the popular UTI treatment, researchers from the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor studied 160 women aged 23 to 88 who were undergoing gynecological surgery. Typically, 10 to 64 percent of such women develop a UTI following the removal of the catheter. In the study, half of the women took two cranberry juice capsules twice a day—the equivalent in strength to two 8-ounce servings of cranberry juice—for 6 weeks after surgery. The others took a placebo. Women who took the cranberry capsules were half as likely to develop a UTI as their counterparts who got the placebo, according to the study, which was published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Why? Cranberries contain A-type proanthocyanidins, which may interfere with the bacteria's ability to breach the bladder wall, reducing the likelihood of infection, Dr. Rabin explains. Here are more of the best home remedies for UTIs.

duct tapeunderworld/Shutterstock

Home remedy that works for warts

To remove a wart, the American Academy of Dermatology suggests sticking a piece of duct tape on the wart and then changing it "every few days to peel away layers of the wart." A study out of Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, found that using duct tape is more effective than a doctor applying liquid nitrogen to "freeze" the wart—85 percent of people in the duct tape group eliminated the wart during the study versus 60 percent of those in the liquid nitrogen group.

aloe-veraOlga Vorontsova/Shutterstock

Home remedies that may work for zits

Skip the toothpaste, witch hazel, tea tree oil, lemon, honey and aloe vera, as these will likely do more harm than good to your complexion, says Dr. Friedman, Instead, "cover the pimple with a Band-Aid overnight," recommends Anthony Youn, MD, chief surgeon at Youn Plastic Surgery in Troy, Michigan, and author of The Age Fix: A Leading Plastic Surgeon Reveals How To Really Look Ten Years Younger. "This will help decrease inflammation to make it look much less red and swollen in the morning." If it's blackheads that are plaguing you, try applying Elmer's glue to the area and letting it dry. "Then peel it off, taking many of the blackheads with it," he says. These are the 56 old-school home remedies we've forgotten—but need to bring back.

Sources
  • Arthritis and Rheumatology: “Regulation of Transforming Growth Factor β–Activated Kinase Activation by Epigallocatechin‐3‐Gallate in Rheumatoid Arthritis Synovial Fibroblasts: Suppression of K63‐Linked Autoubiquitination of Tumor Necrosis Factor Receptor–Associated Factor 6” 
  • Progress in Drug Research: “In Vivo Wound Healing Studies”
  • Adam Friedman, MD, Professor and Interim Chair of Dermatology at George Washington School of Medicine
  • Len Horovitz, MD, a clinical instructor in medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City
  • Chest: "Chicken Soup Inhibits Neutrophil Chemotaxis in Vitro"
  • Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine: “Effect of Honey, Dextromethorphan, and No Treatment on Nocturnal Cough and Sleep Quality for Coughing Children and Their Parents”
  • US Food and Drug Administration: “When to Give Kids Medicine for Coughs and Colds”
  • Will Bulsiewicz, MD, a gastroenterologist in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina
  • Tania Elliott, MD, clinical instruction in medicine at NYU Langone
  • Cleveland Clinic: “7 Best and Worst Home Remedies for Your Hemorrhoids”
  • Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, a naturopathic physician in Maui, Hawaii and author of The Miracle of Magnesium
  • Jill Rabin, MD, co-chief of the division of ambulatory care at the Women's Health Programs-PCAP Services of Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, New York
  • Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine: “Effect of Honey, Dextromethorphan, and No Treatment on Nocturnal Cough and Sleep Quality for Coughing Children and Their Parents”
  • American Academy of Dermatology Association: “How to Get Rid of Warts”
  • Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine: “Effect of Honey, Dextromethorphan, and No Treatment on Nocturnal Cough and Sleep Quality for Coughing Children and Their Parents”
  • Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine: “The efficacy of duct tape vs cryotherapy in the treatment of verruca vulgaris (the common wart)”
  • Anthony Youn, MD, chief surgeon at Youn Plastic Surgery in Troy, Michigan, and author of The Age Fix: A Leading Plastic Surgeon Reveals How To Really Look Ten Years Younger
  • Nadia Kumentas, ND, a naturopathic doctor in Toronto, Canada, and founder of affecthealth.com
  • Saul Pressner, DMD, a dentist in New York City
  • American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology: “Cranberry juice capsules and urinary tract infection after surgery: results of a randomized trial”
Medically reviewed by Oscar H. Cingolani, MD, on October 20, 2019