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10 Home Remedies That Work

Want to calm a cough or prevent a cold? You may find relief in your cupboard

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Arrangement of ginger, Q tips, liquid hand soap, cherries, honey and baby shampoo. Home remedies.

Some home health remedies have scientific proof they work. — Photo by Nola Lopez

En español | We spend billions every year on over-the-counter health remedies for everything from canker sores to aching muscles, but in some cases there's no need to shell out a lot of money to find relief. All you need to do is check your cupboards for some surprising home remedies.

Stay informed: Get news and resources from the Health Newsletter.

The 10 we picked are cheap, easy to find, and there's actual scientific proof that they work.

Because certain home remedies can interact with prescription medications, check with your doctor before trying something new.

1. Honey. Just one spoonful can help quiet a nighttime cough better than over-the-counter cough syrups or suppressants.

That's what a Pennsylvania study of more than 100 children found. Study author Ian Paul, M.D., says honey can also help reduce coughs in older adults suffering from a cold.

Honey coats and soothes an irritated throat to help calm repeated coughing. "It is generally safe and can be used repeatedly as needed," Paul says. He recommends two teaspoons per dose, but advises older adults to make sure their cough is because of a cold and not a more serious condition that may not respond to honey.

Also, honey does have a high sugar content, "which may be inappropriate for older adults with diabetes."

2. Liquid dish soap. If you come into contact with poison ivy or poison oak, washing the affected area with liquid dish soap within two hours of contact may prevent you from getting an itching red rash. Arkansas dermatologist Adam Stibich wanted to see if liquid dish-washing soap, which is formulated to remove oil, would be a cost-effective way to get rid of the plant oil on poison ivy leaves that causes a rash when it gets on your skin.

Volunteer medical students rubbed poison ivy leaves on their forearms and then washed with dish-washing soap for 25 seconds before rinsing. The soap prevented a reaction in almost half the volunteers and reduced the inflammation in the rest by 56 percent.

In his study, Stibich used Dial dishwashing soap, but any brand will work.

3. Ginger. Ginger can help reduce nausea and relieve motion sickness.

Some studies have shown that taking one gram of ginger an hour before surgery can reduce nausea and vomiting during the first 24 hours after surgery.

In addition, a large National Cancer Institute-funded study found that people undergoing chemotherapy who take as little as one-quarter of a teaspoon of ginger daily for three days before chemo cut their nausea by 40 percent.

The study found that a small amount of fresh or powdered ginger worked better than a larger dose, and that ginger taken with anti-vomiting drugs worked better to control nausea than drugs alone.

For older adults prone to motion sickness, Suzanna Zick of the University of Michigan recommends eating one or two pieces of crystallized ginger, available in most supermarkets, before traveling. She cautions that ginger extract capsules are much stronger and may actually cause stomach upset. "Don't go above two grams of ginger," she advises.

4. Baby shampoo. A half-and-half solution of baby shampoo and warm water is a simple, effective way to clean eyelids that are itchy, red or crusty. The condition could be blepharitis, a common eye problem in older adults. It can cause scaling and crustiness along the base of the eyelashes.

Gently cleaning the eyelid with a baby shampoo wash helps get rid of oil and bacteria but won't sting your eyes.

Try diluting a little baby shampoo with an equal amount of water twice a day, then gently rubbing the mixture with clean fingertips on the closed eyelid and along the eyelashes for one minute. Rinse well with water.

Philip Hagen, M.D., medical editor of the Mayo Clinic Book of Home Remedies, cautions that baby shampoo should only be used on the lid, and never on the surface of the eye.

Next: Try this juice for your arthritis or gout pain. »

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