People have been turning to nature for medicinal and health benefits since ancient times. Health-related plant usage has been mentioned in the Bible and the Jewish Talmud, as well as in Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey. Ingredients found in the natural world have been used as home remedies to address a wide range of conditions. This includes honey for allergies and sore throats, cinnamon for blood sugar control and blood thinning, chili peppers for pain relief, and aloe vera for skin burns. Here are five popular natural remedies.
Many people find a hot cup of tea before bed relaxing. But one tea stands out above all others as a natural sleep aid — chamomile. That’s because apigenin, a chemical property found in green tea binds to GABA receptors in the brain, creating a sedative effect. Having a cup of chamomile tea about 45 minutes before going to sleep gives your body enough time for the chemicals to work. One study showed that when chamomile extract capsules were given to elderly people for 28 days in a row, their sleep quality improved. Although considered quite safe, chamomile should be avoided two weeks before surgery and can interfere with sedatives, blood thinners, or NSAIDs.
Ginger root has been used to treat nausea (and related symptoms) for more than two millennia— primarily in Indian, Asian, and Arabic cultures. This thick and knotty stem, called a rhizome, can be made into supplements, teas, lozenges, extracts and even pickled or crystallized. Studies support ginger as a remedy for nausea related to motion sickness, migraines and other causes. Research found ginger to be effective at controlling nausea and vomiting in pregnancy and chemotherapy when tested against placebo, as well as when compared to B6 — a common nausea treatment. There’s also reason to believe ginger could aid in reducing inflammatory pain, blood sugar, and cholesterol. It’s also a delicious, flavorful addition to many recipes. You can even make your own spicy and sweet candied ginger with a few simple steps.
Migraine headaches can be debilitating, especially for the 12 percent of the population who suffer from them—making migraine the third most prevalent illness in the world, according to the Migraine Research Foundation. Although there are a variety of medications available, they can carry risks and have unpleasant side effects. Magnesium offers an inexpensive, drug-free, safe way to address migraines. The American Academy of Neurology and the American Headache Society gave magnesium a “B” rating, indicating it was “probably effective” as a migraine treatment It seems to be especially helpful with migraine with headaches with aura. The relationship between magnesium and migraine isn’t fully understood, although migraines sufferers do seem to have lower magnesium levels. Some scientists think that magnesium can block pain chemicals. Lower magnesium may cause blood vessel narrowing in the brain, which could also be connected to migraines. Although you can get magnesium from certain foods, including pumpkin seeds, almonds, and spinach, most people need a supplement to reach levels that would help with their migraines.
For people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), peppermint can be a natural way to treat symptoms, such as pain, bloating, and constipation. Peppermint can be ingested either through tea or peppermint oil capsules. It appears to work as an antispasmodic, meaning it calms spasms and relaxes intestinal muscles. While people may enjoy the taste of peppermint tea, the real benefits are reaped from the oil. One study of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) patients found that after a month of treatment with peppermint oil capsules, 75% saw a reduction of more than half of their symptoms. This is not a new use of peppermint—ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks used it for digestive conditions. Peppermint is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Turmeric is an Indian spice often used in curry. Aside from powder form, it’s also made into capsules, extracts, and teas. The main chemical ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, which contains anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Research obtained from multiple studies supports turmeric’s effectiveness in reducing arthritis pain. One study found its effect to be comparable to ibuprofen. Another study found that turmeric provided as much relief for their osteoarthritis knee as they did from a prescription NSAIDs.mInterestingly, curcumin comprises only about 5% of turmeric, so to enhance the amount your body can absorb (called bioavailability), combine black pepper with turmeric. Even just 1/20 of a teaspoon of black pepper increases the bioavailability of curcumin. Another way to boost absorption is to make sure your turmeric is taken with foods that have fat in them. These are easy methods to adapt, as turmeric is great in stews, on veggies roasted in olive oil, or as part of a spice blend on salmon or chicken.