Home is where the remedy is

Travel writers were busy this summer advising tourists how to handle common medical problems without having to find a local doctor or pharmacy overseas.

Dave Harcombe, a pharmacist in the UK set up a website for travelers (www.silvertraveladvisor.com). He says, “I rely on traditional medicine to pay my mortgage…but home remedies are as good as drugs.” Which just about says it all.

But why save the advice for travel when you can bring it home with you?  

Here are some of my own personal favorite home remedies. None of them require a special trip to a health food store or vitamin shop. In fact, these are all things you can pick up at the supermarket.

  • Chewing gum may help with heartburn. It stimulates the production of saliva, which helps to buffer and flush stomach acids. And the mint flavoring oils in many gums can help calm the digestive tract.  Sugar-free chewing gum can also help relieve constipation. Artificial sweeteners, like sorbitol and mannitol, can draw fluids into the lower intestine, helping to “move things along.” Of course, I always recommend something even simpler…
  • Water also often helps ease heartburn and constipation. Water dilutes stomach acids that cause heartburn. And, in fact, since the function of the large intestine is primarily to remove fluid from the feces, a few glasses of water may do more good than all those heavily-marketed laxatives.
  • Ginger root is the perfect remedy for people who get carsick, seasick, airsick—really, anything that might make you nauseous. Simply carry a small piece of the actual root with you and chew it when you begin feeling queasy. Or add into hot tea.
  • Orange or lemon peel can help keep mosquitoes away. The oils in citrus peels are a highly effective insect repellant. So if you are caught without “bug spray,” squeeze citrus peels and rub the oils on your skin. This tip is especially important now, when mosquitoes are at their peak—and the rates of West Nile virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis are potentially reaching outbreak proportions.
  • Black pepper and sugar help cuts and burns heal. Placed right on the wound topically,  pepper stops the flow of blood from a cut or scrape. And sugar (also applied topically) works as an antibiotic by drawing fluids out of bacteria and dehydrating them to death.

But perhaps the most effective remedy of all is simple time. (Which requires some patience and may be in short supply whether at home or abroad.)

Fortunately, most minor disorders correct themselves, thanks to the body’s remarkable ability to heal itself. As Isaak Dinensen said, “most problems are healed by time and salt water—sweat, tears and the sea.”