Minor illnesses or feelings of discomfort often don’t require a trip to the doctor. Sometimes, the solution is already in your pantry or fridge. For example:
#1. Horseradish to clear blocked sinuses and mucus
Mix a teaspoon of horseradish with a teaspoon of lemon juice and olive oil, eat a quarter of a teaspoon after every meal or mash with potato, which makes it more palatable.
#2. Fennel for Irritable bowel syndrome
Fennel has been a remedy for indigestion and bloating for decades due to the flavoursome oils it contains, according to research. These oils can relax the gut walls and disperse gases, easing bloating. Try it juiced, roasted or pureed.
#3. Fennel seeds for period pain
A study in the Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences found that fennel essential oil was as effective at easing abdominal cramps as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs. Crush one tablespoon of seeds and soak in hot water for five minutes. Sweeten with honey if necessary.
#4. Brown rice for constipation
Brown rice is very high in fibre. High-fibre food will take on several times its own weight in water and swell within the digestive tract, activating stretch receptors in the gut wall. This stimulates a reflective contraction of the gut wall and allows for more comfortable bowel movements.
Serve instead of white rice in a risotto. Use to thicken soups and add to salads.
#5. Porridge oats for eczema or itchy skin
Anti-inflammatory compounds in oats are thought to help soothe the skin. Fill a muslin or cheesecloth bag with porridge oats, tie off the top and add to a bath. Or blend oats until finely milled and add directly to the bath. Swish around for a few minutes.
#6. Celery for sprains
Overdid it in a workout and got a sprain? A compound in celery called 3-n-butylphthalide (NBP for short) has been shown to have analgesic qualities. Try it juiced as it will give you a more concentrated dose than eating individual stalks.
#7. Sea salt
Diarrhoea can cause a rapid loss of electrolytes, vital minerals that have thousands of roles to play in the body. One of the best ways to keep your electrolytes topped up is by making salty broths and soups. Make sure, though, that you use natural sea salt or rock salt, which contain the trace elements you need.
A relative to onions, shallots and leeks, garlic contains powerful essential oils that can only be removed from the body through breath. As we breathe out, they move through the respiratory tract and kill bacteria and viruses. A study in PLOS One has suggested garlic can even help with life-threatening lung infections, and that it helps neutralise the bacterium Burkholderia cepacia complex, which is often linked with pneumonia in people with compromised immunity. Eat raw or lightly cooked.
#9. Weet-Bix for PMS
A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who ate food high in Thiamine (B1) and Riboflavin (B2) were less likely to get premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Plenty of fortified cereals contain Vitamin B1 and B2, but it’s always best to choose those with less sugars. Weet-Bix, shredded wheat or bran-based cereals are recommended.
#10. Duct tape for warts
Okay, this one’s not for eating, but it’s still good to know! Heal warts by covering with duct tape for six days. Then remove the tape and soak the wart in warm water for five minutes. Dry the affected area and gently rub with emery or pumice to remove the skin. Repeat the procedure until all the dead skin has gone—it might take several weeks.
#11. Cranberry juice for cystitis
Cranberries contain proanthocyanidins, which are thought to prevent bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall. Look for pure cranberry juice, not cranberry juice drinks, which usually contain refined sugars and little pure fruit. Make your own juice or smoothie by boiling cranberries and blending them into a liquid. If the result is too sour, mix in no-added-sugar orange or apple juice to naturally sweeten.
#12. Ginger for wind
Ginger has a carminative effect; it helps to break up and expel intestinal gases. Steep, slice or grate fresh ginger in hot water and sip slowly. Drink up to four cups each day.
#13. Bicarbonate of soda for indigestion
Bicarbonate of soda is one of the main ingredients in many antacid medicines. It is alkaline, which helps neutralise excess stomach acid that causes heartburn and indigestion. Dissolve a teaspoon in a glass of water and drink slowly.
#14. Olive oil for wax build-up
Ear wax usually exits in the ear naturally, but a build-up is quite common. Apply a few drops of olive oil in the ear whilst massaging your ear canal entrance twice a day for about five days to loosen and help the wax exit. During this process, lie on your side for five to 10 minutes.
#15. Pumpkin seeds for migraine
Some studies indicate that upping your magnesium intake could reduce migraine attack by relaxing the nerves, muscles and blood vessels surrounding the brain. Sprinkle magnesium-rich raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas) over salad, porridge or yoghurt. Or blend them instead of pine nuts with basil and olive oil to make a great pesto for your pasta.
#16. Chillies for joint pain
The capsaicin in red chillies helps deplete the pain-transmitting chemicals in nerve-endings—effectively stopping persistent pain signals reaching the brain. Grind chillies into a paste, add to a cream or olive oil, and put on affected areas. Try on a small area first to test for irritation. Never use on broken skin, don’t use around your eyes, mouth or other sensitive areas, and wash hands well after application.
Barry Kirkland is a retired jack-of-all-trades, having served 20 years in the navy, worked in a lawn-mowing business and as a supermarket area manager. He lives in Rosebud, Victoria.
A number of the tips listed above are taken from The Nutrition Bible (2019) by “medicinal chef” Dale Pinnock and Selena Langdon, medical director at Berkshire Aesthetics in the UK.
Please note that the advice given here is general and may not be suitable for your particular situation. Please consult a health professional for specific advice.