With 83% of us now googling our health gripes, quirky home cures are making a comeback. “Weird and wonderful treatments that have been in families for generations are being shared in forums and becoming mainstream,” says GP, Dr Ellie Cannon, “But it’s important to put these quick fixes through medical trials to see whether they can help, or even hinder the condition.” Dr Cannon will be doing just that in Channel 4’s new series Health Freaks, which starts next Monday at 8:30pm. We’ve sifted through the old wives’ tales to find the alternative antidotes that actually work.
FOR: A SORE THROAT
Use: Bay leaves
How it works: No one knows why this old remedy works, but bay has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and the warmth is soothing. Boil and mash a handful of bay leaves. When cool enough, apply to the outside of the throat and leave for 30 minutes. Then whack it into your spag bol (we joke).
Use: Tonic water
How it works: Drink a small bottle of tonic water each evening. It contains quinine, which gives it a bitter taste and seems to decrease the excitability of nerves. Just leave out the gin.
FOR: BAD BREATH
How it works: This stinker of a problem is caused by foul-smelling sulphur compounds produced by bacteria which thrive in environments lacking oxygen in, such as the back of the tongue. Nice. Tomatoes contain compounds called ionones, which are thought to make sulphur compounds odourless.
FOR: BODY ODOUR
Use: Bicarbonate of soda
How it works: Dust the baking favourite onto skin to neutralise and absorb sweat and smells. Crisis averted.
How it works: Mix grated onion with a bit of salt and hold it against the bruise for ten minutes at a time. Onions are a rich source of quercetin, a plant pigment thought to be anti-inflammatory. This will reduce the swelling around your bruise. Just make sure you dust some of the bicarbonate of soda on after.
FOR: SORE PMS BOOBS
Use: Cabbage leaves
How it works: Relieve breast tenderness by placing chilled cabbage leaves straight from the fridge into your bra, or reduce lower abdominal pain by placing the leaves on the tummy for a DIY cold pack. Alternatively, warm up the leaves by blanching in boiling water, running a hot iron over them, or putting them in a microwave, and apply. Warning: this can be a bit of a passion killer in the bedroom – unless you’re Jessica Rabbit.
How it works: Grate a little horseradish and apply to the gums near the aching tooth. It contains a chemical called synthetic allyl isothiocyanate which acts as a topical anaesthetic. Roast beef optional.
How it works: The magnesium in the yellow fruit helps relax blood vessels. Peel and mash a ripe banana and place against the sore area of the head for 15 minutes. Lie down if you want avoid decorating your house with fresh fruit.
FOR: ACHING JOINTS
How it works: The spice has been used for centuries to treat minor skin injuries because of its active ingredient, cucumin, which has anti-inflammatory effects. Make a paste with boiling water and let it cool before appling to the affected area, fixing in place with cling film and leaving for 20-30 minutes. It works as fake tan too.
FOR: A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP
Use: Cherry juice
How it works: Jam-packed with melatonin, drink 250ml an hour before bed to help you sleep soundly and give the sheep a night off.