Did you know that tea tree oil can help treat acne or that making a paste out of baking soda can help bug bites? Though unconventional, many natural remedies can help heal everyday ailments many of us experience.
We talked with holistic pharmacist Sherry Torkos about the wackiest health tips that actually work.
Secret home remedies
You don’t need to run to the doctor or pharmacy for every little ache, pain or ailment, according to Torkos, a nationally recognized health expert and author. She recommends seeking relief right in your own home, from ingredients in your kitchen to key supplements that promote health. From acne and bad breath to insomnia and joint aches, the following health tips are aimed at saving you time, money and stress.
Acne isn’t just for teens riding the hormonal roller coaster. In fact, experts estimate that 50 percent of women in the US suffer from acne breakouts. Instead of buying pricey prescriptions or “miracle” skin care products, Torkos recommends turning to tea tree oil. “Tea tree oil has natural antibacterial and antiseptic properties, and studies have found it just as effective as benzoyl peroxide, but better tolerated,” she explains. “Look for a product that contains 5 to 10 percent tea tree oil and use daily.”
Bye-bye, bad breath
The last thing any woman wants is bad breath. Whether you’re kissing that special someone or in the throes of a business meeting, bad breath can cause stress and blast your self-esteem. Brushing your teeth and regular dental cleanings are key to halting halitosis, but taking a probiotic can also help give bad breath the brush-off. “Probiotics, also known as friendly bacteria, help reduce the formation of bad bacteria that cause bad breath,” says Torkos. Look for a product that contains the probiotic Streptococcus salivarius K12, which research has found beneficial.
Ease bug bites
Though summer is the prime time for bug bites, they can happen any time of year. The easy remedy? Tea tree oil. Torkos suggests applying some tea tree oil directly to the bite because it has antiseptic properties and can help reduce the itching or stinging, and promote healing. She adds, “If you don’t have tea tree oil on hand, another option is to make a paste with baking soda and a little water, then apply to the bite and let dry.”
Heal cranky canker sores
Canker sores are angry, painful sores that form in the mouth and take about two weeks to heal. There are products on the market to treat these uncomfortable blister-like bumps, but Torkos recommends licorice because it has soothing and wound-healing properties. Make a rinse by mixing 200 milligrams of powdered deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) and one cup of warm water, then swish for two minutes and rinse out. Do this daily. This will keep your mouth cleansed and shorten healing time.
‘Bee’ gone, cold sores
Cold sores rank high on the list of most embarrassing skin conditions for women. In addition to making you want to drop out of society for a couple of weeks while they heal, these blistery red bumps are also painful. Believe it or not, taking bee propolis can help. “Bee propolis has antiviral activity, reduces pain and inflammation, and promotes skin healing,” says Torkos. “Look for a product that provides 4 percent propolis, the amount used in the clinical studies.”
Another health gem from the bees, buckwheat honey is a natural remedy that can help soothe a sore throat and calm a cough. Torkos says buckwheat honey is the queen bee to regular honey. “It differs from regular honey in that it contains more antioxidants and nutrients, and it is also more viscous, so it sticks to the sides of your throat, which will lubricate and soothe the throat,” she explains. “One study found it to be a more effective cough suppressant than dextromethorphan (DM), which is a common ingredient in cough syrups.”
Do away with diarrhea
Diarrhea is another embarrassing and stressful ailment that can significantly hinder your everyday activities. It’s a good thing that relief is as close as your kitchen. According to Torkos, bananas contain a type of soluble fiber called pectin that can normalize bowel movements, aiding both diarrhea and constipation. In addition, bananas can help replenish your body after a bout with digestive distress. The health expert adds, “Bananas provide one of our best sources of potassium — 467 milligrams each — and diarrhea causes depletion of important electrolytes, such as potassium.”
Relief from hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids are another miserable condition sometimes caused by a low-fiber diet, but they may also be due to pregnancy, straining during bowel movements, constipation and obesity. Regardless of the cause, when they strike, you need relief. Witch hazel to the rescue! “Apply a compress with witch hazel to the affected area,” suggests Torkos. “Witch hazel is an astringent and can reduce pain and inflammation and soothe delicate skin.”
So long, insomnia
Do you frequently find yourself tossing and turning, then staring at the ceiling at night? Insomnia can suck the life right out of you, as well as put you at risk for weight gain and other health issues. Torkos recommends the supplement Suntheanine to get a good night’s sleep. She says, “Suntheanine is a form of the amino acid L-theanine, which can help promote relaxation and improve sleep quality without causing next-day drowsiness or addiction.”
No more achy-breaky joints
If your knees sound like popcorn when you’re exercising or simply getting up from the couch, you’re probably also experiencing chronic joint aches and pains. As strange as it sounds, give natural eggshell membrane (NEM) a try. “The inner membrane from eggshells contains compounds that are important for joint health,” says Torkos. “Studies have found that supplements that contain NEM help improve joint health and flexibility with noticeable results in as little as 10 days.”
Meet the expert
Sherry Torkos is a pharmacist, author, certified fitness instructor and health enthusiast who enjoys sharing her passion with others. Sherry graduated with honors from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science in 1992. Since that time she has been practicing holistic pharmacy in the Niagara region of Ontario. Her philosophy of practice is to integrate conventional and complementary therapies to optimize health and prevent disease. Sherry has won several national pharmacy awards for providing excellence in patient care. As a leading health expert, she has delivered hundreds of lectures to medical professionals and the public. Sherry is frequently interviewed on radio and TV talk shows throughout North America and abroad on health matters. Sherry has authored 16 books and booklets, including Saving Women’s Hearts, The Canadian Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, and The Glycemic Index Made Simple.