8 At-Home Remedies Your Grandma Swears by That Actually Work
Readers, it's time to thank your grandma. Those crazy Latin at-home remedies she showered on you when you were under the weather might have actually worked. In fact, Dr. Keith Roach, associate professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, says that even the rituals that don't have any scientific backing could work — just because you believe in them. "The placebo effect is powerful," he said.
While there are certain Latin cures the doctor advises you should skip when you're sick (like anything involving raw egg, which can carry salmonella, or a shot of alcohol, which can actually be dangerous to your liver during certain illnesses), he weighed in on why some of the most popular get-better-soon treatments that your grandma used actually, truly work. Keep reading to find the list, then check out the family beauty treatments that you should be trying.
Vick’s VapoRub For Congestion
This staple in every Latin household and medicine cabinet might have actually made a difference during all those childhood colds. “Vick’s is a mentholatum ointment, which actually does open up the nasal cavities,” Roach said. “It’s not going to cure your congestion, but it will help you breathe easier and feel better.”
Tea With Cayenne For an Upset Tummy
The herb that’s widely used in Central American and South American cooking is also often thrown into warm tea to aid ailments. “There is evidence that cayenne pepper will help with stomach trouble" by stimulating the digestive system, said Roach. “But you should only try this if you typically eat spicy food or hot peppers. If you don’t normally do well with those kinds of foods, it could upset your stomach even more instead of help it.”
Agua de Florida For Fevers
Even though it’s cologne, a sprinkling of this liquid — which contains natural herbs — is often used in Peru and other South American cultures to protect you from spirits and cool down fevers. While Dr. Roach can’t speak to its power against evil, he said it can help you cool down when your temperature is rising. “I wasn’t familiar with this one, but after some research, there's something behind it,” he said. “Sprinkling it over your head won’t eliminate your fever, but it can make you feel more comfortable, especially when you add in a fan.”
Sopa de Fideos Con Pollo For a Cold
In Caribbean countries like Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic, a hearty soup or stew full of noodles, carrots, potatoes, and chicken (and sometimes corn and yuca) is the go-to meal when you’re sick. “Believe it or not,” Roach said, “studies do show that a hearty chicken soup helps reduce viral symptoms vs. other kinds of soup and even some over-the-counter cold medicines. So again, while it’s not going to make your cold magically disappear, it could make you feel better.”
Rubbing Ajo on Infections
Remember how grandma hung garlic over the doorway to protect you from evil? While that doesn’t have scientific backing, the popular Latin ritual of rubbing it on wounds could have benefits. “Garlic is a proven antiseptic, which fights bacteria,” Roach said. “But keep in mind, for it to have any real effect, you’d need to continuously chop up and rub a lot of garlic on your cut. You might be better off getting an over-the-counter antibacterial cream, but if you don’t mind the smell and want to go natural, it can’t hurt.”
Homemade Honey and Onion Syrup For Coughing
This traditional, homemade Dominican mixture is sweet indeed. “Honey is soothing to the throat, so whether you drink it solo, in tea, or mixed with onion or other ingredients, it’s going to reduce your cough,” Roach said.
Water With Lemon For Constipation
Mexican and Caribbean families are likely familiar with this one. “One of the major causes of constipation is not enough water,” the doctor said. “So drinking as much as you can if you’re stopped up is a great solution. Lemon, on the other hand, likely won’t have much of an effect. But if you don't like plain H2O and adding lemon to it will make you more likely to drink it, then I say, whatever helps!”
A Dip in the Ocean For Cuts and Wounds
If you grew up near the ocean, you probably heard that a dip in the water would make any cut feel better. There's a caveat to this one. “When I see a patient with an open wound, the first thing we do is rinse it with salient water,” Roach said. “Saltwater is less harsh on the skin than regular water. Ocean water can work, too, if you’re in a pinch, but be careful. There’s tons of bacteria in the sea you can’t see with the human eye.”