I’ll admit that I tend to self-diagnose. For lots of simple things it is cheaper and easier to figure out yourself that you have the flu or a sprained ankle. Likewise, I usually self-medicate. I’m a big boy. I know if I need a muscle relaxer or pain medication stronger than ibuprofen. Of course, without taking a day off of work to see a doctor, I don’t have access to that kind of stuff once I run out of an old prescription. And for some ailments, medical science simply doesn’t have an answer for. In both those cases, I usually turn to home remedies.
Home remedies can get a bad rap. They are usually relegated to “old wives tales” meaning that they are based on anecdotal evidence and no proof that they actually work. Some of them really are worthless, but it is important to remember that, before modern medicine, home medicine was all there was and that a lot of early prescriptions were merely extracts of things that people had been taking on their own for centuries.
In the health care reform debate, a lot has been said about the group known as the “young invincibles” who do not have health insurance because they feel they do not need it. I’m not as young and as invincible as I used to be, but I will admit that my affiliation tends toward that label. I’ve always felt that one of the things that has been increasing the cost of health care was the moral hazard that health insurance creates by making expensive procedures cheap and therefore routine even if not necessary. Health insurance tends to increase the demand for health care, and we all know what the law of supply and demand says about increased demand.
Home Remedies for Hiccups
I’ll admit, if there was a prescription medicine for hiccups, I would go to the doctor and get it. I’ve always been prone to fits of hiccuping, but after my surgery two years ago, they have gotten worse. These aren’t little “hic, hic” hiccups. These are great, gut-wrenching spasms that shake my whole body and can even make me sick. But alas, there is no medicine that I have found for the lowly hiccup. So I’m stuck with homegrown “cures.” There are such a dizzying array of these that everybody knows a couple and will trot them out when they see somebody hiccuping. Eating sugar or peanut butter has never had any effect on me but here are two that have:
Drink water upside down
My boss shared that one for me and it seems to work for me for all but the worst attacks. Simply tilt your head back and lean back to the point where your nose is facing upside down. Then take a long drink of water, at lease several successive swallows without pausing. I don’t know what this does to stop the stomach spasms, but it seems to do the job.
I’ve found that this is easiest to accomplish by using a water bottle and bringing it to your mouth before you tilt your head. Just keep the opening stopped with your tongue until your head is in position.
Hold breath for 30 seconds
When that doesn’t work, holding my breath usually will. The standard advice is for 10 seconds, but that has never worked for me. I have to hold it for 30 seconds. Of course, the issue with that is that I have difficulty holding my breath for longer than 20 seconds. It usually takes me 4-5 tries before I’m successful.
If you also have difficulty with this, I’ve found that physically pinching my nose close and counting with my fingers tend to make it easier.
Home Remedies for Heartburn
My father has acid reflux disease. He has gotten to the point where he cannot drink or eat anything acidic, like coffee, soda, orange juice, or tomato sauce. And still he needs to take a prescription heartburn medication. My sister and I seem to have inherited this curse. Fortunately, I am still at the point where it is infrequent and doesn’t need routine management. Strangely, it is also not pegged to any particular food or type of food that I can determine but simply strikes at random times. After a bad hiccuping fit, I typically get it, but other times simply seem capricious.
Heartburn and indigestion is a big industry. Tums, Rolaids, Alka-Seltser, plus Prilosec and other maintenance drugs. I don’t bother with any of them. There is something that nearly everybody keeps in their kitchen cupboard that does the job as well as any tablet. This miracle cure is simply baking soda. All those heartburn tablets are simply carbonates. Calcium carbonate is the most popular one because it also provide Calcium, which many people don’t get enough of. But baking soda is simply sodium bicarbonate. Sure you get extra sodium, but my diet tends to be low in that anyway and my blood pressure is phenomenal. So I take baking soda.
Pour about 4 ounces of warm water (stuff dissolves better in warm water) in a glass and stir in a teaspoon of baking soda. Drink it and it will start to settle your stomach.
Home Remedies for Muscle Pain
There are basically two kinds of muscle pain. One is when the muscle tears. When that happens, there is nothing to do but to simply deal with the pain and wait for the muscle to heal, perhaps taking extra protein to give your body what it needs to do the job.
The other, more common muscle pain is soreness. This happens when the muscle is overworked. There are going to be small tears (that is simply how muscle is built, by damaging it and your body overcompensates by replacing it with more), but a lot of what you are feeling is simply tightness. In this case, the most relief will come from taking something to relax it.
If you don’t have a prescription for muscle relaxers, then you need something else that will have the same effect. Luckily, there are dozens of herbs that will do it. Here are some of my favorites.
I love chamomile. I love the smell and the taste. The part you use is the flower itself, so it is easy to grow and process. I grow chamomile in my garden and make a tea of it by drying the flower heads and putting them in a coffee filter.
Valerian root also has relaxing properties. You can find it at most markets that sell supplements or health foods.
Kava has some controversy behind it. Part of it is because large amounts can cause liver damage (so does pain medication). Part of it is because large amounts can also get you drunk. But in small doses, it is fine. It tastes a little bitter, but not so much that it won’t do well in a homemade herbal tea made in a coffee filter.
Do you use home remedies? If so, what ones work for you?