Outsmart seasonal health woes with time-tested remedies found right in your kitchen
Remember how Grandma could make any ouch go away with a hug and a salve, sip or solution that she pulled from her pantry? Now, science is validating what Grandma knew all along. “More and more studies are pointing to the effectiveness of home remedies — like honey to ease a cough or a saltwater gargle to soothe a sore throat,” says integrative medicine specialist Hyla Cass, M.D., author of 8 Weeks to Vibrant Health. And many of these natural cures have been shown to work just as well as — or even better than — over-the-counter drugs, adds Dr. Cass. That’s a good thing, since some of the medicines we take to alleviate seasonal health woes, like allergies, sleeplessness and blue moods, can have side effects that end up making us feel even worse. So we talked to the top experts and dug into the latest research to discover which time-tested natural remedies are best for conquering seasonal health hassles.
Get set to feel your best!
ALLERGY EYES? TRY TEA
Right now 33 percent of women are dealing with itchy, swollen eyes caused by fall allergy flareups. Actress Vanessa Williams is one of them, and she relies on an age-old remedy for relief: compresses made of chamomile tea, which contains anti-inflammatory oils to soothe puffiness. Another type of tea proven to be especially effective at soothing allergy eyes: spearmint. The minty leaf contains a compound (L-carvone) that dampens inflammation in mucous membranes and shrinks swollen capillaries to reduce itching, redness and irritation. To get the benefits, soak two cotton balls in chilled spearmint tea and place on your closed eyelids for five minutes twice daily.
“If my eyes are puffy or swollen — maybe allergies, maybe not enough sleep — I get chamomile tea bags, soak them in room temperature water a few minutes and put them on my eyes.”
Vanessa Williams, 53
FEELING BLUE? INHALE THE SCENT OF CARDAMOM
Late September and early October’s waning sun exposure hinders our output of the mood-lifting brain chemical acetylcholine, causing as many as 65 percent of women to start feeling down. But studies at Chicago’s Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation show that the aroma of cardamom can help you shake off a glum mood in 2 minutes. “It’s rich in cineole, a compound that stimulates your brain to produce a steady trickle of acetylcholine,” says study author Alan Hirsch, M.D. For best results, mix 1⁄ tsp.
2 of ground cardamom with 2 cups of boiling water; remove from heat, then lean over the pot and inhale the steam. Cineole works best when it’s inhaled — and mixing cardamom with hot water doubles the amount of cineole released into the air.
COLD SORE? DAB ON HONEY
These bothersome sores tend to appear when the immune system is working overtime to fight off colds and other viral invaders. What can help: Dabbing the sore with unpasteurized honey four times a day. Australian studies show this heals sores 43 percent faster than using a prescription cream, plus it lowers the risk of infection or scarring by threefold. The credit goes to raw honey’s rich supply of natural antibiotics and enzymes, which destroy viruses, shut down inflammation, seal and sterilize open wounds and stimulate the growth of new cells.
TIRED? PRESS HERE
Fall’s shorter days and erratic weather fluxes confuse the central nervous system, sabotaging its ability to keep production of energizing dopamine on an even keel, report doctors at UCLA. But you can chase away fatigue by firmly massaging the insteps of your feet with a dab of olive oil (or other cooking oil) for 2 minutes twice daily. Scientists at the University of Miami explain that stimulating the sensitive acupressure points in the tops of your feet signals the brain to increase dopamine output — often in as little as 12 hours. And the oil is crucial to getting the benefits, since it reduces skin resistance and allows for easier and deeper stimulation of these key areas.
CAN’T SLEEP? ENJOY LETTUCE THIS WAY
Summer sleep problems can drag into fall since it takes up to five weeks after the hot weather ends for the brain to start producing adequate amounts of the sleepinducing hormone melatonin, according to German researchers. What can help: drinking 6 oz. of romaine lettuce tea every evening. The leaves contain a natural sedative and muscle relaxant (lactucarium) that can help you drift off within 30 minutes of your first sip, according
to a study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology. To make the brew: Chop 2 whole romaine leaves and let them simmer in 1 cup of water for 20 minutes, then strain and enjoy. (Romaine lettuce tea has a mild, delicate f lavor.)