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7 DIY Health Cures Anyone Can Do

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Home remedies for minor maladies

Somehow the most nonthreatening body problems almost always turn out to be the most frustrating. Sure, your cramps, stress headaches or yeast infections aren’t going to kill you, but man, what a hassle! Wouldn’t it be nice to solve them yourself, once and for all? Well, you can, with the right know-how: “Conventional medicine has a solid track record for serious issues, but natural cures can be a great way to ease those day-to-day annoyances,” says Mao Shing Ni (known as Dr. Mao), PhD, a doctor of Chinese medicine and author of Secrets of Longevity Cookbook. “Plus, in many cases, the risk of adverse reactions is much lower, and the ingredients may already be in your home.” Next time one of the following minor maladies messes with your life, look to some alternative remedies, along with dietary tweaks that can make all the difference.

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You’ve got: A stress headache
What causes it: When you get really frazzled, the muscles in your head and neck tend to tense up, which constricts blood flow and can bring on the distinct throb of a stress headache. It’s generally felt all over, like a dull but distracting ache, versus a migraine’s one-sided pounding.

Eat this: Foods containing magnesium, such as spinach, nuts, Swiss chard and beans. “I call magnesium the relaxation mineral,” says Mark Hyman, MD, a functional-medicine specialist and author of The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet. “It pulls calcium out of muscle cells, which helps the muscle relax.” Running low on magnesium (which most of us are, Dr. Hyman says) can lead to constantly tense muscles because the calcium is locked in. It’s best to eat your magnesium, but supplements are an option. Women 30 and under need 310 milligrams daily. Over 30? Go for 320mg. In the meantime, avoid refined sugar, which can cause big spikes and crashes in blood sugar—a recipe for a skull throbber. Instead, satisfy your sweet tooth with fruit.

Do this: Put your thumb on the back of your neck at the base of your skull, and look up so you’re creating firm, steady pressure. “There’s an acupressure point here that’s connected to the muscles that tend to tense up,” Dr. Mao explains. “While you’re pressing into it, breathe in as you count to five, then breathe out, counting to 10.” Perform this breathing exercise while holding the point for five minutes and the pain should dissipate. And “if possible, take a 15-minute break from the stressful environment that led to the headache and go somewhere dark and quiet to relax,” adds Draion M. Burch, DO, an ob-gyn at the University of Pittsburgh Magee-Womens Hospital. “Take deep breaths or turn on soothing music. When you relax, your muscles will too.”

You’ve got: A recurring yeast infection
What causes it: While pretty much every woman can count on experiencing the redness, intense itching and thick, white discharge of a vaginal yeast infection at some point, the worst is one that just keeps coming back, striking at least four times a year. If you’ve tried over-the-counter creams or prescription antifungals and you’re still itching, that’s a sign you may have a resistant strain of candida, the fungus that causes yeast infections.

Eat this: A daily 6- to 8-ounce container of plain yogurt (if you’re lactose intolerant, soy or coconut yogurt works). Make sure it contains Lactobacillus acidophilus, a probiotic (good bacteria) that helps create an unfriendly environment in the vagina so yeast doesn’t grow out of control, Burch says. It’s very important to check that the yogurt has no added sugar, since yeast thrives on the sweet stuff, Burch adds. Other healthy whole foods, like lean proteins, leafy and cruciferous greens and healthy fats, along with garlic and coconut oil, also have anti-yeast properties, Dr. Hyman says.

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Do this: Try a vaginal suppository with boric acid powder. Yep, you know boric acid as a bug killer, but hear us out. “Ob-gyns used to prescribe boric acid to women all the time before over-the-counter creams and the one-day prescription pill appeared,” explains Tieraona Low Dog, MD, a specialist in natural remedies and author of Healthy at Home. “It’s effective against the less common species of the fungus, which don’t always respond to conventional treatment.” If you want to try it, “you can buy boric acid powder, not crystals, in any pharmacy, then place it in size 0 or 00 capsules, sold at drugstores, and insert one into the vagina each night for a week,” Dr. Low Dog says. Don’t take the capsules by mouth (they’re toxic if ingested), and don’t use them at all if you’re pregnant.

And FYI: Chronic yeast infections can be an early sign of diabetes. See your doc if you have symptoms such as frequent urination.

You’ve got: A runny nose
What causes it: When a cold virus or allergen invades your nasal passages, your body releases chemicals called histamines that increase mucus production and cause other symptoms, like itchy eyes or sneezing.

Eat this: Fermented foods, such as yogurt, miso or sauerkraut. They contain probiotics that can help boost immunity so you’re armed against colds and flu. If you’re already congested, you might want to avoid dairy products (they can make symptoms more noticeable) and sweets, which can crank up mucus production. Sometimes a runny nose is a reaction to a food allergen, like dairy or gluten (a protein in wheat rye and barley). “If your symptoms persist, consider being tested,” Dr. Mao says.

Do this: Disinfect a small squirt bottle by dipping it in boiling water. Then, after the water has bubbled for at least a minute, let it cool and add it to the bottle with 1 or 2 teaspoons of table salt. Shoot a tiny amount into your nasal passage before blowing it out gently, Dr. Mao suggests. (Sounds unpleasant, but we promise it’s not bad.) Besides rinsing out allergens and other germs, salt water is a natural antimicrobial that helps fight the bacteria and viruses that caused the cold in the first place. It can also dry up excess mucus. Don’t have a squirt bottle? A neti pot will work the same way, or you can try a premade salt spray like Simply Saline. Both are available in drugstores.

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You’ve got: Constipation
What causes it: Often it’s a change in your routine—you go on a big trip or have a superbusy few weeks that keep you out of the gym—that disrupts your regular bowel habits, making you feel backed up and bloated. And the longer things remain standing still, the worse constipation can get.

Eat this: Down an 8-ounce glass of unfiltered aloe vera juice with 2 ounces of unfiltered apple juice. “Apple juice has pectin, which is fibrous, and the aloe vera speeds digestion,” Dr. Mao says. Another option: a tablespoon of hemp seed oil or flaxseed oil before bed, which lubricates the digestive tract, he says. If you’re often constipated, it might be a good idea to consider a daily regimen: Take 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds every morning (you can add them to your yogurt or mix them into green juice), pop 150 to 300mg of magnesium citrate in capsule form at breakfast and lunch and drink at least eight glasses of water throughout the day. “Flaxseed is an excellent source of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for reducing gut inflammation; water helps move things through,” Dr. Hyman says. “Magnesium citrate helps relax the bowels so you can go.”

Do this: “Lie flat and massage your lower abdomen with your fingertips in short up-and-down motions for a few minutes every hour to help get things moving,” Burch says. Afterward, walk around for a few minutes and have a full glass of water.

Are you chronically stopped up? See your doc for a thyroid check; a sluggish thyroid gland can cause constipation as well as other health issues, like weight gain and fatigue, Dr. Hyman adds.

You’ve got: Menstrual cramps
What causes them: When it’s time for your period, your body ramps up production of prostaglandins, hormone-like chemicals that help expel the uterine lining by causing contractions—and, unfortunately, triggering inflammation and those familiar pains in your belly. Over-the-counter pain meds are the usual go-to, but if you take them too often, they can lead to side effects such as upset stomach and diarrhea.

Eat this: Ginger is an antispasmodic that helps block prostaglandins. Sip ginger tea (you can buy tea bags or steep grated fresh ginger root) at the first twinge of cramps so you stop them before they get really intense, Dr. Low Dog says. Foods with omega-3s, like walnuts, pumpkin seeds and fatty fish (salmon, sardines) can also help reduce cramps over time. Omega-3s have anti-inflammatory powers that help slow prostaglandin production. “Up your consumption of cold-water fish to 3 to 4 ounces twice a week, or take a daily fish oil supplement that offers 500 to 800mg of EPA or 200 to 500mg of DHA. You’ll see improvement in your cramps in three months,” Dr. Low Dog says.

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Do this: Massage a pressure point at the end of your spine (about 2 inches above your butt). “The nerves here connect to the uterus, so applying constant pressure to this spot with your palm or fingertip relaxes the uterine muscles,” Burch says. You can reach back and do it yourself or ask your partner to help.

You’ve got: Canker sores
What causes them: These shallow, painful sores tend to strike because of some kind of irritation, like after you’ve bitten your tongue. They also appear when you’re stressed. Most of the time the exact cause is unclear, but they’re unrelated to cold sores (which are brought on by a virus).

Eat this: Yogurt. Swishing a spoonful of the plain, sugar-free kind along your gums helps rebalance the microbes in your mouth so it’s a less favorable place for the harmful germs that can irritate the sore and make it worse, Dr. Low Dog says. Skip spicy or acidic foods, such as citrus or sodas, which can exacerbate an existing canker sore and may even cause new ones to form, Dr. Mao explains.

Do this: Gargle with a 50/50 solution of hydrogen peroxide and water three times a day and right before bed. Hydrogen peroxide is an antiseptic that can kill those bacteria, Dr. Mao says. “If the sore is already irritated, coat it with baking powder before bed, which helps it close up faster.” Canker sores can also be a sign of celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, Dr. Mao notes, so consider being tested if you get them frequently or if you have symptoms such as abdominal pain.

You’ve got: Itchy winter skin
What causes it: Your skin just can’t win in the colder months. Both the heated indoor air and the dry, chilly air outside mean you’re facing dehydrated, flaky skin no matter what. And it’s hard to resist scratching it—which only contributes to the irritation.

Eat this: Foods high in B vitamins, such as poultry, meat and whole grains. “B vitamins, especially niacin (or B[subscript 3], found in poultry, meat and fish), help open capillaries near the skin’s surface, improving delivery of blood and boosting skin health,” Dr. Mao says. Avoid refined sugar: “Sugary, processed foods worsen skin issues because they immediately raise blood sugar levels, triggering an insulin response that leads to puffiness, itching and dryness,” Dr. Hyman says.

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Do this: Moisturize skin with natural nut or vegetable oils, available at supermarkets and organic food stores. “Walnut, coconut, hemp seed and avocado oils are high in specific amino acids that help your skin rehydrate,” Dr. Mao says. (One quick note of caution: If you or someone in your family has a tree nut allergy, skip oils made with those; there is a potential for a reaction when used on skin, Dr. Mao adds.) You can apply it directly to skin as needed. Or, for a hydrating treat, replace your nightly shower with a relaxing bath. Add 2 tablespoons of your favorite oil to the warm water and climb in. Afterward your flaky skin (and your stress) will be gone for sure.

This article originally appeared on Health.com

TIME Diet/Nutrition

4 Things You Didn’t Know About Honey

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Most people love honey for its tasty goodness. The natural sweetener helps balance flavors, thicken sauces, and add moisture to your dish, according to the National Honey Board. Although it is a versatile cooking ingredient, honey also offers some health benefits. Here are four more reasons to thank the bees for this sweet nectar:

It can help coughs

Honey may prove to be a lifesaver this cold season. According to a study in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, researchers tested a single nighttime dose of buckwheat honey against honey-flavored dextromethorphan, a common cough suppressant, and no treatment at all in more than 100 children with colds. Overall, parents found that the honey was better than the other two approaches for relieving cough symptoms and improving sleep. No wonder the World Health Organization lists honey as a potential demulcent, a sugary liquid that coats the throat and soothes irritation.

It could help treat wounds

Honey has quite a long reputation as a healer. Its first written reference dates back to 2100-2000 BC on a Sumerian tablet that mentions the use of honey as a drug and ointment, according to the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine. There’s a medical-grade solution called Medihoney that is derived from manuka honey, which comes from New Zealand bees that pollinate the native manuka bush. “The patches of Medihoney work fantastic on patients that come in with cuts and wounds,” says Robin Miller, MD, a board-certified internist and co-author of The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife and Beyond. “They’re antibacterial and soothing.”

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Any type of honey might be helpful. In a study in the British Journal of Surgery, Nigerian researchers used honey to treat 59 patients with hard-to-heal ulcers. All but one of the cases improved, and infected wounds and ulcers became sterile within one week of applying the honey.

It may boost your locks

Got a flaky scalp? Honey might solve that problem. A study in the European Journal of Medical Research used a solution of diluted crude honey (90% honey diluted in warm water) on 30 people with seborrheic dermatitis, a scalp condition typically associated with some serious dandruff and itchy skin. The patients in this case also had lesions. Researchers had half of the participants apply the honey mixture to the lesions every other day for four weeks. Itching was relieved and scaling disappeared within one week for those who tried the honey treatment, and skin lesions went away completely within two weeks.

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It might increase energy

There’s a misconception that carbohydrates aren’t good for you. Thing is, they’re present in such a wide variety of healthy foods, including fruits, veggies, and nuts. Plus, your digestive system needs carbs to make glucose, which sends energy to your cells, tissues, and organs, according to the National Institutes of Health. At 17 grams of carbs per tablespoon, honey happens to be just one food source you can count on to help relieve a sluggish day. It also makes the ultimate snack before or after a workout. “In addition to being an antioxidant-rich source of carbohydrates, honey acts as a ‘time released’ fuel to provide athletes with more steady blood sugar and insulin levels over a longer duration,” says Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, Health‘s contributing nutrition editor.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

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10 Amazing Home Remedies You Can Find in Your Kitchen

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You're in luck. Relief is a trip to the kitchen away

You already know that consuming the right foods can boost your intake of minerals, vitamins, and nutrients. But there are a few out there that could also alleviate some of your most pesky daily problems, like hiccups or even rashes like eczema. Though it’s important to keep in mind that serious conditions need the attention of a doctor, it might not hurt to reach for one of these 10 items the next time you have a minor health problem.

Ginger for menstrual cramps

Traditional Chinese medicine has relied on ginger for more than 2,000 years. “Ginger can improve blood flow and reduce inflammation in your muscles, including those in the uterus where cramps originate,” says Mary Rosser, MD, PhD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, New York. A study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine even found that ginger was as effective as ibuprofen for relieving period pain. To make your time of the month a little more bearable, try brewing up a cup of warm ginger tea.

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Cranberries for urinary tract health

Cranberries contain proanthocyanidins, a compound that fends off the bacteria that cause urinary tract infections (UTI). “E. coli is one of the top offenders in triggering a UTI,” Dr. Rosser says. “This substance has been shown to prevent infection by keeping the bacteria from attaching to the bladder walls.” If you already have a UTI, cranberries probably won’t cure it, but consuming cranberries daily may help protect against future infections. About 20% of women who get a UTI will contract another one, so drinking one to two glasses a day of 20% pure cranberry juice will help prevent recurrence, Dr. Rosser says.

Calcium-rich foods for PMS

Prone to irritability and mood swings before your period? You’re not alone. About 85% of menstruating women experience at least one PMS symptom each month. The good news is tweaking your diet might help lessen your symptoms. “It’s been shown that people with PMS have lower blood calcium levels than those without PMS,” Dr. Rosser says. The National Institutes of Health recommends adults consume about 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day. You probably already know that dairy products are rich in calcium, but so are almonds, broccoli, leafy greens, and sardines.

Oatmeal for eczema

Calm itchy, inflamed skin using this breakfast food. Oatmeal soothes rashes because it’s packed with phytochemicals that have anti-inflammatory properties. Create a soothing bath by grinding 1/3 cup of plain oatmeal (no flavors!) into a fine powder using your blender; pour the powder into lukewarm water and stir in evenly with your hands until the water is a milky color, suggests Kavita Mariwalla, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist. Another option: use 1/4 cup of oatmeal and enough water to make a paste that you can apply directly to the skin for 10 minutes, she says.

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Sea salt for dry skin

You don’t need an expensive skincare product to treat rough patches on your knees, elbows, and heels. A sea salt scrub made at home will work just as well. “Sea salt is a good exfoliator because it has thicker grains that do a good job of clearing away dry skin,” Dr. Mariwalla says. Just mix one cup of sea salt with 1/2 cup of a light massage oil. “Use a bowl to make sure the mixture stays moist, like wet sand, and not runny,” Dr. Mariwalla says. It’s best to keep this scrub away from your more sensitive areas like your face and the back of your arms, though. It can be harsh on skin that doesn’t require as much exfoliation.

Cucumbers for puffy eyes

Laying cold cucumber slices over your eyes may look a little silly, but the age-old beauty trick really does reduce puffiness. Cucumbers, which are 95% water, offer a nice cooling sensation and the cold temperature causes blood vessels to constrict and reduce inflammation. And there’s a reason why cucumbers in particular work even better than ice packs. “Cucumber slices perfectly fit to the contours of your eyes to help reduce swelling,” Dr. Mariwalla says. You’ll only need to leave them on for 10 minutes for fresher-looking eyes.

Prunes for constipation

Dried plums are rich in insoluble fiber, a key nutrient to help fight constipation. “Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water and creates more bulk so waste can push through the digestive system,” says Wayne Andersen, MD, medical director of Take Shape for Life, a weight loss program from Medifast. Prunes also contain two substances that act as natural laxatives, sorbitol and dihydrophenylisatin, which will work much better for your system over time than drugstore constipation aids. “The body can become desensitized over time to over-the-counter laxatives,” Dr. Andersen says. Start with just one prune a day first and bump up your intake to two if you don’t see a response.

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Sugar for hiccups

When you hiccup, the diaphragm undergoes a series of spasms, but you can fool your body into stopping that reaction by putting a teaspoon of sugar underneath your tongue. The sweet sensation is strong enough to stimulate the vagus nerve. That’s the longest cranial nerve in your body, starting at your brain stem and extending as far down as your diaphragm to control the stomach. “Keep the sugar under your tongue until you stop hiccupping, and then swallow to fill the back of your throat with even more sensation,” Dr. Andersen says.

Apples for heartburn

Avoiding trigger foods like soda, high-fat beef, and anything fried is the best way to deal with acid reflux. One food that should keep in your diet: apples. “Apples have pectin, a soluble fiber that’s really great at absorbing stomach acid,” says Dr. Andersen. Plus, the fruit contains two types of acid (malic and tartaric) that work to beat back any juices that flow up from your stomach. “Buy organic red or golden delicious apples that are sweeter than the tart granny smiths,” Dr. Andersen suggests. “Sweet apples are considered alkaline foods that work at a cellular level to restore pH balance and prevent GERD.”

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Turmeric for infections

Turmeric is revered in India as a “holy powder” that can be used to prevent infections and treat wounds. That’s thanks to a compound called curcumin. “Foods with curcumin have strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties so they can help with cleansing and healing,” says Dr. Andersen. A study in the Biochemical Journal even found that curcumin has the ability to stop bacteria from multiplying. If your medicine cabinet is running low on antibiotic ointment, try dabbing a little turmeric on your cut or scrape instead, but only for minor or superficial wounds. Dr. Andersen suggests using half a teaspoon of turmeric powder with a drop or two of water to make a paste, or if the wound is still bleeding a bit, you can apply the powder without water. After the area is dry, cover with a dressing and let the healing begin.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

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