Wellness
7 “kooky” home remedies our grandparents swear by
Some have stood the test of time, others not so much.
Jessica
04.07.22

Grandparents have some great advice and plenty of wisdom to share. But not all of their medical advice stands the test of time (in the same way not all of our treatments will seem like a good idea in 50 years).

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Natural and home remedies can certainly be a good thing. But just because a folk remedy has been around a long time doesn’t mean you can trust it. After all, grandma and grandpa didn’t have the kind of immediate access to doctors we have today (or access to legitimate medical advice on trusted websites).

So what kinds of folk advice is still lurking out there? And is it useful at all? Let’s take a look at a few kooky “cures.”

Use vodka for stinky feet

Believe it or not, this wasn’t just grandma or grandpa’s excuse to buy a bottle of vodka – it does technically work. Then again, so will any other type of alcohol, including rubbing alcohol (although vodka is nice too because it won’t stain).

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Alcohol has antiseptic properties and will kill fungus and bacteria, which are often the cause of stinky feet and shoes. So in that sense, rubbing booze on your feet will get rid of the odor in the short term (even if it is a waste of a good cocktail ingredient).

But if the underlying causes of foot odor are more than skin deep, you’ll really want to ask a doctor about it.

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Use garlic cloves for a toothache

While some quack cures of yesteryear have recommended sticking a clove of garlic in your ear for a toothache (seriously), if we keep the garlic and use it a little more strategically, it really might help.

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There’s actually some clinical evidence for a compound in garlic called allicin having antibiotic properties that could soothe an aching tooth (if bacteria is the cause, of course). The key is not cramming a clove onto your tooth but rather chewing it up a bit (if you can stand it) or crushing it and placing it on the area in pain with your finger or a cotton swab. Garlic only produces allicin when it’s crushed.

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Toothaches are awful, so we hope you don’t have to use this one, but if you do, remember to use fresh garlic – garlic powder won’t work.

An orange rind for congestion

There are all sorts of myths about where to stick an orange peel to reduce the symptoms of a cold. But let’s clear one thing up – an orange peel isn’t going to do you any good if it’s in your nose or ear. Period.

It’s not hard to guess why the basic orange peel myth is still around. Oranges have vitamin C, and vitamin C is supposed to stave off colds. But the first problem is that this is only true if you eat the actual oranges and do it before you get sick.

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In the last few years, people have tried boiling orange peels with a bit of pepper and breathing the steam to get their sense of smell back when congested. And that might work, but it’s far more likely to be due to the steam than anything you put in it.

Of course, we do eat orange peels sometimes in the form of orange zest, and the rinds do contain flavonoids and phytochemicals that can be beneficial for health. However, most of our orange peels have pesticides on them, which you don’t want to ingest, and larger pieces of the rind are hard to digest.

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So if you want to use orange peel, wash it first and perhaps put it in a smoothie, zest it over yogurt, or make some tea to prevent illness.

Eat yogurt to cure bad breath

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It seems unlikely that dairy would have a beneficial effect on stinky breath. But according to Healthline, it does work. There’s just a catch – it’s not an immediate bad breath buster. It takes time.

Research shows that yogurt may also help reduce bad breath. A study found after six weeks of eating yogurt, 80 percent of participants had a reduction in bad breath. Probiotics in yogurt are effective in reducing the severity of bad breath.”

So if your breath is stinky and you’re headed to the office, you’ll still want to grab the Listerine.

Hold a pencil in your mouth for headaches

There’s nothing about a pencil itself that can help cure your headache, however, there is some wisdom behind the folk remedy of holding a pencil between your teeth to cure a headache.

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Wikimedia Commons

Many headaches are caused by muscle tension, including what results from teeth clenching and grinding. Now, you might think biting on a pencil could only make this worse, but the goal here is to place it between your teeth as a reminder to relax your jaw muscles.

It probably works for some people sometimes, but it’s by no means a cure-all for head pain.

Licorice for calluses

Don’t break out the Twizzlers just yet. Licorice in the form of the original plant, and more specifically its roots, has been shown to have some softening effect on calluses.

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Wikimedia Commons

But let’s be honest here. If you have a callus you want to get rid of, and you’re making grandma’s concoction of licorice root and petroleum jelly, it’s just as likely that it’s the massaging and slugging action of the petroleum jelly that’s softening the callus.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t try it, but good luck finding licorice root in its original form instead of a faster-working callus treatment.

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Press a potato on a spider bite

We’ve never heard of this one before, but if you look it up online you’ll find plenty of generic “potatoes have been shown…” type claims about their ability to bring down the swelling from spider bites.

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So, so they work? Maybe. Is that really the smartest or most convenient remedy if you’re truly worried about a spider bite? Absolutely not.

So put down the potato peeler.

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Call a doctor if you think there’s poison in your veins. Grandma would want you to since she probably didn’t have the option.

While there’s some truth to many folk remedies and they can be tempting because they represent a more “natural” treatment, they can also be dangerous. So if you’re truly sick or hurting, take your doctor’s advice. Grandma and grandpa worked with what they had back in the day, but we have a lot more resources!

If you’re interested in some other quirky remedy claims, be sure to click below for a video highlighting some memorable folk remedies.

Please SHARE this with your friends and family.

By Jessica
hi@sbly.com
Jessica is a contributor at SBLY Media.
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