1. Peppermint Oil for IBS: Peppermint oil is a proven remedy for relieving pain, gas and bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and other symptoms of a common condition known as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). In one study, Italian researchers gave patients with IBS either peppermint oil or placebo capsules twice a day. After four weeks, three quarters of the patients taking peppermint reported a greater than 50 percent improvement in symptoms, compared to just 38 percent of those in the placebo group.
This supplement can cause heartburn in some people, so I suggest taking only enteric-coated capsules, which don’t break down until they’ve passed through the stomach. The dose used in most studies is one to two capsules containing 0.2 mL of oil twice a day. I also recommend a cup of fragrant peppermint tea after meals to aid digestion. Look for peppermint oil capsules and tea in your health food store.
2. Lavender Oil Relieves Stress, Depression, and More: There’s a reason that lavender is often used in bath salts, body lotions, candles, and massage oils. The fragrance of this flower is just plain relaxing—and scientific studies prove it. Florida researchers have found that lavender oil reduces anxiety and lowers pulse rates in nursing students taking stressful tests. And in hospital settings, lavender aromatherapy has been demonstrated to decrease pre-surgery distress and to be more relaxing than massage or merely resting.
Enjoying the benefits of lavender is simple. A few drops of essential oil may be added to your bath or to lotion or massage oil, and diffusers and aromatherapy candles can fill the air with this stress-reducing scent. Look for 100 percent pure essential oils in your health food store or online.
3. Prune Juice and Flaxseed for Regularity: Constipation is a common problem, and a tried-and-true kitchen cure is prunes or prune juice. Eight ounces of this fiber-rich juice or a handful of “dried plums” daily should do the trick. Another fiber-dense food that helps prevent constipation is flaxseed. Because it also lowers cholesterol and is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and high-quality protein, I suggest you make a quarter-cup of freshly ground flaxseed part of your daily diet.
4. Coffee for Alertness, Headaches, and Asthma: Coffee can perk you up, keep you focused, and even give you an endurance boost during exercise. And if you have a headache, a cup of coffee may be just what the doctor ordered. Caffeine enhances the effectiveness of other painkillers as well, which is why it’s an ingredient in some over-the-counter drugs. Be aware, however, that if you routinely drink coffee, missing your morning “dose” can actually trigger a headache.
Caffeine can also help relieve asthma attacks—it’s chemically similar to theophylline, a drug that relaxes the airways. I’m not suggesting that coffee is a replacement for inhalers, but it’s good to know that it may be a useful adjunctive therapy for asthma. Coffee has numerous preventive effects as well, making it one of the most medicinal items in your kitchen.
5. Berries for UTIs and Memory Dysfunction: With one of the highest antioxidant capacities of all foods, berries have multiple benefits. You probably know that regular consumption of cranberry juice (preferably unsweetened) helps prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs) in susceptible women. But you may not know that the compounds found in these (and other) berries, which discourage bacteria from clinging to the bladder walls, protect against other types of infections.
If you’re concerned about your memory, try blueberries. In a placebo-controlled study, older people who drank two-and-a-half cups of blueberry juice every day for three months had marked improvements on tests of learning and memory. They also had lower rates of depression and better glucose control. Eating blueberries (about a cup a day) has also been shown to enhance mood and energy.
6. Sugar and Honey for Wounds: Have a cut, scrape, or other open wound? Dress it with sugar or honey. For centuries, these sweet cures have been used to treat all sorts of wounds. Bacteria cannot survive in the hyperosmotic environment created by these sugars, and as a result, wounds heal rapidly and usually without scarring. To use, pack the wound with sugar or honey, cover with gauze, and wrap with a bandage. Every three days or so, remove the bandage, irrigate the wound, and reapply. I prefer sugar, as it’s less messy than honey, but both work equally well.
7. Pomegranates for Prostate Cancer: UCLA researchers examined a group of men with recurrent prostate cancer who had gone through conventional treatment and tracked their PSA doubling time. PSA doubling is a marker of disease progression: The faster the doubling time, the more aggressive the disease. At the study’s onset, it averaged 15 months. After the men began drinking eight ounces of pomegranate juice daily, it slowed to four-and-a-half years—and more than a third of the men in the study actually had a decrease in their PSA!
Just make sure that whatever pomegranate juice you buy doesn’t have added sugar. One good brand you’ll find in supermarkets and health food stores is POM Wonderful 100% pomegranate juice.