The Best Natural Remedies for the 15 Most Common Aches, Pains and Health Complaints

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By Sarah Irani

Is the economy beating you up? It's time to get creative. Next time you have an ache or pain, forget about a costly trip to the drugstore and test drive some of your grandmother's remedies instead. It'll save money and be gentler on your body and the environment. Recessionistas (and Gents), welcome to the DIY medicine cabinet.

Indigestion and Heartburn

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It almost goes without saying - but consider why you're getting heartburn in the first place. Did you overeat? Too much grease or spicy food? Eating late at night? Scout out the cause and try to stop this before it happens. Then, put down the antacids. The belching, bloat and heartburn caused by indigestion come about because you don't have enough stomach acid to do the job right. A spoonful or two of apple cider vinegar will help break down the excess food that is causing you trouble and bring your stomach back to balance.

Sore Throat

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Sore, scratchy throats are usually a sign of a cold or flu coming on, so you don't want to ignore this symptom, but you can relieve the pain by gargling with warm salt water a few times a day and then drinking a soothing honey-lemon tea.

Sore Muscles and Bruises

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After a hard afternoon of rowing with a friend, I resigned myself to a few days of burning muscles and soreness. But my friend saved the day with a tube of arnica cream. He rubbed it on my shoulders and voila, instant relief and absolutely no aches the next day. The humble arnica flower makes an incredible cream that no medicine cabinet should be without. Use it immediately to speed up the healing of bruises, sprains, sore muscles and other general aches.

Stop Bleeding

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You'd think it would burn, but a sprinkle of cayenne pepper on a cut will quickly stop the bleeding and actually relieve the pain.

Ear Infections

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Ear infections can become quite serious and cause permanent damage, so please see a doctor if your ear ache has become severe. But if you feel like your infection is mild and at the beginning stages, put a few drops of garlic oil or white vinegar into your ear canal and lay down on the opposite side to let those drops do their work. Garlic and vinegar create an environment that won't support the bacteria causing the infection. Repeat a few times a day until the symptoms disappear. (If your symptoms last longer than a few days, you should definitely see a doctor!)

Burns

-aloe

So you bumped up against the stove again? Ouch. Rinse first with cold water, but then immediately apply aloe vera gel to the burn. For those of us who don't have aloe in the house, slice a potato and rub its cool, soothing juices all over the burn. And honey, with its antibacterial properties, is also good topical ointment. If you can catch the burn immediately, mustard is also reportedly a great salve.

Athlete's Foot

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It's a foot fungus, and it stinks. Air those piggies, then soak them in salty water, wash them with garlic juice, or soak them with diluted white or apple cider vinegar. All of these things will help kill the fungus. But you have to be persistent, consistent and diligent: no matter what treatment you use, do it a few times a day and stick with it until at least a week after you think the symptoms are gone! Fungus excels at hiding out and coming back when you least expect it.

Rashes and Allergies

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Prescription and OTC antihistamines can cause some serious side effects. Before you head for the strong stuff, try green tea, which contains compounds with antihistamine properties. You'll need to drink 2-3 cups a day to get the full effect.

Acne and Sensitive Skin

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First you really have to look at your lifestyle, because imbalances in your health can show up in your skin. But in the meantime, wash your face with oatmeal. It's a gentle exfoliant and draws out oil and impurities.

Flatulence

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Some foods, like beans and raw veggies, are more likely to cause gas, but if you find flatulence to be too common of an occurrence, try taking a digestive enzyme with your meals. You can find these at any health food store. In the meantime, make use of digestive spices such as ginger, anise, peppermint, coriander and dill. You can make tea with these ingredients or incorporate them into your food.

Headache and Migraine

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Try rubbing peppermint or lavender oil on your temples and the base of your neck; sniffing these oils may also help. Rub a fresh cut lemon or lime on your forehead. Feverfew is a good herbal remedy for headaches. Have a little caffeine by way of green tea, and don't forget to use an ice pack for 20 minutes to dull the throbbing.

Dandruff

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Have you looked at the ingredients in dandruff shampoo? It seems like they contain almost everything in the Toxic Ingredients You Must Avoid list. Better to try something natural first before resorting to chemicals. Many people swear by rubbing aloe vera gel onto the scalp (leave it on for 20 minutes than rinse it out). This will certainly help with dry, itchy scalp. Another remedy is a rinse with apple cider vinegar. Try these remedies a few times before deciding if they work for you. Even dandruff shampoo requires regular use to see results, so give the natural stuff a chance!

Nausea

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The classic cure for nausea or carsickness is ginger tea or candied ginger. You can chew on the stuff raw, if you like, but it's so spicy and strong it might just make you feel worse. Sniffing real peppermint or lavender oil can also help. Constipation. First (and we'll spare you a picture), drink more water and eat more fruit and salads. You're backed up for a reason and taking lots of laxatives is not the answer. Meanwhile, drinking a few teaspoons of olive oil mixed with a bit of orange or (diluted) lemon juice can help things get moving. Another surefire remedy is 1/4 teaspoon of epsom salts drunk in 1/2 a glass of water. Sometimes calorie restriction or avoidance of healthy fats (such as the good fats found in fish, nuts and avocados) can worsen constipation. And though it's counterintuitive, some people relieve their constipation by actually cutting back on grain consumption! True, grains contain fiber, but some people don't digest grains very well. Other causes of constipation include stress, depression, inactivity and nutritional deficiencies. If your constipation is chronic, it may be a sign of a more serious problem, so please seek medical advice and adjust your lifestyle.

toothache

Toothache.

There's nothing so bad as the shooting pain of a toothache. You don't want to ignore a tooth problem, because an infection that close to your brain can be extremely dangerous if it spreads. But in order to reduce swelling and pain while you wait for your dentist appointment, try putting a few drops of clove oil on your tooth and gums, and bite down on a smashed piece of garlic (which has excellent antibacterial properties). This has always worked for me. Give some of these remedies a try - and share your own tried-and-true treatments, too.

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