9 Natural Remedies for Common Ailments

Nearly 9 million U.S. adults resort to prescription sleeping pills.   

In an effort to get that elusive good night’s sleep, one out of every eight American adults resorts to using sleeping pills, according to data from a five-year study of about 17,000 adults by the Centers for Disease Controls.

The use of sleeping aids is just one example of the ways many Americans are turning to medications for the relief of common ailments. While I believe pharmaceutical drugs play an important role in modern medicine, many prescription medications can be ineffective or, even worse, can cause a host of other symptoms. Therefore, I encourage my readers to first look to alternative and natural remedies. Here then is my list of 9 Natural Remedies for Common Ailments.

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1.  Insomnia

Our plugged-in culture is experiencing levels of sleep deprivation like never before. CDC research indicates that only one third of Americans get the recommended seven to nine hours of rest each night, and some estimates show that about 10 percent of the population suffers from chronic insomnia.

Popular sleep medications, such as Ambien and Lunesta, which belong to a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines, are known to cause daytime drowsiness and disrupted REM sleep. These pills can be highly addictive and many people experience a phenomenon called “interdose withdrawal,” which requires them to increase their dosage intermittently to achieve the same effect.

Natural ways for getting a better night’s sleep include sticking to a bedtime routine, exercising regularly and avoiding caffeine consumption in the evening. I also recommend adding the goodness of tart cherries to your diet. Cherries are rich in melatonin, a natural antioxidant with a long history of helping to regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycle.

Drinking tart cherry juice daily could help reduce insomnia and the time spent awake after going to bed, according to a study led by Russel J. Reiter, Ph.D., a biomedical scientist with University of Texas Health Science Center and an authority on melatonin. As a natural source of melatonin, tart cherries – in dried, frozen or juice form — help regulate the body’s sleep cycle and increase sleep efficiency, the study found. Cherries are also rich in other antioxidants, such as anthocyanins, so you also get you other health benefits. I recommend Solaray organic tart cherry juice, also available in supplement form.

As another non-medicinal aide to sleep, I also suggest listening to delta wave binaural beats music as part of your bedtime routine to promote relaxation and sleep (something mentioned in my If you want to Boost Testosterone, Read This).

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2.  Allergies & Hay Fever

Let medicine be thy food and let food be thy medicine,” wrote Hippocrates, considered the father of modern medicine. I have helped many of my patients resolve their allergy issues – and indeed a host of chronic health problems — just by modifying their diets. I encourage my patients to take control of their health by making real changes in their lifestyles.

For example, certain foods, including sugars and refined carbohydrates, are known to suppress the body’s natural immunity and to contribute to inflammation — factors that cause allergies to flare-up. On the other hand, foods such as ginger, garlic and turmeric have anti-inflammatory properties.

If you suffer from hay fever, you might want to give the tear-inducing green Japanese condiment, wasabi, a try. A member of the horseradish family, wasabi contains allyl isothiocyanate, which promotes mucus flow. Consider adding wasabi to sushi or add a dollop of horseradish to a sandwich to help alleviate allergy symptoms.

One of the best time-honored treatments for allergy sufferers is to drink a steaming, soothing cup of peppermint tea. Peppermint tea’s essential oil acts as a decongestant, and contains anti-inflammatory and mild antibacterial properties as well.  Full of calcium, vitamin B and potassium, peppermint tea can give your immune system a boost. Menthol, which is naturally present in peppermint tea, also is a muscle relaxant that can help relieve stress and help you fall asleep.

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3.  Cold Sores

Although they appear on the outside of our mouths, cold sores are caused by what’s going on inside our bodies. Cold sores, sometimes called fever blisters, are caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1, which is usually acquired in childhood through contact with infected saliva. This virus is believed to lie dormant in the body until it is activated by cold symptoms, sun exposure or stress.

Canker sores, which unlike cold sores are caused by a bacterial infection, are small, painful white areas surrounded by a halo of red that develop inside the mouth or on the tongue. Cold sores are highly contagious, while canker sores are not.  While we can’t keep cold sores from recurring, we can ease their discomfort and hasten the recovery process with probiotics.

I recommend Dr. Ohira Probiotics to my patients suffering from unsightly and painful cold sores. Probiotics, which are concentrated tablet forms of beneficial intestinal flora, work to heal the digestive system by limiting the amount of “bad” bacteria and increasing the amount of “good” bacteria.

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4. Muscle Cramps

Sometimes they can follow a work-out and other times they can develop seemingly out of nowhere, but painful muscle cramps are usually caused by the overuse of a muscle, dehydration, stress or fatigue.  Here are some natural remedies:

Increase the amount of minerals in your diet. Low levels of electrolytes, including potassium, sodium, calcium and magnesium, can cause cramps. Good sources of magnesium are whole-grain (sprouted Ezekiel) breads and cereals, nuts and beans. Bananas, oranges and cantaloupes are good sources of potassium. For more calcium, eat dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, turnips and collard greens.

Muscle cramps are often caused by simple dehydration. Remember that by the time you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. I recommend that you drink before, during and after exercise for proper hydration. Keep fresh filtered water handy throughout the day. Consider replacing your sports drink with coconut water for added nutritional benefits. Coconut water is low in calories, fat-free and cholesterol-free, and it contains more potassium than four bananas.

To help relax a cramping muscle, pour a half cup of magnesium rich Epsom salt into a warm bath and soak. Another option is to find the center of the cramp and press into this spot with your thumb, the heel of your hand or your loosely clenched fist for 10 second intervals. You should feel some discomfort, but not serious pain. Repeat several times until the pain diminishes.

Consider taking whole-food Vitamin E supplements to ease the pain of nighttime leg cramps. According to several studies, vitamin E improves blood flow through the arteries, which can lessen cramping.

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5.  Acne

It the most common skin disorder in the United States with nearly 50 million people — many, but not all of them, teensstruggling with its embarrassing consequences. When pads, creams and face washes don’t help, many people resort to prescription medications.

The swelling and redness that can occur with acne is often caused by a type of bacteria that can be killed by exposing your skin to different types of light. Blue light is the most commonly used wavelength, although a combination of blue light and red light can also be effective. The blue light treatments also shrink sebaceous glands, which decreases oil production.

I recommend the Sirius SS-77 Aurora Light Therapy System. Available from various online retailers for home use, this system has three interchangeable treatment panels designed for fighting acne as well as signs of aging and hyperpigmentation.

Also look to your diet for acne triggers. The body sheds toxins from what we eat through the liver and through the skin.  It is interesting to note that acne is much less of a problem in non-Western cultures, where sugar, fructose and refined carbohydrates are consumed in much lower amounts.

A great way to fight acne and to improve your skin’s overall condition is by eating a diet of raw, living foods. Try blending fresh fruits and vegetables and drinking them as a tasty juice or smoothie. After a few weeks of your body shedding these toxins, your skin will look and feel healthier.

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6.  Chapped Lips

The main cause of chapped lips is dehydration. You can do your lips – and the rest of your body – a favor by increasing your fluid intake.

Dry air can also contribute to chapping. Instead of store-bought lip ointments, apply a few drops of sweet almond oil, aloe vera or olive oil to your lips. Cucumber slices are also a great remedy for chapped lips. With 90% water content, cucumbers can gently hydrate and refresh the tender skin around the mouth.  Cucumbers contain caffeic acid, an antioxidant that prevents the formation of free radicals and therefore protects lips from sun damage.

Keep in mind that dry, cracked lips could be a side effect of a medication you are taking.

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7.  Congestion & Coughs

Eucalyptus oil has amazing properties for treating a number of respiratory problems, including common cold symptoms such as cough, runny nose and sore throat. Obtained from the leaves of the evergreen eucalyptus tree, which is native to Australia, eucalyptus oil is a potent powerhouse. The oil is antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory. 

A homemade gargle of eucalyptus oil in warm water makes an effective mouth rinse for a sore throat. The oil also may be applied topically to the chest to get relief from congestion. Simply massage several drops onto the chest; the aroma and vapors will calm the throat and dilate the blood vessels.

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8. Body Odor

Americans plunk down nearly $3 billion on deodorants and anti-perspirants each year, and most of them don’t realize that body odor can be a symptom of acidic conditions caused by diet.

Here are a few common triggers:

  • Red meat — Your body needs to work hard in order to digest red meat. Over-eating it can lead to excess perspiration.
  • Low-carb intake — A diet lacking essential carbohydrates can lead to a greater release of sweat in the body and the release of chemical called ketones in your bloodstream which lead to unwanted odor.
  • Dairy products — Excessive consumption of dairy products can lead to release of hydrogen sulfide and methyl mercaptan in the body which can trigger odor. 
  • Spicy food — Over-indulging in garlic, onions or curries can lead to excessive sulfur in your food intake, which will be eliminated through skin’s pores and breath.
  • Excessive caffeine and alcohol — When you consume chocolate, soda, tea, coffee or alcohol in excess, at least 10 percent of it will be left unprocessed causing perspiration and possible odor.

Foods that help to restore the body’s natural pH include: green leafy vegetables, tofu and tempeh, apple cider, apples, lemons, limes, yams, spinach, turnip greens, broccoli and raw, unprocessed nuts and raw goat cheese.

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9. Acid Reflux

The terms “acid reflux” and “heartburn” are often used interchangeably. Acid reflux is a condition in which stomach acids rise up into the esophagus, while heartburn refers to the burning sensation the condition causes. Acid reflux medications such as Nexium treat symptoms but do not address the underlying causes of the problem and can create unpleasant side effects.

Acid reflux is usually caused when we over eat acidic foods without eating enough neutral or alkalizing foods to restore the body’s pH balance. Here are two great safe and natural remedies:

  • Ginger — Used for centuries to ease symptoms of morning sickness and seasickness, ginger is an anti-inflammatory that relieves gastrointestinal distress. In China, for instance, ginger, which is the root, or actually the rhizome, of the plant Zingiber officinale, has been used to help digestion and treat stomach upset for more than 2,000 years. Grate some ginger root into your juicer or add some into your cooking.
  • Fennel—With its distinctive mild licorice flavor, fennel is rich in phytoestrogens and has been used to treat colic, irritable bowel syndrome and digestive discomfort. Slice the thin white bottom part of the bulb into salads or add fennel to your favorite recipes.

I hope that this list has given you some new ideas and information for fighting some ordinary ailments with alternative remedies. I encourage you take charge of your own health with simple lifestyle changes. The next time you have one of these problems, I hope you will try a natural treatment first – perhaps heading to your grocery store or farmer’s market before heading to the pharmacy.