Editor’s note: A version of this article was published in My Family Doctor magazine.*
When you’re in a pinch, try these top, expert-suggested remedies—using things you already have around the house!
Injury and Illness Home Remedies
“Super glue is good for repairing small cracks in dry, thick skin, like on the fingertips or the heel. Just be careful not to bond your fingers together! The glue falls off after a few days, but feel free to reapply it as needed. Do not use it on wounds.” —Stanley Wen, M.D., board-certified family doctor, Sage Health Family Medicine, Goodyear, Ariz.
>> Related: Super glue can also be used to close head wounds, but for that purpose, hair is glued, not the wound. Click here for the technique.
“Honey is a great first-aid ointment. It’s a natural antibacterial product. That’s why honey has such a long shelf life.” —Rod Brouhard, EMT-P, paramedic, Modesto, Calif.; About.com’s Guide to First Aid
>> Dive deeper: Here’s more about using honey on wounds. (Don’t use it in kids younger than 2.)
“For stuffy nose/sinus conditions, a quick aid is shredded, peeled horseradish. A few short inhales of freshly ground horseradish will clear the sinuses. Be careful not to use too much or breathe in too strongly; you may get a tearful surprise. Use a closable container to get multiple uses from the ground product. The vapors will diminish with time and exposure to air.” —Dennis Bryan R.Ph., M.B.A., FAPhA,pharmacist, WBC Pharmacies Inc., Chicago, Ill.
Dental-Care Home Remedies
“Placing a teabag where a tooth was removed can promote accelerated healing.” —Alex Knecht, CRDTS, board-certified dentist, Clear Creek Dental, Fort Collins, Colo.; dental expert, JustAnswer
“You can use a glass of milk to preserve a totally knocked-out tooth—not just a cracked piece. Time is of the essence, but it is possible for a dentist to place the tooth back into the socket. Find the knocked-out tooth and put it in milk to keep it moist. Be careful not to touch the root. Get to the dentist immediately.” —Jeffrey Gross, D.D.S., FAGD, board-certified general and cosmetic dentist, The Healthy Smile, Eastlake, Ohio
“The fiber in apples is a natural cleanser and removes/reduces film build-up on teeth.” (They’re not a substitute for brushing, just a good option if you can’t.) —Gross
Two ways to make a quick splint:
With a pillow: Wrap it around the injury. “You can use some sort of cloth—anything from an ace bandage to a pillowcase to a bed sheet—to secure the pillow above and below the injury.” —Brian Lynch, NYS EMT-B (first lieutenant), Congers-Valley Cottage Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Congers, N.Y.
With a cardboard box: “Bend the cardboard into a tray, and set the arm or leg into it. Wrap or tape it into place.” —Brouhard
“Make sure the victim can wiggle her fingers or toes before and after splinting her broken bone,” Brouhard cautions.
Lynch says only consider a do-it-yourself splint “if there’s no difficulty breathing or further life threats, including excessive bleeding.” The pillow splint won’t provide full support, he says, but could help relieve pain.
>> Learn more: Here’s another way to make a splint, using a versatile first-aid tool I like.
Skin- and Nail-Care Home Remedies
“Vegetable shortening is good for use on dry skin: easily spread, inexpensive, hypoallergenic and odor-free. Just apply thinly to affected areas and rub in.” (Not for the face; it may cause pimples.) —Wen
>> Related: How to season winter skin like a cast iron skillet.
“After peeling a cucumber, rub the inside of the peels on your face to soften and hydrate your skin.” —Peggy Spencer, M.D., board-certified family doctor, University of New Mexico Student Health And Counseling center; co-author, 50 Ways to Leave Your 40s
“Duct tape for warts—you may have heard of this one. It works especially well for those stubborn, bottom-of-the-foot warts. What you do is cut out a piece of duct tape just the size of the wart and stick it on there. Leave it alone until it comes off by itself—often a week or more. Repeat if necessary. You can shower as usual; just don’t scrub the tape off. It suffocates the wart. Don’t cut a piece bigger than the wart or you’ll suffocate normal skin too and end up with dead, white, prune skin where you don’t want it.” —Spencer
>> Learn more: If this method doesn’t work within three weeks, it’s unlikely to be effective even if you continue it. (Duct tape has lots of medical uses, believe it or not. I have a whole book on them.)
“Tired of thick, yellow toenails? Use Vicks VapoRub. Apply a small amount to the nails every night at bedtime. It will take four to 10 months, but the nail will most likely return to normal, without you spending a ton of money or taking medicines that can irritate your liver. You do need to remove the nail polish from your nail before applying the VapoRub.” —Jill Grimes, M.D., board-certified family doctor, Austin, Texas; author, Seductive Delusions: How Everyday People Catch STDs
>> Dive deeper: Click here for more on causes of and treatment for thick toenails.
You May Also Like:
- The Top-8 Medical Uses for Vodka
- Dermatologists’ Top Choices for Your Skin
- Archives: Herb and food remedies
*Occasionally, I update and share an article with you from my previous magazine, My Family Doctor, that could be helpful in survival situations. The experts’ bios in this article are accurate as of the original publication date: July 2009.