Health Agenda

Physical Health

Do home remedies really work?

Can old-fashioned remedies really cure everything from a cough to mouth ulcers? We ask the experts for their opinion.

Charmaine Yabsley
February 2018

The next time you have a minor health complaint, could it be worth trying these home remedies? We look at some of the most common remedies, and find out whether they really work.

Home remedy: Salt water to heal mouth ulcers

What the expert says: "Ulcers can be a sign of an immunity issue, stress, trauma or nutritional deficiency. These issues need to be addressed to reduce the risk of ulcers occurring,” says Dr Lewis Ehrlich, a Sydney dentist.

“In terms of treatment, salt-water rinses do assist with healing.” 

Home remedy: Apple cider vinegar helps weight loss

What the expert says: “The evidence that apple cider vinegar helps fight fat is weak,” says Rosemary Stanton, nutritionist and visiting fellow at the University of NSW.

“A short-term study in Japan added 2 daily drinks of 15ml of apple cider vinegar mixed with 250ml of water to the usual diet of overweight men and women. They lost about 1kg over the course of 12 weeks, but within 4 weeks their weight had returned to what it was previously. It may be that vinegar can suppress appetite as volunteers who drank vinegar drinks for breakfast felt slightly nauseated afterwards, which reduced their appetite.

“Others claim taking apple cider vinegar with meals will help digest proteins faster, however, there’s no evidence to support such ideas.”

Home remedy: Hot water and lemon first thing in the morning has health benefits, including improved liver function

What the expert says: A 2008 Japanese study showed that lemon improved fat metabolism in mice, with researchers concluding lemon’s polyphenols (micronutrients) may stimulate the liver to make enzymes that help block fat absorption. Doubt surrounds this claim though, given the study hasn’t been replicated in humans and most of the polyphenols in lemon come from the rind, not the juice.

But while the liver-boosting properties aren’t clear, there are some benefits to adopting this morning practice.

“Having water first thing in the morning can be an excellent way to make sure that you get the recommended 8–10 cups of water per day,” says Melanie McGrice, accredited practising dietitian.

“If you dislike the taste of water, adding a squeeze of lemon to your water can be a great way to spruce up the flavour and due to lemon being high in vitamin C, it can provide some added health benefits as well.”

Home remedy: Flaxseeds are good for constipation

What the expert says: “Yes!” says McGrice. “Flaxseeds are a good source of dietary fibre, providing approximately 22g per 100g of seeds. One small study has found that consuming ground flaxseeds improved constipation and bloating in people with irritable bowel syndrome.”

Home remedy: Does chicken soup really help with a cold?

What the expert says: “Depending upon the recipe, chicken soup can provide some nourishing micronutrients such as zinc, vitamin C and antioxidants which can help people get over a cold faster,” says McGrice.

“More importantly, it’s a comforting and warming way to rehydrate when you have a cold

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