6 Home Remedies Actually Supported by Science


We’ve all been there. You don’t feel well, and you think maybe
you should see a doctor… but you don’t. Perhaps your local clinic is closed for the
night, or you can’t get someone to drive you, or maybe you’re just in the American
health care system. There are plenty of reasons people choose
to treat their injuries and illnesses at home. But, as regular SciShow viewers already know,
some at-home treatments cause more problems than they solve… Ding! In the comments of our episode debunking six
popular home remedies, a lot of you asked us if there are any that do work. Well, ask, and you shall receive! Here are 6 home remedies that are supported
by science. [ ♪ INTRO ] Prunes for Constipation If you’ve ever gone a few days without pooping,
you know it’s not terribly fun to be constipated. Luckily, it’s also pretty common knowledge
that a combination of fiber supplements and water will usually fix the issue. Keeping well-hydrated can soften your stool
so it’s easier to pass, and fiber helps by making your stool bigger so it’s easier
to push against. While more poop might seem like a bad idea
if you’re already stopped up, more bulk in the colon actually stimulates your bowels
to take care of business. And that’s where prunes come in. While you could get extra fiber from a concentrated
supplement, like I do, research shows that prunes are better at kick-starting spontaneous
bowel movements. Fiber supplements often use some form of psyllium
husk as the source of fiber. But in a 14-week crossover trial — the kind
where participants end up trying both treatments — a dissolvable psyllium supplement was
less effective at treating constipation than simply eating prunes. During the prune-eating part of the study,
the participants passed more frequent stools, and their stools were softer. Both of the options amounted to about 6 grams
of dietary fiber per day, so the researchers think there’s something else in the prunes
that increases their effectiveness. That extra something is probably sorbitol,
a substance found in prunes which stimulates water delivery to the colon. So if you’re stopped up, you might consider
some dried plums instead of a powder or a pill. But prunes cannot solve everything. They aren’t as effective if your constipation
is due to irritable bowel syndrome, for example — and they can even make IBS symptoms worse. So if prunes don’t help you get things moving,
it’s definitely time to check in with an actual doctor, not a YouTube video. Severe constipation can lead to much bigger
problems, like hemorrhoids or fecal vomiting, which we did an episode on. You can watch our episode on what happens
if you stop pooping completely if you really want to learn more about that. It’s not pretty. Oatmeal for Dry Skin People have been using oatmeal for skin conditions
for millenia. But unlike some ancient wisdoms, science actually
supports using oatmeal in skin care. It’s perhaps most well-known for its moisturizing
properties. That’s because oatmeal contains a lot of
starches which attract and hold onto water. When you put powdered oatmeal onto your skin,
these starches help create a viscous layer that traps moisture to keep your skin hydrated. And that’s not all oatmeal does. In human clinical trials, it reduces itchiness
and soothes irritated skin. Oatmeal contains a variety of components which
basically shut down inflammation — an immune response that can make your skin painful,
swollen, itchy and red. For example, it has chemicals called avenanthramides
in it. These can soothe itching by reducing the amount
of histamine released by your immune cells in your skin. And they, as well as other compounds in oatmeal,
can act as antioxidants, fighting against the damaging, highly-reactive molecules that
cause long-term skin damage. There is a slight catch, though. Researchers don’t just boil a pot of Quaker
Oats to use in these studies. They use colloidal oatmeal, which is oatmeal
ground to be so fine that it creates a special kind of gel when mixed with water. It takes some fancy machines and super tiny
sieves to make the stuff — things not found in probaby your kitchen. Luckily, colloidal oatmeal pretty commonly
sold in pharmacies. And though you can’t really make true colloidal
oatmeal at home, a good blender or food processor can grind oats well enough for a DIY oatmeal
bath, which honestly sounds lovely right now. Ginger for Morning Sickness Sure, babies are cute, but the process of
bringing one into the world can wreak havoc on the body. In particular, people who are pregnant often
experience nausea and vomiting. Why are you making this even harder? While this is frequently referred to as “morning
sickness”, it’s definitely not confined to mornings. And it tends to be worst in the first trimester,
but pregnancy is just the gift that keeps on giving, as some people feel sick basically
the whole time. Luckily, antiemetics — drugs that ease that
feeling of queasiness — are totally a thing. But some studies have raised questions about
how safe they are for a developing fetus. And, you know, that’s kind of your number
one concern when you’re pregnant. There is a safer alternative that you can
pretty easily get, though, and people have been using it for centuries: ginger. Trials have found that ground ginger has an
antiemetic effect, even in pretty small doses. And that might be because it contains compounds
that inhibit serotonin receptors in both your nervous system and in your gut. Since neurons with these receptors need to
fire to trigger the vomiting reflex, inhibiting these receptors can quell that pukey feeling. It doesn’t work 100% of the time, and head-to-head
studies have found it can be less effective than the best prescription antiemetics. But there aren’t really any safety concerns
with consuming ginger. Which is why even doctors often recommend
trying candied ginger or ginger drinks to see if they help get your nausea under control
before turning to a prescription. Garlic for Athlete’s Foot Fungi love moist, warm environments. And that is why tinea pedis, or athlete’s
foot, flourishes in that lovely space between all your toeses. The condition can be caused by several fungal
species, but in all cases, you know you’ve got a problem when your skin becomes scaly
and flaky. And athlete’s foot is super contagious — which
is why you should always use shower shoes in the locker room! There are several over-the-counter treatments,
but there might be good option already sitting in your pantry: garlic! [on FT] Usually, clearing up that gross toe fungus
involves putting a medicated powder or cream on the area, waiting a bit, then reapplying
until the fungus is gone. This kind of wash, rinse, repeat sometimes
goes on for weeks. But freshly-crushed garlic or garlic oil can
work in a matter of days. Garlic cloves have been used medicinally for
centuries, especially against infections. And they probably work so well because of
sulfur-containing compounds like allicin and ajoene — which also happen to be responsible
for that pungent, garlicky smell. These are made by a special enzyme when garlic
cells are damaged, so chopping or crushing the garlic is important. You can’t just pull like just a whole clove
in there, cross your fingers. You gotta get this stink out. These chemicals work by inhibiting some of
cellular machinery used by fungi and other pathogens. That ultimately means the fungi can’t build
the things they need for growth and survival, so they die. In fact, isolated ajoene has been in topical
athlete’s foot creams for years now because it’s so effective. So if you’re in a pinch, grab the garlic. Just make sure to keep the crushed garlic
you’ve rubbed on your feet separate from the stuff you prepped for your garlic bread. Soy for Hot Flashes Plenty of things about getting older are not
great. Along with creaky joints and less than reliable
eyesight, if you have ovaries, you get to deal with menopause. Usually somewhere in the fifth decade of life,
your body stops menstruating, and that’s accompanied by a bunch of hormonal changes. It’s basically puberty 2.0., but with hot
flashes: those joyful moments where you suddenly feel like you’re on fire and start sweating,
even though there is no reason to feel that way. It’s thought that they’re caused by a
decline in certain hormones, which is why hormone replacement therapy can help keep
things cool. But, there are some long term health risks
associated with that, so researchers are looking for alternatives. And they might have found one that you can
take at home. Soy isoflavones — chemicals found in soy
products — are plant based compounds that structurally resemble the hormone estrogen. Because of that, they can act like estrogen
in your body. And clinical studies have found they tend
to reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes — especially when a particular isoflavone
called genistein is involved. But, that’s not to say you should go chug
a glass of soy milk the next time you feel flushed. Not only do studies vary in terms of dose
and delivery method, most agree that soy isn’t a quick fix. The benefit is gained after long-term supplementation,
usually for months. And, soy isoflavones aren’t as effective
as hormone replacement therapy. Still, if you’re experiencing hot flashes,
adding more soy to your diet could help. And you can always talk to your doctor if
it doesn’t do the trick. Lemongrass Oil for Cold Sores You may have heard that pretty much everyone
has herpes, and in a way that’s true. It’s estimated that about 90% of people
have had a cold sore at some point in their lives, and they’re usually caused by Herpes
Simplex Virus 1. When not replicating like crazy and causing
those painful blisters, the virus hides out in nerve cells. And because of that, like with other herpes
viruses, once you have it, you have it for life. So cold sores can’t be cured — but they
can be treated. Antiviral drugs like acyclovir can speed healing,
but they’re not cheap, and the virus can become resistant to them. So you might try something else the next time
a sore appears: lemongrass oil. Researchers have been experimenting with options
for treating herpes viruses for decades, including many essential oils. That’s the fancy term for oils extracted
from plants. Many of these can kill herpes viruses in a
petri dish, like the oils from lemon balm, tea tree, and peppermint plants. But in a 2003 study, it was lemongrass oil
that killed the most herpes viruses, and it worked at lower concentrations than the other
eleven essential oils tested. That might be because it contains a lot of
citral, which is what gives it that lemony scent. And in clinical trials, citral and extracts
from plants that contain citral have been found to reduce the severity and duration
of cold sores. Lemongrass oil has lots of other components
too, any of which might be helping it kill herpes viruses. But there is a caveat: human trials haven’t
been conducted with it specifically. So further research is needed to see whether
it works as well on a face as it does in a petri dish. Still, there’s enough evidence it might
work that it could be worth a try if you have some around. And if it doesn’t work, well, like, you’ll
smell nice though. Now, it’s worth reminding you all that I
am not a doctor, so none of this should be considered medical advice and you should totally
go see medical professionals if something is going wrong with your body even if you
don’t feel like it, because you are me and you’ve got a lot of stuff to do. The 6 remedies on this list do have science
supporting them — and that makes them a whole lot better than the ones we included
in that other episode. But ultimately, if your condition seems to
be headed south or you’re not happy with the results of your at-home treatment, go
seek professional advice. Because science has done amazing things for
healthcare, and we should all take advantage of that remarkable work. And also thanks for watching this episode
of SciShow! If you liked learning about these scientifically-supported
home remedies, you might like our episode on home remedies that don’t work. And if you want to learn more about medical
science from an actual doctor, you might like our sister channel Healthcare Triage. On it, Dr. Aaron Carroll answers all sorts
of questions about medicine, health, and healthcare. So check it out at YouTube.com/HealthcareTriage! [ ♪OUTRO ]