The Strangest Home Remedies

We are always searching for home remedies for our various ailments; an effective home remedy is almost always cheaper than visiting the doctor, and because it involves a natural method, a home remedy rarely has the side effects of prescription medications. Most of us have a few home remedies that have been passed down through our families; they may not always work, but they’re fun to try out!


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Many people suffer from leg cramps, particularly when sleeping in bed. Placing a bar of soap between the sheets is said to prevent cramps. No medical authorities have offered reasons as to why the soap may help, but many cramp sufferers swear by it, and Ann Landers has often mentioned this cure in her column. Perhaps the soap releases some soothing essence into the air, which is contained by the sheets as you sleep. The soap should be unwrapped, but the bar can be any size and any brand (though some claim that Dove and Dial do not work). If the soap doesn’t relieve your cramp, then try ingesting a teaspoon of yellow mustard before going to sleep, or drinking a glass of water with a teaspoon of baking soda stirred in.

If you have chewing gum in your hair — a common affliction among teenagers — melt a chocolate bar (Hershey’s or any other brand) and massage the chocolate into your hair. Then wash your hair with shampoo and water, and the gum will ooze out. If that doesn’t work, peanut butter is said to be just as effective. Or mayonnaise, or mineral oil, or warm vinegar. You might also try WD-40 or some other lubricant, but you’ll need to shampoo several times afterward to get the oily smell out. As a last resort, try a pair of scissors!

If you suffer from toenail fungus, soak your feet in a bowl of Listerine. The strong antiseptic of the mouthwash will cure the fungus over time, and freshen up your feet. Or mix the mouthwash half-and-half with vinegar (white or cider), and apply the solution to affected areas with a paintbrush at night before going to bed (wear socks while sleeping, to protect your bed sheets) and in the morning before going to work. This is a slow-working remedy, and it may take a few months to clear up your fungus.

If you have a fever, trap a spider in a nutshell and wear it around your neck (you can kill the spider first). This old English practice can be traced back to Pedanius Dioscorides, a Greek physician and author of a five-volume encyclopedia of herbal medicine who lived in Asia Minor in the first century A.D. According to more recent North Carolina folk belief, you can alleviate your fever by catching a daddy long-legs spider (Pholcus phalangioides), tearing off its legs, and swallowing it. This remedy is not for the faint-of-heart.

Spiders are also cited as a cure for malaria; collect a few webs, compress them, and swallow. Eating a live spider (apparently, any variety) has also been mentioned as a cure for malaria. The medical justifications for these remedies are lost to history.

Cold sores are extremely common, painful, and unsightly. Applying wax from your own ears is said to treat them. You don’t need much ear wax, so don’t damage your ears in the process. Rub the wax into the affected area and leave in place for as long as possible, at least several hours; overnight is a good time. It’s best to use this treatment before a cold sore has fully formed (you’ll feel burning and itching for a day or so before outbreak); if the sore has already broken the surface, you’ll need to be more careful in applying the wax.

If you sweat excessively, various techniques might help. Perspiration itself is odorless; the strong odor, particularly in the armpits, comes from bacteria feeding off the perspiration, specifically the waste material given off by the bacteria. You don’t want to stop yourself from sweating, but you can control the odor by rubbing a slice of raw potato (thoroughly washed and dried) into your armpit. Let the potato juice dry, and then apply a deodorant if you wish. Lemon juice also might work (the acidity kills the bacteria), or apple cider vinegar.

Foot odor is another annoyance that troubles many people; it is said that if you rub your feet with vodka (any brand), foot odor will diminish. Vodka acts as an antiseptic, killing fungi and other odor-producing organisms that live on your feet. Vodka also helps keep your feet dry, preventing the proliferation of these organisms. If you would prefer to use a more clinically proven method, an antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin will have the same effect. Apply before going to bed, wear socks while you’re sleeping, and, with any luck, your foot odor problem will disappear.

If you have the hiccups, eating a spoonful of sugar may make them go away. Sugar apparently has an affect on the nerve muscles that send signals to the diaphragm; hiccups are a result of your diaphragm contracting uncontrollably. In a variation of this remedy, mix a heaping tablespoon of sugar in a glass of cold water, stand up and bend over so that the top of your head is pointing toward the floor, and drink the sugar water such that the liquid runs over the roof of your mouth before you swallow. It’s best to do this outdoors, as the technique may require a few practice runs before you can do it without dribbling half the solution onto the floor.

In medieval Europe, and in some parts of the world today, black ants are thought to act as an aphrodisiac. Dry a handful of ant carcasses and mix them with white wine; enjoy your wine, and the company you’re in. The effectiveness of this technique has never been scientifically measured.