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Published on: 29 Dec 2010 by jod_mets
Clearing up infections? Healing wounds? Getting rid of head lice? There are pills and creams that can help, but also amazing foods that will work in a pinch. We asked Lynne C. David, ND, LAc, a naturopathic doctor and licensed acupuncturist at the Center for Integrative Medicine in Washington, DC, and Mark Moyad, MD, MPH, the Jenkins Director of Preventive and Alternative Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical Center, for details. “This is not mumbo-jumbo,” says Dr. Moyad. “There’s a lot of folk wisdom out there that’s now being proven right.” Behold, the healing power of food.
Honey: Cuts, Scrapes and Sore Throats
Because honey has a compound similar to hydrogen peroxide, it can be applied topically for wound treatment. It’s so effective that it’s currently being used in the Iraq war; a thin layer is applied to bandages and placed on bullet wounds and burns. “It’s acidic, so it makes it difficult for bacteria to survive, and it’s a humectant, so any bacteria will shift into the honey, killing the bacteria,” says Dr. Moyad. A study in 2007 also found that nondiluted darker honey (like buckwheat honey) worked just as well as OTC medicine for coughs and sore throats.
Black Tea: Stinky Feet
The tannins in black tea are antimicrobial and astringent, so they tighten and dry out skin. It’s the same reason tea bags are good for puffy eyes. “But be careful,” advises Dr. Moyad, “green tea has little to no tannins, so you need to use black tea.”
Bitter Melon: Diabetes
Head to your local Asian market, because this bumpy green oblong vegetable can be great for diabetes and high-glucose support. “Bitter melon reduces blood glucose, insulin resistance and high blood pressure,” says Dr. David. It can be eaten raw, but true to its name, bitter melon is bitter, so Dr. David recommends cutting it up and mixing it with scrambled eggs to improve the flavor.
Hot Pepper: Pain
“There are topical creams that contain cayenne to reduce pain, but you can make your own pretty easily,” says Dr. David. Start with a vitamin E cream or coconut oil that doesn’t contain petroleum product (“If you wouldn’t ingest it, you shouldn’t put it in your cream,” says Dr. David). Then add a pinch of cayenne powder for every ounce of cream or oil. Use it to help reduce pain in joint areas like knees and ankles. “It’s the capsaicin in the peppers that shuts down the production of the compound that causes pain. The catch is that when you’re handling hot peppers, don’t rub your eyes or you’ll have bigger problems,” says Dr. Moyad.
Olive Oil: Dry Lips and Lice
Olive oil has oleic acid, which creates a nice covering to soothe dry lips. “There was also a recent study in which extra-virgin olive oil had an impact on protecting the skin from everything from dryness to skin cancer,” says Dr. Moyad. But most surprising, heavy oils, like canola and olive, can be coated on lice infestation and, when allowed to dry, will suffocate the pests.
Oats: Dry, Itchy Skin
“Oats have avenanthramides—they’re anti-inflammatory in nature and can be used for itchy, dry skin,” says Dr. Moyad, who recommends either putting a sock filled with oats into a hot bath or just buying an oatmeal lotion.
Ginger is a common remedy for nausea, with almost no side effects, and is great during pregnancy. “It is possible that too much ginger can give you acne. It’s a warming food, and with too much heat, it may produce heat on the face, which would give acne. But you’d have to eat a lot of it,” says Dr. David. To use, slice up fresh ginger root and make a tea out of it or just chew on the raw root.
Skim Milk: Sunburn
Skim milk that’s slightly cooler than room temperature will hydrate skin and help relieve pain associated with sunburns. “The milk forms a collagen web. Just dip gauze in there and apply it to the area, but watch out because whole milk actually slows healing time,” warns Dr. Moyad.
“The inside [of a banana peel] is supposed to contain potassium and an unidentified compound that may shift immune balance of the skin to help relieve warts,” says Dr. Moyad. Though data is lacking, there seems to be a lot of anecdotal evidence to support it. Try pressing a banana peel onto an affected area and leaving it there for a little while—since it can’t cause any harm, it may be worth a try.