The People's Perspective on Medicine

Where Can You Learn About Home Remedies?

A doctor who appreciates practical, inexpensive options for common problems asks how to learn about home remedies. Here's our answer.
Quick and Handy Home Remedies + Recipes and Remedies.

Chances are your mother or grandmother knew what to do about a stomach ache, a hangnail or a child having a hard time falling asleep. (Fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers knew a thing or too, as well.) You may have used some of this wisdom without quite realizing or appreciating it. As we have become increasingly dependent on commercial products, that practical advice may have faded from our awareness. How can you learn about home remedies that would be helpful in day to day life?

Where to Learn About Home Remedies:

Q. I am a general practitioner interested in finding a reliable book of home remedies. Many of my patients would like less expensive approaches for common conditions. I think people like you are a great asset to the health care team. I would appreciate your advice.

A. We’re blushing from your compliment. Over the last 40 years we have collected a variety of home remedies from medical journals as well as from readers of this column. When we learn about home remedies that seem promising, we publish them here on the website.

We have also compiled our favorites in The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies. Anyone who would like a copy can find it at the library or local bookseller. To order by mail, please send $16.95 plus $4 postage and handling to Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, Dept QHHR; PO Box 52027; Durham, NC 27717-2027. Others may find it helpful as a holiday gift.

There is a surprising amount of scientific evidence supporting the use of home and herbal remedies. We’re delighted to hear from a physician who appreciates these affordable approaches.

When Science Supports What You Learn About Home Remedies:

For the most part, researchers don’t study home remedies in any systematic fashion. Every so often, however, we find a study that corroborates what people have been doing for decades.

One example: A century or more ago, little kids were often forced to swallow cod liver oil, especially during the winter when they were bundled up. Mothers believed it would help ward off infections like the flu or even tuberculosis, which was a common and deadly disease.

Cod liver oil has fallen out of favor. It tastes terrible, and doctors were not convinced it does any good. It is a good source of vitamin D, but you can take that in a pill nowadays. So readers of the very serious medical publication Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology may have been surprised in March, 2018, to read a review of cod liver oil and sunshine against tuberculosis.

The authors lay out their aim for this review:

“We will speculate as to why vitamin D, cod liver oil, sunshine, and phototherapy are no longer being used to treat tuberculosis, in spite of their proven efficacy in safely treating this disease dating back to the early 1800’s.”

They maintain that these treatments, which could well be considered home remedies, have never actually been discredited and have the potential to help combat tuberculosis even today. We have not written about this in The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies, because most of our readers are not battling TB infections. But it is a dramatic example of why we should take the home remedies of yesteryear seriously enough to investigate them, rather than ignoring them as “old wives’ tales.”

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I agree! If a home remedy works, why not use it? Give it a try at least. It might help to avoid using antibiotics which I believe should only be used when other remedies do not work.

I was looking for pure cod liver oil and was unable to find it unmixed with other ingredients, so we substituted fish oil. My husband wanted to try it as an anti-inflammatory. He gave up on the fish oil after awhile because it didn’t seem to help.

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