When it comes to common health issues—like minor illness, ailments, and injuries—many families are seeking natural ways to stay healthy.
And with more and more reports surfacing on the harmful side effects of common over-the-counter drugs such as…
…a person can understand why.
A basic knowledge of natural medicine and DIY home remedies is invaluable to any family, especially those living on a rural homestead.
Given my background in natural health and my husband’s background as a certified herbalist, I know what home remedies we use, but I wanted to find out what works for other families, too. So I asked the Rethink:Rural community via FaceBook, and here’s what we came up with.
13 Home Remedies for the Homestead
1. Bug Bites: Toothpaste or clay
Summer in the South means BUG BITES...and lots of ‘em. Here are a couple good options to take away the ouch-factor:
A dab of toothpaste will take the sting and inflammation out of a bite.
Clay (any kind, even plain old red clay) will help draw out the “ouch” factor and soothe pain and inflammation.
No, pimples wouldn’t normally be cause for great concern. But it is when you have a teenager. I’ve found nothing works better than a simple mixture of coconut oil and baking soda.
Coconut oil is revered for its antimicrobial properties, and baking soda helps draw out and absorb toxins.
There’s no magic proportions. Just mix them together and apply to the affected area. The pimple will disappear overnight.
Incidentally, this mixture also makes a fantastic non-toxic and effective deodorant (should you ever run out).
3. Cold Sores: Warm black tea bags
The natural tannic acid in black tea is believed to help protect the skin and shorten the duration of cold sores.
To use, apply a warm damp tea bag directly to the cold sore and leave it there as long as you can stand it. Discard the used tea bag.
Repeat a few times a day until the cold sore is gone.
4. Sore Throats: Honey, cinnamon, and/or turmeric
Sore throats are no fun. And the medications and numbing sprays available to curb the pain are controversial among the medical community—especially for children.
Thankfully, you can whip up some side-effect-free relief with this immune-boosting, throat-coating syrup using common ingredients from your cupboard:
Power Spice Honey Throat Coat Syrup
Mix 1 tablespoon raw honey with ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon and/or ½ teaspoon ground turmeric.
The use of raw honey is key to the syrup’s effectiveness because of its natural antibiotic properties. The honey also helps “stick” the spices to the throat so they can work their medicinal magic.
The humble cinnamon stick has been used by the Greeks for centuries to maintain health and ward off illness, and has been recently proven to possess powerful antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.
If you don’t keep the golden power spice known as turmeric around the house, now’s the time to start. In one of the over 5600 published studies behind it, turmeric has been proven to have antiviral properties and is effective against strains of the flu.
5. Diarrhea: Rice water
I learned about this remedy while studying for my natural health degree. It stops the runs in their tracks and couldn’t be easier to make at home. Here’s how to do it:
To make rice water
Cook white or brown rice until half-way cooked.
Strain, and drink the water.
6. Headaches: Apply a little acupressure
Squeeze the fleshy, webbed part of your hand between your thumb and index finger.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine this acupuncture point relates to the digestive tract, and when stimulated, can help relieve headaches. This spot is often tender, so start with gentle pressure and massage for 5-10 minutes on each hand.
7. Anxiety: Vanilla Extract
Aromatherapy has been credited with helping people relax, unwind, and fight tension for centuries.
But not everyone has an arsenal of anti-anxiety essential oils lying around.
If you find yourself stressing out, grab a bottle of vanilla extract from the baking cupboard and inhale deeply.
Vanilla is naturally calming and will settle your nerves, distract your mind, and help you regain composure.
You can also add a few drops to a pot of simmering water to create a calm and tranquil atmosphere throughout the house.
If you have lavender or lemon balm growing in the yard, these are also wonderful aromatherapy options for relieving stress and anxiety.
8. Nausea: Lemon peel
Peel or zest a lemon and inhale deeply. This double-blind study proved lemon essential oil (found in the zest) effective for morning sickness.
9. Boils, splinters, and mysterious skin eruptions: Potato poultices
Potato poultices have a long-standing history for helping naturally draw toxins (and splinters) from the skin.
To make an old fashioned potato poultice
Grate a raw potato and apply to the affected area. Secure with a bandage or wrap with a piece of gauze.
Leave overnight and apply a fresh poultice every few waking hours.
If using for a splinter, keep the poultice on for 24 hours, changing it as needed to maintain cleanliness. The potato will help reduce pain and inflammation and draw the splinter to the surface of the skin.
If using for a boil or mysterious skin eruption, keep applying the poultice for 4-8 hours (or overnight) at a time, then give the skin 4-8 hours to breathe. Continue until the boil, blemish, or eruption is gone.
10. Earaches: Onion compresses
Though treating an earache at home is a bit controversial, this home remedy will come in handy if you child wakes up in the middle of the night complaining of ear pain. And if you’re still concerned in the morning, you can run them to the doctor’s office (though this home remedy may nip it in the bud).
Onion compresses for earaches
Onions are highly effective at drawing out fluid (hence why they make our eyes water and noses run). They also have strong antimicrobial properties.
To use for an earache, cut 2 small chunks from a plain old onion.
Wrap in gauze.
Place the gauze-wrapped onion in the outer part of the ear (NOT in the ear canal), and wrap gauze around the head to secure the onions.
Leave on overnight, or for a few hours during the day to draw out fluid and relieve pressure fast.
I was introduced to this technique by a chiropractor friend of mine, Dr. Jessica Payne.
The technique is a simple ear massage you perform using your pinky fingers to gently pull up, down, and sideways on the opening of the ears.
I’ve used this on my daughter the last couple times she's experienced congestion and once when she had a fever. She absolutely loves receiving the technique and hasn’t had any issues with congestion since.
Pretty darn impressive.
Dr. Jessica also recommends it after swimming to prevent earaches or swimmer’s ear.
12. Constipation: Rehydrated raisins
Though prunes are the gold-standard for constipation relief, raisins work just as well and are generally more common in young family households.
To use, soak a handful of raisins in hot water until they plump up.
Eat them as-is, stir them into oatmeal, or blend them into a juice or a smoothie.
13. Tummy Aches/Sour Stomach: Apple cider vinegar
It is believed apple cider vinegar has an alkalizing effect on the body (the opposite of what you would think), hence its benefits for a sour stomach.
It is preferable to use a quality brand of organic apple cider vinegar (my go-to brand is Braggs), but in a pinch just use whatever you have on-hand.
For grown-ups, mix about a tablespoon in some water and chug it back.
For kids (or grown-ups who wince at the thought of drinking vinegar), make a tea by adding 1-2 teaspoons vinegar to some hot water with raw honey to taste.
We also use apple cider vinegar tea whenever we’re feeling under the weather to speed healing and help clear congestion.
For whatever reason, our generation has given up most of our control and power when it comes to health.
We have been led to believe we are powerless to relieve simple ailments at home, and must rely on the latest-and-greatest manufactured pills, creams, and potions to fix even the most minor health issue.
However, for many (if not most) common health concerns this is not true.
A solid knowledge of safe, effective, and time-tested home remedies brings peace of mind, builds confidence, and empowers us to take back our families’ health and build a brighter future for our children.
This is just a small sampling of the home remedies out there. What are your favorites? Think back, what did you grandma do if you got a stuffy nose, had cramps, or got a bee sting?
My brothers-in-law remember their German grandma chasing them around with an enema bag every time they started coming down with something…aren’t you glad I didn’t include THAT on the list?
But seriously, we’d love to hear your stories and learn about your family’s home remedy legacy in the comments section below.
Author’s Note: These home remedies are for only MINOR illness, ailments, and injuries and are not meant to replace the advice of a physician. If you suspect you, your child, a guest, a family member, or the neighbor’s poodle has a serious condition or injury, please hightail it to your nearest medical provider.