When Home Remedies Don’t Help (and May Harm)

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I enjoy researching the old ways of using what’s at hand for healing minor ills and meeting the needs of everyday life. But I’m also a fan of science and hard evidence, and sometimes science reveals that a tried-and-true solution to a common problem is ineffective—or worse, harmful.

Take cosmetics, for example. In centuries past, women (and many men) used lead, mercury, or arsenic compounds to lighten skin and conceal skin flaws. They also lightened their skin by eating chalk and iodine or using leeches to drain their blood. To remove unwanted body hair, they made a mixture of arsenic and caustic lime and applied it to their skin, often removing or blistering skin in the process. To dilate their pupils and thus make their eyes look larger, some women used tinctures of deadly nightshade. More than a few went blind as a result. People are still using many “natural” remedies that don’t work or could cause more harm than good. –Margaret Boyles

Here are a few of the many remedies from our March Monthly that Margaret Boyles suggests you think twice about before continuing to use at home!

When Home Remedies Don’t Help (and May Harm)

Butter on a Burn

Treating burns with butter (or egg white, oil, toothpaste, or milk) may soothe the burn temporarily, but it can also cause infection. Medical experts say that for mild to moderate burns, cold water, if available, should be run over the burned area for several minutes. Ice or ice water should not be used, as it could damage the tissues. An unbroken burn blister can heal without a covering; however, if the skin is broken, the burn area should be washed gently with soap and warm water and then covered with a light sterile dressing. Deep burns or those that cover a large area of skin need medical attention.

What to Put on a Wart

Almost every common ingredient has been used at one time or another to eliminate warts. Among the most popular are raw potato, banana peel, fresh pineapple, raw garlic, dandelion juice, ground flaxseeds, and duct tape (which was very popular until further research contradicted earlier findings). Warts (of which there are many kinds) are skin growths caused by viruses. I spent several years suffering from a number of plantar warts that didn’t respond to either folk remedies or my doctor’s ministrations. I woke up one morning and they’d disappeared entirely. Hearing the news, my doctor chuckled. “Well that’s how most warts usually disappear. The patient’s immune system discovers them, and poof! They disappear.”

Raw Eggs as Facial Masks, Hair Conditioners, or Pure Protein

Raw egg whites have a long history of use as skin-tightening masks, and whole raw eggs are legendary as hair-conditioning treatments and for use by strength athletes and bodybuilders to obtain optimum protein nutrition. There’s a crack in that thinking. We’ve all seen news of periodic outbreaks of salmonella in eggs. Although the risk of salmonella poisoning from raw eggs is very low, you’re better off seeking other ways to tone your skin, condition your hair, and build your muscles. (In recipes that call for raw eggs, food safety experts have long recommended using only those that are pasteurized. In cooked dishes, be certain to cook eggs until both yolks and whites are firm.)

Want to find out if licking a wound helps to promote healing? Or are you interested in knowing whether fruit, citrus juices, or vinegar works as a teeth whitener? Find these answers plus even more at-home remedies in our March Monthly edition online now!

~ By  Almanac Staff

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This new corner of Almanac.com will feature news, information, and cool stuff from The Old Farmer’s Almanac and its family of publications.

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