Busy Woman's Guide: An ER Doctor's 5 Fast Home Remedies

Medically reviewed in September 2021

“What whiskey will not cure, there is no cure for” goes an old proverb. Sore throat? Whiskey and honey. Arthritis acting up? Whiskey and raisins. To some, it’s the original multi-tasking remedy.

In my own home, I don’t raid the bar (well, at least I don’t raid the bar for medical treatments)—but that doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally turn to my pantry for home remedies. Of course, being a physician, I’m more than a little skeptical of some home remedies—so here are five that I can truly say are supported by medical evidence … or Grandma.

1. Honey - Parents everywhere panicked when the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended against cough and cold medications in children under six years of age. Here’s an alternative: Try one teaspoon of honey the next time your child has a cough. It’s been shown to decrease coughing as effectively as standard over-the-counter cough suppressants. (Caution: honey should not be given to children under one year old due to risk of botulism). While honey hasn’t been studied as much in adults, it’s a timeworn remedy so go ahead and try one to two teaspoons the next time you have a cough.

2. Magic Mouthwash (MM) - We come up with some strange names in medicine. This is one of them. (So are GI Cocktail and GoLYTELY … but those are for another day). MM is great for mouth ulcers, sore throats and other mouth pains. Doctors sometimes prescribe it (usually including lidocaine), but you can make your own home remedy (I call it “Magic Mouthwash Lite”) with one part Benadryl plus one part Maalox. Don’t swallow it—either swish and spit it out or use a Popsicle stick to “paint” a small amount wherever it hurts.

3. Homemade ice pack - Need ice for an injury? A bag of peas is a time-honored resource. But my favorite homemade ice pack is made with this trick: Combine one part rubbing alcohol with three parts water in a large zipper plastic bag and stick in the freezer for a few hours. It will stay cold, but won’t fully harden, so you can shape it however you want around the injured area.

4. Baking soda paste - I’ll admit, I’ve never really known what baking soda was for (note to self: ask one of my friends that bake), but here’s a good use for it: Last weekend a friend was stung by a bee; another friend quickly made a slurry of baking soda to put on it—and it stopped the itch. For easy spot-treatment of an itchy insect bite, mix three teaspoons of baking soda with one teaspoon water.

5. Just a spoonful of ginger - Ginger has been shown in several studies to be an effective solution to prevent or reduce nausea and vomiting for causes ranging from pregnancy to motion sickness. Consider making your own ginger tea by boiling sliced ginger root in a cup of water for five minutes (most ginger ale soft drinks don’t have much ginger). Drinking it cold (after it’s had time to cool) is also is helpful for nausea.

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