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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, March 6, 2006

Science backs some home remedies

By Barbara Quinn
Knight Ridder News Service

When I was a kid, my dad used Vicks VapoRub, a medicated mixture of camphor, menthol and eucalyptus oil, for whatever ailed him colds, coughs, ingrown toenails, you name it. We thought he was funny.

Years later, I learn this common product does have medicinal effects beyond its ability to soothe coughs and colds. It works as a topical analgesic and may even have some antibacterial properties for conditions such as ... ingrown toenails.

Some home remedies really do work when put to the test. Here are a few in the nutrition realm:

  • Sprinkle on some cinnamon. Cinnamon that spice that tastes good with oatmeal and apples appears to help control blood sugars and cholesterol, according to at least one small study. Researchers fed varying amounts of cinnamon (1/2 to 3 teaspoons a day) to 60 men and women with type 2 diabetes. After 40 days, the folks receiving cinnamon had significantly lower blood glucose and cholesterol levels compared with those who had no cinnamon.

  • Add a tablespoon of vinegar. It may help control appetite and reduce the rise in blood sugars seen after a meal, according to two small studies, in Sweden and in the United States.

    In the first, healthy volunteers were fed a yummy breakfast of white bread soaked with 1 to 2 tablespoons of vinegar. Compared with volunteers who had bread with no vinegar, the study group had lower increases in blood sugar levels and less hunger.

    In the American study, healthy young volunteers had a bagel with orange juice for breakfast topped off with a drink containing about 1 tablespoon of vinegar. An hour later, the volunteers who drank the vinegar had lower blood sugars than the volunteers who did not. And interestingly, the vinegar group ate about 300 fewer calories per day during the study period than the nonvinegar group.

  • Have a cup of tea. Tea contains catechins, antioxidant substances that appear to ward off the growth of cancer cells. Not all human studies have found tea to be beneficial in preventing cancer, but in those that have, a cup or two of tea a day reduced the risk for developing mouth, esophagus and stomach cancers.

    A recent survey of Japanese men and women over the age of 70 found those with a higher daily intake of green tea (four to six cups a week) scored higher on a test of mental function than those with lower intakes. Again, scientists credit antioxidants, which protect the brain and other body cells from damage caused by wayward oxygen molecules called free radicals.

    Home remedies can affect the action of prescription medications. Tell your doctor about any remedies you try at home.