Science behind these common home remedies


Remember the time a steaming hot bowl of chicken soup helped cure your cold? Or the time a newborn had to undergo a rigorous oil massage, in spite of its wails, all in the name of better muscle strength? We all know of such homegrown remedies: that the haldi doodh concoction helps heal wounds faster. And that tulsi-adrak chai helps cure a headache. But how effective are they?

Dr Anil Ballani, Consulting General Physician, Hinduja Hospital, says, “Home remedies offer cures with simple, ingredients such as honey, fruits, herbs and natural oils. They, at times, can cure common ailments with no side effects, but they need to be used judiciously. Now there is more awareness about the benefits of such remedies as we realise that many of these home remedies have a scientific background, as well.” We look at five common home remedies and ask experts to deconstruct and explain the science behind them.

Have rock salt with juice to alleviate stomach ache.
Expert speaks – “Rock salt is salt in its purest form. It’s much better than the white salt that we normally consume as it’s loaded with natural minerals and aids in digestion.Rock salt when taken with lemon juice helps to relieve gases in the digestive tract and system. We burp and pass out the gasses. It relieves the bloated stomach,” says Dr Rajesh Gokani, General Physician, S L Raheja Fortis Hospital, Mahim.
Word of caution – Rock salt and lemon juice provide relief only in mild cases. A severe attack of gastroenteritis, for instance, will not be cured by the concoction.”Heart and high BP patients should be cautious, for they are advised to eat less salt. Although rock salt might be natural, its effects are similar to that of nor mal salt,” adds Dr Pratit Samdani internal physician, Breach Candy hospital.

Chicken soup helps cure flu and common cold
Expert speaks – There is no known cure for common cold, as the virus in the body needs to live its course. “A remedy is only symptomatic treatment for common cold.And they will only reduce the misery that a cold causes.Antibiotics are not effective for a cold as it’s a viral disease.This is where the age-old chicken soup comes into the picture. The hot liquid that one ingests helps to open up the throat and nose. It also soothes an irritated throat. The warm soup also helps to re-hydrate the body, helping it recover faster.Chicken soup inhibits the movement of neutrophils (a type of white blood cells) in the respiratory tract thus reducing congestion. It also helps the nasal cilia to function better and facilitate the removal of mucus,” informs Dr Ballani.

Word of Caution – Chicken soup only provides symptomatic relief. “If the symptoms last for more than 36 hours, please visit a doctor, no matter how many bowls of soup you have had. And the relief that is provided by the soup is temporary. If the symptoms persist, that means there is a larger problem,” shares Dr Gokani.

Turmeric milk helps heal aches and pains in the body and, in general, boosts immunity
Expert speaks – “Turmeric boiled in milk is an excellent combination. Milk is a good source of protein, which help to heal wounds. Turmeric is known for its anti-inflammatory properties that help to soothe the inflamed muscles.Turmeric also contains curcumin -which is a strong antioxidant. It helps to combat the free radicals in the body, which automatically gives the immune system a boost,” shares Dr Ballani.

Word of caution – Turmeric milk is effective, but only for non-serious aches and pains. “This cannot be a replacement for treatment required to tackle a larger problem that needs immediate medical attention. At best, this can be used alongside some other medically proven therapies,” adds Dr Samdani.
Oil massage helps strength children’s bones and enhance their immunity

Expert speaks – Doctors point out that although recent research may have questioned whether such massages are best avoided, the practice does have its benefits. “Mustard oil is known to be inherently warm. It opens up the sweat glands and makes the skin supple and soft. The massage helps better one’s blood circulation. It also helps the child to relax and makes it easier for him/her to fall asleep. The added benefit of using mustard oil is that it has a pungent smell and thus helps keep insects and mosquitoes away,” adds Dr Gokani. Additionally, mustard oil is rich in Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids.

Word of caution – “Extra care should be taken with newborn babies and mustard oil should not be used to massage them, as their skin is tender. The massages should start when the child is at least one year old,” cautions Dr Ballani.

Honey and ginger help cure cough
Expert speaks – Ginger, when boiled in water and then laced with honey, is a known cure for cough and sore throat. “Ginger is a known cough suppressant. It is also an antioxidant that provides relief from the ailment. This, along with honey, helps alleviate the inflammation of the throat. The honey given its high viscosity soothes the lining of the throat,” shares Dr Samdani.

Word of caution – The ginger-honey treatment again provides symptomatic relief, and has its limitations. “Diabetics need to be careful about the amount of honey they take, as it might affect their sugar levels more than it would affect non-diabetics,” cautions Dr Samdani.