Folk remedies are homeopathic health salves that are passed down from one generation to the next. From chicken soup for cold relief to hot tea for a sore throat, these natural alternatives to medications are often culture- and family-specific. Though some do, in fact, soothe the discomforts of lesser illnesses, the research on their ability to heal is limited. As such, we assessed popular home remedies for common ailments — including back pain, cough, and hypertension — by evaluating research studies comparing their benefits to those of traditional medications. Here’s what we found.
Claim: Heat Helps Soothes Back Pain
True. In ancient Egypt and Greece, heat therapy was used to treat aches. Now, research published in the journal Value in Health suggests that it’s still the best cure for chronic back pain. Compared to pain-relieving drugs, the study concluded that heat wrap therapy was a cheaper way for participants to ease lower-back pain. Why? Heat therapy helps soothe discomfort, and boosts blood flow to the area to speed healing.
Claim: Chocolate May Relive Persistent Coughing
False. The claim that chocolate can provide cough relief better than cough medicine is misleading. This claim garnered attention after news outlets incorrectly cited a 2016 study as supporting the consumption of all chocolate products to ease coughing, when the research only involved a chocolate-flavored cough syrup.
“It’s caused a lot of discussion. My secretary has been looking at the comments page of our own local paper, and 400 people have commented on this. Some say, ‘Yes, chocolate works for me,’ and maybe it works for them and that’s fine by me, but scientifically there is no evidence it will work,” the study’s co-author, Alyn Morice, MD, explains to Healthline.
Claim: Coconut Water Could Lower Blood Pressure
True. Coconut water has been reported to calm high blood pressure, and a 2013 study supports that claim. The six-week study found that hypertension participants who consumed coconut water daily experienced significantly lower blood pressure levels than participants who didn’t. Researchers credit this benefit to coconut water’s potassium content relaxing blood-vessel walls.
The Bottom Line
Age-old health remedies are hit or miss, and there’s a chance they’ll only provide temporary relief if they actually work. Instead, speak with your doctor about long-term treatment options for health troubles. This way you can feel your best from the inside out!
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.