Playing Doctor: Consumerist Readers Explain How To Cure Anything With Just About Everything

Earlier this week we turned to you, our wise and experienced Consumerist readers, to tell us which home remedies you’ve had success with in treating various bodily ailments. Or maybe the treatment wasn’t so successful but you learned an important life lesson on the process. We’ve combed through your highly entertaining and definitely useful comments and have compiled a few of the most common and well, interesting ones here (ahem, earwax?).

It should be worth stating that we’re not doctors, although some of you may be, so take each of these with a grain of salt — non-doctor’s orders. And also, there were a ton of really great ideas that aren’t listed in this post, so peruse the comments in the original post to get your fill. Feel free to submit even more this time around as well — toothpaste or Visine to treat zits, anyone?

There were a lot of common ingredients suggested in varying treatments, so we’ll start with those.

Honey, you sure are useful: The sweet stuff showed up in recipes for a plethora of complaints — sore throats, coughing, treating sunburns and as a topical antibiotic for treating things like pink eye, said commenter LuzloFantazmic. Another interesting suggestion? Local honey used to treat allergies.

Mr. Spy:

I used to have crippling allergies for 6 months out of the year. I started putting local honey into my coffee (for about 2 years now) and they have shrunk down to a mild annoyance.
Could be imaginary, but I say it works.

White vinegar is nature’s do-it-all: We all know you can clean with vinegar, but how about using it for cooling down sunburns or other minor burns, getting rid of warts treating mosquito bites or keeping wasps and bees away? Another use — easing pain wherever you’re hurting, says Libertas1:

My friend’s dad introduced me to using standard white vinegar to help with various body pains.

Take some white vinegar and put it in a bowl with an equal amount of water. Heat it in the microwave as hot as you can stand it, and soak a towel in it. Apply it to where you are hurting.

Definitely helped me out pre-ACL surgery.

Who knew Vick’s VapoRub and other mentholated rubs were useful for things other than congestion (on that note, try cream of tartar for stuffy lungs as well): Suggestions for the stuff include easing up earaches, clearing sinuses and perhapsreducing hemorrhoids.

Now let’s move on to some common ailments, shall we?

Nausea/hangovers: “Stay drunk” — the hangover cure that can’t go on forever (right?) suggests commenter with quite the long name, Back to waiting, but I did get a cute dragon ear cuff, as well as other hangover treatments and or/nausea alleviators ranging from pickle juice to peppermint to ginger.

Mamudoon explains:

Put me down as another one who swears by peppermint for nausea. I’ve been given every pharmaceutical anti-emetic known to man – including stuff they give to chemo patients. The peppermint works better than any of them. If you don’t care for tea, you can get peppermint oil capsules at health food stores.

And if you’ve got a hangover, well, you might need ecuador’s diarrhea remedy:

For diarrhea: get a spoon full of ground coffee, squeeze a lemon on top of it and swallow the “muddy” result. Has helped me twice!

It’s summer, the citronella candles haven’t cut it, and you’ve got bug bites all over the darn place. How about trying one of the bajillion methods you all swear by: aluminum-based antiperspirant rubbed on bites, hot woter, coop water, Windex (as a fellow commenter noted, someone must’ve been watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding), a paste of meat tenderizer, a paste of aspirin, or this, from suezahn, if you’ve got long enough nails:

Or just take thumbnail and press a deep “X” over the bite. No topical burn necessary.

We’ve all heard many a way to cure hiccups, but here are some more: Peanut butter, chewing antacids, sugar or, if you’re at the bar and maybe had a few too many, advises Superflippy:

Hiccup cure: Put a pinch of sugar and a dash of bitters on top of a slice of lime. Put the lime on your tongue and shut your mouth. Works every time!

Then there are the concoctions! Oh, the concoctions. Overman calls this one Rasputin’s cure for pain:

Two years ago I tore my hamstring trying to water ski. By day three the pain was crippling and a large bruise developed from my ankle to my ass. I asked the tubes for a cure to reduce bruising and found Rasputin’s recipe. Hyssop, parsley, plantain, and comfrey. Made a mush out of what I found in my backyard and applied it to the bruise. 48 hours later the bruise was gone. I’ve never been much for hippy cures, but damn, they had to stab Rasputin like 30 times, so he must have been doing something right.

Fellow commenters pointed out that maybe the bruise just naturally went away in 48 hours, or perhaps it was the massaging action. But now I just want to prescribe Rasputin’s Recipe to someone and see their reaction.

Commenter Syntania was chockfull of remedies, but one of our favorites:

Long grain rice in a tube sock – Stick it in the microwave for a minute and it makes a wonderful heating pad that’s form-fitting, and it smells tasty too!

Then there are the, well, somewhat odd methods that we’re going to have to try very hard o believe. Although we’re not sure we’d want to eat poison ivy in order to become immune to it, bravejango. Instead, we’ll go with exit322′s idea:

I’m not an expert or anything, but wouldn’t “avoiding poison ivy” work for this one?

Got dry hair? Dangermike suggests bacon grease as conditioner — “Just cool it down a bit first.” And on the plus side, notes ChuckECheese, your hair will smell terrific.

One method for curing cold sores we’ll have to take your word on from commenter Chizu:

Ear wax for cold sores on the lips. I personally have dry ear wax so I’m not entirely sure if it really works or not. But apparently ear wax contains certain amino acid (?) that helps getting rid of the cold sores.

Again, we enjoyed reading all of your suggestions and welcome additional wines. Now, off to prepare tomorrow’s morning dose of pickle juice and ginger.


Edit Your Comment

  1. tungstencoil says:

    Wow… placebo please meet your close relative, correlation-is-not-causation.

    • Anne Marie says:

      Thank you! This is like some, adding urban legends to the Internet.

    • bawkbawk says:

      Yeah, I’m not really inclined to try most or all of these just based on “It really worked for me!”. Who’s to say that person likes messing with people and it actually makes them sick?
      Not sure why Consumerist glorified these “remedies”. I agree with another poster on here- when it comes to healing your body, at least find a medical professional who’s advice you trust. Or stay away from “remedies” you’ve never heard of before that sound like bs. Some of them are fairly legit (ginger for an upset stomach) but otherwise complete crap.

    • arcticJKL says:

      Man I had a great placebo remedy for insect bites until someone explained to be how it could not possibly work. Now they itch like crazy.
      If it works, and does no harm, im all for it.

    • Rocinante says:

      Yup, also known as the “post hoc, ergo propter hoc” fallacy with a little of observational selection thrown in.

  2. Xenotype51 says:

    ‘For diarrhea: get a spoon full of ground coffee, squeeze a lemon on top of it and swallow the “muddy” result. Has helped me twice!’

    This is to give yourself diarrhea, no?

    • crispyduck13 says:

      LOL I read that and thought: well after doing that I’ll need to re-read the nausea remedy.

  3. StatusfriedCrustomer says:

    Do people still get the hiccups these days? I don’t think I’ve had them – or seen anyone else have them, for 10 years.

  4. Lethe says:

    The temporary relief that rubbing earwax on my lips might provide will likely be negated by the multiple vomit sessions that will ensue.

  5. umk1 says:

    Fam. friend got bit by a brown recluse on his calf (about 2in below the knee) and the venom ate a hole through the muscle down to his bone (over the course of a week), after asking doctors to save his leg they told him it would be a waste of money and out of his price range, so he took a pocket knife and cut away the rotten flesh (wasted drunk) & filled the *rotted flesh hole* with honey & changed the bandage about twice a week. Took about 2 months of self-rehab before he could walk much. I wouldn’t believe it without seeing the scar.

  6. scoosdad says:

    Put some Windex on it.

    • jefeloco says:

      My mom has used apple cider vinegar in the same ways as the old guy in that movie used Windex for years, that is the only reason why I liked that flick :)

  7. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    I started taking 2 Glucosamine with MSM tablets per day at the end of October. Today, I have virtually no joint pain. I was taking aspirin and ibuprofin every day for stiff, achy joints, and just getting up some mornings was a chore. I don’t know if the pills really work, or if it’s just a placebo effect, but at $18+ for the giant Costco bottle (thanks dear daughter), I don’t care.

    • dangermike says:

      Aspirin tends to be rather benign, but Ibuprofen, especially in high doses, can be really bad for you long-term. Even if you don’t end up with a allergic sensitivity to it, there’s a good chance that long-term regular usage even at OTC levels can mess up your kidneys. Actually, I wouldn’t surprised if compromised kidney function could lead hydration issues that manifest as joint pain.

  8. Anne Marie says:

    I had a kidney stone in January. Some might say it was the doctor who removed it I should thank but I’m gonna go ahead and credit Bradley Cooper’s romance with Zoe Saldana.

    Wait, that’s what we’re doing, right? Claiming cures based on no evidence? Okay, good. Try some Coopdana today!

  9. bitslammer says:

    Just more dangerous or crappy advice. The site that really scares me if I’ve seen flat out irresponsible advice and even articles on the site that contradict each other.

    Crowdsourcing is fine when I want to know where to grab a good burger out of town but I’ll leave the important things to professionals.

    • Laura Northrup says:

      Livestrong content used to be sourced from Demand Studios and based on whatever internet search terms didn’t have an article about them yet.

    • dangermike says:

      So you’re saying you don’t want shiny, youthful, porcine-scented locks to allure your next love interest? Fine then. Have it your way. They won’t be able to tell with you up on that high horse, anyway, I suppose.

  10. Bsamm09 says:

    Bitten/stung by an insect? Put wet tobacco on it. mom did that when I was a kid. Works like a charm.

  11. illusionmajik says:

    I found for Upset Stomach/Nausea… Ginger.
    Car sick, hangover sick, meds sick, and the flu. Real ginger ale, ginger tea, or nomming a bit on ginger root did wonders. Didn’t help any of the other symptoms but it was also a good indicator as to how congested I was. How strong the ginger scent was would indicate if I was clearing up or stuffing up.

    Peppermint doesn’t work as well for me and makes me super acidy.

    Found out that Chinese sailors used to eat ginger to stave off seasickness. (Thank you one of the many Uncle John’s Bathroom readers)

    • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

      I take ginger capsules – my Mom told me about this. I was skeptical, but it really works!!

      • illusionmajik says:

        It’s great that my Dr knows about herbals and home remedies. And the science behind them. So which things are hokum vs possible aid vs oh heck yes this works, she is well versed. I’m really lucky about that. The home remedies I use have science to back them up, or else I wouldn’t use them. And my Dr tells me what the science is. (If I don’t know what all the medical science means when she tells me, I have a fun thing to read about once I get home)
        For instance, willow Bark tea has the same chemical in it as aspirin (salicylic acid).

        Ginger… I know the phenols in it can/may do something to stop some of the stomach spasm/calm the stomach. (they’ve had random results with studies on this.) Also, I have a very acidic stomach. Ginger is alkaline so it helps restore the pH of my tummy. Tums could to the same thing but man the chalky texture is like I was licking an eraser and can make me yark anyways.

        Hot water on poison ivy/oak/sumac causes the body to release a bunch of histamines all at once. Kind of makes it feel like it’s being scratched. Then until you build up more histamines, it won’t itch. But it only helps the itching. Not the healing.

      • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

        I don’t know if anyone’s still reading this from Friday, but I have a question for you, lovemypets00. Do the ginger capsules have a taste to them? I am constantly nauseous, missing work, etc. Nobody can figure it out, and I tried ginger gum, ginger tablets, candied ginger. I can’t stand the tasted and it burns my tongue. I’m using meclizine, but it doesn’t fully help the way ginger does.

        I’m vegetarian and I try to stay away from capsules because they’re made with gelatin, but I might make an exception if I could find some relief.

    • dangermike says:

      Two words: ginger snaps.

  12. Bender6829 says:

    When I was a child I would get very painful earaches. My mother, a veritable chain smoker would sometimes blow cigarette smoke into my ear! Yes… cigarette smoke INTO MY EAR. How did it work? Did it decrease the pain? Hell no! I am now an adult who wears hearing aids. Oh and I also have Menneire’s disease.

    She also put syrup into our bottles along with milk, probably to shut us the F*** up. Result, all of my siblings now wear dentures.

    Keep your homespun remedies to yourself… I’ll stick with FDA approved drugs and methods.

    • Libertas1 says:

      Yeah the FDA never approved methodology or drugs that were anything but 100% safe and effective.

    • Smiling says:

      Because no FDA approved drug has even caused anyone any problems. My friend, I would love for you to go take a few doses of Ally and come back to tell me all about how awesome FDA approved drugs are, after you are done shitting your pants.

      • Lt. Coke says:

        Most of the time, the things the FDA approves work. Sometimes they decide the money the drug companies pay them is more important.

    • shepd says:

      Not that I’m defending at home remedies, but milk is plenty sugary enough on its own to cause cavities. The syrup isn’t what ruined their teeth, it’s probably that your mom left her children with bottles in bed. It wasn’t as well known that this was a bad idea a few decades ago…

      Also, the resistance to cavities that teeth have tends to be hereditary.

    • teamplur says:

      It has been shown (i might be making this up) that living in a home with a smoker causes ear aches. I had the same problem growing up. Mom smoked a lot. I used to get really bad ear infections/aches. She did the smoke remedy too but it seemed to help… I think the smoke would irritate the ear in such a way that it would open up and let out some of the pressure. Kinda like how menthol opens up congested sinuses. so ya, temporary relief even if the constants exposure to smoke was actually causing the problem…

  13. InsertPithyNicknameHere says:

    Regarding the rice heating pad – yes, it works. Personally, I prefer whole flax seeds if I can find them, because they don’t smell like rice does when you heat them. But that’s just a personal preference.

    • pegasi says:

      the rice heating pad thing works, but to change the odor, use a few drops of some essential oil that you like – such as chamomile or lavender or apple – especially as it’s unlikely you’ll eat the rice after using it for a heating pad. Just a VERY little makes a big difference.

  14. dangermike says:

    Of all the comments I made in that thread, bacon grease was the only one founded completely upon facetiousness.

  15. Difdi says:

    There are literally hundreds of folk remedies out there that claim to cure hiccups. The thing is, everybody has a favorite, and they vary wildly. Often someone will insist their remedy really works, and it does…for that individual. But not for anyone else. So you get advice for hiccups like drinking a glass of water while standing on your head, getting a good scare, etc.

    The truth is, what all those weird hiccup remedies have in common is that when they work, they make you swallow a small amount of air. When they don’t work, it’s because no air was swallowed. Some people swallow air when startled; Most don’t. Some people can’t help swallowing a little air when drinking a glass of water while standing on their head (my mother’s favorite hiccup remedy); Quite a few people don’t.

    But you can cut directly to the heart of the matter. Drink a glass of water in large gulps, so you swallow air with the water. One burp later, and the hiccups will be gone.

    • GadgetsAlwaysFit says:

      That’s the method I use and it works. I take a huge swallow of water when I feel the hiccup about to hit and swallow hard against the hiccup and that has worked every time so far.

  16. Difdi says:

    Eating poison ivy is not something you want to do. How, precisely, do you build up a tolerance for it when it kills you the first time you try it?

  17. JJFIII says:

    My brother told his wife anal sex would bring about world peace. Unfortunately he was wrong, and he still can’t sit down.

  18. Smiling says:

    Best hangover cure ever? Prevent it with water. I drink water throughout the evening when I drink, and I keep it by my bed when I sleep. I rarely have problems.

  19. orion70 says:

    I don’t think anyone mentioned this in the original thread but Witch Hazel is awesome for so many things as an anti-inflammatory. I used it throughout chemo for mouth ulcers and swore it worked better than the prescription mouth rinse they gave me. It also happened to be an ingredient in the OTC mouthwash I had been using every day up until I ran out, and then the resulting mouth ulcers, so I’d say it was a good preventative.

    Also good for sunburns, after waxing, ‘roids, insect bites etc. It’s awesome stuff and I always keep a bottle around.