Home Remedies: Check Your Pantry Before You Head to the Pharmacy


If you get a nasty bug bite or sunburn while you’re out and about this summer, a quick fix might be in your picnic basket. Plenty of common foods and spices double as fast home remedies.

In Frugal Foodie’s family, sunburn relief never came out of a bottle — you cut a leaf from the potted aloe plant and used that. A teaspoon of honey was the first line of defense against a sore throat, and vinegar took the “ouch” out of big bites and jellyfish stings.

While a home remedy can translate to cash saved on antibacterial ointment and over-the-counter medications, it shouldn’t replace or go against advice you get from your doctor. Think of these more as your first line of defense than a miracle cure, and definitely talk to a health professional about side effects and alternatives before counting on them for more than occasional use.

(For more non-meal ways to use foods, check out our columns on household and beauty uses.)

Bee pollen

  • Dissolve some in juice or lemonade as needed to alleviate hay fever and pollen-related allergies, says naturopath Elizabeth Yarnell. (You can usually find bee pollen in health food stores.) Start with a pinch or two to make sure your allergies can tolerate the pollen, and work up to a full teaspoon.


  • Place some of the powdered pepper on small cuts to stop bleeding, says clinical nutritionist Stephan Dorlandt.


  • To ease a toothache, place a clove between the cheek and gum next to the painful tooth, says Charlotte Tenney, an integrative health and clinical herbalist. “Saliva will soften it and it will begin to bath the area with juices that will numb the pain and reduce the swelling,” she says.
  • Sucking on a whole clove can also be used to treat a sore throat, Tenney says.

Coconut water

  • Drink some to curb diarrhea, Yarnell says.


  • Add to a bath to relieve itchy skin, Dorlandt 

Cranberry juice

  • Drink some to relieve a urinary tract infection, Yarnell says. Be sure to look for 100 percent cranberry juice instead of blends. Drink daily to prevent infection.


  • To ease a sore throat, take a half-teaspoon to a full teaspoon of crushed garlic with a drop of milk or water to coat your throat, says Gurpareet Bains, the author of “Indian Superfood.” This remedy is best used right before bed, and after you’ve brushed your teeth.


  • Allison Clement of Corvallis, Oregon treats stomachaches by grating some fresh ginger into a hot water for tea.
  • If you get seasick, carsick or another type of motion sickness, ginger can help reduce nausea and vomiting, says Jennifer Jensen, the editor of FitandFabLiving.com. Ideally, start taking some in pill or powder format at least 12 hours before your trip. But if motion sickness catches you by surprise, even ginger candy eaten then may help.


  • Take a teaspoon or so neat as a cough suppressant, Bains says.


  • Sprinkle a little ground turmeric on cleaned wounds before adding a bandage, Bains says. The spice acts as an antibacterial, and is often found in Indian bandages.


  • Dab a little on to insect bites to take reduce itch and redness, says health and wellness coach Rebecca Cagle.
  • Spray a 50-50 mix of vinegar and water on sunburned areas to cool them, Cagle says.


  • Apply some plain, unsweetened yogurt topically to treat a yeast infection, Yarnell says.
  • Used in a face mask, yogurt can alleviate sunburn and reduce acne.

Frugal Foodie is a journalist based in New York City who spends her days writing about personal finance and obsessing about what she’ll have for dinner. Chat with her on Twitter through @MintFoodie.

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