From dandruff flakes crowning our heads right down to corns on our toes, and other body parts in between, we all experience our share of minor but embarrassing health problems. A stye on the eye? Unsightly wart on the hand? A certain, well, odor that no one wants to claim? It’s all part of being human, but you don’t have to live with it. Now there’s help—our new book, Bottom Line’s 1,000 Cures for 200 Ailments: Integrative Medicine for the Most Common Illnesses, which includes ways that our health experts treat conditions ranging from serious to merely exasperating and, yes, embarrassing.
In this issue of Bottom Line Personal, we’re sharing some of the remedies from that book, which brings you wisdom from practitioners in a range of disciplines including conventional Western medicine, naturopathic medicine, Traditional Chinese medicine, herbalism and homeopathy (see key).
Any health problem that could be a sign of something serious should, of course, be checked out by a doctor. But once you’ve ruled out anything serious and still are left with one of the embarrassing problems here, consult the options and choose the remedy that’s right for you—or try several.
Many people mistakenly think the cause of their flakes is a too-dry scalp. It’s not. Like all skin cells, dead scalp skin naturally sloughs off as new cells form underneath. With dandruff, the shedding is excessive, which can lead not only to visible flakes but also intense itchiness. The condition may be hereditary, and stress and anxiety can contribute.
Eat these foods. Pears, celery, spinach, daikon radishes, carrots, brown rice, fish, oysters and mussels help prevent dandruff. TCM
Use grapefruit seed extract. A few drops added to your shampoo can help tame an overgrowth of scalp fungus (dandruff may be the inflammatory response to the fungus). Leave shampoo in your hair for three to five minutes before rinsing. Antifungal shampoos with tea tree oil or selenium also can help. N
Take supplements. B-complex (100 mg) and biotin (1,000 mcg to 3,000 mcg), taken together with meals, help treat dandruff. N
Soothe your scalp. Research has shown that a 30% aloe lotion applied twice daily for four to six weeks improved dandruff. For inflamed patches, rub on a cream made from calendula and chamomile flowers. HE
These benign tumors are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Warts on the hands usually are near the nails or on the fingers and appear either solo or in clusters, shaped like tiny cauliflowers. They may itch and bleed.
Wrap in duct tape. Cover the wart area with duct tape, and leave it on for a week. Remove the tape, soak the wart and debride it with a pumice stone. Wait a day, and repeat the whole process. Repeat as needed until the wart is gone. CM
Use 17% salicylic acid. Purchase salicylic acid over the counter, and apply it twice a day to a clean, dry wart, then bandage the area. CM
Try a raw garlic patch. Garlic has antiviral properties. Cover the wart and skin around it with a thin layer of castor oil or olive oil, top it with a thin slice of fresh garlic and tape it in place. Leave this on overnight. Repeat nightly for up to three weeks. (The wart will turn black as it dies.) N
Apply bittersweet nightshade. The topical application of this plant as an ointment, available in health-food stores, has been shown to be effective in the removal of warts. HE
Immune-boosting tip: Avoid alcohol and convenience foods that are packed with chemical additives. Eat foods that are rich in antioxidants such as tomatoes, strawberries, peppers, citrus fruit, blueberries and broccoli.
A bacterial infection that starts at the root of an eyelash, a stye forms an inflamed bump that looks like a small boil. It reddens and fills with pus and can be both itchy and sore. Usually styes come to a head and burst within seven days, but treatment can help a stye resolve faster. Try not to touch your eyes when you have one, as the infection is easily spread.
Apply a compress. Using a sterile gauze pad soaked in warm water may help in the early stages. Or make an herbal compress—dilute five drops of tincture of eyebright or chamomile (both are infection fighters) or plantain or marigold (both are soothing) in one-quarter cup of water, and soak a gauze pad in the solution. Apply to the stye for 10 minutes three to four times a day. CM, N
Take Yin Qiao Je Du Pain. This herbal pill can clear infection and is effective against styes. Find it in Traditional Chinese medicine stores. TCM
Supplement with zinc. It’s a known immune system strengthener and helps you heal faster. Take 30 mg to 50 mg daily. N
Use Pulsatilla. This sublingual remedy may help if your stye is particularly itchy and crusty in the morning when you wake up. HO
These harmless but often painful and unsightly yellowish bumps are caused by a buildup of hard, dead skin, usually on the toes and other parts of the feet. People with high arches are susceptible because of the increased downward pressure on the toes. Proper-fitting shoes are critical to prevent friction or toe cramping.
Find relief with moleskin. Apply a patch to relieve painful pressure. N
Soften skin with calendula salve. Apply this moisturizer/antiseptic two or three times a day. N, HO
Soak, then rub. Soak the affected foot daily in a solution of Epsom salts and warm water for 10 minutes to soften the corn, then gently rub it with a pumice stone to remove the dead skin. If you cut the corn or it bleeds, you may need to see a doctor to prevent infection (pus or clear fluid is a sign of this). N
File, then apply salicylic acid. Use a file or pumice stone to remove excess skin first. Afterward, apply 40% salicylic acid (available over the counter) to an area a bit larger than the corn and place a corn ring (also over the counter) on top to relieve pressure. Or apply essential oil of wintergreen, which contains salicylates, to the corn at night and wash it off in the morning to prevent irritating surrounding skin. Be sure to use natural, not synthetic, oil of wintergreen. CM, HE
Cautionary tip: Anyone with diabetes or circulatory problems in the feet should consult a medical provider before trying to remove a corn.
Everyone passes gas over the course of the day, but sometimes it happens too frequently. Usual culprits: Having too much gas in the large intestine as bacteria act on undigested food, swallowing air while eating or chewing gum, consuming a lot of fiber if your system isn’t used to it or a food intolerance. Flatulence also is a symptom of a number of diseases including irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulosis or diverticulitis, celiac disease and thyroid dysfunction. The remedies below are for the occasional normal bout.
Swallow a probiotic. Take a combination of Acidophilus, Lactobacillus and S. boulardii daily for 30 days to improve your overall intestinal health. Or take 4 g of glutamine, an over-the-counter amino acid supplement, each day. N
Try an elimination diet. There are a surprising number of foods that can upset the stomach and lead to gas. Start with the biggies—stop eating gluten, dairy, soy and processed foods for three weeks, and then reintroduce them one at a time to see if flatulence resumes. CM
Sip an herbal tea. Peppermint tea can ease upper gastrointestinal gas and spasms. Ginger tea, brewed with fresh ginger slices, stimulates digestion and reduces gas. Or make fennel tea—pour a cup of boiling water over one to two teaspoons of freshly crushed, dried seeds, let it steep for 10 minutes, strain it and drink before or after meals. HE, N
Stimulate pressure points. Try acupressure to move stomach and intestinal energy. While seated, exert pressure with a fingertip for one minute, then repeat. Where to press: Use the Susanli point on the lower leg, one inch to the outside of and three inches below the kneecap, and the San Yin Jiao point on the inside of the leg, about three inches above the anklebone. Perform on each leg two to three times a day. TCM
Eating tip: Prevent flatulence by eating slowly and chewing thoroughly so that your saliva’s digestive enzymes can mix with food and begin breaking it down.