Natural Remedies That Actually Work — for Heartburn, Headaches, Toothaches & More

More than likely you’ve used a natural remedy for an ailment or two. Chicken soup for a cold, a spoonful of honey for a sore throat.  Maybe it was passed down by your grandmother or you quickly Googled for a fast fix when you couldn’t make it to the store.

While some natural remedies might seemingly work due to a placebo effect — who doesn’t like to think that chicken soup cures all? — some natural remedies actually do work. From heartburn to headaches to menstrual cramps, here’s how to cure your most common ailments naturally.

For a stomach ache, try ginger or peppermint.

“A stomach ache often occurs with too much peristalsis, which means slow muscle contractions in the intestines,” Dr. Guy Citrin, ND, tells SheKnows. “Some natural remedies that can be safe to try are ginger or peppermint. Those can help with the smooth muscle contraction.”

According to Dr. Citrin, ginger contains over 100 compounds and can help reduce inflammation, provide antioxidants, increase nutrient absorption, and reduce pain. The compounds in peppermint activate an anti-pain channel in the colon, which Dr. Citrin sas, can also be great for IBS-type pain as well.

Try sipping on ginger tea or a mint when your stomach starts to act up.

For a headache, try acupuncture.

Instead of popping another aspirin, try acupuncture to help your next headache.

“One of the most typical problems which people pursue acupuncture treatment for is recurring headaches and migraines, “ Jamie Bacharach Dipl.Ac, Head of Practice, Acupuncture Jerusalem, tells SheKnows. “Rather than simply masking the symptoms of a headache like most over-the- counter drugs, acupuncture is used to target the cause of the headaches in order to fully alleviate them. By restoring proper energy flow throughout the body, acupuncture targets the underlying root of the headaches for more effective relief.”

For a cough, try elderberry.

To cure a common cold, Elizabeth Martin, L.Ac, a licensed acupuncturist, massage therapist and Chinese Medicine practitioner, recommends using elderberry. “It’s commonly used today in the west as a syrup to help with symptoms and prevention of the flu, from a sore throat, cough, and inflammation, as well as a preventative to boost the immune system.” She cites one study in which flu-like symptoms cleared up four days faster with elderberry than a placebo. 

For toothache, try lavender oil.

“Lavender is most known for helping people with relaxation but it is also an excellent analgesic agent,” Valerie Bennis, Founder of Essence of Vali & Certified Aromatherapist, tells SheKnows. For a toothache, she recommends adding 15 drops of lavender to a one ounce bottle of base oil and then gently massaging externally around the area where there is pain or swelling. You can also use it in conjunction with an ice pack.

For menstrual cramps, try Maca or some fiber.

According to Dr. Citrin, menstrual cramping “can be a cause from multiple reasons, either too much spasm activity or issues with too much or too little hormones. There are about ten patterns that women face with hormones, and depending on which one the woman is in that can tell a lot of how to help nourish that pattern with herbs and supplements.”

While he suggests women doing a thorough analysis of their hormones first and working with a doctor, he recommends taking Maca and Chase Tree Berry to help with hormonal conditions. Both can be found in supplement form. Maca is also sold as a powder and can be added to your morning smoothie or coffee.

Dr. Citrin adds that menstrual cramps can also be gut-related, “so if there is some involvement in the gut, then things to calm the gut can oftentimes help with menstrual cramping.” He suggests the use of probiotics, prebiotics, fiber, and magnesium, to help alleviate any gut symptoms. If you don’t want to use supplements, you can try to include foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, oatmeal, and spinach that are filled, respectively, with the vitamins above. 

For heartburn, try ginger.

“Ginger has long been turned to as a natural remedy for heartburn that brings relief,” says Bacharch. “The phenolic compounds found in ginger lessens gastric contractions and relieves gastrointestinal irritation, which effectively reduces or eliminates heartburn.” Ginger tea can be sipped on to help alleviate symptoms but he does advise against sipping on ginger ale “due to the tendency of carbonated drinks to exacerbate heartburn.”

A version of this story was published August 2020.

Looking for more ways to keep it natural? Here’s our favorite natural kid cold remedies:

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