Mayo Clinic finds science behind trusted home remedies

Chili pepper seed rubs and the herb Devil's claw to help with arthritis? The herb tea tree to help reduce dandruff? St. John's wort to help treat mild to moderate depression?...

Chili pepper seed rubs and the herb Devil's claw to help with arthritis? The herb tea tree to help reduce dandruff? St. John's wort to help treat mild to moderate depression?

Traditional medicine once dismissed these home remedies as superstition and folklore, but mainstream physicians are starting to take these treatments more seriously and are recommending them.

Even Mayo Clinic is giving validity to some home remedies with a new book, "Mayo Clinic Book of Home Remedies."

It's not the first book to deal with home remedies, but Dr. Philip Hagen, author of the Mayo book, said the Mayo book released in October makes recommendations based on science.

Over the years, Mayo Clinic has conducted research on claims regarding supplements and herbs.


"What has bothered many physicians is many people can make claims in books and on the Internet, but there needs to be some science backing it up," Hagen said.

Mayo doctors thought a book about home remedies was needed to give the public some fact-based advice, he said.

"When we made our recommendations we asked, 'What can we back up with some science and at least show it may work and it is safe,' " Hagen said. "What's in this book is what our experts are comfortable with recommending."

The book lists more than 100 common health problems that can be treated with simple remedies at home.

"Even if the steps don't cure the problem, they can relieve symptoms and allow you to go about your daily life -- or at least help you until you're able to see a doctor," Hagen said.

Many of the home remedies in the book are grandma's reliable treatments, such as chicken soup for a cold, he said.

Scientists have found that chicken soup helps relieve symptoms in two ways -- it has anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce mucus production in your respiratory tract and it temporarily speeds up movement of mucus through the nose, helping relieve congestion and limiting the time viruses are in contact with the nasal lining.

Two other known home remedies covered in the book include cranberry juice to help prevent bladder infection (although no proof in a


rigorous study) and duct tape for treatment of warts (although recent studies showed no proof).

"There is still quite a bit of skepticism from some of my colleagues about the book, but we felt it was time to weigh in on home remedies, especially with so many people interested in the topic," Hagen said.

The emergency medicine section contains advice about allergic reactions, burns, bleeding, CPR, choking, fractures, heart attacks, seizure, poisoning, shock and stroke.

Hagen, vice chairman of Mayo's Division of Preventive, Occupational and Aerospace Medicine, said the book is a guide to help people when they need to answer the three following questions:

--What actions can I take that are immediate, safe and effective?

--When should I contact my doctor?

--What symptoms signal an emergency?

"The book guides you to choose the most appropriate and effective response," Hagen said.


Copyright (c) 2011, La Crosse Tribune, Wis./Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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