Manuka honey helps many ailments (New Zealand)
For centuries the Maori community of New Zealand has relied on the bark and leaves of the manuka bush – native to New Zealand and sometimes called a tea tree – for its health-giving properties. More recently, the honey made from its white or pink flowers is the star: research shows this type of honey has much higher levels of antibacterial and wound-healing compounds than others. “Our whole family uses manuka honey,” says Auckland-based Yulia McKenzie, who works in advertising with the New Zealand edition’s RD team. She says it’s a great-tasting way to keep the immune system healthy. “We use it on waffles and cereal, and as a sugar substitute for smoothies.” In winter months, Yulia’s family uses the honey to soothe sore throats and coughs.
Research from Cardiff University showed that components of manuka honey can stimulate immune cells, increasing our ability to fight bacteria. (It’s especially effective against a strain of streptococcus.) Another study showed its antimutagenic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities may even help prevent or treat cancer. One small study showed that manuka honey may improve dental health. Subjects given a chewable form of the honey had a 34 per cent reduction in plaque, and a similar reduction in bleeding for those with gingivitis, compared with study participants directed to chew sugarless gum. Some people use this honey as a homemade facial mask to soften and brighten their skin. Says Julia, “I use it regularly, and I must say my skin looks amazing!” Check the label to make sure it’s genuine manuka honey from New Zealand. Labels also carry a UMF (Unique Manuka Factor) grade up to 26; the higher the number, the more healthful compounds it contains.
Eucalyptus clears sinuses (Australia)
Adele Burley uses eucalyptus oil to alleviate cold symptoms like nasal congestion. “It helps clear the airways,” says the Sydney-based senior art designer for RD Australia. “I add a few drops to a bowl of steaming water, cover my head with a towel and breathe in.” In a randomised double-blind trial of 152 people, published in The Laryngoscope in 2009, German researchers found that the main component of eucalyptus oil – 1,8-cineole, or eucalyptol – was effective and safe for treating sinusitis, helping clear nasal blockages and mucus.
The eucalyptus tree is native to Australia, and the oil from its leaves is similarly helpful if you have perennial allergic rhinitis – a chronically stuffy or runny nose due to pet dander, mould, or dust. A South Korean study published in 2016 in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that essential oils including 1,8-cineole alleviated symptoms. Of 54 people aged 20 to 60, those who inhaled the oils for five minutes twice daily over seven days also had better sleep versus those who inhaled a placebo. Don’t ingest eucalyptus oil, though, and avoid applying it directly to your skin; if it’s undiluted it could cause irritation.
Sauna boosts circulation (Finland)
“The steam sauna has been a Finnish tradition for hundreds of years, and most Finns go regularly,” says Ilkka Virtanen, Helsinki-based editor of RD. “It’s good for heart health.” A sauna is typically a room heated to between 80 degrees and 100 degrees Celsius. When a person sits sweating in a sauna, their heart rate increases, as does blood flow in the skin, boosting circulation as much as low to moderate exercise does. Risk of stroke and heart attack are reduced, according to a 2015 study of Finnish men published in JAMA Internal Medicine. That research also showed that sitting in a sauna two to three times a week lowers the risk of dying from any cause by 24 per cent. Another study showed that 15 minutes a day in a sauna five days a week may help ease mild depression.
Ilkka’s friend Ben, 76, credits the sauna with his good health. “I go practically every day,” says Ben. “You feel so pure and healthy afterwards, and your soul is relaxed.” If you’re new to the sauna, start with five or 10 minutes; 20 minutes is the maximum. And if you have heart disease, or high or low blood pressure, speak to your doctor about whether a sauna is safe. Drink plenty of water, and avoid alcohol before or during the sauna; alcohol causes further dehydration.
Enjoyed this roundup of science-backed folk medicine remedies? Check out 20 more old-time home remedies that actually work.
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