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Old ways are best

Traditional cures have been used for hundreds of years to ease aches and pains, reduce inflammation and even get rid of warts. We asked Dr Rob Hicks GP and broadcaster, and Christine Scallan, folk medicine expert to give their verdicts on these folk popular cures.

Rub a matchstick on a wart to make it vanish
CHRISTINE: The abrasive action of the match helps get rid of dead skin and the sulphur in the match acts like a mild form of acid to burn off the wart.

ROB: This may work in a similar way to a pumice stone and get rid of hard skin. I think there are far more effective treatments on the market.

Mix olive oil with raspberry vinegar to cure a cough
CHRISTINE: Rubbing olive oil on the chest is effective, but too salty to drink I would think. Vinegar has strong anti-bacterial properties, but apple cider vinegar is best.
ROB: There is logic here. Olive oil is soothing, while vinegar is an antiseptic and could help loosen mucus while reducing swelling and inflammation.

Add Epsom salts to your bath to soothe aching feet and bones
CHRISTINE: These have been used for years to treat arthritis, as the minerals in the salts help your body heal.
ROB: Epsom salts are traditionally used to ease muscle aches. If you soak aching limbs and joints in a bath it will have a soothing effect with or without the salts, but give it a go.

Rub some goose grease on your chest to ease a cough or infection
CHRISTINE: This acts as an insulator against the cold. People would often wear a layer of newspaper or brown paper under their shirts over the goose grease to keep chills out.
ROB: In Medieval times people used this method for treating chest complaints. Perhaps goose grease was thought to have healing powers, but I can’t identify anything in it that can help.

Soak a cloth in vinegar to ease a headache
CHRISTINE: This would be cooling, but I prefer lavender, which is much more soothing.
ROB: Any soaked cloth applied to the forehead would ease a headache. Vinegar is known to reduce swelling and inflammation, but these aren’t external symptoms of a headache. This probably originated because you’d have the doctor of the day with limited medical supplies treating everyone with vinegar.

Tie a bunch of mint around your wrist to ease stomach problems
CHRISTINE: You could probably smell the mint oils if you were wearing it on your wrist, which may help.
ROB: There is sense to this as mint is used to relieve gastric problems, but I would suggest adding boiling water to the mint and drinking it, as you’re far more likely to see a benefit.

Add mustard to your bath to cure a cold
CHRISTINE: People often added mustard to a foot bath and put a towel over the head to inhale its fumes. It has a warming effect on your body and improves circulation, drawing your cold out.
ROB: Again, the benefit here is in having a bath – the steam will help clear your nasal passages. I don’t see the advantage of the mustard, unless its strong smell helps clear your sinuses.

Rub a gold ring on a stye
CHRISTINE: It’s not as absurd as it sounds. Gold injections have been used to treat rheumatoid arthritis for years because this metal helps reduce inflammation and alleviates swelling.
ROB: The only basis I can think of for this is that the rubbing action takes the top off the stye and allows it to drain. There are better cures for styes rather than rubbing a ring – which is probably full of bacteria – on an infection such as this.

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