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DIY paracetamol

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Ease aches and pains with these kitchen cupboard remedies, says Harald Gaier

QI’m trying to cut down on my use of painkillers, but not sure what to use instead. Can you offer any natural remedies for those painful problems that seem to crop up from time to time? I mean things like muscle aches, cramps, wounds, mouth ulcers, joint pains, ingrown toenails and the like.
M.M., Liverpool

A Happily, there are lots of simple home remedies for dealing with minor pain problems-as well as some promising natural analgesics for treating chronic conditions. Here are nine kitchen-cupboard alternatives to conventional painkillers and what you can use them for.

1 Tomato juice for cramps

Fresh tomato juice is a rich source of magnesium citrate, which is an effective treatment for muscle cramps in the lower legs. Try drinking a glass of tomato juice to ease cramps when they happen, or before bedtime if you’re prone to leg cramps during the night.1

2 Honey for skin sores

With its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral actions, raw honey can be used to treat mouth ulcers, cold sores, cracked lips and an assortment of skin injuries such as minor burns. It speeds up the healing process compared with the conventional skin ointments or creams you can buy ‘over the counter’, and is said to work partly by reducing concentrations of prostaglandins. These are hormone-like fatty acids that cause pain and inflammation when tissue is damaged or infected.3

Suggested dosage: unpasteurized honey applied directly to sore spots four times a day

3 Krill oil for arthritis

Krill-small shrimp-like crustaceans found in the southern waters around Antarctica-are rich in the omega-3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), both well known for their anti-inflammatory properties. In one placebo-controlled study, krill oil effectively reduced arthritic symptoms, including pain, stiffness and functional impairment.2

Suggested dosage: 300 mg/day

4 Horseradish for sinus pain
Generally a chronic condition, sinusitis is inflammation of the mucous membranes that line the sinuses-small, air-filled cavities found on both sides of the nose (behind your cheekbones) and in the forehead-which can cause headaches and facial pain. German researchers discovered that, in addition to having an immediate decongestive effect, horseradish boosts blood flow to the sinuses and increases the body’s ability to fight lingering infections.4

Suggested dosage: one level teaspoon of grated horseradish every day until symptoms have cleared

5 Grapes for backache

Research conducted at Ohio State University found that eating fresh grapes every day can help improve the blood supply to injured back muscles and tissues, sometimes as quickly as within three hours. The blood circulation carries essential nutrients and oxygen, and a greater supply of these are beneficial for the health of the cartilage tissues that serve as cushions between the spinal vertebrae and other joints of the body.5

Suggested dosage: one cup (8 oz)/day

6 Water for injuries
Researchers at New York’s Manhattan College found that plain water can ease the pain caused by injury. When body tissue is damaged, it produces histamine, which can lead to pain. Water dilutes the amount of histamine in the blood, thereby reducing the level of pain. Also, the fluids that lubricate our joints need to be kept well hydrated, which will also reduce joint pain.6

Suggested dosage: eight 8-oz cups of water/day

7 Salty water for ingrown toenails
An ingrown toenail is easily treated in its early stages with just plain old salt, which is a natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. Researchers at Stanford University in California demonstrated that soaking your feet in warm salted water can heal painful ingrown-toenail-related infections in around four days. Add a heaped teaspoon of salt to each 8-oz cup of warm water, enough to fill a bowl or footbath. Do this regularly until the infection is gone.7 Salty water can also be used to treat a sore throat and gingivitis (inflamed gums).

Suggested dosage: foot/toenail infection: soak for 20 minutes twice daily; sore throat/gums: gargle twice a day

8 Cherries for joint pain and headaches
“Tart cherries have the highest antioxidant and anti-inflammatory content of any food,” according to researchers from Oregon Health & Science University, and may be helpful for people with osteoarthritis and other painful joint conditions.8 Anthocyanins, the antioxidant compounds responsible for cherries’ red colour, are also powerful anti-inflammatories, with effects comparable to those of well-known pain medications.9

Suggested dosage: 10.5 fl oz (311 mL) of tart cherry juice twice a day

9 Ginger for aching muscles
If you’re sore after exercising, go for ginger. Whether raw or cooked, eating ginger (Zingiber officinale) appears to reduce muscle pain following exercise-induced muscle injury. Ginger’s main constituent is gingerol, which inhibits the production of pain-inducing hormones.10

Suggested dosage: 2 g ( 1/2 tsp) of raw or heated fresh ginger


1 Urology, 2008; 71: 379-83; Med Sci Monit, 2002; 8: CR326-30
2 J Am Coll Nutr, 2007; 26: 39-48
3 ScientificWorldJournal, 2011; 11: 766-87
4 Arzneimittelforschung, 2006; 56: 249-57
5 Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet;
6 Kleiner SM, Condor B. The Good Mood Diet: Feel Great While You Lose Weight. New York, NY: Springboard Press, 2007
7 American Podiatric Medical Association;
8 Presentation 1389 at the ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) Annual Meeting, 30 May 2012, San Francisco, California
9 Phytomedicine, 2001; 8: 362-9
10 J Pain, 2010; 11: 894-903

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