Go Global: 15 Natural Remedies From Around the World
These cures will shut down pain, strengthen immunity, banish stress and erase your most stubborn health hassles, fast.
By Brenda Kearns.
In Sri Lanka: Coconuts Battle the Bulge
The average Sri Lankan eats 116 coconuts every year, yet folks living in this tropical paradise are just half as likely as North Americans to get pudgy. The reason: Coconut oil is packed with medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) that prod the liver to burn body fat 50 percent faster than normal. When women eat two tablespoons of coconut oil, six ounces of fresh coconut meat or 10 ounces of coconut milk daily, they can effortlessly shed up to three pounds every month, says Mary Enig, Ph.D., author of Eat Fat, Lose Fat.HD CONNELLY/FLICKR/GETTY IMAGES
In Austria: Yoga Erases Insomnia
Yoga is a wildly popular stress-buster and insomnia cure in Austria (folks there don’t just practice at home and in classes -- they also go on yoga retreats and holidays!). And according to University of Pennsylvania researchers, practicing yoga for as little as 20 minutes daily banishes insomnia as effectively as sleeping pills, plus it dampens anxiety, chronic stress and blue moods for 60 percent of women within two weeks.
Yoga’s gentle stretches and controlled breathing aids production of GABA: A brain hormone that lulls the central nervous system into a calm, relaxed state, the study authors say.SALLY ANSCOMBE/FLICKR/GETTY IMAGES
In Indonesia: Ginger Tames Triglycerides
Indonesia grows, and consumes, more ginger than almost any other country in the world. And the locals don’t just toss this flavorful root into stir fries -- they use it to make ginger tea, candy, bread and a host of other tasty treats. They’ve always consider this herb a potent heart tonic -- and now studies back them up. According to Stanford researchers, a daily dose of ginger can cut your production of artery-clogging fats called triglycerides by 27 percent. Plus, it’s twice as effective as aspirin at preventing dangerous blood clots: ginger dampens inflammation, which is a key step in stopping the formation of clots, Stanford researchers say. The study-proven dose: 1/2 tablespoon daily.
Easy ginger recipes to try: Sesame Ginger Steak and Noodle Salad with Thai-Style Dressing,Steamed Clams with Ginger and Garlic, and Ginger-Teriyaki Cheeseburgers.PAUL TAYLOR/STONE/GETTY IMAGES
In India: Turmeric Steadies Blood Sugar
In India, turmeric isn’t just a flavorful spice: it’s a medicinal staple and a go-to ingredient when blood sugar problems flare. And now research at India’s Gujarat University confirms that turmeric’s active ingredient, curcumin, switches on the gene that keeps blood glucose levels in check. This compound also helps the pancreas’ ability to make insulin when sugar levels creep up. You must take at least half a teaspoon daily in order to see the benefits, so start thinking about using this golden rhizome in your cooking today: in powdered form, or fresh from an Indian grocery store.
Try these easy recipes using curry paste, which contains turmeric, today:
Leila's Guyanese Chicken Curry, Toasted Curry Pumpkin Seeds, and
Red Curry Peanut Noodles.DINODIA PHOTOS/FOODPIX/GETTY IMAGES
In Japan: Mushrooms Control Cholesterol
These edible fungi are considered to be both food and medicine in Japan, and the average Japanese woman noshes at least eight pounds of them every year. Adding at least half a cup of mushrooms to your daily diet could cut your cholesterol levels as much as 30 percent, according to Penn State studies. The reason? Mushrooms are packed with antioxidants that dampen the liver’s production of artery-clogging fats, the study authors say.
Bored of button mushrooms? Criminis (which look like coffee-colored button mushrooms) have a richer, earthier flavor. Portobellos are great grilled, stuffed, or used as a meat substitute in burgers and sandwiches. And maitakes and shiitakes have a stronger, smoky flavor that can jazz up veggie and pasta dishes beautifully.
Try these easy, healthy mushroom recipes now: Roasted Mushroom and Lentil Soup with Crusty Bread,Best Portobello Mushroom Burger, and Mushroom Strudel.
MARTIN BARRAUD/OZO IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES
In England: Mustard Baths Quell Muscle Pain
Soaking in a hot mustard bath is a traditional English remedy for tight, achy muscles. Think that’s a weird (and smelly) proposition? Mustard actually has healing plant compounds that draw toxins out through pores, improve circulation, relax tight muscles and speed healing of damaged tissues, says James F. Balch, M.D., co-author of Prescription for Natural Cures.
To do: Mix 2 cups epsom salts, 1/4 cup baking soda and 1/4 cup dry mustard powder in a jar, then add 1/4 cup of this healing mix to the hot running water as you fill your tub. Soak 20 minutes, then rinse.KEVIN SUMMERS/PHOTOGRAPHERS CHOICE/GETTY IMAGES
In Germany: Chamomile Tea Beats Bloating
It started as a simple German folk remedy, but science now proves its effectiveness. According to Stanford University researchers, sipping two cups of this soothing brew daily helps ease bloating and belly pain within 24 hours. Chamomile calms the adrenals, reducing their production of cortisol: a stress hormone that’s notorious for sabotaging digestion and triggering gas formation, belly spasms and painful spasms, explains Dr. Balch.
According to a study in the Journal of Pharmacological Sciences, sipping chamomile tea can rev up your brain’s production of enkephalins, painkilling hormones that also help chase away blue moods.
ERIK RANK/THE IMAGE BANK/GETTY IMAGES
In Russia: Garlic Fights Viral Invasions
Russians reach for this tasty herb when they want to stamp out colds, the flu or pretty much anything. Turns out it’s not just hocus pocus! Research at the University of Florida in Gainesville suggests just jazzing up your diet with a daily clove of garlic could cut your risk of viral infections as much as 43 percent: even if you’re surrounded by sniffling, sneezing loved ones. Garlic is packed with allicin, an immunity-boosting sulfur compound that sabotages the growth and spread of invading germs, study authors say.
Try these easy garlic recipes to boost your immunity today: Chicken Cutlets with Spicy Garlic Kale, Roast Chicken and Garlic,and Lemon-Garlic Roast Turkey & White-Wine GravyROBERT DALY/OJO IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES
In Finland: Coffee Beats Depression
People in Finland are the biggest coffee consumers worldwide: they chug an average of 1,640 cups per year each (and that’s the full-strength stuff). When java was first introduced to Finland in the 18th century, it was only sold in pharmacies and was praised as a great cure for depression. Harvard research now backs up that claim. Their studies suggest sipping two cups of caffeinated coffee daily can cut your risk of blue moods by 34 percent, and enjoying three or more cups daily cuts your risk of depression by 42 percent or more. According to the study, coffee’s mix of caffeine and antioxidants stimulates the brain to produce more powerful, natural antidepressant hormones such as serotonin and dopamine.
JOSEPH CLARK/THE IMAGE BANK/GETTY IMAGES
In Egypt: Coriander Seeds Fight Food Poisoning
Coriander seed is one of the world’s oldest spices, and a popular Egyptian folk remedy for bad tummy troubles (the seeds have even been found in ancient tombs). Now research published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry suggests that coriander seeds can actually speed your recovery from full-blown intestinal infections. Coriander destroys bacteria -- including nasties like E. coli and Salmonella -- by punching holes in their protective outer membranes, explains Fernanda Domingues, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology at Portugal’s University of Beira Interior.
The next time you have a stomach upset, mix one teaspoon of ground coriander into one cup boiling water, steep five minutes, sweeten to taste. Sip three cups daily until the bug is gone. Coriander seed's nutty flavour is reminiscent of sage and citrus rind.
Coriander seeds, and the leaves of the coriander plant, called cilantro, are often found in Indian and Central and South Amerian-inspired dishes. Try these easy ones today: Wild Garlic and White Bean Curry,Chickpea curry with cucumber, and Grilled Corn with Cilantro Pesto and Cotija Cheese.MALCOLM PARK/PHOTOLIBRARY/GETTY IMAGES
In New Zealand: Honey Prevents Sinus and Throat Infections
Unpasteurized honey is one of the top home remedies used by New Zealand women when germs sneak past their defenses. According to researchers at the University of Illinois and University of Amsterdam, the natural antibiotics and enzymes in unpasteurized honey (but not the heat-treated kind) destroy almost 100 percent of bacteria and viruses on contact -- and that includes the bugs that cause painful sinus and throat infections.
Just mix two tablespoons of unpasteurized honey into your daily coffee or tea to prevent (and help fight) these painful infections. For best results, choose a dark coloured honey. University of Illinois research suggests the darker types -- like buckwheat and wildflower -- contain up to 20 times more antioxidants than light- coloured clover honey does.YUJI KOTANI/PHOTIMAGE/GETTY IMAGES
In Mexico: Aloe Vera Smooths Skin Rashes
Traditional healers in Mexico recommend aloe vera as a remedy for rashes and other skin problems. Researchers at Dallas’ University of Texas suggest that aloe can reduce redness, speed healing, increase your skin’s moisture level and strengthen its resistance to irritants like chemicals and soaps. Not only does this reduce itching and dryness, it prevents future rashy flare-ups.
In another study at Sweden’s Malmö University Hospital, aloe vera cream even helped heal psoriasis flares for 83 percent of its subjects. There’s no doubt that aloe is a powerful anti-inflammatory that heals damaged tissues and promotes the growth of healthy new skin cells, says Dr. Balch.
If you are having skin issues, look for aloe vera cream or gel in your health food store and apply three times daily to rash-prone areas.
LIGIA BOTERO/PHOTODISC/GETTY IMAGES
In Russia: Kefir Soothes Irritable Bowel SyndromeKefir is a creamy, fermented drink that looks like a milkshake and tastes like tart, tangy yogurt. It’s made by fermenting milk with a blend of healthy probiotic bacteria and yeast, and women in Russia sip roughly 40 four-ounce servings of the stuff every year. Kefir is also their go-to remedy for irritable bowel syndrome -- an often-debilitating intestinal hassle that causes bloating, pain, diarrhea and other upsets for one in five adults. Kefir’s secret? It contains at least five times more healthy, intestine-soothing probiotics than yogurts do. And University of Madrid research suggests that a daily half-cup serving can trigger a ten-fold increase in healing, probiotic bacteria in your digestive tract. It’ll also get rid of the bad intestinal bugs that cause nasty digestive upsets. Look for it in well-stocked grocery stores.HARRY BISCHOF/STOCKFOOD CREATIVE/GETTY IMAGES
In Greece: Arnica Heals Bruises
This herb grows wild in the mountainous regions of Greece, and it’s one of their go-to ancient remedies for nasty bruising.
“Arnica is now the most popular homeopathic remedy worldwide, and it’s phenomenal at preventing and healing bruises, even after surgery,” says naturopathic physician Pina LoGiudice, co-director of Inner Source Natural Health in Huntington, New York. Arnica is rich in plant compounds that reduce swelling by as much as 30 percent and improve circulation through damaged tissues, boosting the flow of healing nutrients and flushing out pooled blood, German studies show.
You’ll find arnica gel or cream in your local health food store. Gently rub into injured spots up to four times daily.
BERNDT FISCHER/OXFORD SCIENTIFIC/GETTY IMAGES