You may have time-honored home remedies around the house that can address any number of ailments. Minerals, foods, plants and herbs have been used for thousands of years. They’re often inexpensive and effective; more so than the nostrums modern-day medicos push on us. If used more often, the cost of health care would be lower.

Supplements, herbals and vitamins are often recommended for eliminating or addressing common health complaints. The thing is, that often requires a special trip to the health food store and those items are so specialized, you might only use them for a singular purpose. Things like valerian root tincture for insomnia or fish oil for heart health or vitamin C for immune system fortification are great but not always on your everyday shopping list. Here are some things that might be hidden remedies handy in your household.

Epsom salts It’s an inexpensive natural mineral with a variety of uses. Technically known as magnesium sulfate, it’s abundant in nature. Many of the healing properties are related to the magnesium that forms the basis of the salt. Epsom salts are most commonly associated with use as a bath salt or soaking agent. [Note: Epsom salts are not the pseudo “bath salts” sold as recreational drugs.] Magnesium is absorbed through the skin and can help alleviate inflammation and muscle pain. Used as a footbath, it is known to relieve pain from bunions and even reduce their size over time. Used in the bath, it can be beneficial in the treatment of sore muscles, bronchial asthma, migraine headaches and fibromyalgia. The magnesium component, absorbed transcutaneously, helps lower blood pressure, regulate heartbeat and acts as a detoxifier. Orally as directed, Epsom salts are also a natural laxative. On the skincare side of things, Epsom salts are a wonderful exfoliator and can fight dandruff.

Salt Plain, old table salt, sodium chloride, is a vital part of the diet but it also contributes to a health regimen. One of its best uses is warding off colds and sore throats. A brief but thorough morning gargle with warm saltwater lowers bacterial and viral count in the mouth, nares and throat. It can relieve the pain of a sore throat. Rinsing with salt water can relieve gum pain or slow bleeding when you bite your tongue accidentally. A paste of salt and water applied to an insect bite can relieve itch or pain and slow swelling; works on poison ivy, too.

Flaxseed oil Cold-pressed flax seed oil is a great source of essential fatty acids when added to the diet. But it also can be helpful in relieving symptoms of eczema and psoriasis. Applied topically in a light coat, it can relieve dry, itchy, scaly skin almost overnight. We like the high lignan variety. Get advise at Whole Foods or No Name Nutrition and go for the organic, cold-pressed version. (Cold-pressed is a wise choice for edible oils, including cooking oils.)

Bicarbonate of soda Since the dawn of the pyramid age and ancient Egyptian doctors, sodium bicarbonate, identified in your kitchen by the arm and hammer symbol and the name “baking soda,” has filled a number of medical purposes, not the least of which is acid indigestion.

Are you wary of the “little purple pill”? Did you overindulge over the holiday? There is a time-tested solution in the kitchen that can soothe heartburn and indigestion — and it won’t cost a $2000-a-year medical bill for a prescription. Swirling a tablespoon of “bicarb” in a half-glass of water was the common antidote for indigestion up until the 1950s or so. Today, active ingredients in most over-the-counter antacid tablets are the same as that found in baking soda. And bicarbonate of soda doesn’t come with the nasty side effects of prescription drugs.

Common baking soda is also excellent for skincare. Good for exfoliation, it is gentle and refreshing, especially when mixed properly with a little organic peppermint oil. (Remember to dilute essential oils.) It excels as a dentifrice and doesn’t contain questionable chemicals like xylitol, formaldehyde or flavorings that are common in toothpaste. Just dip your toothbrush in a bit of hydrogen peroxide then in some baking soda and brush. It’s highly recommended and amazingly inexpensive as a substitute for toothpaste.

Onion for insomnia. Many things can cause sleepless nights. Doubtless the main cause is the drunken-monkey activity that goes on in the undisciplined mind. That and stress from it can be addressed by meditation. If you’re not a meditator, though, there’s hope in the onion.

At one time, I found alcohol intake was interfering with my life. I went to Alcoholics Anonymous before it was fashionable. Out to dinner after meetings with my new friends, I noticed most at the table ordering onion soup. Commenting, one girl told me that onions, especially onion soup, were helpful for that rebound insomnia that alcohol abstinence often produced. I tried it and slept like a baby that night. Recently, we’ve noticed that on the nights we dine on liver and onions, sleep is sound. Some folks say to chop an onion and place it in a jar. Take a few deep whiffs before you retire.

Cinnamon You’ve got it in the kitchen and may have never thought about how healthful it is. Yet research shows it is a powerful anti-viral, antioxidant and anti-cancer food. It may also inhibit Alzheimer’s. Added to any beverage, it sweetens and is an old-time remedy for colds.

There are dozens of other home-style remedies. These are just a few and we haven’t expounded on honey, apple cider vinegar or aloe plants yet.

Bad drugs. Caveat: Prescription drugs kill lots of people every year. Drugs and nature don’t always mix well so the bad side effects of drugs may not go well with natural remedies. People on drugs should consider that and consult with the drug dealer responsible.

Be well.

Heartland Healing examines various alternative forms of healing. It is provided as a source of information, not as medical advice, and it is not an endorsement of any particular therapy, either by the writer or The Reader. Access past columns at

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