Folk medicine remedies
Many of us fall back on folk medicine remedies for ailments, whether they’re proven to be effective or not. We asked editors at some of our Reader’s Digest editions around the world to share those that work for them – and then we checked out which ones are backed up by research. Here are our favourites.
Vinegar fights infection (France)
French folklore has it that during the 17th-century plague, a gang of four thieves would rob corpses, yet never catch the plague themselves. Supposedly, anointing their bodies with a concoction of vinegar and herbs protected them. The so-called vinaigre des quatre voleurs (four thieves’ vinegar) is used today in the belief it fights infection.
Many of the ingredients steeped in it – garlic, rosemary, sage, lavender, thyme, juniper berry, black pepper and more – are proven to have antibacterial properties. “I know people who consume this regularly as an antibacterial,” says Stéphane Calmeyn, Paris-based editor of Reader’s DigeSt He adds that a friend of his with Type 2 diabetes credits it with helping regulate his blood sugar. Though more research is needed, there is evidence that vinegar, particularly apple cider vinegar, can affect blood sugar levels: it delays the rate at which the stomach empties and starch is digested, which reduces the blood-sugar spike after a meal. But check with your doctor before adding it to your diet, particularly if you are taking blood-sugar-lowering medications.
Apple cider vinegar may also prevent overeating. A small Swedish study found that those who consumed vinegar with a meal reported feeling more satiated than those who didn’t consume vinegar. That could prevent unhealthy snacking later in the evening. It’s best not to drink vinegar undiluted, as its acidity could damage tooth enamel. Instead, add one or two teaspoons to water or tea.
Papaya aids digestive health (Malaysia)
When her husband got food poisoning while travelling in Malaysia in 2017, editor Bonnie Munday heeded a recommendation for a local remedy. “We didn’t have any medicine for tummy troubles, but our hotel manager advised eating ripe papaya,” says Bonnie, who is on Reader’s Digest’s International Edition team and is based in Toronto. She was sceptical but bought some of the fruit from a beach vendor. “An hour or two after my husband ate it, he felt so much better.”
A study from Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that papaya, an orange-fleshed fruit that grows in the tropics, fights intestinal parasites. When researchers gave a papaya seed preparation to children who tested positive for intestinal parasites, it was shown to be anti-helminthic (capable of eliminating parasitic worms) and anti-amoebic (capable of destroying or suppressing amoebas); it treated their parasites without harmful side effects.
And results of a double-blind placebo-controlled trial that were published in the journal Neuroendocrinology Letters in 2013 showed that volunteers with digestive complaints like bloating and constipation had significant improvements after ingesting a papaya pulp supplement called Caricol. Papaya is also rich in vitamin C, and high in water and fibre content, which regulates bowel activity. “Ever since that time in Malaysia,” says Bonnie, “if we see papaya at the store, we buy it, just for overall digestive health.”
On the other hand, these are the 15 worst foods for your stomach.