If the phrase “home remedy” makes you want to run screaming to a licensed, credentialed doctor, we can’t blame you.

Before you head out screaming, know this: Research has proven the efficacy of some natural and home remedies. (Also: You shouldn’t scream in doctors’ offices — it frightens the patients.)

Before the advent of modern medicine, people were smushing and grinding up herbs with their mortars and pestles in the search for restoratives, curatives, laxatives and other “tives.”

Some of the time, their concoctions worked. A 2010 article in Prevention magazine quoted Catherine Ulbricht, a senior attending pharmacist at Massachusetts General Hospital, about the importance and ubiquity of herbs in modern medicine:

“Practically all of the most widely used drugs have an herbal origin,” Ulbricht said. “The number one (over-the-counter) medication, aspirin, is a synthetic version of a compound found in the willow tree. Many statins are based on fungi; and Tamiflu originated from Chinese star anise.”

Put down the mortar and pestle — you don’t have to start grinding up herbs. You might not even need to leave the house, as your refrigerator, pantry, tool box or (hint) liquor cabinet may hold the fix for what ails you.

On the multiple-choice quiz below, guess which of these home remedies can actually cure ailments, and which are just placebos.

1. For bad breath, ingesting which of these chewables helps?

A. Coffee beans

B. Pop-Tarts

C. Anchovies

D. Doughnuts

E. Flintstones vitamins

2. To get rid of that stinking foot odor, you should soak your feet in which of the following?

A. Maple syrup

B. Cheese sauce

C. Vodka

D. Petroleum jelly

E. Saliva

3. For motion sickness, either of these might help.

A. Peanuts and popcorn

B. Peanut butter and jelly

C. Dark chocolate and ketchup

D. Pork chops and apple sauce

E. Lemons and olives

4. You have an unsightly wart. Applying which of these common household items may help get rid of it?

A. Endives

B. Cinnamon

C. Carrot juice

D. Duct tape

E. Butter

5. Eating these may help ease headache pain.

A. M&Ms

B. Almonds

C. Froot Loops

D. Corn nuts

E. Pasta

6. Some inconsiderate insect went and bit you. Which kind of paste should you apply to the offended area?

A. Tomato

B. Shrimp

C. Tahini

D. Elmer’s

E. Tooth

7. A cough is no fun, but one of these delicious foods might help with that.

A. Dark chocolate

B. Peanut butter

C. Porterhouse steak

D. Tofu

E. Tofu is a delicious food?


1. A. Coffee beans (source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution). Eating coffee beans zaps the bacteria and acids that result in bad breath. If you’re averse to coffee breath, try something else.

2. C. Vodka (source: ABC News). It’s all in the alcohol, which dries out the fungus and bacteria.

3. E. Lemons and olives (source: ABC News). Throw down a few olives or suck on a lemon to stave off the excess amounts of saliva produced by the motion sickness, which can make you feel nauseated.

4. D. Duct tape (source: www.mayoclinic.org.) “The process involves covering warts with duct tape for six days, then soaking the warts in warm water and rubbing them with an emery board or pumice stone,” according to the Mayo Clinic. Now, where the heck can you find pumice around Central Oregon?

5. B. Almonds (source: justalmonds.com.) Almonds have salicin, which forms salicylic acid when ingested. Salycylic acid is the main byproduct of aspirin metabolization.

6. E. Toothpaste (source: naturehacks.com.) Peppermint essential oil may have more efficacy, but if you have none, toothpaste may abate that savage sting.

7. A. Dark chocolate (source: everydayhealth.com.) Dark chocolate contains theobromine, which blocks the action of sensory nerves and may subdue the cough reflex.