By Dr. Victor S. Sierpina

I invite you to share your story about some remedies your mother may have taken from the kitchen to soothe your miseries as a child. Many of these were stout, traditional applications surviving from the pre-scientific era. Their evidence was their effectiveness, economy and safety. Often given out of hope, history, and even the hysteria of not knowing what else to do, home remedies are truly the first line of primary care.

Think back to your childhood: a skinned knee, an insect bite, a cold sore, a cough, sore throat, toothache, fever. Likely there was a home cure for all of these.

I grew up in a family that today would be considered the working poor. My dad was an auto and heavy equipment mechanic working on commission. My mom was a stay-at-home ‘50s housewife. I never remember going to the emergency room as a child, nor did my three siblings though we had vaguely heard of Blue Cross/Blue Shield. It helped, I guess, when three of us had our tonsillectomies the same day.

When we got sick, I remember going to the doctor but only sometimes. This was usually for shots. Ouch! I also remember many more times when kitchen cures were applied and seemed to do the trick. I guess they had to since we couldn’t afford a doctor visit for every minor complaint.

Now, many years later as a family doctor with both decades of training and experience, I realize this was not a bad strategy. Many conditions can safely be treated at home. Many of these help us bide time while our body’s immensely powerful immune system and self-healing mechanisms takes care of business to cure the problem or merely allow it to run its course.

Over the years, I have accumulated through my family, patients, and reading an immense collection of what I call kitchen cures. In fact, I am preparing a talk on this very topic this week for our 64th annual UTMB Pediatrics conference. Here are some of my favorites.

Cures from the kitchen:

Salt: nasal congestion, sore throat

Ice: sprains, strains, acute injuries

Water: drink at least ½-1 ounce for every 2 pounds of body weight daily

Baking soda: bites, cold sores, gastritis

Dill: colic, indigestion

Chamomile: nerves, tummy aches, insomnia

Vinegar: swimmer’s ear, stings, thrush

Olive oil: earache, cradle cap

Green tea: bites, baggy eyes, gum infections

Honey: skin ulcers, sores, coughs, congestion

Ginger: nausea, abdominal pain, arthritis

Parsley: halitosis, edema

Cloves or vanilla: dental pain, teething

Mint: colic, irritable bowel

Aloe: burns, constipation, heartburn

Yogurt: diarrhea, gut problems

Cranberry: urinary infections

Prune juice: you know this one

If you want to read more about this topic, I edited a book a few years ago called 1,000 Cures for 200 Diseases that covers a spectrum of approaches to common problems. In the meantime, I would be happy to hear your favorite kitchen cure. Send it to me at or to The Galveston County Daily News. Oh, and if the kitchen cure isn’t working, see your doctor.

Dr. Victor S. Sierpina is the WD and Laura Nell Nicholson Family Professor of Integrative Medicine and Professor of Family Medicine at UTMB.