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20 Secret Remedies Grandma Knew by Heart

Every family, every culture and every generation has time-tested remedies handed down to the younger generations. Nature is the apothecary of the wise, including grandmothers who are wise beyond their years and always know what is best. Many health maladies in the past were treated using an abundance of plants and herbs. With the advent of conventional medicines, many of these remedies are overlooked in favor of pharmaceutical medications. But here are a few secret remedies grandma knew by heart.

20 Secret Remedies Grandma Knew by Heart

Draw out Fever with Vinegar
20 Secret Remedies Grandma Knew By Heart - acv drink

White vinegar or apple cider vinegar breaks down fever and drives away heat. And, there are different ways of using it for lowering body temperature. One is to mix 2 tsp of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water and drink it.

Next is diluting one-part ACV in two parts water and soaking a washcloth in it. Wring a washcloth and apply it over the forehead, tummy, feet and other fever heat points. Diluted vinegar is also applied directly on the forehead and massaged over the scalp to reduce body temperature.

Coconut for Scabies and Other Skin Problems
20 Secret Remedies Grandma Knew By Heart - coconut

Today, you can buy coconut oil and use it to relieve skin inflammations and treat related diseases. In the past, folks would extract the oil by cooking coconut meat over high heat. The delicious-smelling coconut oil is also applied directly to wounds and skin infections. Sometimes, it is used as a carrier oil to soak the roots of plants to boost the wound-healing effect.

Spinach Poultice
20 Secret Remedies Grandma Knew By Heart -spinach poultice

Spinach is not only a nutritious leafy green for the salad. Grandmas also use their pounded leaves as poultices for inflamed wounds. The soothing effect of spinach and its anti-inflammatory properties draw out heat and inflammation. It is a proven effective poultice used mostly for draining boils.

Cumin for Indigestion

Cumin (Cuminum cyminum), also known as jeera, is still a recognized spice for treating gas and indigestion in many Indian homes. Jeera water is given to toddlers to treat colic and relieve tummy aches. It is still a valuable spice today for treating a number of digestive ailments and supporting digestive functions.

Bitters for Stomachache
20 Secret Remedies Grandma Knew By Heart - herbal liquor

Digestive bitters are an old-fashioned herbal remedy for stomach pain and other digestive issues. Bitters are liquors flavored with plant extracts and taken as a tincture. These may include plants like chamomile, dandelion, fennel, gentian, peppermint or wormwood. Alcohol is not always necessary in making digestive bitters. They are also taken as an infusion or tea to alleviate stomach problems.

Vapor Rub for Colds and Flu

We can all have a good laugh about how vapor rubs became almost like a cure-all for everything. From massaging tired muscles, relieving congestion and alleviating headaches, it used to be a handy remedy. But we can’t deny the fact that the thing worked.

Grandmas used vapor rubs to massage soles before putting on socks to cure colds and flu. It gives a soothing effect to help one relax to sleep through a bout of sickness. Rubbing it in the throat and chest is also very effective against nasal congestion. Some even apply it in or around the nostrils. But this practice should be stopped since it becomes toxic once absorbed by the mucus membranes in the nose.

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Ginger Ale for Nausea

If you are vomiting and feeling nauseated, get grandma’s time-tested home remedy: ginger ale. It settles the stomach and tames nausea and lightheadedness. It is even used for taming morning sickness during pregnancy too.

Garlic to Lower Blood Pressure

In remote villages, when one is suspected to be suffering from hypertension, garlic is a helpful first aid. It is steeped with boiling water or eaten raw to lower blood pressure levels.

Garlic is still a convenient spice for blood pressure problems today. It helps the body maintain a plateau without lowering it to a dangerous level.

Guava Leaves for Incisions
20 Secret Remedies Grandma Knew By Heart - guava leaf infusion

Incisions from giving birth, undergoing surgery, skin infections are best dealt with using guava leaves. Grandma recommends guava leaves to speed up healing. Warm guava leaves infusion as wound wash not only soothe pains but also prevent them from itching. The plant is a very effective antimicrobial that further prevents surgical site infections.

Papaya Leaves for Dengue Fever

There is no medicine for dengue fever, only supportive hospital care for patients. The ability of papaya leaf extract in increasing the blood’s platelet count makes it a popular folk remedy. It also leads to several studies to prove its effectiveness which may pave the way for conventional dengue fever medicine.

Body Steam for Flu

If you have nasal congestion, steam inhalation can do wonders in alleviating the blockage. But if you have flu, grandma’s secret remedy is having a full body steam.

Leaves from therapeutic herbs such as citrus, sambong (Blumea balsamifera), or feverfew may be added to the boiling water. You will then stay under a blanket with the steaming pot for as long as you can tolerate. It works like a sauna and is expected to cleanse the body and lift the fever.

Hot Red Wine for Influenza
mulled wine

Boiled wine served hot is grandma’s elixir for colds and flu. Sometimes, it is mixed with spices such as cinnamon, orange, cloves and other ingredients in mulled wine. It anecdotally equates to saying red wine can get you drunk enough so you don’t care about the flu. Thankfully, red wine does contain flavonoids which indeed increase the body’s resistance against flu and shorten its duration.

Gin and Whiskey

Red wine, gin, whiskey, rum and other alcohol are also popular Grandma-trusted home remedies. They are used as a base solution that draws out the therapeutic properties of herbs. Alcoholic beverages have become a welcome part of preparing liniments.

Saltwater Gargle for Sore Throat
20 Secret Remedies Grandma Knew By Heart - saltwater

Saltwater gargling is not much of a secret but a traditional home remedy that is still widely practiced today. If you have a sore throat and feel the onset of the flu, salt water gargling helps. It relieves inflammation and flushes away bacteria to alleviate sore throat immediately. You can do this before bedtime and first thing in the morning to prevent the flu from happening.

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Granulated Sugar for Hiccups

One of the old-fashioned remedies for taming hiccups is taking it with a spoonful of sugar. The trick here is to create a distraction to interrupt the spasm of the diaphragm. The graininess in sugar is irritating and also makes you swallow harder. It interferes with involuntary reflexes and solves hiccups. Other remedies for it are sipping ice-cold water or biting on a lemon.

Onion for Earache
20 Secret Remedies Grandma Knew By Heart - onion juice

Warm onion juice is applied to the ear to cure earache and infection. Simply holding a warm piece of onion by the affected ear also helps. The chemicals in onion and its anti-inflammatory properties work wonders in alleviating sore ears. If you do use onion juice, make sure that only the juice and no debris get into the ear.

Clove Oil for Toothache

Clove oil is a staple in traditional medicine cabinets. It is a handy home remedy for tooth and gum pain. Back then, clove oil was applied directly to the tooth yet was not considered safe. It is recommended to dilute it in an edible carrier oil like olive or sweet almond to avoid burning the gums.

Honey for Overall Health
20 Secret Remedies Grandma Knew By Heart - honey

Instead of vitamin supplements, honey is given to children for the same purpose. It is used for boosting the appetite and treating cough, digestive problems and eye ailments. Honey is also used for treating wounds and promoting overall health.

Honey is further used as a topical cure for insect stings and treating allergies. As contradictory as it sounds, the antidote to bee stings is also its own product.

Remove the Splinter with Banana Peel
banana peel

Ever got a splinter too hard to pull out or without a tweezer on hand? My grandma would tape a section of a banana peel over the splinter and leave it overnight. It would miraculously draw out the piece without much of a struggle. I never understood why back then. But some say the enzymes in the banana peel pull the splinter into the skin surface.

Lemon for Motion Sickness

Motion sickness takes the fun out of traveling. But, trust the Grams to know how to turn it around. Vapor rubs, mentholated inhalers or a good old slice of lemon is the way to go. Lemon’s soothing scent and puckering sour taste are handy against nausea. It curbs excessive saliva production to prevent vomiting.


For many centuries, herbs served as pioneer home remedies for treating a variety of illnesses. Doctor visits were too expensive back in the day that only the affluent could afford them. Thus, people relied on nature to provide them with the cure – in quite experimental ways.

These trials and errors in herbal preparation become cutting-edge in pharmaceutical advancements. Herbal remedies became the foundation of modern medicine and many of them are still practiced today.

Some of grandma’s lost herbal recipes are indeed threatened by oblivion. Luckily, some of them are documented for us to look at whenever we need them. It also helps when grandmas list down their own remedies so that future generations can keep these valuable records. Share with us in the comments the homemade remedies you know from your grandma!

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My grandmother used to make a concoction of brown sugar, mustard and honey if we had strep or a sore throat. She would give us a spoonful to let it slowly melt down our throat.

I remember having mustard plaster poltice placed on the chest to help with breathing. Not sure what else it had in it.

2 Tbsp Keens Mustard powder plus 3 Tbsp flour. Mix with enough water to make a spreadable paste. Spread between paper towels, and put paper towel mustard plaster in flannel cloth. Rub chest with Vaseline or some other rub, place mustard plaster on area for 20-30 min. Still use that for chest colds.

For the salt water sore throat gargle and some apple cider vinegar. My family does this. Seems to help much more than just salt water. It’s what mom gave us.
One remedy that mom used for earache I now know was not so good but it helped. She would blow cigarette smoke into the hurting ear. Mom was not a smoker so this was not something she liked. I now 70 years later believe it was most likely her warm breath that soothed. She also warmed a teaspoon of oil and put in the offending ear then blocked it with a tuft of cotton. That also soothed.
Thank you for this article. Many of them I knew but some I did not. The first one is new for me.

My grandmother used to give us chamomile tea for stomach aches. It helped a lot. Also, you say there is no medicine for dengue fever. However, here in southern Ecuador, the people use chinchona bark tincture. Also, I helped many people in my town and beyond using calcium hypochlorite (pool shock).One size 0 capsule filled with granules per their approximate body weight (half a capsule = 100 lbs.) taken once every 2 hours with 2 glasses of water away from food. Six capsules and every person, except people over 200 lbs., was better the next day.

To get splinters out we used grandmas sunlight soap and raw sugar mixed into a poultice and held on the wound overnight with a bandaid.

Apple cider vinegar is used for skin tags also
Tea tree oil. Works great

For a sore throat when we had a cold, mum would give us a mix of olive oil and sugar to suck on by a teaspoon at a time while we were at school. Always worked.
And my dad was a beekeeper. He always swore by putting honey on a bee sting as soon as you flicked the barb out. Took away the pain and the swelling was hardly there if you did it straight away. If we didn’t put the honey on, the pain & swelling were really noticeable, so I can vouch for that one! It really works.

Soak in as warm Epsom Salt as you can stand 3 times a day for 20-30 minutes for puncture wounds. It even works on other wounds and if done 2-3 times a day for diabetic foot wounds shortens healing time significantly. It works as a laxative also, just don’t use it with abdominal pain that may be the appendix. If you are short on Magnesium you can take soaking baths in warm Epsom Salt (about a cup per bath tub of water) soak. It helps by magnesium being absorbed by the skin.

A shot of blackberry brandy helped stop diarrhea.

My grandmother soaked a camphor cake in a bottle of rubbing alcohol for a solution to dab on insect bites (mosquito and spider) with a cotton ball.

Great article. I do wish there would have been to recipes 🙂

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