The Second Half: Do these home remedies really work?

By Kathleen D. Tresemer

Second-Half gal pal Kate sent me an e-mail with the subject “Good Household Hints.” This was a series of well-known household products suggested for uses other than their original, like toothpaste for burns or honey for blemishes.

I am not a big fan of trying stuff people suggest in e-mails, but Kate is a sound thinker with a practical sensibility. Mostly, I couldn’t resist sharing these ideas with my readers. Let me know if you have tried them yourself:

1. Relieve headache pain: drink two glasses of Gatorade to eliminate headache pain almost immediately without unpleasant side effects.

I never heard this one, although I can see how it might work. Summer is a time to get dehydrated, and drinking Gatorade would fix that pretty quick.

After working in the garden the other day, I had a good case of dehydration going. While I wouldn’t say I had a headache, exactly, I felt crappy and thirsty. I tried to drink the prescribed Gatorade and got an upset stomach halfway through the first glass. Gad, that stuff is sweet!

I turned to water instead, reclined in my easy chair in air-conditioned comfort for about 20 minutes, and voila! I felt like a new woman.

I say, “Air conditioning cures headaches faster than Gatorade!”

2. Colgate toothpaste makes an excellent salve for burns.

Did you know there are 14 types of Colgate toothpaste? Yep, from Total Advanced, to the kind with whitening oxygen bubbles, and some for sensitive teeth; some are gels, some are sparkly, some are minty fresh, and none of them is for burns.

By the time I looked through all of the Colgate products, I had a pounding headache — this time, I passed on the Gatorade and went straight for the AC.

I think I’ll stick with aloe vera gel for my burns.

3. Sore throat: mix 1/4 cup of vinegar with 1/4 cup of honey and take 1 tablespoon six times a day.

My Second-Half friend, Terri, says to take this every day when you are pregnant, if you want a child who has lots of hair and long fingernails.

“Who wants to deliver a baby with long fingernails?” I wondered, cringing at the thought.

“Yeah, and really all that stuff does is make you throw up after you take it,” she said dryly. So, maybe skip this one and gargle with salt water instead.

4. Urinary tract infections (UTIs): dissolve two Alka-Seltzer tablets in a glass of water and drink it at the onset of the symptoms. Alka-Seltzer begins eliminating urinary tract infections almost instantly, even though the product was never advertised for this use.

While Alka-Seltzer is widely known among my medical friends as a fast cure for headaches — here we go again! — no one ever heard about this use.

“Drink a glass of cranberry juice every hour for UTIs,” a wise pal suggested.

I say, “If it hurts when you pee, go to a walk-in clinic.”

5. Honey for skin blemishes: cover the blemish with a dab of honey and place a Band-Aid over it. Honey kills the bacteria, keeps the skin sterile, and speeds healing; works overnight.

I have heard this, but the advantage to getting older is: I don’t get blemishes anymore. I’ll put the honey in my tea instead, or on top of strawberries and ice cream. Crap! Now, I’m hungry!

6. Toenail fungus: get rid of unsightly toenail fungus by soaking your feet in Listerine mouthwash.

I’ve heard this one, too, but since I’ve never had toenail fungus or even athlete’s foot, I am not an expert. My favorite household cure to share for any foot fungal problems is: pee on them! Charlie Sheen’s character in Two and a Half Men explained this in great detail during one of his episodes.

Remember, when a famous celebrity says it, it must be true.

7. Prevent the screws in eyeglasses from loosening: apply a small drop of clear nail polish to the threads of the screws before tightening them.

I did this for my son when he needed glasses in elementary school. He just sat on them instead.

8. Bees, wasps, hornets or yellow jackets get in your home: spray with Formula 409 and insects drop to the ground instantly.

In the old days, we used to use Aqua Net Hair Spray. Lately, anything aerosol gets sprayed at bees or wasps that have invaded my home and, so far, they all work just fine. Even a squirt of Febreeze kills ’em, and they smell nice, too.

9. Quaker Oats for fast pain relief: mix 2 cups of oats and 1 cup of water in a bowl and warm in the microwave for 1 minute, cool slightly, and apply the mixture to your hands for soothing relief from arthritis pain.

This seems like a lot of work, and messy. Typing all day every day, I can tell you almost anything warm will help.

My favorite cure is the hot wax dip provided by my manicurist, Karla, over at Karma Salon on Riverside. A Second-Half gal, too, Karla says I can get one of those hot wax machines for home use, but when she does it, it feels so good! Plus, she massages my hands, and rubs on this fragrant lotion … well, you’re welcome to try the oats instead.

PHEW! Researching home remedies has given me a headache … give me some Alka Seltzer and call my manicurist!

In her second half of life, Kathleen D. Tresemer is both a journalist and an award-winning fiction writer. She lives with her husband on a small ranch in rural Shirland, Ill. Kathleen can be contacted by e-mail at

From the July 13-19, 2011 issue

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