¡Fantástico! Top Folk Remedies from Around the World
Reader's Digest US|April 2021
We asked Reader’s Digest editors at our international editions to share their popular home health treatments. Here are the ones that check out with scientific research.

1 PORTUGAL

Garlic for Warts, Corns, and Calluses

In Portugal, garlic isn’t just for flavoring food. Many people use it to get rid of corns and calluses (the thickening and hardening of skin at pressure points on the hands and feet) and warts (the small growths caused by the human papillomavirus, or HPV, that can occur anywhere on the body). In fact, research from 2005 published in the International Journal of Dermatology showed that all warts treated with garlic extract disappeared within two weeks, and corns disappeared for 80 percent of subjects after three weeks. Garlic capsules could also provide some overall antibiotic protection.

Evidence It Works: The main component of garlic, allicin, is said to have topical antibacterial effects. But be careful not to allow raw garlic to touch healthy skin for prolonged periods, as it can cause burning and irritation.

2 FRANCE

Vinegar to Aid Digestion

French folklore has it that during a plague in the 17th century, a gang of four thieves would rob corpses yet never catch the plague themselves. Supposedly, rubbing a concoction of vinegar and herbs (including garlic, rosemary, sage, cinnamon, mint, camphor, and more) on their heads and hands protected them. Today, the French vinaigre desquatre voleurs (“four thieves’ vinegar”) has many uses, including as a type 2 diabetes treatment and an appetite suppressant.

Evidence It Works: Though more research is needed, studies have shown that vinegar can affect blood sugar levels by delaying the rate at which the stomach empties, which reduces the blood sugar spike after a meal. But if you have type 2 diabetes, talk to your doctor first, as the vinegar could drop your blood sugar too low.

Vinegar may also prevent overeating. A small Swedish study found that individuals who consumed vinegar with a meal reported feeling more satiated than those who didn’t. However, it’s best not to drink vinegar straight, as its acidity could damage tooth enamel. Instead, add one or two tablespoons to water or tea.

3 GERMANY

Marigolds for Inflammation

Not only do Germans use marigolds (called calendula) as a topical treatment for insect bites, acne, and dry skin but they also have their own recipes for balms. Popular formulas include combining the flowers with warm pork fat, petroleum jelly, beeswax, or olive oil and allowing the mixture to steep for a day or more.

Evidence It Works: High levels of antioxidants in the dried petals help prevent infection and reduce cell damage caused by free radicals. For people with venous leg ulcers who were treated with either calendula ointment or saline solution dressings, the marigold-infused treatment helped ulcers heal faster. Laboratory and animal research has shown that the flowers contain anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial components and that they heal wounds by helping form new blood vessels and tissue.

4 NETHERLANDS

Licorice for Sore

Throat Licorice-based candies called dropjes are as Dutch as wooden shoes, but while few farmers still wear wooden shoes, everybody eats dropjes, especially in the winter. They come in all shades of brown and black and can be sweet or salty.

Evidence It Works: A 2013 randomized double-blind study of 236 people by the Medical University of Vienna found that patients who gargled with a licorice solution before being intubated for surgery had fewer sore throats afterward.

5 FINLAND

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