15 Natural Remedies From Around the World

In Sri Lanka: Coconuts Battle the Bulge

The average Sri Lankan eats 116 coconuts every year -- yet folks living in this tropical paradise are just half as likely as Americans to get pudgy. The reason: Coconut oil is packed with medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) that prod the liver to burn body fat 50 percent faster than normal. When women eat two tablespoons of coconut oil, six ounces of fresh coconut meat or 10 ounces of coconut milk daily, they can effortlessly shed up to three pounds every month, says Mary Enig, Ph.D., author of Eat Fat, Lose Fat.

In Austria: Yoga Erases Insomnia

Yoga is a wildly popular stress-buster and insomnia cure in Austria (folks there don’t just practice at home and in classes -- they also go on yoga retreats and holidays!). And according to University of Pennsylvania researchers, practicing yoga for as little as 20 minutes daily banishes insomnia as effectively as sleeping pills, plus it dampens anxiety, chronic stress and blue moods for 60 percent of women within two weeks.
Yoga’s gentle stretches and controlled breathing aids production of GABA -- a brain hormone that lulls the central nervous system into a calm, relaxed state, the study authors say. 

In Indonesia: Ginger Tames Triglycerides

Indonesia grows, and consumes, more ginger than almost any other country in the world. And the locals don’t just toss this flavorful root into stir fries -- they use it to make ginger tea, candy, bread and a host of other tasty treats. They’ve always consider this herb a potent heart tonic -- and now studies back them up. According to Stanford researchers, a daily dose of ginger can cut your production of artery-clogging fats called triglycerides by 27 percent. Plus, it’s twice as effective as aspirin at preventing dangerous blood clots -- ginger dampens inflammation, which is a key step in stopping the formation of clots, Stanford researchers say. The study-proven dose: 1/2 tablespoon daily.

In India: Turmeric Steadies Blood Sugar

In India, turmeric isn’t just a flavorful spice -- it’s a medicinal staple and one of their go-to herbs when blood sugar problems flare. And now research at India’s Gujarat University confirms that turmeric’s active ingredient, called curcumin, switches on the genes that keep blood glucose levels in check. This compound also helps the pancreas’ ability to make insulin when sugar levels creep up. You must take at least half a teaspoon daily in order to see the benefits so start thinking about adding them to your meat and veggie dishes. A little dash also tastes great on eggs and rice.

In Japan: Mushrooms Control Cholesterol

These edible fungi are considered to be both food and medicine in Japan, and the average Japanese woman noshes at least eight pounds of them every year. Adding at least half a cup of mushrooms to your daily diet could cut your cholesterol levels as much as 30 percent, according to Penn State studies. The reason? Mushrooms are packed with antioxidants that dampen the liver’s production of artery-clogging fats, the study authors say.
Bored of button mushrooms? Criminis (which look like coffee-colored button mushrooms) have a richer, earthier flavor. Portobellos are great grilled, stuffed, or used as a meat substitute in burgers and sandwiches. And maitakes and shiitakes have a stronger, smoky flavor that can jazz up veggie and pasta dishes beautifully.

In England: Mustard Baths Quell Muscle Pain

Soaking in a hot mustard bath is a traditional English remedy for tight, achy muscles. Think that’s a weird (and smelly) proposition? Mustard actually has healing plant compounds that draw toxins out through pores, improve circulation, relax tight muscles and speed healing of damaged tissues, says James F. Balch, M.D., co-author of Prescription for Natural Cures.
To do: Mix 2 cups epsom salts, 1/4 cup baking soda and 1/4 cup dry mustard powder in a jar, then add 1/4 cup of this healing mix to the hot running water as you fill your tub. Soak 20 minutes, then rinse.

In Germany: Chamomile Tea Beats Bloating

It started as a simple German folk remedy, but science now proves its effectiveness. According to Stanford University researchers, sipping two cups of this soothing brew daily helps ease bloating and belly pain within 24 hours. Chamomile calms the adrenals, reducing their production of cortisol -- a stress hormone that’s notorious for sabotaging digestion and triggering gas formation, belly spasms and painful spasms, explains Dr. Balch.
According to a study in the Journal of Pharmacological Sciences, sipping chamomile tea can rev up your brain’s production of enkephalins -- painkilling hormones that also help chase away blue moods.

In China: Acupressure Prevents Headaches

As many as 80 million Chinese now use this ancient healing therapy to prevent headaches. According to a study Taiwan’s Kaohsiung Medical University, daily acupressure treatments (which feel like massages, but which target specific nerve clusters in the skin) outperform prescription muscle relaxants for folks struggling with chronic tension headaches.
“Acupressure prompts the release of powerful painkilling hormones called endorphins, plus it relaxes scalp muscles and soothes overactive pain nerves,” explains Mehmet C. Oz, M.D., co-author of You: The Owner’s Manual.
Can't make it to the accupuncturist every day? Give yourself a five-minute, all-over foot and hand massage (using a firm kneading motion) -- then focus on massaging just your toes and the webbing between your fingers and thumbs (areas that contain key acupressure points for your head) for an additional three minutes.

In Finland: Coffee Beats Depression

People in Finland are the biggest coffee consumers worldwide -- they chug an average of 1,640 cups per year each (and that’s the full-strength stuff). When java was first introduced to Finland in the 18th century, it was only sold in pharmacies and was praised as a great cure for depression. Harvard research now backs up that claim. Their studies suggest sipping two cups of caffeinated coffee daily can cut your risk of blue moods by 34 percent -- and enjoying three or more cups daily cuts your risk of depression 42 percent or more. According to the study, coffee’s mix of caffeine and antioxidants stimulates the brain to produce more powerful, natural antidepressant hormones such as serotonin and dopamine.

In New Zealand: Honey Prevents Sinus and Throat Infections

Unpasteurized honey is one of the top home remedies used by New Zealand women when germs sneak past their defenses. According to researchers at the University of Illinois and University of Amsterdam, the natural antibiotics and enzymes in unpasteurized honey (but not the heat-treated kind) destroy almost 100 percent of bacteria and viruses on contact -- and that includes the bugs that cause painful sinus and throat infections.
Just mix two tablespoons of unpasteurized honey into your daily coffee or tea to prevent (and help fight) these painful infections. For best results, choose a dark-colored honey. University of Illinois research suggests that the darker types -- like buckwheat and wildflower -- contain up to 20 times more antioxidants than light-colored clover honey does.

In Mexico: Aloe Vera Smooths Rashy Skin

Traditional healers in Mexico recommend aloe vera as a remedy for rashes and other skin problems. Researchers at Dallas’ University of Texas suggest that aloe can reduce redness, speed healing, increase your skin’s moisture level and strengthen its resistance to irritants like chemicals and soaps. Not only does this reduce itching and dryness, it prevents future rashy flare-ups.
In another study at Sweden’s Malmö University Hospital, aloe vera cream even helped heal psoriasis flares for 83 percent of its subjects. There’s no doubt that aloe is a powerful anti-inflammatory that heals damaged tissues and promotes the growth of healthy new skin cells, says Dr. Balch.
If you are having skin issues, look for aloe vera cream or gel in your health food store and apply three times daily to rash-prone areas.

In Russia: Kefir Soothes Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Kefir is a creamy, fermented drink that looks like a milkshake and tastes like tart, tangy yogurt. It’s made by fermenting milk with a blend of healthy probiotic bacteria and yeast, and women in Russia sip roughly 40 four-ounce servings of the stuff every year.
Kefir is also their go-to remedy for irritable bowel syndrome -- an often-debilitating intestinal hassle that causes bloating, pain, diarrhea and other upsets for one in five adults. Kefir’s secret? It contains at least five times more healthy, intestine-soothing probiotics than yogurts do. And University of Madrid research suggests that a daily half-cup serving can trigger a ten-fold increase in healing, probiotic bacteria in your digestive tract. It’ll also get rid of the bad intestinal bugs that cause nasty digestive upsets. Look for it in well-stocked grocery stores.