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5 home remedies your doctor approves

Flu vaccines contain only inactivated flu viruses. They're unable to cause infection. In fact, studies comparing flu shot recipients to people who get salt-water (placebo) shots show that the only differences in the two groups are that the flu shot recipients experience redness at the injection site and arm soreness. They weren't more likely to experience body aches, fever, cough, runny nose, or sore throat. istockphoto

Whether you have a head cold, an upset stomach, or an itchy rash, fast (cheap!) relief may be sitting on your kitchen shelf. True, some home remedies are simply old wives' tales, but others have stuck around for generations because they actually work, says Dr. Philip Hagen, preventive medicine specialist at the Mayo Clinic. From our friends at Health.com, here are some healing ingredients to help ease minor ailments...

5 home remedies your doctor approves

Honey is not safe for children under the age of 1 because of the risk of infant botulism, but it may help soothe an older child's throat and cough. In a 2007 study, giving half a teaspoon of honey to children ages 2 to 5 at bedtime seemed to suppress coughing, although more research is needed. (In the study, children ages 6 to 11 and 12 to 18 also benefited from 1 and 2 teaspoons of honey, respectively.) "In my experience, while there isn't a lot of medicinal evidence that honey works to stop a cough, it may help the child feel a little better," says Dr. Cardiello. More from Health.com: 12 vaccines your child needs istockphoto

Honey

Use it for: Minor cuts and burns, cough or sore throat

How it works: Most of us have tried honey in tea to soothe a scratchy throat, but it's also been used to treat wounds for thousands of years. Last year, a review of research found that honey helps heal minor to moderate burns, and a recent Dutch study identified a protein called defensin-1 that gives the goo its antibacterial action.

Try this: Apply warm honey to a minor cut or mild burn, then put a gauze bandage on top; change the dressing daily. However, if you have a burn or wound accompanied by swelling, fever, or pain, check with a doctor instead; it may require oral antibiotics.

More from Health.com: What belongs in your medicine cabinet?

5 home remedies your doctor approves

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Salt

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Use it for: Sinus congestion, sore throat

How it works: "When you mix salt into water at a stronger concentration than the salt water in our bodies, it helps draw fluids out of tissues," explains Dr. Hagen.

Try this: For a sore throat, dissolve half a teaspoon of non-iodized salt in an 8-ounce glass of water, and simply gargle the water. To flush out your sinuses, fill a clean squeeze bottle or neti pot with the solution, lean over a sink, and squeeze or pour it into your nostril. Use only sterile bottled or tap water that has been boiled and then cooled, in your nose. (Reportedly at least two people died last year after clearing their sinuses using unfiltered tap water that contained a dangerous microbe.)

More from Health.com: What belongs in your medicine cabinet?

5 home remedies your doctor approves

A person suffering from dementia often takes longer to complete, and may have trouble finishing, everyday tasks that he or she has done hundreds of times before. For instance, a former whiz in the kitchen may have a problem making his or her signature dish or even remembering how to boil water. Common activities like remembering how to get to a familiar location, play a favorite game, or manage a budget may also prove difficult.@katiecouric: Alzheimer's Prevention TipsMore from Health.com: The Best Memory Boosters istockphoto

Peppermint tea

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Use it for: Indigestion, stomachache

How it works: The oil found in the peppermint leaf and its stems calms the muscles of the digestive tract, allowing gas to pass more easily and relieving indigestion, Dr. Hagen says. Steer clear of peppermint tea, though, if your pain is caused by reflux - you'll know from the acidic, burning feeling in your chest. (It can actually aggravate this problem by relaxing the lower esophageal sphincter, which lets stomach acids flow back into the esophagus.)

Try this: Brew a cup of peppermint-leaf tea and drink up.

More from Health.com: What belongs in your medicine cabinet?

5 home remedies your doctor approves

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Meat tenderizer

meat tenderizerUse it for: Bee stings, nonpoisonous spider bites

How it works: Meat tenderizer contains papain, an enzyme that breaks down proteins (like the ones in your T-bone steak). But papain can also break down toxins from bug bites and cut back on itching, Dr. Schaffran says. Note: Use tenderizer only on mosquito bites, bee stings, and nonpoisonous spider bites. If you experience symptoms such as nausea, difficulty breathing, or cramping in your abs or lower back, seek medical help immediately.

Try this: Mix a small amount of meat tenderizer with water to make a paste and apply to the bite. Leave on for 10 to 15 minutes, then rinse with warm water.

More from Health.com: What belongs in your medicine cabinet?

5 home remedies your doctor approves

Without a healthy go-to option for each, you're far more likely to make bad spur-of-the-moment grabs. Plus, having a staple of one or two healthy usuals makes grocery shopping easier. "You don't want to reinvent the wheel every day," says Dr. Oz, who starts his day with a bowl of steel-cut oatmeal with flaxseed oil, a few walnuts, and some raisins or agave for sweetness. For lunch, Dr. Oz recommends a vegetable-based soup or a turkey or tuna sandwich on whole-grain bread. For the kids, you can improve upon the PBJ sandwich (it's not horrible, but the jelly is all sugar) by using less jelly or turning it into a PB sandwich with a piece of fruit.More from health.com: Secrets to a stress-free, happy, healthy family iStockPhoto

Oatmeal

Use it for: Eczema, sunburn, hives

How it works: Oats pack phytochemicals with anti-inflammatory properties that soothe itchy and inflamed skin, a study in the Archives of Dermatological Research shows. Most doctors recommend using the finely ground colloidal type sold in drugstores, but any unflavored oatmeal will help.

Try this: If you're using regular oatmeal, grind it into a fine powder, Dr. Schaffran says. Put a cup of oats through a food processor until they dissolve easily into a glass of water. Pour the solution into a bathtub full of warm water and soak for 15 minutes. Using colloidal oats? Just sprinkle them into the tub and say ahhh.

More from Health.com: What belongs in your medicine cabinet?