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People who know me know that I have a special place in my heart for the amazing things that vinegar and baking soda can do. Really, the way I look at it, these things might as well be set in front of the Pope for canonization. They truly are miracles.

It seems that everyone seems to have some sort of kooky home remedy that’s been handed down from generations before to cure whatever may ail you. A few weeks ago, I was hanging out with some friends talking about my love for vinegar. I use this stuff for everything from cleaning the lime deposits around the sink to spraying it on my kids to ward off bugs to drinking some to help with a stomachache. Yes, I admit, my friends were laughing at me. I probably do sound like a total psycho when I talk about vinegar. But then we started to share (and subsequently crack ourselves up) some family tradition home remedies. And as we did, it got me thinking; do we always need to turn to the doctor or a bottle of medicine? If it’s not life threatening, why can’t we try natural cures?

Now, let's get this straight, I am not a doctor. Heck, I took the 5-week summer session of biology just to get it over with and then I could hardly stomach the part where we had to euthanize and dissect a frog. So the remedies that I'm presenting here are in no way meant to be medical advice of any sort. However, they may be worth giving a shot—grandmas everywhere couldn’t be that wrong!

Gas and Bloating

Sure, we've all been there. A night of spicy Mexican food and a little imbibing wakes you up with a serious gut ache in the middle of the night. There's nothing worse than lying miserably in bed wondering if you will be able to fall back asleep before the kids wake up. Sometimes a nice warm towel on your tummy helps get things moving. But according to one of my friends, she swears by eating a big dill pickle. Yep, that's right, hop out of bed and head to the fridge for a delicious midnight snack of pickles. I had to laugh at this one, because, yes, it's the vinegar in those pickles that most likely gets that gas out.

In my house, I mix a tablespoon or so of baking soda in some warm water and drink it. Beware, you are going to burp, but you will feel much better. Other friends recommended taking a big old bite off a ginger root, drinking ginger or peppermint tea, and one said her mom always made her eat a cooked garlic clove. (Great idea to give to those teens before they head out for a night!)

Ear Pain

I hate earaches more than almost any other ailment. Every time there's one in my family, I do what my mom did—fill up a hot water bottle and give some kind of pain reliever. Holding the hot water bottle toward the back of the ear where it also touches the side of the neck usually takes away some of the pain and pressure.

There are other "cures" that I've never heard of (and quite frankly, can't imagine doing unless I was in a seriously dire situation.) One friend told me to take a big white onion, boil it, and when it is soft, cut it in half, wrap it in paper towels, and put each half on your ears. While that sounds a bit stinky, it definitely sounds better than the friend who said her grandma always squeezed garlic juice in her ears. Ugh! That one should go down as helping ward off earaches and vampires!


Oh, (hic!) the (hic!) dreaded (hic!) hiccups. I love to scream a random "BOO!" to try to scare away hiccups. It actually works sometimes, because it is so startling that the person breathes in quickly and somehow readjusts their breathing. However, I have found that doing this in public is, for some reason, not looked upon too kindly.

Other suggestions from the girls included sticking your fingers in your ears and holding your breath or tickling the roof of your mouth with your finger or something soft. The tickling one sounds like a great way to get yourself to gag, so unless my tummy was a bit empty, I'm not sure I'd attempt it!

Cough, Congestion and Sore Throats

Every time I take one of my boys to the doctor for a bad cold, my doctor tells me to use a humidifier and give them a nice steamy shower. This would be a great recommendation if I remembered to clean out the humidifier after the last cold. But since I’m usually too tired from dealing with sick kids to scrub it out and sanitize it, I turn to other remedies.

My personal remedy for cough and congestion is to boil a big pot of white vinegar, place your face over the pot with a towel over your head, and breathe in. All that stinky vinegar steam gets into your system and clears you out. And, as I mentioned before, a nice shot of cider vinegar also seems to do the trick.

For coughs, I insist on a big spoon of honey. My doctor actually recommended honey after he had given me cough syrup with codeine that made me feel like I was on speed (it's supposed to help you sleep, not want to vacuum the house at 3 in the morning!) This suggestion worked for suppressing my cough, though much to my husband's disappointment, it didn't help with my housework.

For sore throats, my friends and I all found that our moms were huge proponents of gargling with salt water. However, a few moms added cayenne pepper and honey to the salt water mix. Can we say, refer to cures for gas and bloating?


Sure, it’s easy to reach for that bottle of ibuprofen when a headache comes on. But there were lots of recommendations for relief to try before hitting the meds.

If someone complains of a headache, my first thought always is dehydration. Drink some water or Gatorade and see if that helps. Other cures included drinking a concoction with half cola and half coffee, foot rubs, and my friend that seems to love pickles, well guess what? She uses pickles. Go figure.

When you think about it, people dealt with plenty of health issues back in the days when doctors weren't so readily available. There must be some credibility to some of these home remedies. And, I'm sure some there are some doctors who would be willing to give you a couple of their secret remedies before scribbling out a prescription. Drugs are not always the answer. Maybe vinegar can save the world.

And, if all else fails, I always refer back to the best advice ever given to me by my mom--stop complaining and you’ll feel better. I think that one really worked—or at least it shut me up.

Mollie Protzman

Mollie Protzman


Mollie is an Omaha native and a mom of two boys ages 13 and 8. She's been married for 20 years and spent most of those first 10 years living in various cities around the country. Before kids, she was in marketing communications and public relations and then stayed home with her boys for 11 years while doing freelance writing on the side. The day after her youngest one went to kindergarten, she just about went berserk with the quiet in the house and nothing constructiv ...

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