Ethnomedicine/Home Remedies/W - Z
Valerian Root 
Valerian is a perennial herb with a strong, fetid, smell. Its root (most commonly administered in the form of a tincture) has uses as a treatment for cramps or painful periods, treatment for migraines, as well as a sleep aid. It acts as a sedative for most people, but for a very small percentage of individuals it can act as a very powerful stimulant.
Vanilla Extract 
Vanilla Extract is a natural remedy that can help both toothaches and burns. The ingredients along with the subtle alcohol content in the extract help to stop the pain almost immediately. For toothaches that aren’t that bothersome, put some real vanilla extract on a cotton ball or Q-tip and place it directly on the hurting tooth. For extremely bad toothaches (i.e.: ones that cause you to look sleep or you can’t eat or drink) swish around a tablespoon or two of real vanilla extract on the side of your mouth that hurts. It definitely won’t taste good, but it will numb the tooth completely. To sooth burns, dip a Q-tip in some pure vanilla extract and dab it directly onto a cooking burn. This helps to keep it from blistering. Although in both cases these provide immediate results, it is by no means a “cure” for an aching tooth. If your tooth is infected in the gums or roots this method could numb the pain to the point where the seriousness of the toothache is overlooked. When using this method it’s important to be cautious and contact a dentist.
Vapor Bowl 
This home-method is used in Western society to remedy a serious cough resulting from congestion of the windpipe and throat this practice causes the person to expectorate mucus material that blocks airflow and causes cough and irritation. A pot should be filled with water and brought to a boil. Once boiling, add a dash of salt or baking soda. Take off of the heat source and let the boil subside so as not to burn the face. Once simmering, place the afflicted person’s head over the bowl and cover with a towel large enough to form a tent over the bowl. The person then takes deep breaths of the vapor coming off of the bowl until it becomes difficult to breathe or a cough is induced. Repeat until a cough is induced and the person should hack out all of the material which had obstructed air flow. While somewhat unpleasant at times, this method is quite effective at relieving discomfort and speeding the healing process. See Decongestion
Vapor socks 
Having a stuffed up nose can make if very hard to sleep at night. A plugged up nose makes it hard to talk, can lead to plugged up ears, and makes life uncomfortable in general. There have been many methods for clearing up plugged up noses in the past but most have a high failure rate. However, with a little vicks vapor rub and a nice pair of loose socks, stuffed up noses can be cleared up within a couple minuets.
What is needed is a) vicks vapor rub which can be found in almost any drug or grocery store, b)socks that are loose enough to let the vapors rise, c) pajama pants and d)a comfortable bed to sleep in. The best part about this remedy is that it is simple, quick, and works while the person is asleep. This method can be used as many nights as necessary and the only side effects are the smell of the vapor rub and the need to wash the socks afterwards. Vicks Vapor Rub is normally used on the chest or in the nose to open up nasal passages but using it on the feet has its advantages.
Here are the steps for Vapor socks. When about to get in bed, apply a layer of Vicks Vapor rub all over the bottom of the feet. The layer needs to fully cover the bottom of the feet but it does not need to be thick. Then put on a pair of loose socks, making sure that the legs of the pajama pants cover the socks. This allows the vapors from the rub to travel up the pant leg, underneath the shirt and up out into the nose where it opens up the nasal passages and allows for air flow. This keeps the person from having to put rub on their chest or in their nose where the vicks rub can sometimes be too strong or dry out the throat. The vapors rise all night long or until the rub wears off on the feet. This is convenient since the person using it does not have to do anything, just sleep away and get a good nights sleep.
Have problems with cracked feet or hands? Well, vaseline is a very easy home remedy for this particular problem! Simply rub some vaseline on one's hands and feet before going to bed, putting old socks over feet and gloves over hands. The next morning, one should wake up with soft hands and feet. This should be done as needed.
Vicks VapoRub 
Vicks VaboRub is used to treat coughs and common cold, and nasal congestion. If applied to sore muscles and joints, it can also temporarily relieve minor aches and pains. This preparation can be rubbed on the chest to enable inhalation of the vapour, or added to hot water and the steam inhaled. Its action when added to a steam inhalation mainly results from the warm moisture which liquefies and loosens mucus, allowing more effective clearance of the airways. Not one specific culture group is associated with VapoRub, but the company that manufactures it, Procter & Gamble, is an old American company which also is the maker of DayQuil and NyQuil products.
The four active ingredients in this preparation, levomenthol, eucalyptus oil, turpentine oil and camphor, have been used traditionally as inhalations for their decongestant effect and soothing aroma. Levomenthol has mild local anaesthetic, cooling and decongestant properties and is often included in cough and cold remedies to act as a decongestant. It is not fully understood how it produces its effect.
For adults and children over two years, rub a thick layer on chest and throat or rub on aching muscles, if needed, cover with a warm, dry cloth. Repeat this up to three times per 24 hours. Vicks VapoRub is reportedly to have no side effects and has been widely used for many years without poor consequence.
Western society Vicks Vaporub is used primarily to relieve congestion, but interestingly is also used to cure toenail Fungal Infections. When applied generously over the infection once or twice daily the Vicks gradually penetrates and softens the nail, and this over time will allow for removal of damaged portions of the nail as the nail grows forward. This application can vary from person to person, with some cases resolving in a matter of weeks, to other cases that may take months to cure. There are no side effects from using Vicks on for toenail fugus treatment, only methol smelling toes. Vicks is not associated with one culture, but its use as a toenail fugus remedy has been traced primarily to Western Culture.
In the instance of sunburn, a very little known remedy is vinegar. Pour vinegar on a cotton ball and gently dab onto the surface of the afflicted area. Use vinegar as soon as burning is noticeable; however do not use on 2nd or 3rd degree burns. In the case of a more serious burn contact a local physician. Vinegar can be used as a treatment for as long as the burn persists, but it is most affective if used within 2 days of the initial burn. Vinegar has been used in American households for the past decades to treat sunburns.
Natural herbal creams such as those made by Burt's Bees can also help sooth burned areas. Mild creams such as "A & D" which contain lanolin can also help sooth and protect burned, sensitive areas. Applying a think layer of Noxima will also help sooth the burn.
When added to a hot bath, vinegar can also help treat "worms" or other anal-inhabiting bugs/infections. Definitely ask your doctor before trying this, however, for it is not for every case.
Local governments place bottles on many Australian tropical beaches to be used as first aid for jellyfish stings.
Vinegar and Cayenne Pepper 
A person’s use of speech is one of the most important aspects to everyday life in our society and without it simple tasks can become very difficult. The usual home remedies to repair a strained voice can result in a few days rest from talking or drinking a warm liquid like tea with some lemon and honey. However, there is another solution that may succeed in bringing back your voice in no time. Take a small glass and fill it with approximately ½ a cup of regular vinegar and mix in ½ a teaspoon of cayenne pepper a tablespoon of warm water and a pinch of salt. Stir the mixture so that the pepper flakes and all the other ingredients are evenly dispersed in the vinegar and gargle half of the mixture for about 10-15 seconds. Spit the Mixture out and repeat until the glass is empty. Repeat this process once or twice a day. Generally the voice should begin to return within a day. The risks involved in this treatment deal specifically with taste preferences. This practice has been used since the Civil war where soldiers used cayenne pepper to cure many ailments.
Vinegar and Sugar 
There are many theories on how to cure hiccups. Hiccups occur when the diaphragm, which is used when breathing, begins to contract uncontrollably. One of the stranger methods of hiccup curing is using a spoonful of sugar with a few drops of vinegar on it. After eating this, the hiccups go away.
Vinegar and Water Mixture 
Have Dandruff problems? You are not alone. Dandruff is a common problem causing 97% of Americans to suffer from dandruff at some time. One out of every two persons in the world has problems with dandruff. The common routine to treat dandruff is to use anti-dandruff shampoos. But, what many people do not know is that you can use simple and effective home remedies to treat this problem.
One of the best remedies consists of the applying a mixture of vinegar and water on the scalp. Make a mixture of two teaspoons of vinegar and six teaspoons of water and apply it on the scalp before you go to bed. Wrap a towel around the head and keep in the mixture for the whole night. Rinse your head in the morning with vinegar water again. If you continue to treat your hair with this remedy for a few months, it will prevent your problem dandruff.
White Vinegar 
Athletes foot is a common illness that occurs among active people in sports. Athletes Foot is a foot infection that is fungus growing on dead skin cells. For the most part is seen around the toes and causes irritation that can lead to itching, inflammation and blisters.
What causes this illness is moist and damp conditions that are suitable for fungus to grow. These are places such as bathrooms, swimming pools, and showers. It is also possible to be infected by your pets because they carry the fungus in their fur. You can get this illness through sharing socks with a friend.
To solve this you must first prepare a solution with water and white vinegar. One part of the white vinegar to four parts of water. You must soak your foot (or feet) for 20-30 minutes twice a day. Rub some baking soda in between your toes and rinse your feet after fifteen minutes have passed. Afterwards rub tea tree oil between your toes because it has antifungal properties. To help with the itching you will want to soak your feet in antiseptic mouthwash (Listerine) and/or corn starch. When your toes are dry, spread some corn starch on them.
Vitamin C 
Vitamin C is a well known vitamin that is essential to basic human needs. Sometimes referred to as Ascorbic Acid, Vitamin C is necessary for human growth and development. Vitamin C is essential for the healing of cuts and sores, and the maintenance of cartilage, bones, and teeth. The human body, unlike other animals, does not produce its own Vitamin C. It should be taken daily. Fruits and vegetables are high in Vitamin C as well as other essential vitamins. Citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes, and leafy greens are excellent sources of Vitamin C. You can also get your daily intake by form of a vitamin or pill. Vitamin C is essential for healthy hair, skin, and teeth. Most importantly it helps to keep you healthy. Vitamin C is often used as remedy for the common cold. It is generally taken in the form of a pill, or in eating foods that are rich in vitamin C such as citrus fruits and broccoli. It has been assumed that if a person takes a lot of this vitamin, the immune system will build up and fight colds more proficiently. According to Vitamin C and the Common Cold (Linus Pauling, 1970), a recommended dose once a person has a cold is 500 to 1000 mg every hour for several hours. Although this remedy was widely popular, and still is for some people, scientific research has shown that vitamin C does not have a significant effect on either the intensity or the duration of the cold.
Vitamin E 
No matter how a scar is created, by a hot stove, broken glass, or a surgeon’s knife, they are often inconvenient, embarrassing, or simply unattractive. These marks on the skin are also frequently accepted
When washed over a minor jellyfish sting, vodka (cheap or expensive) can be just as effective as antihistamines at neutralizing the venom. This method was popularized by the television show Mythbusters. In a side-by side comparison the vodka at least matched the effects of a commercial antihistamine spray, according to their brave test subject. When experiencing severe reactions to a sting, more powerful medicines should be sought out.
Warm Compress 
A warm compress directly applied to your eye is the best way to treat pink eye at home during the 7 to 10 days that it typically takes to clear up on its own. The warm compress is the preferred technique of Western cultures when treating pink eye because it relieves pain and discomfort while also moisturizing the eye.
Warm Milk 
Warm milk is commonly used in the western culture to lull one into sleep. Warm milk contains two substances that are known to be related to sleep and drowsiness. The hormone melatonin and the amino acid tryptophan. The amount of these two substances in a glass of warm milk is very small, however, many believe it has a psychological effect on the mind that brings drowsiness to the consumer.
Warm Washcloth In Cup 
When suffering from an ear ache, it can be very soothing to put a wet washcloth or paper towel that has been heated in the microwave into a fairly small cup, and then hold that cup up to the ear that is aching, in such a way that the warmth and steam are trapped between the cup and your ear. This remedy is often used in Western cultures.
Water is so common that it is often overlooked. It has been here longer than any of us and is one of the largest natural resources on this earth. By drinking water we are providing our bodies with hydration and natural anti-oxidants that may help our bodies build up our immune system. Water is also very healthy for our bodies because it quenches the thirst without giving us the extra calories, sugars and sodium’s that we do not necessarily need. Water can also be used as a way to prevent the body from obtaining a hangover from a night of drinking too much alcohol. By drinking alcohol you are dehydrating your body and using up your amino acids. If during the night of drinking and partying you add drinking water with drinking alcohol it is possible to prevent the severity of the hangover you may receive the next morning. This is mostly caused because of the amounts of water being consumed as well as alcohol, the body will have to clear the tubes which gets rid of many toxins that may cause hangovers. On the plus side it will not reduce how drunk you can get and will only re-hydrate the parts of your body that had been dehydrated by how much alcohol had been consumed.
Water-Pencil Trick 
One remedy for curing the hiccups is the Water-Pencil Trick. When a person contracts a mild to severe case of the hiccups, they should resort to this trick in order to alleviate their symptoms quickly and completely. The Water-Pencil Trick should be used at the first signs of oncoming hiccups in order to prevent physical discomfort of the throat and stomach.
As hiccups begin to occur, a person should quickly locate a cup, a source of drinking water, and a wooden pencil. If a wooden pencil is unavailable, a mechanical pencil or pen will suffice. The person should fill the cup with water – the more the cup is filled, the better the trick will work. They should than place the pencil in their mouth so that the pencil is parallel to the ground, with the eraser sticking out of the mouth on one side and the point sticking out on the other. The person must bite down on the pencil firmly, preferably with their back teeth. After the pencil is securely in place, the person should commence to drink the entire cup of water with the pencil still in their mouth. This process can be messy. So, it is better if one is able to drink their water over a sink or a trash can.
Drinking a whole cup of water while holding a pencil in one’s mouth not only focuses one’s concentration on something other than the undesired hiccups, but it also helps to regulate one’s breathing. When the process is complete, the hiccups should be completely gone. If hiccups persist, one must repeat the process until the desired affect is achieved. The origins of this remedy are unknown.
The ingestion of wheat grass started in the 1930s in the western world and has increasingly been believed as a healthy measure to prevent disease. Wheatgrass is a green, grass-like plant related to wheat. It is most often served in the liquid form, by crushing fresh leaf buds.
Some believe that it heals digestive problems, cancer, menopausal symptoms, diabetes, and heart disease, and also detoxifies the bloodstream, although none of these things have been proven. One of the most popular claims of wheatgrass a supporter is that a 30ml shot of wheat grass has the same nutritional value as a kilogram of vegetables. Users usually take a 2-4oz shot of wheat grass one or two times per day, although many ingest it more often. High dosages may lead to nausea, but no long term health consequences have been found.
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. There are many different signs of the flu, among them are fever, myalgia, headache, malaise, nonproductive cough, sore throat, and rhinitis.
Flu viruses spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing of people with influenza. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.
At the first hint of cold or flu, prepare a hot mug of oatmeal made with honey and milk or cream. Add 1 jigger of whiskey. Take it at bedtime. Be sure to wear warm pajamas and socks. Add extra blankets. You will soon break a fever and circumvent the illness. This is an old Nova Scotia remedy that ever fails!
One home remedy for the flu is the taking of whiskey. The way to apply this cure is to make a cup of uncaffeinated tea, add some honey and 1 shot of whiskey.
Wood Ash 
Daily brushing, regular flossing, home whitening kits, and semiannual dentist trips are all methods applied toward the goal of a dazzling, white smile. It may be shocking but an effective way to whiten up your teeth is to brush them with wood ash. The reason wood ash whitens your teeth is because it contains potassium hydroxide (aka lye). However, only hard wood ash contains significant concentrations of potassium hydroxide, soft wood ash does not. To whiten your teeth take a small amount of hard wood ash and mix it with a small amount of water to form a paste. With the paste brush vigorously for the dental recommended 2 minutes. Brushing daily with wood ash will brighten up that dull listless smile in no time! Although wood ash will brighten up any smile it is important to exercise caution when using hard wood as a tooth whitening agent. The harshness of the potassium hydroxide could significantly damage your teeth over time via enamel erosion and calcium depletion.
Yarrow Plant 
The Yarrow plant, or arrowroot, can be found throughout the northern hemisphere, most ubiquitous. It has been utilized by countless cultures, from the ancient Romans to indigenous tribes of North America. Its main use is treating cuts and abrasions, although it can also be used as a minor stimulant, treatment for colds, and pretty much anything under the sun. The leaves have the tendency to clot blood, so therefore yarrow can be quite helpful if one is in the woods alone with a yarrow plant and a wound that is bleeding profusely. It can also be used for nosebleeds by sticking the plant up one’s nostril, although this can potentially irritate the nose and stimulate more bleeding. The effect will take place immediately---when the juice from the plant reaches the point of bloodletting. Several people have disclaimed this miracle plant, like many of its counterparts, but the interesting fact is that so many cultures across the globe independently decided to use the plant, which gives it more weight than others.
Yerba santa 
Yerba santa, Eriodictyon crassifolium and other Eriodictyon species, were used in American and British hospitals and clinics for respiratory infections, influenza, tuberculosis and asthma until 1960. In that year, a law was passed requiring that all medicines had to have proven efficacy. No company was willing to fund clinical trials of yerba santa due to potential problems with patenting a plant preparation. Despite nearly one hundred years of clinical use, yerba santa was abandoned. Yerba santa is used by crushing 3 leaves in a cup of hot water and slowly drinking the tea.
Yoga is a form of alternative medicine that helps in preventing stress. Yoga is commonly practiced with breathing exercises, different physical postural forms, and meditation. It can be practiced daily or a few times a week for optimal relaxation. Yoga helps to calm the nervous system and relaxes the mind, body and spirit. It also has been shown to reduce blood pressure, and ease sleeping and digestion. It also physically provides an intense workout, strengthening the whole body. Yoga workouts have also been designed specifically for people with cancer and heart problems. For cancer patients, in addition to their main forms of therapy, yoga reduced fatigue and improved mental states. For cardiac patients, yoga provides stretching, relaxation and breathing techniques. Yoga originated over seven thousand years ago in India, and is now widely popular and practiced all over the world.
Yoga as Exercise 
Yoga is the practice of meditating to achieve full mental relaxation. It is used as a means of gaining spiritual and psychological balance and knowledge. Originally used by the Hindu in India and the Buddhists of other Eastern Asian countries primarily for spiritual reasons, it has become popular in the western world as a form of exercise, maintaining the reputation of both a mind and body workout.
Western Yoga combines breathing, meditation and physical exercise, helping reduce the likelihood of diseases and health problems including stress, heart disease, asthma, high blood pressure and back pain. For yoga to reach its maximum preventative capabilities, one should participate a few times a week, in hour-long increments. Although there are no proven negative side effects of yoga, there is a chance of soreness and muscle pulls if not practiced properly. Stretching, proper hydration and knowing one’s limits are all good measures to take to ensure a healthy yoga lifestyle.
Yogurt for Canker Sores 
Although dairy allergies can be a trigger for canker sores, yogurt can be a resource to reduce pain and help the recovery process. Yogurt with Acidophilus cultures is believed to combat the bacteria that is present at the site of a canker sore. It helps to relieve symptoms and decreases the amount of time that a person has to suffer. It is recommended that a person who wishes to try this home remedy eat 8 ounces a day, but one should pay attention to see if the dairy product may be increasing the appearance of canker sores.
Canker sores affect people all over the world. There are believed to be many causes, and some people can get them on a regular basis. Consumption of citrus fruits and juices, wheat products, or injuries to the gums or mouth can precede many canker sores. While avoiding foods that trigger canker sores is the best method, when you are afflicted by a canker sore there is no way to make them disappear immediately. They can only be treated to help relieve pain. Although over the counter localized anesthetics are an option, a home grown remedy is to consume Yogurt with Acidophilus cultures often while afflicted by a sore. The yogurt is believed to help speed up your body's response to the sore, and relieve pain at the site. The bacteria introduced from the yogurt may combat the bacteria that is causing the sore, helping to reduce the time that a patient would have to suffer. However, given that food allergies--possibly to dairy--can cause the sores themselves, this remedy might not be for everyone.
Zinc may be used to prevent the common cold by boosting the immune system and providing general support for protein synthesis throughout the body. Zinc is found naturally in many foods including: lean meats, nuts, beans, and foods containing whole grains. A supplement form of zinc is also available, and may be purchased in most grocery stores. The recommended dosage is 15mg per day for males and 12mg per day for females. However, it is important to note the amount of zinc you consume, as it may have some harmful effects if taken too liberally (the highest body tolerance of zinc is about 40mg per day). These effects include nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting and, if taken over a long period of time, anemia. Zinc has been used in supplement form in the US for years (such as in Emergen-C, Airborne), but has been naturally consumed by people all over the world through protein-rich foods.
Zinc is a mineral that promotes healthy immune systems and is crucial to producing certain enzymes in the body. Zinc is found in many foods and vitamins and has been shown to be important in the prevention of colds as well as other ailments. There are many ways to get the recommended dosage of Zinc including eating certain foods such as bran, wheat products, cocoa, meat, fish, nuts and other protein rich foods and store bought dietary supplements such as Airborne. A specific cold preventative using Zinc are Cold-Eeze lozenges. Cold-Eeze is the only family of cold prevention products that contains zinc gluconate glycine a formula that in several double blind placebo studies was shown to reduce the duration of a cold by 42 percent. These lozenges are non-sedating and are recommended every three to four hours at the first sign of cold symptoms. In order to get the full zinc absorption possible the lozenges should not be chewed and citrus fruits or juices should not be eaten half an hour before or after taking a lozenge. Cold Eeze should not be eaten on an empty stomach. These lozenges are available to everyone at the supermarket, are safe a great way to get needed zinc and taste good too!