In a relatively short amount of time, the way humans reason has changed quite a bit from bygone eras. Nowadays, it is the scientifically based facts and information that seem to carry much more weight than traditions, old wives’ tales, and personal anecdotes. And yet those facets of life still remain: my mother, perhaps like yours, continues to prescribe chicken soup for the sick and kisses for cuts, bruises, and falls, but do those kinds of remedies really help us overcome illness or feel better? In recent years, science has put many old adages to the test, and lo and behold, it appears that many old wives’ tales have more fact than fiction after all.
For centuries, people have used this cousin of mint to calm nerves and ease anxiety, but does it really work? The authors of a 2003 article in Neuropyschopharmacology certainly think so after finding that a cup of tea made with the stuff helped test subjects sleep better the night before and remain focused during a big presentation or other stressful event the next day. Lemon balm aromatherapy can also ease anxiety in dementia patients according to a 2002 study published by the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. Further research has also linked the plant to increased ability to fight viruses. If you’re like me, then you won’t mind a cup a night during cold and flu season if that means avoiding the hacking, coughing, and sore throat that seems to blow in with each winter storm.
Cultures the world over have long touted the benefits of onions, from Ancient Greek Olympians who swore by their athletic ability enhancing properties to Middle Eastern herbalists who used the vegetable to treat diabetes. Because I find onions a tasty addition to just about any dish, I’m happy to report that modern science has verified both of these claims: the sulfur compounds that lend onions their lovely odor, also known as thiosulfinates, have been found to lessen symptoms resulting from diabetes. A study by the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise metabolism in 2009 found that quercetin, another compound found in onions, augments endurance. Choose colored onions, either red or yellow, and don’t cook them too much to reap the maximum benefits of this versatile root.
Thanks to Columbus and the Aztecs, this spicy red powder made its way to Europe and provided an alternative to black pepper, which was a widely admired but pricey ingredient at the time. Because cultivating the plant was relatively easy, the pepper quickly became a staple in cooking and traditional remedies. Science shows this wasn’t a bad idea: capsaicin, or the compound responsible for a pepper’s heat, has been found to be an effective pain reliever, especially when applied topically. Additionally, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a paper in 2009 that indicates cayenne may also help you control your weight by allowing you to lose that belly fat and by keeping your body from producing the hormones that signal hunger to your brain. Taking advantage of cayenne’s benefits is easy: just add more to your diet: cayenne pepper is usually inexpensive to buy and goes well in casseroles, meat dishes, soups, or, my personal favorite, chili. Don’t like the way it makes your tongue sizzle? Try supplements with capsaicin extract in them.
This herb was recommended to Elizabeth I, Queen of England, in 1629 by British apothecary John Parkinson for ailments affecting the urinary tract. As the years went by, others, including a group of American doctors known as the Eclectics writing in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, suggested parsley as a treatment for the same problem. Recent research concurs, as noted by a 2002 report in the World Journal of Urology. If you are currently suffering from a urinary tract infection, parsley tea three times a day may help shorten the condition. To keep UT problems at bay thereafter, add more of the fresh herb to your diet. The bonus? Parsley is an easy way to freshen your breath. Take it from me–if your restaurant dish is garnished with parsley, don’t leave it for the server to throw away, especially after onion rich entrées.
Everyday research is showing that there’s many a truth to the old home remedies people have used for generations, so don’t skip out on your lemon balm tea, and make sure to add more onions, cayenne pepper, and parsley to the dishes you eat every day. After, mother—and science—says so.