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12 Trusted Home Remedies That Will Only Make You Worse

Natural doesn’t always equal safe when it comes to your body.

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Reading medication labelImage Point Fr/Shutterstock

Proceed with caution

Any herbal supplement or remedy could potentially cause liver or kidney failure or have dangerous interactions with other medications you may be taking. That’s why Ehsan Ali, MD, also known as The Beverly Hills Concierge Doctor, recommends you ask your doctor before popping any herbal pill or natural cure. “All patients of all ages check with their doctor first about what home remedy they want to try. Better safe than sorry!” He warns all his patients that many herbal supplements are not tested by the FDA and may have many potential risks and side effects.

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St John’s WortAS Food studio/Shutterstock

St John’s Wort

This herb is touted as a treatment for depression, but comprehensive studies are lacking. Dangers can arise when patients are already taking other medications. There have been incidents of St John’s Wort interrupting the effectiveness of contraceptives like birth control pills and leading to unintended pregnancies. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health warns that St John’s Wort can interfere with many medications, including anti-rejection drugs after organ transplants and warns, “It has been clearly shown that St. John’s wort can interact in dangerous, sometimes life-threatening ways with a variety of medicines.”

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This herb, grown on South Pacific islands is often suggested for anxiety. It has been found to have a calming effect similar to Valium. However, Kava has caused liver failure in otherwise healthy people and can cause allergic reactions.

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Avocado maskAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

Kitchen cures for burns

Kitchen cures can seem harmless and certainly, food products can make gentle and effective beauty treatments, such as avocado or honey masks for skin and hair. But when a person has an injury or disease, natural products can do more harm than good. Svetlana Kogan, MD, author and physician, has unfortunately heard of many potentially dangerous cures for injuries, including applying egg whites to burns. Egg whites, especially organic ones, are full of bacteria and can introduce harmful contaminants to the body, including salmonella. Instead, minor burns can be treated at home with water and acetaminophen for pain.

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Gargling mouthwashTORWAISTUDIO/Shutterstock

Gargling with mouthwash

The common cold continues to confound doctors and there’s not much sufferers can do except stay hydrated. But when the symptoms progress to an inflamed throat the common practice of gargling with mouthwash can do more harm than good. Dr. Kogan says, “Gargling inflamed tonsils with mouthwash is actually very irritating to the area and does not have any effect on potential strep throat.” The best treatment for a sore throat is warm liquids to soothe the inflamed area and getting plenty of rest.

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CoinsFedor Selivanov/Shutterstock


Putting a coin or other hard, flat object on a baby’s belly to help heal an umbilical hernia has been a common practice in many different cultures for years but it is not as safe as people think. Dr. Fisher explains, “An umbilical hernia is a gap in the layer of muscle in the abdominal wall (called the rectus abdominus muscle). The muscle usually grows together and the hernia goes away on its own in more than 90 percent of babies who are born with it. Having an object strapped to the baby’s belly is not advisable because it can cause a skin infection as well as the fact that it doesn’t change the hernia or hasten its healing.” So what should you do if your baby has an umbilical hernia? Nothing, but watchful waiting and of course consulting with your child’s pediatrician.

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Breast milkElvira Koneva/Shutterstock

Breast milk

Mother’s milk, often called “liquid gold,” is the best possible natural food for babies but its use as a healing agent lacks scientific studies. Although many moms claim their milk clears up skin conditions, it is unwise to apply another person’s breast milk to an injury or infection. Sarah Yamaguchi, MD, OB/GYN at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles warns, “Breast milk can transmit infectious diseases such as HIV and pumped breast milk if not stored properly can be contaminated and can actually introduce bacteria into an already infected area.” Dr. Yamaguchi instead advises patients suffering from infections or inflamed skin to keep the area clean and dry and seek medical attention.

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Caster oilwasanajai/Shutterstock

Castor oil

In her work as an obstetrician, Dr. Yamaguchi has seen her fair share of women in the final stages of pregnancy who just cannot wait to have their baby. She has seen many women take castor oil believing it will jump start labor. “Castor oil may help if you are constipated and need to pass a bowel movement, but it’s not going to help you go into labor and tastes awful.” What’s a better solution for those suffering from constipation? Increasing fiber intake, including trying prunes and prune juice. Here are some delicious fiber-rich snacks you’ll want to eat all day long.

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Holding stomachpoylock19/Shutterstock

Syrup of Ipecac

This syrup, made from the roots of a South American plant, is often kept in the home by parents to act as a counter treatment for accidental poisoning, as it induces vomiting. However, this form of treatment is incredibly dangerous. Many poisons do further damage when they make their way out of the body, damaging the esophagus and potentially causing breathing problems. Danelle Fisher, MD, FAAP, Chair of Pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, advises parents not to use Syrup of Ipecac at all. Dr. Fisher warns that the only appropriate reaction to a child swallowing something poisonous is to call Poison Control immediately and seek medical treatment.

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CharcoalJessica Tremaine/Shutterstock


Activated charcoal, often derived from coconut shells, is thought to trap and remove dangerous toxins from the body. It is often recommended for treating bloating and constipation. However, it is a controversial treatment. Dr. Kogan has heard of patients swallowing activated charcoal for detoxification purposes, which she strongly discourages. “It is plain dangerous because it can cause life-threatening intestinal obstructions and severe dehydration.” Eating well and drinking plenty of water can have similar, but safer, detoxification effects on the body. Don’t miss these other foods that are bad for your gut.

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Wound suppliesJatupong Arsaipanit/Shutterstock

Blowing on or licking a wound

Mothers everywhere are known for spitting on a tissue and using it to clean their children’s faces and sometimes even to clean a wound. Blowing on or introducing saliva to a cut is very dangerous. Dr. Kogan warns, “Our breath and saliva have tons of bacteria which can contaminate the wound and lead to an infection.” Instead, use fresh water and consult a doctor if needed.

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PillsAleksey Korchemkin/Shutterstock


A healthy diet should provide all the vitamins and minerals that we need. However, sometimes our busy lives interfere with our ability to get the right nutrition for our bodies. In these cases, a vitamin pill can fill the gap and ensure optimum health. The danger comes when people ignore the recommended doses and take too much of a particular vitamin. Too much Vitamin D can cause liver and heart problems, while an overabundance of B6 can lead to nerve toxicity, and a vitamin A overdose can even cause death in extreme cases. Natural or homemade remedies can be an excellent complement to traditional medicine. However, it’s always wise to check with your doctor before taking any medical treatment whether or not it’s natural.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest