The People's Pharmacy Guide to Home and Herbal Remedies

The People's Pharmacy Guide to Home and Herbal Remedies

4.4 5
by Joe Graedon, Teresa Graedon
The ultimate consumer's guide to self-care with herbs, vitamins, and other home remedies.

44 % of adults take prescription medication. 1 in 5 of them also take herbal supplements. 15 million of these people are at risk for an adverse reaction. Are you one of them?

The People's Pharmacy Guide to Home and Herbal Remedies

* Provides an A-Z


The ultimate consumer's guide to self-care with herbs, vitamins, and other home remedies.

44 % of adults take prescription medication. 1 in 5 of them also take herbal supplements. 15 million of these people are at risk for an adverse reaction. Are you one of them?

The People's Pharmacy Guide to Home and Herbal Remedies

* Provides an A-Z handbook of common ailments and symptoms
* Describes safe, effective home and herbal remedies, vitamins, and dietary supplements for almost any problem
* Supplies an overview of the fifty most popular herbs in the United States, Europe, and Australia
* Lists herb/drug combinations to avoid
* Details active ingredients, common uses, and proper dosages for each herb, as well as special precautions, adverse effects, and possible interactions
* Resource listings of herbal Web pages and products

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The Graedons, both respected authors (The People's Pharmacy) and speakers, offer advice on the safe use of home and herbal remedies. The first section combines tested scientific research and accumulated folk wisdom to provide the health consumer with treatment suggestions for common ailments. Also included are possible causes and symptoms for selected conditions, as well as contact information for product manufacturers. The second section lists the 50 most commonly used herbs, including their ingredients and information on usage, dose, adverse effects, and drug interactions. By combining herbal and folk remedies, clearly highlighting dangerous herb-drug interactions, and summarizing consumer issues, the Graedons have created a consumer resource that is entertaining (favorite home remedies include coconut macaroons for diarrhea) and easy-to-use. However, more comprehensive medicinal herb reference resources include the Complete German Commission E Monographs (American Botanical Council, 1998) and the PDR for Herbal Medicines (LJ 3/1/99), among others. Still, this is recommended for smaller public library collections that don't own the other titles.--Andy Wickens, Univ. of Washington Health Sciences Lib., Seattle Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
David Rossman
January 2000

Beyond Hemp

The People's Pharmacy Guide to Home and Herbal Remedies is a volume of remedies for a thorough inventory of common ailments -- from allergies to warts. The focus of the book is on home and herbal remedies, an important domain of health care about which physicians and pharmacists are frequently unwilling or unable to provide counsel.

The centerpiece and cornerstone of The People's Pharmacy Guide to Home and Herbal Remedies is a section that alphabetically lists ailments and suggests remedies. Included is a comprehensive guide to 50 common herbal therapies, with a brief description of each -- including dosage, special precautions and potential adverse effects, potential interactions with other substances, and the active ingredients and mechanisms by which they affect the body. There is also a separate section that specifically lists and describes dangerous herb-drug interactions. This latter section is potentially lifesaving -- it warns, for instance, that too much licorice may cause arrhythmia in those taking the heart drug Lanoxin.

Through their previous work, Joe and Teresa Graedon have built a substantial network of contacts, including their readers, listeners, and fans, as well as physicians and other medical professionals. The reader is treated to deftly edited highlights and extracts from these resources. To back up anecdotal claims of effectiveness, the authors frequently cite the clinical literature or other trusted sources of information such as Consumer Reports.

The text is generously sprinkled with set-off boxes that provide recipes, questions that readers or radio listeners have asked (with the authors' answers), helpful remedies and tips, and many direct quotes from people who have tried the various suggested remedies, some with -- and some most emphatically without -- success.

A reader who looks up "constipation" will find an exhaustive list of potential causative agents, lists of high-fiber foods and psyllium-containing products, and a recipe for a special bran concoction, in addition to an explanation of the causes and some easy-to-prepare cures for this malady. This reader will find a question about prunes from one of the authors' fans and another regarding a specific herbal tea, with the Graedons' educated responses. And as if that weren't sufficient, the following personal account from one of the Graedons' many contacts is included: "Constipation has been my problem for more years than I want to count. Psyllium seed is yucky and just barely works. My solution is flaxseeds ground in my coffee grinder. I keep it in small batches in the refrigerator and take � teaspoon with a glass of juice or water daily. Sometimes I sprinkle it on my cereal or put it in a fruit smoothie. I like the nutty taste, and it has been like a miracle for me."

The Graedons write from the first-person-plural point of view in an informal, accessible, and wittily engaging prose style. And although The People's Pharmacy Guide to Home and Herbal Remedies should be comprehensible to a wide demographic, the Graedons never patronize the reader. Explanations of complex medical conditions are friendly, but at the same time, vivid and complete enough to provide the reader with a sophisticated level of understanding. For example, in an introduction to a section on benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), the Graedons write: "The prostate isn't really a bad gland; it's a good gland in a bad place. Think of a doughnut around a water hose and you'll have a good model for the prostate (doughnut) and the male urethra (the hose), through which urine must flow to exit the body. Imagine closing down the nozzle on your garden hose so that there is a trickle instead of a gush. It will take a lot longer to wash the car with such a small stream. Same thing is true when emptying your bladder if there is a substantial constriction at the doughnut hole."

Some of the solutions to health difficulties cited in The People's Pharmacy Guide to Home and Herbal Remedies are surprising, such as a recipe for Low-Fart Beans and the suggestion that urine can cure stinky feet. Others are things most of us have already heard of or even tried without knowing there was a scientific basis to their efficacy. The Graedons, however, usually know. About chicken soup as a cold remedy, they write, "A group of physicians at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in Miami tested the power of chicken soup against hot water and plain cold water in its ability to improve the flow of mucus through nasal passages. As any grandmother could have predicted, chicken soup won hands down."

Throughout the book, the Graedons cite their own experiences with the remedies they describe, as well of those of family members, friends, and acquaintances. Many direct quotes from letters, emails, and calls the authors have received from radio listeners and readers of their other books (such as the quote on constipation above) are included verbatim in the text. These quotes are one of the many strengths of The People's Pharmacy Guide to Home and Herbal Remedies, for although the evidence these firsthand accounts provides is anecdotal, the words of regular people make the reader feel involved in the process of gathering and compiling clinical information.

There is something to be said for instant feedback from people with whom we can identify. Reading The People's Pharmacy Guide to Home and Herbal Remedies is akin to participating in an informal conversation with others with whom the reader might share a common ailment and comparing notes, with the presence of the knowledgeable author-moderators to help guide the discussion. Other useful features of the book include a section on access to information about herbs, an annotated listing of "cool herbal web sites," and an index of web sites for products, services, and information. These resources are of particular value, because, as the authors make clear throughout the text, determining the quality and potency of herbal remedies marketed in the United States can be a difficult task.

This book is not meant to be a substitute for a substantive home medical reference or consumer-oriented guide to medications. But readers who keep The People's Pharmacy Guide to Home and Herbal Remedies on a shelf next to such texts will have a valuable resource that they will likely consult frequently, especially if they seek alternatives to traditional medicine. --David S. Rossmann

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
People's Pharmacy Guides Series
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
7.28(w) x 9.34(h) x 1.28(d)

Read an Excerpt

The People's Pharmacy Guide to Home and Herbal Remedies


This book is full of fascinating home remedies and herbal therapies people have shared with us, but we do have a few favorites. These are treatments we have either tried ourselves, with good results, or heard about repeatedly from readers over the years. In some cases, there is scientific research to back up the folk wisdom of Doctor Mom. Most of the time, however, it is practical experience and common sense that help relieve mild, everyday ailments. We offer these top twenty tips in the hope that you will also find them helpful.

Gin-Soaked Raisins for Arthritis

We have received more mail about this "raisin remedy" than any other home remedy we have written about. We don't know how it got started or why it works, but many readers swear it relieves arthritis pain. Ingredients: golden raisins and gin. Empty the raisins into a bowl and pour in just enough gin to cover the raisins. Allow the gin to evaporate (about one week) and then place the moist raisins in a jar with a lid. Eat nine raisins a day. They go well on cereal! (See arthritis for more details and stories.)

Black Pepper for Cuts

Thanks to Nell Heard and Wendall Dean for this contribution. Wendall is a wood-carver and scroller. His carving buddies always keep a packet of black pepper on hand for times when they cut themselves on sharp tools.

Nell, her sister, and brother-in-law Wendall were traveling through Yellowstone in an RV. One evening a mug fell out of a cupboard and gashed Wendall's head. The cut was long but not deep, and Wendall asked Nell to put pepper on it. The bleeding stopped almost instantly, and the cut healed with barely a scar

You may want to keep some black pepper handy in the kitchen and take a packet of pepper on your next camping trip. Not only does the bleeding stop quickly, the wound heals cleanly with little scarring.

Archway Coconut Macaroon Cookies for Diarrhea

This is one of the tastiest and most unusual home remedies we have ever collected. Donald Agar had suffered from Crohn's disease for many years. Diarrhea was a constant problem. By accident he discovered that Archway Coconut Macaroon cookies helped control the diarrhea better than any medicine he had taken. Lots of people have written to tell us that eating coconut macaroons has stopped their diarrhea.

This is the essence of home remedies. The discovery relied on serendipity, but Donald also paid attention to how his body responded. We cannot promise that these cookies will work for everyone with serious diarrhea, but for some people they seem to be amazingly helpful. And for mild diarrhea, there is no reason not to try.

Vinegar for Fungus

There are so many uses for vinegar it boggles the mind. An otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat specialist) recommended rinsing the ear with the following solution: one part vinegar to five parts tepid water. He suggested putting drops in the ear three times a day.

Toenail fungus can be unsightly. Try soaking the infected nails for at least fifteen to thirty minutes daily. The recipe: one part vinegar to two parts warm water. Allow six weeks to see a cure. This one worked for Joe!

Aspartame for Arthritis

This is one of the most bizarre discoveries we have ever heard about. A scientist noticed that when he got up out of his chair after watching a football game, his arthritis pain was greatly diminished. During the course of the game he had consumed a six-pack of diet soda containing aspartame. Putting two and two together, he thought this artificial sweetner might have contributed to his relief. He organized aplacebo-controlled trial involving aspartame (aka Equal, NutraSweet) and confirmed that doses of 76 to 152 mg did indeed provide pain relief, roughly comparable to anti-inflammatory agents. This research was published in the very respectable scientific journal, Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics.1

Ginger Tea for Colds

We love this remedy and use it whenever we feel a cold coming on. It came to us from a radio listener in the hills of West Virginia but originated with her grandmother in India. Grind about half an inch of fresh ginger root into a paste and place in a mug. Add boiling water and "steep" for several minutes. Strain the clear liquid into another mug, sweeten, and sip. Our symptoms start to subside within about twenty minutes. We drink this in the morning and evening, and our cold usually gets better by the second day.

Hot Water for Itches

We discovered this technique in the book Dermatology: Diagnosis and Treatment and have been using it ever since we wrote it up in the first edition of The People's Pharmacy.2 Moderate itching (the sort of thing you get from a mosquito bite or mild case of poison ivy without blisters) often responds to a hot water application. The water needs to be hot enough to be slightly uncomfortable but not so hot that it burns (120-130° Fahrenheit). If you let the hotwater tap run for a few minutes this should be about right. A few seconds' exposure is all you need to produce several hours of relief.

Aromatherapy for Hair Loss

When we read about this treatment for alopecia areata in the Archives of Dermatology (November 1998) we were astounded. The Scottish dermatologists stated that "Cedarwood, lavender, thyme, and rosemary oils have hair growth-promoting properties. These oils have been anecdotally used to treat alopecia [baldness] for more than 100 years."3 They actually studied a less common condition called alopecia areata, a patchy kind of baldness thought to be related to an autoimmune disorder

Patients were enrolled in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. One group received the following recipe: "Thyme vulgaris (2 drops, 88 mg), Lavandula angustifolia (3 drops, 108 mg), Rosmarinus officinalis (3 drops, 114 mg), and Cedrus atlantica (2 drops, 94 mg). These oils were mixed in a carrier oil, which was a combination of jojoba, 3 ml, and grapeseed, 20 ml, oils ... . The oils were massaged into the scalp for a minimum of 2 minutes. A warm towel was then wrapped around the head to aid absorption of the oils. Patients were advised to use this technique every night."4 The results were impressive. Of those who applied aromatherapeutic oils, 44 percent had improvement after seven months, compared to 15 percent in the control group.

Purple Pectin for Pain

This home remedy for arthritis pain has generated almost as much mail as the gin and raisins. One newspaper column reader related that her grandmother had been using it as long ago as 1945. Purchase Certo in the canning section of your local grocery. It is a thickening agent used to make jams and jellies. Certo contains pectin, a natural ingredient found in the cell walls of plants. There are two recipes: Take 2 teaspoons of Certo in 3 ounces of grape juice three times a day. As the pain disappears, this can be reduced to 1 teaspoon in juice twice a day. An alternate approach is to use 1 tablespoon of Certo in 8 ounces of grape juice once daily.

Fennel for Flatulence

We have received numerous solutions for flatulence, but this one seems the most popular A physician's wife wrote to tell us that her husband's serious gas problem was solved whenhe followed this advice from a Hungarian masseuse: 1 tablespoon of flaxseed powder in a glass of juice twice a day, together with two capsules of fennel seed two or three times a day. Others have reported good results following a cup of fennel seed tea two or three times daily. To make fennel seed tea, slightly crush a teaspoon of fennel seeds and pour boiling water over them.

Wart Plaster for Splinters

Here is another doctor-recommended home remedy. Russell Copelan, M.D., wrote about this one in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.5 He suggests adhering a tiny piece of salicylic acid plaster (the kind used to treat warts) over a small splinter for twelve hours. Within a few days the splinter should have worked its way out or moved close enough to the surface for you to easily remove it.

Corn Huskers for Slippery Sex

Vaginal dryness is a common problem after menopause or certain cancer treatments. Finding an acceptable sexual lubricant can be a challenge. We heard from one couple who used an old-fashioned moisturizing hand lotion called Corn Huskers for twenty-five years. They said it is slippery but not greasy and stays where you put it. Corn Huskers contains guar gum and algin as well as glycerine, an ingredient also found in personal lubricants such as Replens, Astroglide, Maxilube, or K-Y Jelly.

Saliva for Athlete's Foot

We roared with laughter when we read the letter from a woman who told us that her uncle's little terrier had cured his long-standing case of athlete's foot. Every evening when he got home, he would take off his shoes and socks, put his feet up, and read the newspaper The dog would run to him and lick his feet all over in affectionate greeting. In a few months, he realized that the athlete's foot that had plagued him was no longer a problem.

Dog saliva does have some antimicrobial properties. Dutch researchers have identified compounds in human saliva called histatins that have antifungal activity Canine saliva may also have similar properties. Do not try this remedy if the skin is broken, however, since dogs can carry bacteria in their mouths.

Coffee for Asthma

Asthma can be a serious disease that requires medical management, not home remedies. But we mentioned in the first edition of The People's Pharmacy that if you are caught without medicine, a couple of cups of strong coffee may help open airways. We later heard from a young woman who forgot to take her asthma medicine with her on her honeymoon. A walk on the beach left her wheezing, but she remembered this remedy and it saved the day.

More recently, we heard from someone who was stuck at 30,000 feet on an airplane. The asthma medicine was packed in a carry-on bag that had been checked by the flight attendant. Coffee once again came to the rescue. Two or three cups can provide short-term benefit. Caffeine is very similar to a tried-and-true asthma medicine called theophylline.

Tagamet for Warts

There are so many wart remedies it is hard to know where to start or stop. Castor oil applications are highly recommended by our readers. But one of the few treatments that have actually been tested is taking Tagamet. This research has been published in numerous dermatological journals. We consider this a "home remedy" because it is a novel use for this popular heartburn medicine. One study found that more than 80 percent of treated patients had a significant response, though it did take six to eight weeks to see improvement.6 The dose was 30 mg/kg/day.

Other studies have not had such success. Flat warts seem to respond better than raised ones. How Tagamet might work remains elusive,though one theory has it the drug modifies the immune system so the body attacks the virus that causes warts.

Valerian for Stage Fright

Anyone who has ever had to give a talk in front of a large audience knows that anxiety can be paralyzing. One woman had to give up a career as a musician because her stage fright was incapacitating. Even after years of therapy and practicing relaxation techniques, she was unable to perform in public. On her own she discovered the value of valerian. She takes it the evening before an engagement so she can sleep, and then she takes a "booster" dose accompanied by fifteen minutes of meditation just before she plays.

Vaseline for Lice

This home remedy has gotten us into a lot of trouble. In recent years lice have seemingly become resistant to over-the-counter lice shampoos, which has left families desperate for relief.

One mother wrote that a pediatric dermatologist, Neil Prose, M.D., at Duke University Medical Center, had suggested smearing the hair and scalp with petroleum jelly at bedtime, covering with a shower cap, and removing the Vaseline in the morning. The lice were gone, but removing the Vaseline was easier said than done! We were inundated with complaints from parents upset about the difficulty of this chore. Suggestions for removal ranged from Dawn dishwashing liquid to Wisk laundry detergent to cornstarch and Goop (used by auto mechanics to clean hands).

An easier solution to recalcitrant lice may be HairClean 1-2-3. It contains essential oils of coconut, ylang-ylang, and anise. One dermatologist in Key West, Florida, told her colleagues, "The lice were running off their heads like clowns out of a Volkswagen!"7

Tea for Sweaty Palms and Soles

Sweaty hands can be embarrassing, and sweaty feet can lead to foot odor and increase the risk of athlete's foot. One dermatologist we consulted offered the following home remedy: Boil five tea bags in a quart of water for five minutes. When the solution cools, soak your hands or feet for twenty to thirty minutes nightly. Tea contains tannic acid, which is also found in commercial products such as Ivy Dry, Zilactol, and Zilactin. The astringent properties of tannic acid are thought to be partly responsible for its antiperspirant action.

Meat Tenderizer and Vinegar for Stings

The meat tenderizer trick was our very first home remedy in the original edition of The People's Pharmacy.8 We stumbled across it in the Journal of the American Medical Association.9 Dr. Harry L. Arnold of the American Health Institute suggested mixing ¼ teaspoon of tenderizer with 1 teaspoon of water to make a paste. Smearing this on a bee or wasp sting relieves the pain. A variation was suggested by a lifeguard in Hawaii who had to deal with insect and jellyfish stings. He used a paste of meat tenderizer and vinegar and claimed it was magical.

Bag Balm for Dry Skin

Joe grew up on a dairy farm where Bag Balm was a staple, but he hadn't heard of using this product for chapped skin until 1990. A farmer's wife wrote to tell us there was nothing better for dry, red, cracked hands. Since then we've heard from many enthusiasts, some who maintain that this bovine beauty aid keeps their skin looking great. Knitters and quilters claim that Bag Balm or a similar product, Udder Cream, is indispensable in keeping hands from snagging on yarn or thread, and speeding the healing of needle pricks.





Edmundson, A. B., and C. V. Manion. "Treatment of Osteoarthritis with Aspartame." Clin. Pharmacol. Ther. 1998; 63:580-593.


Sulzberger, M. B., et al. Dermatology: Diagnosis and Treatment. Chicago: Yearbook, 1961; p. 94.


Hay, Isabelle C., et al. "Randomized Trial of Aromatherapy: Successful Treatment for Alopecia Areata." Arch. Dermatol. 1998; 134:1349-1352.




Copelan, Russell. "Chemical Removal of Splinters Without Epidermal Toxic Effects." J. Am. Acad. Dermatol. 1989; 20:697-698.


Glass, A. T., and B. A. Solomon. "Cimetidine Therapy for Recalcitrant Warts in Adults." Arch. Dermatol. 1996; 132:680-682.


"New Development in Head Lice Treatment." Dr. Greene's House Calls: Pediatric News. May 1998.


Graedon, Joe. The People's Pharmacy . New York: St. Martin's Press, 1976; p. 54.


Arnold, [Harry L.] "Immediate Treatment of Insect Stings." JAMA 1972; 220:585.

Copyright © 1999 by Graedon Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

Joe Graedon, a pharmacologist, and Teresa Graedon, PhD, a medical anthropologist, are America's most trusted health-care authorities. Their nine books, including the bestselling The People's Pharmacy, have combined sales of more than 3 million copies. Their thrice-weekly newspaper column appears in one hundred-plus newspapers. And their weekly radio talk show is heard on more than five hundred stations worldwide. They live in Durham, North Carolina.

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The People's Pharmacy Guide to Home and Herbal Remedies 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The People's Pharmacy Guide to Home and Herbal Remedies is an excellent source of information for both the lay consumer and the professional health care provider. What makes this book special is the Graedon's commitment to providing readable text that is backed up by solid research. Too often, books in this field are either readible but poorly-researched, or well-researched but not readable. The Graedons fulfill the readers' needs on both counts, with ample reference data for the health care professional to inquire more deeply if there is a specific patient need. I have recommended this book to numerous MDs, PhDs, RNs; and to my lay friends who don't have sufficient access to professional health care providers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I gave this excellent resource pharmacy book to my parents, and they loved it! It is packed with lots of great information, and useful home remedies that can be used every day. We got one for ourselves after seeing how much my parents loved it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My wife told me to look at this book and was pleasantly surprised. I don't usually read health or medically-oriented literature, but this one is extremely interesting. So much valuable information. Love to read about the home remedies. The text is very readable and seems very well researched.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Though I have been an RN for 45 years, I am an absolute 'lay person' when it comes to home and herbal remedies. That is why I'm devouring the Graedon's book, THE PEOPLE,S PHARMACY GUIDE TO HOME AND HERBAL REMEDIES. In fact, I have already benefited by their research and advice when I read that glucosamine can raise your cholesterol. Upon having bloodwork my cholesterol raised from 220 to 295. I have told everyone I know about this down to earth, easy to reference and very enlightening consumer's guide.
Guest More than 1 year ago
While the Graedon's have done their homework, and back it up in their bibliographies, their work does not stand out from many other similar titles. Certain that this book is more appealing to 'Lay people', as a Nutritionist and Herbalist with a Library full of reference resources by 'Experts in The Field', this one simply does not 'add' to my Library. And I find it rather curious that many of the 'Questions and Answers' are anonimous! Just received my copy today, and was just a bit disappointed!