Estimated to affect as many as 1.4 million Americans, inflammatory bowel disease includes a painful condition called colitis. While colitis is often treated with medication or surgery, natural remedies like bael fruit are sometimes used to alleviate colitis-related pain and other symptoms (such as bloating and diarrhea). An aromatic fruit long used to treat digestive troubles in ayurvedic medicine, bael fruit is thought to soothe colitis symptoms in part by reducing inflammation.
Although research on the health effects of bael fruit is very limited, there's some evidence that it shows promise in the treatment of colitis. In a preliminary study published in 2012, for example, tests on rats revealed that bael fruit may help fight colitis by curbing inflammation in the intestines.
Several other natural remedies may be helpful for colitis. For instance, some research suggests that such approaches as undergoing acupuncture and taking probiotic supplements may help treat the disease.
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For centuries, Hawaiian healers have practiced a form of massage known as lomi lomi. Rooted in a philosophy based on attaining harmony in mind, body, and spirit, lomi lomi aims to boost emotional wellbeing in addition soothing stress and easing health troubles. A typical session begins with a prayer, and may involve the use of meditation and breathing exercises. Also meant to clear blockages in the circulation of energy throughout the body, lomi lomi generally entails the use of rhythmic, flowing massage strokes.
While researchers have yet to explore the possible benefits of lomi lomi in scientific studies, there's some evidence that other forms of massage may help alleviate emotional problems. For instance, research shows that undergoing aromatherapy massage (a type of treatment based on using essential oils to enhance the massage's healing effects) may help lessen depression and relieve anxiety.
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An essential oil with a sweet scent, sassafras oil is extremely varied in its uses: sometimes touted as a natural remedy for issues like head lice, it's also used in the production of the drug MDMA (more widely known as "ecstasy"). But while sassafras oil was once widely used as a perfume and flavoring agent as well, it's now banned in the United States due to the potentially cancer-causing effects of a compound called safrole. What's more, the nonprofit conservation group Fauna & Flora International warns that production of sassafras oil is closely linked to the destruction of rare trees (and their surrounding ecosystems) throughout southwest Cambodia.
While few natural remedies are known to tackle head lice, sudsing up with shampoo containing an ayurvedic herb called neem might be helpful. Additionally, preliminary research suggests that essential oils like tea tree, peppermint, lavender, and eucalyptus oils) could help knock out head lice and act as an alternative to sassafras oil.
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For help in soothing stomach troubles (such as indigestion and stomach ulcers), practitioners of ayurveda sometimes rely on an herbal formula known as avipattikar. Available in dietary supplement form, avipattikar contains a dozen herbs (including amla, clove, ginger, and haritaki).
In a preliminary study published earlier this year, scientists discovered that avipattikar may help stall the development of peptic ulcers (a condition in which sores form in the lining of the stomach or the beginning of the small intestine). In an experiment involving rats, the study's authors observed that avipattikar's anti-ulcer effects may be similar to those of the medication ranitidine.
Other natural remedies that show promise as a defense against peptic ulcers include cranberry, which may help prevent Helicobacter pylori infection (a major cause of peptic ulcers). In addition, managing stress with the help of mind-body techniquesmay be beneficial for people with peptic ulcers.
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In ayurveda, a natural remedy known as bhringaraj oil has long been used to enhance hair health. Made from a mix of extracts of bhringaraj (a plant also known as false daisy) and sesame or coconut oil, bhringaraj oil is thought to help treat imbalances in pitta (one of the three doshas) and, as a result, help strengthen hair, fight premature grayness, and aid in the treatment of alopecia areata.
While scientific support for bhringaraj oil's power to boost hair health is fairly limited, there's some evidence that it may help promote hair growth. For example, a number of preliminary studies published in the past decade have demonstrated that bhringaraj extract may help stimulate the growth of hair in animals.
Preliminary research indicates that several other remedies show promise as a natural approach to healthier hair. These remedies include biotin, a vitamin widely available in dietary supplement form.
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Some skin-care products said to slow aging contain ferulic acid, a compound sourced from such plants as sweet corn and tomatoes. Rich in antioxidants (and also taken in dietary supplement form to enhance heart health and curb cholesterol and blood pressure), ferulic acid is said to treat sun-induced damage and help remove fine lines and wrinkles from the skin.
While relatively few studies have tested ferulic acid's effects on skin, there's some evidence that applying this compound in combination with other substances may be beneficial in skin care. For example, preliminary research shows that a mixture of vitamin C, ferulic acid, and phloretin (a compound found naturally in apples) may protect skin from damage caused by exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays. Additionally, a blend of ferulic acid, vitamin C, and vitamin E may shield your skin by reducing oxidative stress.
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A sweet-scented substance long used in aromatherapy, carrot seed essential oil is sometimes touted as a natural solution for stress relief. It's thought that breathing in the somewhat earthy fragrance of this essential oil can send messages to the limbic system (a brain region known to influence the nervous system) and, in turn, promote relaxation.
Despite its long history of use, the aromatherapeutic effects of carrot seed essential oil have yet to be explored in scientific studies. If you're seeking an aromatherapy remedy for better stress management, consider blending carrot seed essential oil with lavender essential oil (a substance shown to possess sedative properties). When combined with a carrier oil and massaged into your skin (or added to a bath), a blend of carrot seed and lavender oils may help you wind down after a stressful day.
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An herb said to relax the uterus, red raspberry leaf is often taken in tea form to help ease the pain of menstrual cramps. Also said to enhance overall women's health, red raspberry leaf contains such antioxidants as quercetin and kaempferol.
To date, there's a lack of scientific support for the claim that red raspberry leaf tea can help tame menstrual cramps. However, sipping warm beverages such as herbal tea may be helpful in treating menstrual symptoms.
For more help in soothing menstrual pain, consider taking herbs like ginger, upping your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, or massage on the lower abdomen with a blend of essential oils of lavender, clary sage, and marjoram (combined with a carrier oil). Cutting back on caffeine and alcohol, exercising regularly, and managing your stress can also go a long way in stopping cramps.
One newly trendy ingredient in natural skincare products is maracuja oil, a substance sourced from the seeds of the passionflower or passion fruit plant. Fans of maracuja oil suggest that it can help shield skin by locking in moisture and reversing signs of aging (such as fine lines and wrinkles).
Although there's not much scientific support behind the supposedly skin-saving effects of maracuja oil, some research shows that the oil is rich in linoleic acid (an essential fatty acid that plays a central role in skin function) as well as in antioxidants (a class of compounds found to fight sun damage when applied to the skin).
Other sources of skin-protecting essential fatty acids include argan oil, baobab, and sea buckthorn) (all commonly found in natural skincare products). There's also some evidence that upping your intake of antioxidant-rich foods and omega-3 fatty acids may enhance your skin's health.
To soothe the pain and ease the fatigue commonly associated with fibromyalgia, some patients have tried a type of alternative medicine known as thalassotherapy. Sometimes considered a form of hydrotherapy, this practice involves using the ocean, seawater, or marine products like algae and seaweed to promote healing. It's thought that--once absorbed into the body--minerals found naturally in seawater (including magnesium and zinc) can help fight mineral deficiencies and enhance health.
Although research on thalassotherapy is limited, a few studies have shown that fibromyalgia patients may experience improvements in mental and physical health after undergoing this treatment. There's also some evidence that thalassotherapy may boost emotional health in people with fibromyalgia, a condition closely linked to anxiety, depression, and other emotional issues.