Joan Wilen and Lydia Wilen are folk-remedy experts and home tipsters based in New York City. They have spent decades collecting “cures from the cupboard” and are authors of several books, including Secret Food Cures.
Foot—and leg and ankle—pain is a common complaint. Home remedies for common foot problems can offer relief when your dogs are barking.
Foot problems be it aches, pains, cold feet, or issues with skin are all too common. Common foot problems can often be soothed by simple remedies. When you find that your feet swollen, your ankles hurt, or have an unpleasant hitch the simple treatments and cures can give you some relief.
In the excerpt from Secret Food Cures below Joan and Lydia Wilen provide a range of simple and folk remedies for common foot and leg problems.
Our feet carry a lot of weight and are probably the most abused and neglected part of our anatomy. They get cold, they get frostbitten, they get wet, they burn, they blister, they itch and they sweat…as we walk, jog, run, dance, climb, skate, ski, hop, skip and jump. Also, at some time or other, we’re all guilty of the Cinderella Stepsister Syndrome—pushing our feet into ill-fitting shoes.
We put our poor, tired tootsies under all kinds of stress and strain. And then we wonder why our feet are “just killing us!” Well, we killed them first.
CAUTION: If you have circulation problems or diabetes, do not use any of these remedies without the approval and supervision of your health professional.
•During a busy day when your “dogs are barking” and you feel like you’re going to have to call it quits, cayenne pepper comes to the rescue! Sprinkle some cayenne into your socks or rub it directly on the soles of your aching feet. Now get going or you’ll be late for your next appointment!
• After a long day, when your nerves are on edge, your feet hurt and you’re tired—too tired to go to sleep—soak your feet in hot water for 10 to 15 minutes. Then (and this is the important part) massage your feet with lemon juice.
After you’ve done a thorough job of massaging, rinse your feet with cool water. As always, dry your feet completely, then take five deep breaths. You and your pain-free feet should be ready and able to settle down for a good night’s sleep.
• This remedy requires two basins or dishpans or four plastic shoe boxes. Fill one basin (or two shoe boxes) with 1 ⁄2 cup Epsom salts and about one gallon of hot (not scalding) water. Fill the other basin (or the other two shoe boxes) with ice cubes. Sit down with a watch or timer. Put your feet in the hot water for one minute and then in the ice cubes for 30 seconds.
Alternate back and forth for about 10 minutes. Your feet will feel better. This procedure also helps regulate high blood pressure and may prevent varicose veins, improve circulation and, if done on a regular basis, relieve chronic “cold feet.”
Modified version: Stand in the bathtub and first let hot water run on your feet for one minute, then let ice-cold water run on your feet for 30 seconds, alternating the hot/cold water for a total of 10 minutes.
Do not exceed one minute of hot or cold water on your feet!
• Add one cup of apple cider vinegar to a basin (or two plastic shoe boxes) filled halfway with lukewarm water. Then soak your feet for at least 15 minutes. The heat and hurt should be gone by then.
• Boil or roast a large turnip until it’s soft. Then mash it and spread half of it on a white cotton handkerchief. Spread the other half on another handkerchief. Apply the turnip mush to the bottoms of your bare feet, bandage them in place and sit with your feet elevated for about half an hour. This “sole food” should draw out the pain and tiredness.
Believe us, this is a type of corn you really don’t want to eat!
Corns are hard, thick layers of skin that form on the top or side of a toe—calluses form on the soles of your feet. Neither is a serious condition, but you’ll probably be more comfortable if you get rid of the shoes (or whatever else) that are causing the friction that leads to corns and calluses.
These remedies should help, too.
• You can soften your calluses by applying any of the following oils—wheat germ oil, castor oil, sesame seed oil or olive oil. Apply the oil as often as possible throughout the day, day after day.
• Walking barefoot in the sand, particularly wet sand, is wonderful for your feet. It acts as an abrasive and sloughs off the dead skin that leads to corns and calluses.
• If you’re not near the beach, add one tablespoon of baking soda to a basin or to two plastic shoe boxes filled halfway with lukewarm water…and soak your feet for 15 minutes. Then take a pumice stone (available at health food stores and pharmacies) and carefully file away the tough skin.
• Cut an onion in half—the size of the onion should be determined by the size of the callused area the onion’s surface has to cover. Let the onion halves soak in wine vinegar for four hours, then take the onion halves and apply them to the calluses. Bind them in place with plastic wrap, put on socks and leave them on overnight.
The next morning, you should be able to scrape away the calluses. Be sure to wash and rinse your feet thoroughly to get rid of the onion/vinegar smell.
The difference between an oak tree and a tight shoe is that one makes acorns, the other makes corns ache. What to do for those aching corns…
• Rub castor oil on the corn twice a day and it will gradually peel off, leaving you with soft, smooth skin.
• Every night, put one piece of fresh lemon peel on the corn (the inside of the peel on the outside of the corn). Put a bandage around it to keep it in place. In a matter of days, the corn should be gone.
• Make a poultice of one crumbled piece of bread soaked in 1 ⁄4 cup of vinegar. Let it stand for a half-hour, then apply it to the corn and tape it in place overnight. By morning, the corn should peel off. If it’s a particularly stubborn corn, you may have to reapply the bread/vinegar poultice a few nights in a row.
• Every day, wrap a strip of fresh pineapple peel around the corn (the inside of the peel taped directly on the corn). Within a week, the corn should disappear, thanks to the enzymes and acid content of the fresh pineapple.
• Don’t throw away used tea bags. Tape a moist one on the corn for a half-hour each day and the corn should be gone in a week or two.
• To ease the pain of a corn, soak the feet in oatmeal water. Bring five quarts (20 cups) of water to a boil and add five ounces of oatmeal. Keep boiling until the water boils down to about four quarts. Then pour off the clear water through a strainer, into a large enough basin for your feet, or into two plastic shoe boxes. Soak your feet for at least 20 minutes.
• Make a paste out of one teaspoon of brewer’s yeast and a few drops of lemon juice. Spread the mixture on a cotton pad and apply it to the corn, binding it in place and leaving it overnight. Change the dressing daily until the corn is gone.
• A paste of powdered chalk and water should also take care of the corn.
•A Hawaiian medicine man recommends pure papaya juice on a cotton pad, or a piece of papaya pulp directly on the corn. Bind in place and leave it on overnight. Change daily until the corn is gone.
• Australian shepherds squeeze the juice from the stems of dandelions and apply it to the corn every day until it disappears, usually within a week or so.
• If you can’t get inside to warm up, then stand on your toes for a couple of minutes, then quickly come back down on your heels. Repeat the toes/heels maneuver several times until your blood tingles through your feet and warms them up.
• Before going to bed, walk in cold water in the bathtub for two minutes. Then briskly rub the feet dry with a coarse towel. To give the feet a warm glow, hold each end of the towel and run it back and forth along your feet’s arches.
• If the thought of putting cold feet into cold water is not appealing to you…add one cup of table salt to a bathtub that is filled ankle-high with hot water and soak your feet for 15 minutes. Dry the feet and then massage them with damp salt.
This will remove dead skin and stimulate circulation. After you’ve massaged each foot for three to five minutes, rinse them in lukewarm water and dry thoroughly.
• Warm your feet by sprinkling black pepper or cayenne pepper into your socks before putting them on. It’s an old skier’s trick, but you don’t have to be an old skier to do it. If you use cayenne, your socks and feet will turn red.
Your feet will be fine, but your socks may never be the same again.
Also, if you’re at a restaurant and the meal is too bland, you can always take off a sock and season the food to taste.
• The fungus that causes athlete’s foot dies in natural sunlight. So, spend two weeks barefoot in the Bahamas. If that’s a bit impractical, then for one hour a day, expose your feet to sunlight. It might eliminate a mild case of athlete’s foot.
• In between sunbaths, keep your feet well aired by wearing loose-fitting socks.
• At night, apply rubbing alcohol (it stings for a couple of seconds), then wait until your feet are completely dry and sprinkle them with talcum powder (the unscented kind is preferable).
• Apply one clove of crushed garlic to the affected area. Leave it on for a half-hour, then wash with water. If you do this once a day, within a week, you’ll smell like a salami, but you may not have athlete’s foot.
WARNING: When you first apply the garlic, there will be a sensation of warmth. If, after a few minutes, that warm feeling intensifies and the garlic starts to burn, wash the area with cool water. The next day, dilute the garlic juice with plain water and try again.
•Every evening, apply cotton or cheesecloth that has been saturated with honey to the infected area. Tape it in place. To avoid a gooey mess (a possibility even with the tape in place), wear socks to bed. In the morning, wash with water, dry thoroughly and sprinkle them with talcum powder (preferably unscented).
•Grate an onion and squeeze it through cheesecloth to get onion juice. Massage the juice into the fungus-infected areas of your foot. Leave it on for 10 minutes, then rinse your foot in lukewarm water and dry it thoroughly (fungi thrive in moist conditions). Repeat this procedure three times a day until the condition clears up.
• To avoid reinfecting yourself with athlete’s foot, soak your socks and pantyhose in white vinegar. Also wipe out your shoes with vinegar. The smell of vinegar will vanish after being exposed to the air for about 15 minutes.
We were surprised to learn that a tendency toward ingrown toenails is inherited. If the toe is red, swollen and/or painful, see a doctor.
• If you have an ingrown toenail, relieve the pain with a footbath. In a plastic shoe box, add 1 ⁄2 ounce of comfrey root to 1 ⁄2 gallon (two quarts) of warm water. Soak your foot in it for 20 minutes.
Once the nail is softened from soaking, take a piece of absorbent cotton, and twist it so that it’s like a thick strand of thread. Or twist together a few strands of unwaxed dental floss. Gently wedge the “thread” under the corner of the nail. That should prevent the nail from cutting into the skin. Replace the strands a couple of times a day, every day, until the nail grows out.
Once it grows out, the nail should be cut straight across, not down into the corners, and not shorter than the toe. You might want to have a podiatrist trim the toenail properly. Pay careful attention so you’ll be able to take care of your toes yourself and avoid another ingrown nail (and another podiatrist bill).
• If you are slightly pigeon-toed and an orthopedist hasn’t helped you…as a last resort, buy a pair of shoes one size larger than you usually take. Wear them to bed every night with the right shoe on the left foot and the left shoe on the right foot. Give it a month to get results.
• Before bedtime, wash your feet with warm water and dry them. Liberally apply petroleum jelly on your feet, massaging it into the rough and cracked areas. Wrap each foot with plastic wrap. Put socks on and sleep that way. Repeat the process nightly until your feet are fine. It shouldn’t take more than a week…probably less.
The average pair of feet gives off about 1 ⁄2 pint of perspiration daily. It’s amazing we don’t all slosh around. Well, for those of you who feel like you do…
• Put some bran or uncooked oat flakes into your socks. It should absorb the sweat and make you feel more comfortable. Start conservatively, with about one tablespoon in each sock. Add more if needed.
• Daily doses of vitamin B6 and B-complex have been known to eliminate tingling and numbness in toes.
CAUTION: Check the amount of B6 in the B-complex—high doses can be toxic. Check with your naturopathic doctor.
The word varicose comes from the Latin word varix, which means “twisted.” When the little veins in your legs start looking like squiggly worms, you might wish those old Romans had picked another word.
We hope these remedies bring some relief to whatever discomfort or swelling your veins are causing.
•Folk medicine practitioners throughout Europe have been known to help shrink varicose veins by recommending the application of apple cider vinegar.
Once every morning and once every evening, soak a cheesecloth bandage in the vinegar and wrap it around the affected area. Lie down, raise your legs, and relax that way for at least a half-hour. (This will benefit more than just your varicose vein condition!)
After each vinegar-wrap session, drink two teaspoons of the vinegar in a cup of warm water. The practitioners tell us that by the end of one month, the veins shrink enough for there to be a noticeable difference.
Easy Ways to Ease the Veins
Heed these simple suggestions to keep varicose veins from getting worse…
◆ Keep your feet elevated as much as possible. It’s ideal to elevate your legs at or above the level of your heart for 20 minutes a few times every day.
◆ Never sit with your legs crossed.
◆ Don’t wear knee-high stockings or tight socks.
◆ Wear flats or very low heels, not high heels.
◆ If you’re overweight, do your legs a favor and lose those extra pounds.
◆ Exercise. Just walking a half-hour every day will help with circulation.
• In between the vinegar wraps, don’t forget to sit properly. You may be surprised to know that you can stop varicose veins from getting worse simply by fixing the way you sit. Never sit with your legs crossed. In a relaxed way, keep your knees and ankles together and slightly slant your legs. It’s graceful-looking and doesn’t add to the congestion that promotes varicose veins.
Here are some suggestions that may help improve the condition of your varicose veins.
• Take vitamin C with bioflavonoids daily. Herbs may also be very helpful, particularly butcher’s broom, horse chestnut and hawthorn. You can find them in health food stores. Follow the recommended dosage on the label.
• Take one bilberry capsule (80 mg) and one bromelain capsule (500 to 1,000 mg) with each meal. Once a day, take one capsule (150 mg) of butcher’s broom. All are available at health food stores.
These herbs have many wonderful benefits, including improving your blood circulation and helping the walls of your veins maintain their shape.
• Reduce the swelling and constriction of varicose veins by wrapping a cheesecloth bandage soaked in witch hazel around the affected area. Lie down, raise your legs, and relax.
• At the end of every day, stand in a tub filled with cold water. (The water should be up to your knees.) After two or three minutes, dry your legs thoroughly with a coarse towel, then walk around at a brisk pace for two or three minutes.
• Take horse chestnut capsules (which are available at health food stores), 300 mg, once or twice a day.
• If you know you have superficial varicose vein inflammation (superficial thrombophlebitis), usually in the leg—chances are that you are under a doctor’s care and should be.
You probably developed this type of inflammation because you were recovering from childbirth, surgery or were somehow incapacitated and inactive for a long period of time. This inactivity decreased the blood flow in your veins and allowed clots to form. Blood clots are potentially very dangerous.
After the acute care has been medically completed, pay strict attention to optimal diet, optimal bowel function, optimal weight and exercise and meticulous body hygiene— nose, ears, mouth, tongue and gums, fingernails, legs, feet, toes, toenails, scrotum or vulva—to prevent complications and recurrence.
■ Recipe ■
4 broccoli stems washed and peeled.
6″ piece of daikon radish, peeled.
2 large carrots, peeled.
1 ⁄2 bunch green onions, chopped.
2 kiwis peeled and diced.
2 Tbsp pine nuts, toasted.
2 cloves garlic, minced.
1 tsp salt
1 ⁄4 tsp ground black pepper
2 Tbsp organic canola oil
Black sesame seeds
Coarsely grate the broccoli stems, daikon radish and carrots, and put them into a bowl. Add green onions, kiwis, pine nuts, garlic, salt, pepper, and canola oil to bowl and toss together. Adjust seasoning to taste, and transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with a generous sprinkling of black sesame seeds. This slaw tastes best when made three to four hours ahead. Use as a side dish. Makes six to eight servings.Source: VegParadise.com
Herbs that assist in vein health include butcher’s broom, hawthorn and horse chestnut. All are available at health food stores. Follow the recommended dosage on the label.
And be sure to check with your doctor about the following suggestions.
• Apply a comfrey poultice on the outside of the affected area.
• You should be eating a raw vegetable diet. It’s important to have leafy greens, plus lots more roughage.
• Drink lots of fresh juices.
• Take one tablespoon of lecithin every day.
• Follow your physician’s instructions and elevate the affected area for as many hours a day as possible. This will keep the blood circulating properly.
This exercise will promote toe flexibility and strengthen the arches as well as the ankles.
Get a dozen marbles and a plastic cup. Put them all on the floor. Sit down and then pick up each marble with the toes of your right foot— one by one, drop them in the cup. Then do the same with the toes of your left foot.
You may want to add to the fun by timing yourself and seeing if you can keep breaking your previous record. Whatever happens, try not to lose your marbles.
To read more about simple home remedies and folk cures buy your own copy of Secret Food Cures from Bottomlineinc.com.