Dr. Herzog On Home Remedies: What To Try–What To Skip

Today, Dr. Jo Herzog shares some guidelines for knowing which home remedies are safe and which are unsafe. Over the next few weeks, she will share home remedies that she considers safe. If you have specific questions regarding self-treatment or home remedies, submit them to jamie@familysavvy.com, and Dr. Jo will address them in this series. Stay tuned for this savvy tutorial!


Dr. JoDear Friends,

I have had so many patients coming in lately after trying home remedies for their conditions that I have decided to address the topic on Family Savvy. Home remedies can be wonderful, or they can be very dangerous. Before attempting to self-treat certain conditions, you have to follow some guidelines.

Home remedies can often save you time, money and a trip or two to the doctor’s office. The two most important factors in considering home remedies are 1) that you have some idea of what you are doing, and 2) that you have a very good idea of the condition that you are treating.

There are several clear cut conditions that respond well to home remedies. Some of these include acne, dry & scaly feet, itchy scalp, or excessive sweating. Even though these conditions often respond well to home treatment, it is important to understand that when home treatment does not work, there must be a reason. Two common reasons that home treatment fails are:  1) a wrong diagnosis has been made, and you aren’t sure what you are treating, and 2) you are dealing with a stubborn variant or a more severe case of a condition that needs prescription medicine or at least the opinion of your physician.

Other problems are not so clear cut and should NEVER be treated at home. A “growth” or a spot that is brown or pigmented should be seen by an expert before you do anything to change what it looks like. I have recently seen several “growths” that have been treated by remedies such as salves made for veterinary use, potions bought online, or devices used to freeze the areas. These various attempts at home remedies have led to delayed diagnoses of cancers in some and to unnecessary scarring in others.

So clearly, home remedies can be either good or bad depending upon several factors. To help my readers stay savvy in this area, I would like to take the next few weeks on Family Savvy to present some at home options for common disorders that most of us can recognize and diagnose without the aid of our doctor. My goal is to give you treatment instructions that you can try at home under two conditions: 1) that you will be SAVVY enough to discontinue any of these treatments and see your doctor if the treatments are not successful and 2) that you will see your doctor BEFORE trying a home remedy if the condition is not obvious to you.

Examples of conditions that we can try to treat at home:

  1. very early acne in a young teen
  2. dry scaly feet
  3. excess sweating
  4. itchy scalp
  5. stinky feet

Examples of conditions that we should never try to treat at home:

  1. Infections
  2. any “growths” on skin
  3. new or changing moles
  4. warts that will not resolve after a few weeks

There are many things that you might like to ask about, and I would be happy to give my advice. We will spend several weeks creating our own little at home manual. What I need from you are the questions that you want discussed. Send them to jamie@familysavvy.com, and I will do my best to give you an answer in the weeks to come.

Have a safe and wonderful week,

Dr. Jo

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