Feature Archive

Rethinking 6 Home Remedies

Gone are the days of castor oil for constipation and butter for soothing burns -- many of these old-time home remedies really don't work like you thought they did, and some may even be harmful.

WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario

Can castor oil really ease constipation? Does butter really make burns better? While grandma may insist these old-time home remedies work, most of them don't, and in fact, some may even be harmful.

Experts take a look at remedies of old, suggest why some might be better off retired, and provide direction for what to use instead.

1. Castor Oil

The thinking: It's a laxative that's naturally derived from the castor bean plant, and if taken regularly, the thinking is it can make you -- you guessed it -- regular. But just because it comes from a plant doesn't mean you should overdo it.

What it actually does: Castor oil is a stimulant laxative, according to the Mayo Clinic, which causes the muscles of the intestines to contract, and push stool forward. It's fast-acting, with results in two to six hours, and is among the most powerful laxatives out there. But these types of laxatives can cause side effects, including cramping, diarrhea, or nausea. And if taken regularly, like most laxatives, castor oil can actually aggravate constipation. Your body can become dependent on it for all bowel movements. Worst case, overuse can damage the nerves, muscles, and tissues of the large intestine.