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Cherries & chocolate -- not just for dessert

D. H. Wright

What do strawberries, dark chocolate and cherries all have in common? If you guessed that they all can help with your health and wellness, you are right. If you guessed that they are all delicious, we’ll give you that too.

This week on Take Care, a conversation about folk remedies with Denise Foley, an award-winning health journalist and the Contributing Executive Editor at Prevention magazine. She's the co-author of "?The Doctors Book of Home Remedies for Children: ?From Allergies and Animal Bites to Toothache and TV Addiction, Hundreds of Doctor-Proven Techniques and Tips to Care for Your Kid."

Click 'Read More' to hear our interview with Denise Foley.

While the idea of folk remedies may cause some to roll their eyes, whether it’s because a certain home remedy was forced on them as a child by older family members or because they believe folk remedies just don’t work, Foley notes that many “have not only stood the test of time, but they also stand the test of medical research.”

One in particular, using ginger to offset nausea, has proved effective time and time again. Foley suggests people should always have ginger on hand in case it’s needed, and recommends making frozen ginger chips to consume it. You can make the chips by putting fresh ginger into hot water, letting it steep for 10 to 15 minutes, straining it and then freezing it in an ice cube tray. And then, when the time comes, simply crush the ice cubes up, consume them and wait for the relief.

Eating dark chocolate during a cold may be a great way to sweeten up how you feel because it can help suppress coughing. It’s all because dark chocolate contains a substance named theobromine, which Foley says has been shown to be more effective than codeine in suppressing coughs. And chocolate doesn’t come with the side effects of drowsiness and constipation like codeine.

The only downside of using dark chocolate is that it contains caffeine, which may not be the best idea to consume before going to bed. For those who can’t stop coughing while trying to sleep, Foley recommends another sweet remedy—two teaspoons of honey. Honey helps coat the back of the throat, naturally causing the cough to disappear, says Foley. She adds that honey also can contain antibiotics which may help fight off other diseases, and has been shown to be more effective than cough medicines for kids with colds.

But if a cough isn’t what’s keeping you up at, and you just have good old insomnia, Foley has other another suggestion -- cherries. Tart cherries contain melatonin, a natural hormone that puts the body to sleep. Melatonin can only be produced when it’s dark out. Today, many sources of light—whether it’s the television or that annoying street light outside your window—interfere with the body’s natural melatonin production. So Foley recommends trying tart cherry juice.

When it comes to dental hygiene, Foley say that there are natural ways to have your smile looking—and smelling—great. To keep your pearly whites actually looking white, Foley suggests making a homemade toothpaste out of crushed strawberries and a pinch of baking soda. The combination of the malic acid and the seeds in the strawberries can help remove stains on the teeth.

To keep your breath smelling fresh, Foley recommends a two-step process. Step one is gargling with lemon water. “The acidic juice creates an environment where bacteria do not want to live,” she says. Step two involves eating plain, unsweetened yogurt that contains lactobacillus, a type of probiotic. “It actually gives you other kinds of bacteria that compete with the bacteria that is causing your bad breath,” says Foley. The results from this method are shown to last anywhere between 12 and 24 hours, she says, which means doing this once in the morning can yield a day’s worth of good smelling breath.