Laura Dean Bennett\r\nStaff Wrtier\r\n\r\nWell, the holidays are behind us and if you feel the need to get back on the straight and narrow about your health \u2013 you\u2019re not the only one!\r\n\r\nThe good news is that there\u2019s a lot of natural healthfulness sitting right in our kitchen cabinets and pantry.\r\n\r\nYou don\u2019t think our grandparents could run to the drug store every time they got a minor rash or a little tummy ache, do you?\u00a0\r\n\r\nCinnamon\r\n\r\nBesides being the absolute go-to spice of the holiday season, it\u2019s actually good for us.\r\n\r\nIt\u2019s an excellent source of vitamins and minerals \u2013 vitamin A, calcium, iron, copper, manganese, niacin,\u00a0potassium and zinc, among others, and those are just the ones I can spell.\r\n\r\nIt has antioxidant, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties.\r\n\r\nFor centuries, humans have been using cinnamon to treat colds, flatulence, indigestion, heartburn, nausea, diarrhea, arthritis pain and painful menstrual periods.\r\n\r\nCinnamon should not only be kept in the kitchen, but in the first aid kit, too.\r\n\r\nTo treat a minor wound or cut, wash and dry the area, then sprinkle on the cinnamon.\r\n\r\nIt can numb\u00a0pain, kill bacteria and stop the bleeding.\r\n\r\nNow, scientific studies are proving its worth as a treatment for internal disorders.\r\n\r\nCertain compounds in cinnamon stimulate insulin receptors and help our body to properly use glucose.\r\n\r\nStudies have shown that consuming less than one-half teaspoon per day can help people with type 2 diabetes control their blood sugar level.\r\n\r\nCinnamon also helps lower cholesterol levels and reduces the risk of various types of heart disease.\u00a0\r\n\r\nIt should never be taken in excess though, because too much cinnamon can be toxic.\r\n\r\nCinnamon should be on all our breakfast tables. It\u2019s has been proven to enhance mental alertness.\u00a0\r\n\r\nAnd you don\u2019t even have to eat it to get the mental benefits.\r\n\r\nJust smelling it can boost your brain activity.\r\n\r\nIt\u2019s easy to incorporate cinnamon into your daily diet.\u00a0\r\n\r\nSprinkle some on top of your oatmeal or cereal, or even add a dash to your tea or coffee.\r\n\r\nCranberries\r\n\r\nAs common as fresh cranberries are to find on the produce shelves from Thanks- giving to Christmas, that\u2019s how hard they are to find during the rest of the year.\r\n\r\nBut the those cheerful little red berries are way more than a nice accompaniment to turkey and dressing.\r\n\r\nThey are like little super vitamin pills.\r\n\r\nAnd if you don\u2019t have fresh cranberries, you can get many of the same health benefits from dried cranberries \u2013 marketed as craisins. \r\n\r\nThey are chock full of vitamin C,\u00a0fiber, carbohydrates and protein as well as essential anti-oxidants.\u00a0\r\n\r\nDried cranberries are believed to help fight bacterial infections, promote good oral health, lower cholesterol levels\u00a0and reduce the development of cancer.\r\n\r\nSome doctors recommend eating fresh or dried cranberries or drinking the juice every day as a preventive measure to protect your bladder and kidneys.\r\n\r\nBut if you\u2019re drinking cranberry juice, drink the unsweetened variety.\r\n\r\nResearch indicates that these antioxidants also help improve the function of blood vessels, which helps decrease the risk of artery walls hardening and can lower blood pressure, all of which can lower the risks of\u00a0heart disease.\r\n\r\nThe high fiber levels in cranberries and dried cranberries can also help the digestive system and ease constipation.\r\n\r\nSome recent studies indicate that dried cranberries may promote the removal of certain metals in the body and the brain which cause Alzheimer\u2019s and Parkinson\u2019s disease.\u00a0\r\n\r\nAlthough dried cranberries usually contain a lot of sugar, they may actually assist with good oral health because they contain high levels of\u00a0calcium which helps to\u00a0reduce tooth decay and, in fact, strengthens teeth.\u00a0\r\n\r\nSo it\u2019s not just an apple a day that can keep a doctor away.\r\n\r\nHoney\r\n\r\nOne should always keep some honey \u2013 and preferably raw, locally produced honey \u2013 on the shelf.\r\n\r\nUnlike the commercial variety usually found in supermarkets, raw honey\u00a0has not been processed, so it retains a much higher nutritional value.\u00a0\r\n\r\nHoney has a long history of having medicinal and cosmetic uses.\r\n\r\nIt offers antioxidant, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It treats sore throats, burns, wounds and coughs.\r\n\r\nIs there anyone who hasn\u2019t swallowed a teaspoon of honey for a sore throat or made a sore throat or cough remedy from honey and lemon?\u00a0\r\n\r\nIt\u2019s a staple for first aid, too. Honey can ease the pain of minor cuts or burns and protect from infection, scarring and swelling while it\u2019s at it.\r\n\r\nIt kills bacteria that cause diarrhea and soothes the painful tummy that comes with it \u2013 just stir three teaspoons of honey into about 10 ounces of water for the treatment.\r\n\r\nMany grandmothers will tell you that a daily tablespoonful of locally produced honey will relieve the sneezing and wheezing from allergies and asthma. Your immune system adapts to the local pollen in the honey and stops overreacting to it.\r\n\r\nA little honey can also treat insomnia. There\u2019s a chemical in it which can calm the brain and help us sleep.\r\n\r\nOatmeal\r\n\r\nAs good as oatmeal is for you on the inside \u2013 it\u2019s also good for you on the outside.\r\n\r\nIt\u2019s a great remedy for irritated skin.\r\n\r\nIt can reduce inflammation, itching and the symptoms of eczema or an allergic rash.\r\n\r\nI remember when my daughter had chicken pox, my mom got out the oatmeal box, poured some in the blender and ground it into a powder.\r\n\r\nWe drew a lukewarm bath, added the oatmeal and sat the itchy little darling right in there.\u00a0\r\n\r\nOatmeal baths were also used when we had a run-in with poison ivy.\r\n\r\nI understand that oatmeal baths provide the same relief to those who suffer from sensitive skin, sunburn or eczema.\u00a0\r\n\r\nBesides using it as a bath or a soak, you can make a paste which can be applied to an affected area as a poultice.\u00a0\r\n\r\nMake a paste by adding about a third of a cup of oatmeal to some water and make it as thick or thin as you like it. Apply it directly onto the skin and leave it there for 15 minutes at a time.\r\n\r\nTake it with you in a plastic bag and you have portable anti-itch, anti-inflammation medicine.\r\n\r\nThis poultice can come in handy for all kinds of irritated skin problems, even sunburn.\r\n\r\nAnd speaking of sunburn, that brings to mind the many uses of vinegar.\r\n\r\nVinegar\r\n\r\nNearly everyone has some vinegar in their kitchen somewhere. And if you don\u2019t, you need to start keeping some.\r\nIt is an absolute household staple.\r\n\r\nVinegar can do everything from cleaning your floors to treating your warts.\r\n\r\nYou\u2019ll need to have both white vinegar and apple cider vinegar on hand.\r\n\r\nWhen buying apple cider vinegar, try to buy it locally from someone who knows how to make it the old- fashioned way. Look for unprocessed apple cider vine- gar which\u00a0contains \u201cthe mother\u201d (a slightly murky, stringy consistency at the bottom of the bottle).\u00a0\r\n\r\nThe \u201cmother\u201d is what offers nutrient-rich proteins, enzymes and \u201cgood\u201d bacteria, which gives us the benefit of good immune function.\r\n\r\nApple cider vinegar is used to soothe digestion, promote an anti-glycemic effect and support heart health.\u00a0\r\n\r\nWhite vinegar, also known as \u201cdistilled vinegar,\u201d is a clear liquid with a mildly acidic composition.\u00a0\r\n\r\nThe main ingredient in vinegar is acetic acid \u2013 precisely what makes it an effective health treatment.\u00a0\r\n\r\nTaken as a tonic \u2013 usually mixed with a little water and honey \u2013 distilled vinegar aids in the absorption of calcium, improves digestion, strengthens bones and boosts the immune system.\u00a0\r\n\r\nIt can also be used topically to treat burns, eliminate infections in wounds, treat dry skin, cure dandruff, and eliminate toenail fungus.\r\n\r\nTwo drops of distilled vinegar applied at the base of a fungus-infected toe changes the PH under the nail and prevents excess moisture from remaining under the nail.\u00a0\r\n\r\nTwo drops only need be applied every 12 hours. In about six weeks, a thin, clear nail will begin to grow at the base.\u00a0\r\n\r\nAfter six months, the old, infected nail will have grown out, but continue applying the vinegar drops for about three more months.\u00a0\r\n\r\nIf you follow this treatment consistently and do not apply more than two drops, you will have completely cured the problem.\r\n\r\nAnother recommendation is to drink 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with apple juice or water twice a day.\u00a0\r\n\r\nThis will also help treat fungus.\u00a0\r\n\r\nBut, remember to apply white distilled vinegar on the outside and take apple cider vinegar internally. Never the other way around.\r\n\r\nLots of people swear by the ability of apple cider vinegar to reduce the pain and stiffness of arthritis.\r\n\r\nThe vinegar dissolves the acid crystals that build up in the joints.\r\n\r\nMix one-to-three teaspoons of apple cider vinegar into eight ounces water. Drink it three times a day, preferably before meals.\u00a0To improve flavor, add a little honey.\u00a0You can also use this mixture as an external pain relief poultice.\r\n\r\nPrunes\r\n\r\nWith all the bad jokes about prune juice, you might deduce that it tasted bad and was the worst remedy known to man, er, child.\r\n\r\nNo, no \u2013 that title would have to belong to the undisputed champ of all foul remedies: castor oil.\r\nBut back to prunes.\r\n\r\nYou do realize that prunes are just dried plums, right? So how bad can they be?\r\n\r\nWell, I\u2019ll tell you. They\u2019re not bad at all. In fact, they are quite tasty.\r\n\r\nSo prune\u00a0juice is really plum juice, and it\u2019s packed with fiber.\u00a0\r\n\r\nOf course, these days, we all know about the benefits of increased fiber in our diets \u2013 how it helps us stay healthy and aids in weight loss efforts.\u00a0\r\n\r\nThe fact that prunes or prune juice is a\u00a0natural laxative which can eliminate the need for over-the-counter constipation aids, isn\u2019t a giggly joke anymore \u2013 it just makes good cents, I mean, sense.\r\n\r\nSalt\r\n\r\nWhen you wake up with a sore throat, the first line of defense is salt.\u00a0\r\n\r\nMake a hot water gargle with a cup of really hot water and about a teaspoon of table salt. Gargle as often as you can throughout the day and see if that doesn\u2019t help knock back those germs.\r\n\r\nSalt has gotten a bad rap, but the truth is, your body needs some salt\u00a0in order to function. Of course, too much salt in our diet is bad for us but used externally,\u00a0salt is good for skin health.\r\n\r\nSalt, especially unprocessed sea salt or epsom salt, has a high mineral content and it can\u00a0help to rejuvenate dry, inflamed skin.\u00a0\r\n\r\nMake a facial scrub with a few sprinkles of salt, soap and warm water. Rub gently into the skin to remove blackheads and clean clogged pores. It will leave your skin silky smooth.\u00a0\r\n\r\nBut remember, rub gently, or you will scrub your face raw.\r\n\r\nSoak your aching feet or your whole body in a hot bath with sea salt or epsom salt helps stimulate circulation, draw out toxins and reduce aches and pains.\u00a0\r\n\r\nTonic Water\r\n\r\nFor those who suffer from nighttime leg cramps, a bottle of tonic water may be your best friend.\r\n\r\nTonic water contains quinine, which counteracts those painful cramps.\r\n\r\nIt tastes quite bitter, so you may want to flavor it with some lemon or orange juice to make it more palatable.\r\n\r\nDrink about a cup of tonic water every day and see if that doesn\u2019t do the trick. But don\u2019t overdo it... quinine can be toxic in high doses.\r\n\r\nLemons\r\n\r\nLemons aren\u2019t just good for sitting on the kitchen counter and looking pretty, making one of the most refreshing drinks ever, or slicing up for garnishing iced tea.\r\n\r\nThey\u2019re good for us because they are full of vitamin C, they aid in digestion and their peels contain healthy flavonoids which have cancer fighting properties.\r\n\r\nThe juice can act as a breath freshener, and mixed with a little water, can be used as a mouth rinse particularly useful in fighting gum disease.\r\n\r\nLemon juice has several health benefits associated with it.\u00a0\r\n\r\nIt is well known as a useful treatment for kidney stones. The citrate in the lemon juice stops calcium based kidney stones from forming.\r\n\r\nAnd if that\u2019s not enough, lemons can also add to our beauty regimen. Lemon juice applied regularly to age spots can help them fade from view.\r\n\r\nAloe Vera\r\n\r\nYou may not yet have one of these plants in your kitchen, but you may want to make it one of your\u00a0 New Year\u2019s resolutions to get one.\r\n\r\nThey\u2019re pretty, easy to grow and bring some real health benefits to our kitchens.\r\n\r\nNot only does aloe absorb toxins in the air, including benzene and formaldehyde, but the gel from inside the leaves of the plant is also an excellent topical remedy for irritated skin.\r\n\r\nWhether you have suffered a burn, have a sunburn or the symptoms of psoriasis, external application of aloe gel is highly effective.\u00a0\r\n\r\nCayenne Pepper\r\n\r\nIn many cultures,\u00a0cayenne pepper has been used to combat hemorrhoids, heartburn and coughs for centuries.\u00a0\r\n\r\nIf you suffer from any of the above, you may want to give it a try.\u00a0\r\n\r\nDrink a mixture of two cups of boiled water, 1\/2 teaspoon cayenne, raw honey and lemon.\r\n\r\nGinger\r\n\r\nGinger has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years.\r\n\r\nIt\u2019s rich in vitamins and minerals and it has lots of other healthful properties \u2013 it\u2019s\u00a0antifungal, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antiseptic and antibacterial.\u00a0\r\n\r\nIt has been shown to improve circulation and reduce inflammation.\u00a0\r\n\r\nNibble a little fresh or pickled ginger or use powdered ginger to combat the effects of motion\u00a0sickness, upset stomach or morning sickness. \r\n\r\nIt is also said to be effective against a migraine headache. But use it sparingly \u2013 a quarter teaspoon per day is more than enough to reap the health benefits of this powerful rhizome.\r\n\r\nIf you prefer, you may use ginger in tea form. I find a cup of ginger tea to be bracing \u2013 a real \u201cpick me up and get me going\u201d hot drink to start the day.\r\n\r\nGarlic\r\n\r\nThese smelly little bulbs, besides being full of flavor, actually contain some serious antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory ingredients.\u00a0\r\n\r\nGarlic has been shown to be a powerful ally in our battle against the common cold.\r\n\r\nWhen ingested, it can boost immune function, soothe inflamed tissue and help treat minor infections.\u00a0\r\n\r\nIf it is consumed on a regular basis, studies have shown it to lower blood pressure and improve bone health.\r\n\r\nSo the next time you\u2019re feeling a little under the weather, head to your kitchen and dig around a little.\u00a0\r\n\r\nYou may find the perfect remedy right under your nose \u2013 just as nature intended.