6 Unconventional Cures for Everyday Ailments

If you believe Johanna Brandt, she discovered an uncommon cure for cancer roughly 80 years ago while living in South Africa. The remedy: grapes. Bunches of them. In fact, all you can eat, because, well, grapes are all you can eat for 1 to 2 weeks, if you follow the plan outlined in Brandt's 1928 book The Grape Cure. Proof? She claims to have conquered her stomach cancer with the power of purple.

Needless to say, the medical establishment never swallowed grapes as the answer to cancer. And yet, as extreme—and potentially dangerous—as Brandt's prescription may be, today's researchers are uncovering compelling evidence that natural chemicals in the fruit of Vitis vinifera could help prevent and, yes, even treat certain types of tumors in mice. Granted, you wouldn't want to stake your life on a rodent in remission, but there are other examples of modern science finding that some really odd antidotes might be just crazy enough to work.

Bad back? Plug in your headphones. Bad breath? Screw in a lightbulb. These are two of the six strange-but-true treatments that we went from Australia to Israel to Ohio to gather. We aren't promising that any of these uncommon remedies will cure cancer, but they are guaranteed to be completely seedless.

Use a Didgeridoo for Sleep Apnea

"A didgeri-what?" you ask. While aborigines in Australia have been playing this long wooden trumpet for centuries, it's just recently been redefined as a modern-day medical device.

Researchers reporting in the British Medical Journal evaluated 25 people with sleep apnea—a breath-stealing condition caused by flabby throat muscles—and found that those who took 4 months of didgeridoo (DIH-jeh-ree-doo) lessons had about 31/2 times less daytime sleepiness than the folks who didn't blow their own horns. The newly minted musicians also snored significantly less.

Credit this uncommon cure to vibrations that exercise tissue in the mouth and throat, says researcher Milo Puhan, Ph.D. "When these muscles are strengthened, the tongue has less tendency to obstruct the airway."

Make it work for you: If huffing on a wooden tube to treat your sleep apnea sounds a tad too weird, then you probably aren't familiar with the alternatives. The most commonly prescribed option is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which involves spending every night hooked up to a machine that pumps air down your throat to keep it from collapsing. The other approach is surgery, and that's only 30 to 60 percent effective.

Now are you ready to toot the didgeridoo? You can pick up a beginner-friendly model for about $80 at L.A. Outback (laoutback.com). And don't worry; it's intuitive to learn, says co-owner Barry Martin. You purse your lips and blow into it with the beat.

Text to Quit Smoking

Any time you want a Marlboro, reach for your Motorola instead. Researchers at the University of Auckland, in New Zealand, compared how well two groups of smokers were doing in their attempts to quit. They discovered that those who received daily text messages containing tips on beating cravings plus motivational words from other quitters were twice as likely to kick ash as the people who went textless. What's more, rates of quitting for the cell-supported group remained high after 6 months.

"People tend to carry their phones with them at all times, so it's a readily accessible means of providing cessation assistance," says study author Robyn Whittaker, M.D. "It's also relatively anonymous and confidential."

Make it work for you: When you're finally ready to stub your cigs, set a quit date and then go to backpackit.com, where you can write text messages to yourself and have them sent on preset days and times. Or, to prevent you from predicting every missive, you can use random delivery options, such as "later today" and "tomorrow morning." Either way, include words of encouragement and reminders about why you're quitting (such as a later exit from Earth).

Next, go to your phone's message options and create a group list of your closest friends and family. Send a text message to all of them, asking that they shoot you encouragement on your quitting day and the days that follow. Save the messages you like and pull one up every time a craving strikes.
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