Mayo Clinic has long been one of the premier medical facilities in the United States, maybe even the world. Their professionals have been known to work wonders, especially when other health centers had all but tossed in the towel. Their reputation is deserved.
Sadly, a new book has been announced that seems somewhat of a contradiction. Enter the Mayo Clinic’s Book of Home Remedies, a 200-page guide for treating more than 100 common conditions.

“This book reflects our experience in working with people who come to the doctor when there may be something that they can do at home,” says the author, Phil Hagen, who specializes in internal and preventive medicine.

The book is claims to offer advice about how to stay healthy. While that is true to some extent, it also offers advice about how to use more drugs, the non-prescription kind. An article in USA Todaydescribes a few of the book’s suggestions.

I don’t agree with many of the reported suggestions.

For example, to manage allergies, they say to close windows and doors. However, this flies in the face of all the reports regarding air pollutants in the house. In extreme situations, bottled-up indoor air can be toxic. There are materials out gassed from walls, carpets, and many of the petroleum based products found in the home. Dust and dander accumulates in a closed up building, much of which is not removed by furnace filtration.

The book recommends an allergy grade filter on the furnace. While it may offer some benefits, those dense filters place extra stress on the furnace motor. One repairman explained that he has seen motor lives shortened dramatically. Also, because the furnace system isn’t tight, much of the air born allergens bypass the filter and are re-circulated. With the windows and doors closed, the house continually manufactures more allergens and the furnace just continues to re-circulate them.Furnace filters will not remove chemical toxins. A better suggestion would have been to use a quality air purifying system.

I support the suggestion to use a nasal lavage – once or twice daily.

Under insomnia, the author tells us to do gentle stretching to relax. What does that mean? Stretching generates lactic acid, which can cause muscle aches and inflammation. Warm baths dilate blood vessels and can be the cause of a chill, especially a couple hours later. While Mayo might recommend them, I think there are reasons to not soak in a warm tub before sleeping.

People with insomnia are advised to limit naps to 20 or 30 minutes. Why suggest naps at all? The issue at hand is difficulty in sleeping. Instead of naps, why not find ways to stay alert when the call for a nap pops up? Except for a very small number of people, our bodies don’t need naps. Sleep is for regeneration, which takes longer than 20 to 30 minutes to accomplish. That’s why a good night’s sleep has value. Napping short circuits the natural process.


The author suggest that antacids and Pepcid (yes, he uses the trade name) can help heartburn. Read my articles about PPI drugs and consider whether they are a reasonable “home remedy” (Heartburn Drugs & Bone Damage & Treating GERD Without Drugs). I have concluded that the superior approach to heartburn is to discover the cause. To his credit, Hagen tells his readers to avoid food that can trigger heartburn. He doesn’t seem to mention avoiding sugars and all artificial sweeteners.

Of course, he recommends getting a flu shot to ward off influenza. I’m in the minority on this issue, but I don’t buy into the belief that flu shots are safe or effective. The suggestion about chicken soup is valid, unless the soup is from a can filled with salt and monosodium glutamate.

The USA Today article tells us that doing things at home is valuable, especially “in this age of rising medical costs and growing demands on our time.” They say that, “a trip to the doctor is something we hope to avoid.” I agree with that last statement, but for different reasons.

First, it is irrational to think that the human body needs constant attention from someone outside itself.

Second, doctors today are most inclined to thrust prescriptions at us for even the mildest of situations. Sure, we have been led to expect orders for drugs, but that doesn’t mean that’s the best approach to being healthy. A true health professional will encourage her patients to eat well, rest, exercise, and stay away from doctors unless something is of major concern. No, insomnia for a few nights is not a medical matter that requires a drug.

While I agree with the premise for this kind of book, I am disappointed in its execution.

One last point…the book suggests that teething pain is actually a Tylenol deficiency (yes, he uses the trade name).

Teething pain is not a medical condition that demands drug therapy. Whatever happened to offering a frozen washcloth for baby to “teeth” on?