Growing up, I’m sure you can think of a few times when dear old mom resorted to the family’s good ole home remedy to solve an issue that may or may not have required more extensive care.

My family called theirs “The Old Family Recipe.” If you sprained an ankle, pulled a muscle or suffered an orthopedic injury, you would do the following:

  1. Cut a brown paper grocery bag into 2in.-wide strips.
  2. Soak the paper strips in white vinegar.
  3. Wrap the strips around the injured area.
  4. Wrap again with a hand towel, and wet the towel with more white vinegar.
  5. Wrap the whole area with a dry towel or trash bag.
  6. Heal overnight.

Bizarre, right? But you know what? It actually nearly always worked every time. 

Home remedies are not always a dumb idea, possibly due in part to the placebo effect. Who cares if they actually solve the problem, right?

When researchers conduct double-blind studies on a new blood pressure med, a number of participants always see some type of improvement in their blood pressure with the fake pills. Maybe we need to spend some time wondering why.

Through the years I have had many, many patients tell me about how they solved myriad eye problems with their simple home remedies. Some even make sense. Take a look:

Dr. Montgomery Vickers

Dry eye?

  1. Sniff a cut red onion every morning and every night. Well, that would rinse your eyes out with reflexive tears, right?
  2. Suck on a river rock. Okay, what?
  3. Pluck one eyelash per day. This could help until you run out, I guess.

My great uncle said that one time his doctor told him he had a “pupil” in his eye and to massage his eyelids with good black dirt to get rid of it. The doctor told him it had worked, and the pupil was gone. Does that sound like something insurance would cover?

Blurred vision?

  1. Surely you have all heard of palming, right? If you palm hard enough, it works like CRT contact lenses.
  2. Heard of “second sight”? Some old guy at church all of a sudden didn’t need his reading glasses to read the Bible any more. Myopic shift from his nuclear sclerosis perhaps? Hey, he was happy, so who cares?
  3. “If you never wear glasses, you will never need them.” A 4.00D myope told me that just before he drove his family home from church. I haven’t heard anything since, so I guess they made it. Who needs to see those pesky road signs anyway?
  4. “Suck on licorice for better vision.” Me? I’d rather be blind, unless drinking Ouzo has the same effect.
  5. Of course, carrots! Who needs eye doctors anyway? Not rabbits (cue rimshot).
  6. “My cousin got struck by lightning and never had to wear glasses again.” The tombstone said, “Finally doesn’t need glasses.”
  7. “Since I started drinking beet juice, I only have to wear my glasses when I want to see something.” How fortunate! Let’s publish that world-altering fact.

Life is full of old family recipes and folk remedies. Best not to argue about whether they work or not. The most appropriate response is, “Let’s take a look at your imaging!”

Dr. Vickers received his optometry degree from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry in 1979 and was clinical director at Vision Associates in St. Albans, WV, for 36 years. He is now in private practice in Dallas, where he continues to practice full-scope optometry. He has no financial interests to disclose.