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5 Home Remedy No-No's

From ear candling to colon cleansing, here are 5 home remedies that may do more harm than good.

Home Remedy No-No Number 4: Colloidal Silver

With hype and hope spread by word of mouth and the Internet, colloidal silver is believed by some to help treat a range of infections and diseases.

"People believe that colloidal silver can treat fungal infections, TB, HIV, herpes, and even cancer by boosting the immune system," says Ted Epperly, MD, president-elect of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Unfortunately for colloidal sliver supporters, they're wrong, and the consequences of their mistake could be costly.

"One of the most well-known side effects of colloidal silver is that it turns a person's skin a greyish shade of blue," says Epperly.

The skin isn't the only organ affected by colloidal silver; so are the kidneys, stomach, and brain, as well as the nervous system. Silver is actually deposited into the cells of these organs, possibly causing cell damage and death, leading to organ failure.

"The effects of colloidal silver are toxic and cumulative," says Epperly. "Worse, they're irreversible."

Epperly urges people to ignore the hype and instead, talk to a health care provider about the proper way to treat infections and diseases.

Home Remedy No-No Number 5: Home Colon Cleansing

"We hear a lot about the toxic effects of the contents of the colon on the body," says Robert Siegel, MD, a fellow with the American College of Gastroenterology. "But that's a fallacy."

And that's where home colon cleansing products come into play. People hear the claims that their colons are filled with toxic waste matter and that the solution is to flush them out with herbs, probiotics, special diets, enemas, or laxatives.

The fact of the matter is that the colon is a waste receptacle, explains Siegel. Its function is to let fecal material pass out of the body, naturally. 

Trying to cleanse your colon from the comforts of your home can disrupt your body's electrolyte balance, causing dehydration and salt depletion. Over time, frequent colon cleansing can even lead to anemia, malnutrition, and heart failure.

Instead of cleaning your colon on your own, start by increasing your fiber intake by eating more fruits and vegetables, or by adding a supplement to your diet -- 38 grams for men and 25 grams for women 50 and younger -- every day.

If you're still feeling constipated and uncomfortable, Siegel recommends you see your primary care doctor or a gastroenterologist.

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Reviewed on April 22, 2009

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