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9 Crazy But Effective Russian Health And Beauty Hacks

Vodka compress, anyone?

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1. Kefir for digestion and weight loss

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Kefir, a fermented milk drink that originated in the Caucasus region, is packed with healthy bacteria and easily digestible proteins. Loved for it's refreshing, sour taste and health benefits, kefir is a staple in pretty much every post-Soviet country. Kefir has been hailed the latest superfood by the likes of Vogue and HuffPo, and for good reason. Rich in probiotics, kefir nourishes the digestive system, reversing the damage done by processed foods and helping to reduce bloating, minimize cravings and stabilize weight.

2. Gorchichniki for colds


Gorchichniki are poultices of mustard seed powder spread inside a protective dressing and applied to the back, feet or chest to stimulate healing. Apart from congestions and colds, they are also used to warm muscle tissue and for treating chronic aches and pains. Any Russian kid probably has memories of tedious, itchy hours in bed with wet, burning hot packets of mustard on their chest.

3. Banya for detoxing


The steamy Russian banya is most similar to a cross between a Turkish hamam and a Finnish sauna. While the temperatures in a banya are generally slightly lower than in a sauna, the higher humidity makes it feel much hotter. Traditionally bathers wear felt hats to protect from the heat and get rubbed down with birch branches to stimulate circulation. In a village banya, after taking as much of the heat and steam as possible, the bathers run outside (butt naked) and jump into a pond or a snow drift to cool down.

4. Podorozhnik for scrapes and cuts


Podorozhnik, or Plantago leaves have been used since prehistoric times as herbal remedies. The Plantago leaves have anti-toxic, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Externally, a poultice of the leaves is useful for insect bites, poison-ivy rashes, minor sores, cuts and scrapes. In folklore it is even claimed to be able to cure snakebite.

5. Propolis for sore throats

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Propolis or bee glue is a resinous mixture that honey bees produce by mixing saliva and beeswax. Because of its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, gargling with propolis helps heal sore throats.

6. Vodka compresses for ear infections


Vodka applied topically causes blood vessels to dialate, allowing increased blood flow to the affected area. Russian babushkas will recommend a vodka compress to speed up the healing process for ear infections, anigina and sore throats.

7. Valeriyanka for insomnia


Valerian root tincture, or Valeriyanka, is a common herbal remedy for insomnia. It may not have the horsepower of a prescription sleeping aid, but Valeriyanka is a cheap and completely natural alternative to over-the-counter anti-histamine insomnia medications.

8. Camomile hair rinse for lighter hair


To make this rinse, up to half a pound of dried camomile flower buds is boiled in water, strained and cooled. If your hair is blonde or dark blonde, rinsing it with this mixture regularly can make it up to two shades lighter.

9. Badyaga for clear skin


Badyaga (lat. Spongilla) is a green powder made of dried freshwater sponges. The sponges' cell walls are covered in microscopic pricles, which, when applied to the skin irritate it just enough to accelerate blood flow, oxygenation and healing processes. After a badyaga peel your skin feels red and painful for a day or so and then peels off, leaving brighter, clearer skin underneath, like after a laser peel. Badyaga is sold in every Russian pharmacy and is very cheap. People use it to lighten old acne scars, stretch marks and skin discoloration as well as to brighten and improve skin appearance overall.

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