Natural hiccup cures that actually work

NaturalThe hiccups - or hiccoughs, if you prefer the old-fashioned spelling - are spasms of the diaphragm that cause a sharp inhale and sudden closure of the glottis (webmd.com). The vocal cords sit right near the glottal opening in the throat and produce the distinctive "hiccup" noise as the folds of the glottis slap shut.

Just about everyone has had hiccups, and pretty much anyone who's had them has wished they could make them go away. While modern medicine may not be working day and night to cure the hiccups, there are some old techniques and folk remedies that might help you get relief.

Holistic hiccup cures

You've probably heard that you can cure your hiccups by having someone sneak up on you and shout (or otherwise give you a sudden fright). While this may work for certain people experiencing certain types of hiccups, sometimes there just isn't anyone around to help scare you. It can also be difficult to let yourself become startled by something you're expecting.

Fortunately, there are a number of natural hiccup cures suggested by everyone from the shamans of our ancestors to out-of-the-box thinkers in modern hospitals. Here's a list of a few time-tested folk remedies for hiccups that you can add to your bag of tricks (folkremedies.net):

  • Sip cold water. Taking small and frequent sips from a glass of cold water can calm the hiccup reflex. Sucking on an ice cube can produce the same effect.
  • Drink dill tea. This Eastern European remedy takes a little while, but it's professed to work wonders. Boil a teaspoon of dill seeds in about eight ounces of water and drink the resulting brew.
  • Hold your breath. This remedy hasn't worked every time for everyone, but it does have a good track record. The reason it works is that it stops the automatic movement of the diaphragm that happens during respiration, and that rest period is sometimes enough to stop the spasms.
  • Breathe into a paper bag. This British/American remedy relies on an increase in carbon dioxide in the bloodstream to stop the hiccup reflex. Place the opening of a paper bag over your nose and mouth and breathe heavily for a short period of time.
  • Swallow cumin. Residents of Romania swear by this simple, plant-based cure. Load up a teaspoon of cumin and swallow it, without chewing, with a little bit of water.
  • Concentrate. Some people are able to cure hiccups naturally by sitting up straight, closing their eyes and concentrating on their diaphragm muscle, sending conscious signals to relax the spasm reflex. It can also help to breathe in a slow, measured pace that doesn't put stress on your esophageal muscles.

Some solid science

Doctors have discovered that the hiccup reflex originates in the spinal cord, with electrical impulses transferred from a neural pathway called the vagus nerve to a bundle of nerve fibers that independently trigger the various tiny movements of a hiccup (abc.net). Vagus nerve stimulation has been tried when other natural hiccup cures have failed, and results have been very encouraging.

In fact, doctors at Louisiana State University successfully used an electrical vagus nerve stimulator to cure a Texas man who had been hiccuping constantly for almost a year (nytimes.com). Such chronic cases of hiccups have been historically impossible to cure by any remedy, holistic or otherwise.

Implanted devices that send electrical shocks directly to the nerve are an extreme treatment for extreme cases of hiccups. If you have an acute case, like people typically get when drinking alcohol or eating too fast, simple stimulation of the vagus nerve (like deep breathing, for example) can help speed your recovery (mindbodygreen.com).

Also, remember that the most natural cure for hiccups is time. Unless you've come down with a life-altering chronic case of hiccups, a 20-minute interval of mild annoyance will cure it when nothing else can.

Sources:

"A hiccup cure that really works" ABC Science, 4 September 2012,
"A Horrific Case of Hiccups, a Novel Treatment" The New York Times, 10 January 2006,
"Hiccups - Topic Overview" WebMD, 2013,
"How to get rid of hiccups" Folk Remedies, 17 August 2010,
"What causes hiccups" ABC Science, 28 August 2012,
"What You Need To Know About The Vagus Nerve" MindBodyGreen, 31 May 2012.

About the Author:
Justin Boyle is a freelance writer and journalist living in Austin, Texas. He has covered education, technology, arts & culture, world news and personal finance for various outlets and in various cities since 2007.

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