Every once in a while I get these things in my email – I’m sure you get them, too – blaring headlines announcing new medical discoveries that will change your life. The discovery usually involves something like “drinking water” in a therapeutic manner, which they’ll be glad to share with you for a low monthly fee…
Sometimes, though, one such notice will catch my eye, because Granny, Auntie Lillie, The Other Nonna and many other of my elder female relatives were well-versed in folk medicine and “old wives tales” and they passed some of their ways on to me. Over the years I have found that yes, these “old cures” often work.
I’ll share a few of them with you, with the qualifier that I am not recommending these treatments to anyone, I’m not saying you should use them or try them, and would probably recommend that you do not try them, unless the tradition also exist within your own family. Folk medicine is not for everyone!
1) The Toddy: To sweat out a fever, lace a cup of tea liberally with honey and whiskey. If a kid won’t drink it, try #2:
2) Smother the bottoms of the feet with Vicks Vap-O-Rub and put heavy socks on them. Believe me, you’ll sweat.
3) For “swollen glands”: Smear Vicks Vap-O-Rub on the throat and wrap a clean white sock around the neck.
(For some reason Vicks Vap-O-Rub and white socks played a large part in our family’s health in early-mid 20th century. Must have been a hell of a marketing campaign.)
4) For toenails renedered ugly by fungal infection: Smear toenails with (yes, you guessed it) VVOR, twice a day, morning and evening. It will not kill the fungus, which lives under the nail bed, but it will make the toenails very presentable and pretty. This really works.
5) To prevent infection on a minor scrape or wound, first cleanse the wound thoroughly with soap and water, pat dry and then cover the wound with honey (or a honey and light-garlic mix) and cover with a bandage. Bacteria does not grow in honey and garlic is also an antibacterial.
Getting back to the “wellness” emails, I got one today espousing the efficacy of olive oil in fighting inflammation, and it rang a bell. When my kids were little they were very prone to ear infections and I was leery of them living their earliest years on constant antibiotics, so I went to the well of my ancestors and found a remedy involving olive oil in which a tiny bit of garlic juice has been warmed. It works almost like a “mustard plaster” but on a very small scale…I would put a few drops of the unction onto a bit of cotton and do the “cotton in the ear” thing, replacing with a fresh “plaster” every few hours.
I remember trying this on a weekend when my choices were an uncomfortable kid or a midnight emergency room visit. The warmth immediately soothed (and probably helped dilate the Eustachian tube), garlic is a natural infection fighter, and oil is an ancient healing “delivery system”. When I followed-up that Monday and took my son to the pediatrician she pronounced his ears quite fine. She of course doubted he’d ever had an infection, but I was familiar enough with the signs, (fever, misery, tugging the ear) that I was and remain pretty confident that there was an infection and that the folk remedy worked.
I used this treatment with some frequency on my Elder Son, less so with Buster, who had strenuous objections to putting things in his ear. Buster, however, always responded well to the “antiseptic” baths I would put together for him when he seemed a little “chesty” – basically a warm bath in which I mixed a few drops of pure (not synthetic) essential oils: lavender oil, a drop or two of eucalyptus or pine and perhaps a drop of bergamot.
Clearly this stuff is not for everyone – and you have to be really, really careful anytime you’re using essential oils because they can be toxic in some amounts (and they can lead to dehydration) – but I’m willing to learn and do some research, and I’m open to the idea that Olive Oil can help inflammation…and wondering how it might help my arthritis. Perhaps the oil mixed with a bit of yarrow oil and massaged in….hmmmm…
What folk remedies does your family rely on?