folk remedies

Whenever either of us got sick as kids, our mothers both turned the same foods to help us recover: chicken soup, Saltine crackers, and Sprite. Orange juice could make a cold go away; apples, supposedly could keep them from appearing in the first place. Prunes helped with our constipation. Whiskey on our gums soothed us as teething babies. During stomach uprisings, we survived wholly on rice, bananas, applesauce, and toast.

For the last three-and-a-half days, Dave has endured a stomach rebellion, a stomach revolution, a stomach apocalypse. The doctor’s description of “severe food poisoning” seems like an understatement. To sustain him while his stomach was set on “liquefy”, the doctor ordered boiled eggs, mashed potatoes, and kitcheri, a bland dish of lentils, rice, and easy-to-digest vegetables. Different than the American remedy, but similar in principle: for a stomach in crisis, bland is good.

Across the two cultures, we’ve discovered some folk remedies to be exactly the same, like gargling salt water for a sore throat. But others have totally baffled us: when Jenny fainted at a wedding this summer, the bride’s father rushed over and vigorously and violently started rubbing Jenny’s feet—which freaked her out almost as much as the fainting did.

For aches and pains, Americans and Indians appear to have divergent remedies. Complaining of a backache and dreaming of a massage one day, Jenny was advised by everyone in her office to just sit in the sun. The little bottles of Advil we keep for headaches are greeted by suspicious stares and uniform refusals every time we offer them to a suffering coworker.

But while we all have are traditions, there is clearly value in sharing knowledge. Dave’s miserable sore throat this winter was cured when our maid gave us her remedy: she boiled raw ginger, then steeped tea in the water and added sugar. Suddenly, Dave could talk again; and Gunga’s ginger tea will now join chicken soup in our family’s pantheon of home remedies.

7 responses to “folk remedies

  1. I mix a pinch of each of these: ginger, turmeric, black pepper with honey. Makes a good cough suppressant.
    Regarding sitting in the sun for backache .. well its like putting a heat pack, so its not too far fetched a remedy. I’d rather take Tylenol though :).

  2. Why do so many people experience stomach problems when they visit India?

    I’m asking this because I grew up in a third world country and the cases of food poisoning were miniscule, compared to what I hear about India.

    Is India just a lot more polluted (because of the number of people there) than other third world countries?

    Maybe you guys should not eating street food and that might alleviate your stomach problems.

  3. oopps…typo:

    I meant to say:

    Maybe you guys should stop eating street food.

  4. One of the major cause of constipation is lack of fiber. Besides prunes i would suggest apple pectin, which is very rich in fiber and can aid the passage of food through the digestive tract

  5. In northern India we all drank ginger-lemon-honey tea, which sounds a lot like what your maid gave you. Except with lemon and honey, and without tea, so kinda not the same thing. It really warms you up (not a problem in Delhi) and helps with sore throats.

  6. The foot assault might not be as strange as it seemed. Once upon a time, during infant CPR training, people were taught to rub or tap the bottom of an infants foot in an attempt to arouse them if they weren’t responding to you. It was a way of determining their level of consciousness. Now they tell you to rub the infant’s sternum. Maybe he was afraid to touch her chest and went straight to her feet!

  7. causes of constipation

    prune juice may work just as well as eating prunes. the pulp in the juice acts as fiber, and easier to digest for older people.

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