Folk Medicine

Everybody’s family has a funny little quirky herbal tip, a little folk medicine connection, a trick to beat the common cold.

Growing up, even my devoutly allopathically allegiant family would pour out a little hot-lemony-honey-tea-with-whiskey on occasion as a cold cure. Ok, let’s get real: we all know that was just an excuse to open the liquor cabinet. But, they would make a fresh ginger tea for an upset tummy or throw a handful of fresh field mint in the summer iced tea.

Even when we suspect that our culture has become hopelessly bland and homogenous and we think our cultural connection to natural wisdom is lost and gone forever, it turns out that a connection to our cultural heritage is often hiding in our sneaky little herbal customs. They come in the strangest forms:

-Once when I was riding out the late stages of a cold and had a cough coming on, Sasi introduced a particularly weird Eastern European one. He hollowed out a black radish and carefully pierced a thin hole down through to the pointy tip. He set it over a jar and filled the top with raw honey. After a few hours, enough honey had trickled through which he then fed me by the spoonful to stop the cough. He claimed it was a piece of his cultural inheritance. I was sure he was pulling my leg.

-One year in central Russia, we were out in the wild woods mushrooming. I was in unfamiliar territory and way off trail, when I suddenly came down with abdominal cramping, fever and nausea. I was quickly brought home, tucked under covers on the couch and served the local medicine, tried and true: a generous double-shot of slightly warmed vodka with a 1/2 teaspoon of salt dissolved into it.

I recovered quickly and so enjoyed learning about the cultural heritage of the land I was visiting!

NPR recently did a piece called “Horseradish Tea and Other Quirky Cold Cures.” Click “Listen to the Story” to hear the full piece.

Comments 1

  1. Curtis Oden

    I’ve heard of the raddish remedy from my own spouse (who hails from the same neck of the woods as yours), but I haven’t tried it myself. Honey, however, is a staple in our medicine cabine, as well as our pantry. Honey and alcohol seem to be one of the remedy’s where Russian and Southern culture intersect: for my wife, cognac with honey and lemon is the cure-all for any respiratorty ailment; of course my mama swears by whiskey with honey. I can attest that both folk remedied work well, especially when used in combination, liberally,

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