All this brouhaha about the swine flu (excuse me - the N1H1 strain), coupled with the reports of my blogmates’ illnesses, has made me consider how people used to treat sickness before the advent of antibiotics and antiviral drugs. It was not so long ago that our foremothers knew all about the medicinal qualities of food. Unadulterated food still has medicinal qualities, but do we know what they are anymore? Not likely, unless you’re a foodie, a scholar, or old.
Garlic has antibiotic properties, and was actually used during the 1918 flu outbreak as a treatment, especially in Eastern Europe. The Romans really thought highly of garlic - they believed that it gave you strength, and gladiators chewed raw garlic gloves before a match for just that purpose. I saw a recipe for a garlic soup to be fed to a flu sufferer which called for 24 cloves of garlic simmered for an hour in a quart of water. That’ll clear your sinuses.
Ginger is a traditional cure for nausea. It really works, too. You can use it for nausea of any sort. Commercial garlic pills are sold to prevent seasickness. Make a nice ginger tea by boiling a slice of fresh ginger until the water turns golden, sweeten it with honey, and sip it hot.
Onion, like garlic, is antibiotic, as well Here’s an anecdotal story about the curative power of onion. I was told this by the person to whom it happened. When my friend was a young boy, he developed such a severe case of pneumonia that the doctor told his mother to prepare herself for his imminent demise. In an act of desperation, his mother sliced up a raw onion and bound it to the bottoms of his feet with strips of sheet, then put cotton socks on him. In the morning, his fever had broken, his lungs had cleared, and the onion poltice had turned black. I make no judgment. I’m just saying.
My grandmother’s very favorite remedy for fever, cold, or flu, was a hot toddy. She swore that this never failed to break a fever and make you sweat. A hot toddy is made thus :
1 teacup hot water
juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon sugar
1 jigger Scotch whiskey
She was so enamored of this curative that she made it often, just as a preventative.
P.S. If you should see any of these traditional remedies show up in any of my future books, don’t be surprised.