Saturday, November 26, 2011

Double, Double, Toil and Trouble

I hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving. I probably should be writing about leftovers today, but I have herbs on my mind instead. My husband has been having some health problems lately, and he’s getting pretty tired of seeing doctors and taking medicines that are as likely to hurt him as they are to help. So late last month we started seeing a Chinese herbalist. He gives us giant bags of what looks like the stuff you scrape up off the floor of the forest primeval which I brew into tea that Don slugs down after supper. I feel rather like one of the witches in MacBeth as I stir my cauldron of eye of newt and toe of frog.

All this has made me consider how people used to treat sickness before the advent of antibiotics and steroids. 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 poultice had turned black. I make no judgment. I’m just saying.

I don’t know whether the Chinese herbs will cure whatever ails hubby, but at least we feel like we have a hand in his treatment and are not just at the mercy of pharmaceuticals.

1 comment:

Marian Allen said...

As Spock would say, (Mister, not Doctor) "Fascinating!"

Add a buncha sugar to that ginger brew, boil it down to a thick syrup and mix it with soda water for your own ginger ale.

People used to chew willow bark to reduce pain and break fevers. It contains salicylic acid, the active ingredient in aspirin.