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By Anda Dragomir February 11, 2009

Granny’s Potions

It is said that in order to understand, we must question. Ancient civilizations, lacking sources and scientists, turned to nature to satisfy their thirst for knowledge, making gods of every element of the universe. In our more modern, instructed and resourceful era, some people still follow those ancient beliefs and are considered to be either naturopaths or… old-fashioned grannies. They have brought us the plant-based cures that saved our lives before antibiotics took the lead in the medication field, and though they are outdated and may have no proven therapeutic value, the loving matriarchs of our families forced them on us, at least once.

Growing up, I had more than my share of respiratory related illnesses: allergies, bronchitis, sinusitis and so on, followed me throughout childhood.  The best pharmaceuticals did not manage to counter the mysterious night time coughing spells, and the best specialists had no explanation. My grandmother, on the other hand, had an abundance of obscurely effective and typically Romanian remedies. At bedtime, my mother was instructed to peel two or three potatoes, cut them in thick slices and place them in a towel which was previously immersed in rubbing alcohol. The towel was then placed on my chest for the entire duration of the night. Without being able to explain why, I can say that this remedy allowed both my parents and me to avoid many sleepless nights.

When the potato trick didn’t give the expected results, my grandmother recommended a concoction whose benefits were as soothing as its taste was sweet. The recipe consisted of mixing a cup of milk, an egg yolk and a few spoonfuls of honey (preferably homemade) and was said to instantly heal sore throats. The reputation of the beverage was quite accurate, though quite temporary. I believe the honey, the smoothness and heat of the blend accounted for its therapeutic action, but I still have large doubts on their actual medical effects.

There are as many homemade remedies in my granny’s book as there are sicknesses: applying egg whites to a burn to accelerate the skin’s healing, rubbing vinegar on the feet to make a fever drop, drinking black radish infusion or eating a whole raw lemon for sore throats, and putting horseradish on the forehead to get rid of painful headaches. My grandmother will always argue that it was her potions and therapies that made her kids well, neglecting the daily dose of penicillin, or any other prescribed medication, they had taken.


The photograph “Spices” is by Sammy Jayjay (homeremedieslog.com), under CC BY 2.0


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    April 1, 2009

    In many ways our society has become so accustomed to taking pills without really knowing what’s in them or what the side effects are; if the doctor prescribes any kind of antibiotic were at our pharmacies’ counter within the half hour. You make a really good point Anda, our grandparents are the ones who are more prone to believe in these homemade remedies because the science behind the medicine has been reaching its peak in our more recent and modernized times. The remedies that I was exposed to as a kid was to take Arrack ( a Moroccan liquor) and rub it all over my stomach and cover it up with a blanket for about an hour whenever I had an unexplainable stomach ache. It actually worked! maybe it was because within the hour my stomach pain would of went away anyway, or maybe it was because I wanted to believe that this bogus answer was actually going to work. The point is we really should appreciate these kinds of remedies because they are a constant reminder of a time and place that is so unlike our own. Our precious grandparents cured themselves with these “potions” and who knows? maybe some of them really do have medicinal purposes.

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