The informant (ST), a 19 year-old friend attending USC, is of Korean descent on her mother’s side, and grew up in Sacramento, California. She revealed to me an interesting home remedy of her mother’s while discussing alternative medicine and acupuncture over lunch.
Note: The initials ST denote the informant, while A refers to me, the interviewer.
ST: “Korean medicine is so weird. I used to get carsick when I was little, and my mom used to make me drink this, like, black … dirt liquid. [laughs] I don’t know.”
A: “Dirt? Like, from the ground?”
ST: “Well, she didn’t like, scoop it up … [laughs]. She bought it at this, like, medicine place, but … it was dirt!”
A: “Real dirt? Like soil? Mixed with what?”
ST: “[Laughs]. Yeah! Water. Hot water.”
A: “Did it taste like anything?”
ST: “It tasted awful! Because it was dirt!”
A: “[Laughs]. But did it work?”
ST: “I don’t know. I never felt carsick after. I don’t know if I was, like, distracted by how bad it tasted [laughs], or if it was, like, placebo or something. But I never felt carsick afterwards.”
I found this remedy immensely interesting because it flew in the face of what I accepted to be true about medicine; incorporating dirt and the uncleanliness it connotes into healing seemed counterintuitive to me. However, as I did some research, I found many scientific studies that supported the idea of “eating dirt”–more specifically, of ingesting the beneficial soil-based organisms present in dirt, which our current obsession with sterility in our food and homes has left us lacking, leading to weaker immune systems. The most fascinating part of this story to me, however, was that the remedy worked despite my friend’s doubts about its actual effectiveness as medicine. Growing up, my parents would try to cure me and my sister of our carsickness by playing road games with us (e.g. I Spy, etc.), and although they never gave us any actual medicine, the distraction they provided from our carsickness made it more bearable. I would be interested in doing more research to know if this “dirt liquid” can actually provide relief from carsickness or if it is, as my friend suspects, simply a diversion tactic.