This entry comes from the interviewer’s mother, P, in a conversation they had about homeopathic medicine. Coming from an Indian family, the interviewer, DP, was curious as to whether or not his mom encouraged him to take homeopathic remedies for common ailments as a child. It should be noted that Eastern medicine is much different than and often rejects Western medicine. At this point, the informant tells the interviewer:
“You used to take a drink made of roasted turmeric root. Once the turmeric was dried, I would grind it into a powder and combine it with milk.”
DP: “did it help any?”
P: “it was supposed to”
From the point of view of the interviewer, it is perfectly reasonable for Eastern medicine to be effective in curing common ailments. These remedies have been around for such a long time that there must be some base element of truth – or they wouldn’t be so strongly encouraged. The interviewer also concedes that it isn’t the best to take over-the-counter medication every time one’s throat hurts or they have a headache. In these cases, folk remedies provide the best application.
The interviewer was curious about Eastern Medicine based remedies because of their supposed homeopathic properties. Luckily for him, his grandma, G, knew a few tried-and-true methods to relieve everyday aches and pains. Over the years of seeing success in their implementation, Indian elders would much rather administer these folk remedies than to give out medication like Advil or Tylenol which they see as unnatural.
This particular remedy is for a sore throat:
“Mix 1 teaspoon pepper powder, 1 teaspoon ginger powder and 1 teaspoon honey. Consume this mix twice a day”
The interviewer understands the need for folk remedies. From the point of view of his grandma, these folk remedies provide effects that are similar to pharmaceutical medicine but at a fraction of the cost and are immediately available. Furthermore, they wouldn’t be so prevalent as they are in Indian societies if they were not at some level able to treat the malady.
The informant, my grandfather, is a 67-year-old man who was born and raised in the Sacramento Valley. His mother was also born in the United States, and is of Spanish, German, and French descent. While riding in the car on the way to breakfast, I asked if he remembered any of the home remedies his mother would use when he was sick.
“When I or any of my siblings had a sore throat, my mom would take a banana, peel it, and place the moist side of the banana peel against our feet. Then we had to put socks on. Apparently, whatever was left in the banana peel would heal your sore throat. Maybe it had to do with the potassium or something. I’m not sure if it ever really worked, but we still did it.”
I was a bit taken aback by this form of folk medicine, mostly because I could not imagine the sensation of having a banana peel forced inside of my sock. The informant did not initially tell me where his mother learned of this remedy. After I followed up to determine whether it was an idiosyncrasy, the informant said that his mother learned of the healing properties of banana peels from her mother, who was born in Spain, and that the tradition had been prominent within their community as doctors were scarcely available and most remedies were communicated orally. However, the informant decided not to continue the tradition and pass it down to his children because he felt there were better remedies available for a sore throat. Perhaps the idea of a banana peel having medicinal properties comes from the fact that fruits, and bananas in particular, are rich in vitamins and minerals. Banana peels are cool to the touch, and so may be capable of alleviating skin irritations or abrasions. It is unclear how these properties applied to the bottom of one’s foot would help to remedy a sore throat, but maybe the unfamiliar sensation served as a distraction from the pain that the child felt in their throat by focusing attention to a different area of the body.
“Take tea with lemon and honey for a sore throat.”
This is a remedy that has been passed down from generation to generation in my informant’s family. Whenever he has a sore throat, his mother has always recommended drinking hot tea with lemon and honey; his mother had learned this from her mother, and the remedy keeps going back in generations.
Although tea with lemon and honey does not seem to have any medical reason for making sore throats better, it is probably the combination of hot, sweet, and sour tastes that alleviate the pain in the throat. Like most folk remedies, anything that seems to produce results is constantly reused and recommended, and this is probably how the tea has become a go-to solution for sore throats in my informant’s family.