USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘sore throat’
Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine

Banana Peels and Sore Throats

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.

general

“Take tea with lemon and honey for a sore throat.”

“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.

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