Informant is a friend of mine from high school. She is a current student at UCLA and former student at The Madeira School (the high school we both attended). She is a first-generation American whose parents immigrated from Iran. She does not have any specific religious affiliations. I chose to interview several people from my high school to compare their versions of our school stories. She is referred to as “SF”.
I asked the informant about any homeopathic remedies that she learned from her family and culture. She provided multiple examples; these remedies are based in herbal treatments.
SF: So there are quite a few, honestly, and some of them are pretty weird. Um, but there’s one that I always did because my grandma was like, every time you get congestion or whatever, you’re like, Oh, these people do like vapor, like steaming or whatever, like their faces or like they do neti pots to like clear your sinuses. And so it’s kind of something similar to that, but it’s like a specific kind of herb blend that you like boil in a pot and you basically get a towel and you like put your face like near the pot and you’re like cover the rest of your face with the towel. So like the steam from the herbs like clears your sinuses. I don’t know specifically what kinds of herbs they were. I think oregano was definitely one of them, cause I remember it having a very specific oregano scent. Yeah. And so it’s just like a bunch of boiled herbs, like, in this thing.
Interviewer: And then where did your grandma get the herb pot recipe. Like, where’d she get that?
SF: That’s a good question. I think that it just like it’s a special kind of like herb, one that they use for food in Iran and like, they definitely sell it, like, prepackaged stores nowadays because they’re like. Like Persian supermarkets and stuff like back home and even in L.A. But yeah, they sell them like pot, like package, a lot of packaged like Persian, like spices and stuff like that. So it’s, it’s more like commercialized nowadays. But I think like she probably got it like from back in Iran, like with her family too. But I feel like it’s one of those things that just like, like people know, like they just know about it, you know?
And then I think one which is pretty much just like a universal like thing that everyone will tell you, we like also kind of like it’s just funny to me is is like, is you to feel like, oh, I have a stomachache or if I’m like nauseous or whatever, they’ll always tell you to drink like Persian black tea with like sugar, like saffron, like sugar. And it’s just like, it’s really stupid to me because you drink that, like, every day anyway, if you, like, live in Iran or if you’re Persian. So like, it’s really funny to me that they’re like, Oh yeah, if you feel sick, you need to drink this. But it’s like, I be drinking it every day anyway. But I don’t know. It’s funny because, like, whenever you’re nauseous, we have, like, something they always tell you to like to drink chai nabat, that’s like what you’re supposed to do.
It’s interesting how these remedies are essentially identical to others in other cultures – nasal steaming and drinking tea – but they are specifically engaging with herbs and tea commonly used in Persian culture. Both the herbs for the steaming and the type of tea are just common, everyday combinations used in food and drinks, but in the context of being sick, they have healing qualities. SF had the wonderful comment that her grandmother got the herb combination from her family back in Iran, and that now, the mixture is “one of those things that just, like, like people know.” – That is exactly what folklore is. Both methods are likely fairly effective, as they are standard treatment, but I wonder if the specific combinations of herbs in Persian remedies have a different level of effectiveness compared to herbs from other cultures. For example, in my family, we are told to drink ginger tea, as my mother believes it is most effective.
Translation: Chai nabat is a specific Persian tea. Chai nabat is pronounced “cha-ee nah-bot”.