Tag Archives: Folk Remedy

An Italian Cure For Warts

Background:

My grandmother (and my informant) learned this folk remedy in her twenties when her mother-in-law, who was born in Italy, noticed my grandma had warts on her hand. It was something she taught me as a young child, and although I’ve never tried it, she claims she did and the warts on her hands have never come back.

Context:

In a natural setting, this piece of folklore is almost exclusively passed from one who has had warts and used the remedy, to one who currently has them and is in need of a remedy. And when being carried out, is only performed by the individual with the ailment. My informant also noted that when she practiced the remedy, she was traveling and in a place she knew she’d never go again, making it easier for her to find a spot she wouldn’t revisit.

Main Piece:

“You have to tie a string around each digit with a wart on it–and you can only use one hand. You have to wear it for a whole day, and at the end of the day you have to take a walk to a place you’ll never go again. On the walk you gotta bury it, and make sure you never-never-ever go back to that spot or the warts will come back!”

Analysis:

The other day, I was retelling this remedy to a friend of mine because she was curious about the project that I’ve been working on. As I told her about how the cure is conducted, she started asking things like, “why a place you’ll never go to again?” and “why do you have to bury the string?”. After taking some time to think about it, I believe this cure is a practice of sympathetic magic. In sympathetic magic, actions are taken which are representative of the change one wants to be made. In this case, each string is representative of a wart, wearing the string(s) for a day corresponds to the time one had already had the wart(s), and therefore burying the string in a place one will never visit again indicates the wart(s) disappearing and never returning.

Lapsi: The Common Cold Cure?

Transcription

The Interviewer will be referred to as ‘I’, and the informant as ‘S’. Translations for Hindi words will be italicised and in parentheses. The Informant is a 52-year-old Punjabi mother, born and raised in North India.

I: So, do you have any remedies or recipes to follow when someone you know has come down with a cold? 

S: Cold? Yeah, definitely.

I: Please describe the recipe and each ingredient, and why these ingredients would help someone with a cold.

S: Well, they’re supposed to be heat-inducing, primarily. So, you… you take gramflour—besan, we call it besan, that yellow powder—you take some besan and you roast it. Typically it was done in ghee (clarified butter, a South Asian staple), but we don’t really use too much ghee nowadays so I kind of dry-roast it, and you boil milk on the side, and if you want some flavouring you can add to it. You know, depending on what and who it’s for, you can add a little cinnamon, a little elaichi (cardamom), and… but you add that at the end, cinnamon you can add at the beginning. You dry-roast it a little, some, and you have boiling milk on the other side. You mix it all together and let it cook for a little bit, so that the gramflour gets cooked thoroughly, and towards the end of it you add your elaichi, or your cardamom, more cinnamon, whatever you want to add for flavour, and I-I like to do elaichi because the flavour is nice, it goes very well with it, and then you add… honey. I add honey. People like sweet, so I add a dash of honey, and cover it for a bit so the elaichi flavour seeps in. And there you have it! That’s lapsi. And in the end, I just add a teaspoon of ghee—because I don’t roast it in ghee but that’s the usual way of doing it. 

I: Is this something you’ve been taught by family — is this a family recipe?

S: Well,  this is just what I’ve learned by… I guess, just, seeing and hearing. My nani (grandmother) used to make it, then my mother, now me. We each use different flavours, yeah, depending on who’s making it and who’s eating it, but the base is the same. 

I: And it’s always called lapsi?

S: Yeah. I guess everybody around me used it. You could call it a family recipe, yeah. 

Analysis:

When it comes to ‘cures’ for the common cold, known medically to be viral and therefore virtually incurable, only something you can wait out, I’ve found that people in India do normally describe all of their remedies as having “heat-inducing” ingredients. While there is no concrete reasoning as to why these ingredients are such, within Indian culture, there are many spices and herbs believed to be so, used within these remedies, usually hot drinks or soups—another can be found in a piece titled “Kaadha: The One-For-All Remedy” (http://folklore.usc.edu/?p=59885)—and this is a long-standing recipe for this particular family. I have not found such a recipe for this ‘Lapsi’ anywhere else, including online, even though it has been passed down the lines of this family. Home remedies are extremely common in India, as they are in many places around the world, sometimes even preferred to allopathic medicine, because they rely on herbs, nature, spices, things that are ‘pure’ and gathered from the earth itself, not chemically processed. Even though it is common in some, primarily Western communities, to rely on allopathic/pill-based medicine and comfort food, when it comes to the common cold and other such illnesses, Indians gravitate to homeopathy and home remedies before anything else, from within the family and the community. Additionally, the common use of these hot soups and drinks makes sense, since they automatically would warm the body from the inside and cause relief from the cold.

Kaadha: The One-For-All Remedy

The Interviewer will be referred to as ‘I’, and the informant as ‘S’. Translations for Hindi words will be italicised and in parentheses. The Informant is a 52-year-old Punjabi mother, born and raised in North India.

I: Do you have any common notable remedies or medicinal recipes for a fever, maybe a flu?

S: Yeah, for virals! For flus, fever, cough, cold, we call it kaadha (decoction). It’s pretty generic… and everybody calls it kaadha.

I: Are there different recipes of kaadha, depending on where you go, who you ask—

S: Yeah, yeah, yeah! There’ll be different recipes, and I’m not really a master of them, but I used to make a lot of it when my daughter was younger. Now, today, I do not remember really the exact ingredients of what went into it, you know, which was the primary ingredient at which point of the recipe, but there used to be things like… dhaniya (coriander/cilantro) powder was for stomachache, and god-knows-what… no! Dhaniya powder was primarily for fever, but basically you have ginger—again, what goes into it is mostly heat-inducing ingredients, again, so you won’t have the cooling things going in there—so, primarily you’ll have ajwain (carom seeds, a very common ingredient in Indian foods and folk remedies), ginger, you’ll have dhaniya or dhaniya powder, long (cumin), cinnamon, tulsi (holy basil), haldi (turmeric), very importantly… a lot, depending on what the problem is and where you’re from. But, let’s say you take two glasses of water, you put it on to boil with all this stuff in it, all these spices and herbs, you put it to boil, and you allow it to boil till you reduce to quantity to about half on a slow flame, and you let it sit. Kaadha basically means, like, brewing, so you allow it to become a kaadha, like a brew, so you brew it enough to reduce the liquid to about half the quantity that you started with, and… cool it a little and then you add a dash of honey, because it’s very bitter and you give this to children too, and then you serve it. You have it, a few times a day, and it’ll help!

I: Did you learn this recipe from anywhere, that you can remember?

S: No, not really, it was, again, something we all kind of had in our childhoods, through our lives, so I learnt it from my mother. However, actually, there was this homeopathic doctor, Dr. [Name], he’s the one who guided me with some ingredients and varieties of kaadha, he streamlined the one that I would make, catered to my daughter, like, ‘oh, you add this, these are the primaries for fever, these are for stomachache,’ and whatever else. And… I also remember, I remember him telling me that with little ones, with children, when it comes to fever, you don’t give… immediately, like allopathy promotes that you immediately give the Crocin or Calpol when they hit, like, 99 (degrees) or 100, but he stopped me from doing that. He said that fever is very important, because you don’t want to treat the symptom, you want to treat the problem, and fever is your body’s way of fighting the problem. So, your body is heating up so much that the problem is being fought, being killed, but when you bring down the fever, you’re not allowing the body to fight. And, he said, basically, ‘kids can handle high temperatures far better than adults can,’ so he said, ‘no matter the temperature, do not panic, it doesn’t mean the same thing as an adult having the same temperature. You can stick to cold swabs and homeopathic stuff, but you don’t need to use allopathy unless it gets into… an emergency situation.’ It’s always worked for my daughter.

Analysis

Kaadha is a very common remedy in India, and there are many variations of it, depending on the illness, and the person making it and the region they’re from. Kaadha (काढ़ा) essentially means, as the informant states, brew, or literally, decoction, a medicine derived from plants. Here, the plants differ, but the main ingredients always have similar properties: they are heat-inducing. This belief in and use of heat-inducing ingredients can also be seen in, “Lapsi: The Common Cold Cure?” (http://folklore.usc.edu/?p=59861), except this is a very common remedy, and usually makes use of more spices. Where ‘lapsi’ would provide relief and usually taste pleasant due to its fewer spices and bitter herbs, kaadha is known to be bitter and a pure decoction, the ‘pain’ part of ‘no pain, no gain’, and many Indians swear by its effectiveness in helping cure most common illnesses, including stomachaches, fever, the common cold, a cough, a sore throat, etc., even in children. It is a hot drink, had multiple times a day, just as the informant states, and since it is hot and also has spices in it, it would heat the body from the inside out, but it is even used to treat a fever: this is why it is often recommended by homeopathic doctors, and since it uses heat-inducing ingredients to fight off, well, a fever, it can be classified as a homeopathic remedy as well, all while being a classic, Indian folk medicine, that has been used and trusted for decades upon decades.

Arnica and Linaca Mixture for Healing

EA: Arnica is a tea it is like a natural herb, arnica and linaca and it is supposed to be like a a homeopathic remedy you can use for like swelling and just kind of instead of like a Neosporin type thing. It helps to heal a little bit better. Back then when they would make it when you know they did not have modern medicine so they would take it with like leaves or whatever and they would put it on and then they wrap it and then that helps with the cut of whatever you have. 

Interviewer: Did she say how she boiled it?

EA: Yeah she boiled it and lets it simmer for like a while on high heat and then she lowers he heat and lets it simmer. Ten minutes I think she said and it boils it and then you turn it off and then you just let it sit and  then that’s when it gets that vava, which is kind of like a vasiline type texture and then it just like sits there. 

Interviewer: That’s when you know it is done?

EA: Yeah, like a little thick.  

Context: EA is my mother mother who was born in Southern California, but whose parents are both from Mexico. The information taken from a casual conversation I was having with my mother about any folklore she had for me and my sister was also present. She was referring to an ointment that my aunt made for her son when he had a really bad insect bit and gave to us when our dog had a rash. 

Analysis

In Mexico, even know it is difficult in many places to see or either afford a doctor. This has given rise for the necessity of home remedies. Arnica is in many supplements and gels that are sold in pharmacies. Thus, showing the ability for homeopathic remedies to transfer to modern medicine and being legitimizd by being formally sold in stores. However, people would likely still feel that something like Neosporin is inherently more effective than something homemade when this is not inherently the case. Accordingly, when recommending these home remedies it is often accompanied with an anecdotal success story to prove it’s merit. would be It also shows the versatility of the homemade treatments because they are made with natural ingredients and how it can help your family and having advice when another person you care about is having a difficulty. 

Asian Pears with Honey Remedy

Background: Stella is a 55-year-old woman living in Cerritos, CA. She was born in Seoul and has lived in South Korea for the majority of her life until she moved here for college. She stays at home. Before that, she worked at a hair salon as a beautician. She is married and has two grown children.

 

Main piece:

So what do you usually do when you or your children are sick?

Stella: “I always always say eat some pears… Asian pears!.. with a little bit honey. It is cool… and feels good in mouth. It is soothing to throat and the best for when you have cold.”

Where did you learn this from?

Stella: “My mother, so your grandmother, tell me this all the time. It is old, old tradition.”

Does it work?

Stella: “Yeah! Always feels good. It has worked for generations and generations.”

Performance Context: I interviewed the informant over the phone, as she was in the Orange County area and I’m in Los Angeles. This folk remedy seems to originate from back when my mother was a child. She learned this from her mother and has passed it down to me.

My Thoughts: I love this home remedy – it reminds me of my childhood and maybe it’s also psychological, but this remedy always seems to work for me. I plan to pass this down to my children as well.